Change Your Coffee Habits to Relieve Stress

About the Course

Jessica Cohn-Kleinberg

Written by

Medically Reviewed:

Ioana A. Bina, MD., Ph.D.

Writen on:

November 30, 2021, 9:58:17 AM

Updated:

December 6, 2021, 10:00:59 PM

Many people love their morning cup of joe. It can feel wonderful to sip on a hot mug of coffee right after waking up. But did you know that caffeine increases your cortisol production? That’s why it’s important to monitor your caffeine habits, particularly when you drink your coffee.

See, your natural cortisol levels peak about 30 to 45 minutes after waking up. Then they slowly decline throughout the day, reaching their lowest around midnight. If you drink coffee when your natural levels are at their highest, it may lessen coffee’s energizing benefits. Meanwhile, it could further increase your cortisol production. And as we know, high levels of cortisol over long periods can damage your health.

Further long-term studies are needed, but if your cortisol levels are too high, it might be best to delay your coffee to mid or late morning (or eliminate caffeine altogether). And try not to drink coffee later in the evening. Caffeine’s effects can last anywhere from three to five hours. In fact, about half of the caffeine consumed remains in your body after five hours. That’s why drinking coffee in the evening could disrupt your sleep cycle. And as we know, a regular sleep cycle is vital to managing stress.

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Spend Time with People for Stress Relief

Your relationships with other people can lower your stress levels, as well as reduce loneliness, increase feelings of social support, and boost overall mood.

Think about the relationships in your life that bring you peace. Maybe it’s a family member, a trusted friend or a coworker. Often these relationships calm us because we know what to expect from them. We know our role and the other person’s role, bringing a sense of stability. Studies back this up. They show when your social status feels stable, you feel more in control, and your cortisol levels remain lower.

Another study proves that social support can be just as effective as yoga for lowering depression, anxiety and overall stress. A group of prenatally depressed women were split into a yoga group and a social support group. Both met weekly for 12 weeks. At the end of each session, both groups saw lower cortisol levels.

And don’t forget another benefit of social support: hugging. Hugs or other positive physical interactions have also proven to dampen cortisol, raise oxytocin and lower systolic blood pressure during stressful events.

Last, but not least, it’s important to acknowledge your stress. To talk about it. After all, stress often has a root cause, be it financial worries, relationship problems, work deadlines, the death of a loved one or something else. Lifestyle changes can help you manage some of this, but they won’t get to the root cause.

When you address the underlying reason, that’s when you unlock true long-lasting stress management. And you can see the immediate impact on your health. In one study, cognitive behavioural therapy for stress management directly reduced cortisol levels in a group of pregnant women. So remember, a large part of stress relief is acknowledging the main cause and getting help.

Laugh More, Even If Forced

Have you heard the saying “laughter is the best medicine”? Well, we can’t say it’s necessarily the best. But it is an effective way to lower cortisol levels, along with releasing endorphins and a host of other health benefits.

One study examined the cortisol levels of those watching an hour-long funny video. A half hour after the video ended, their levels decreased more than the control group. And the effects stay true even if the laughter is forced. In one study of a “laughter yoga” group, which encourages prolonged voluntary laughter, participants saw a significant drop in cortisol levels while the control group did not. It seems you really can laugh away stress.

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