Most of us know cortisol to be the fight or flight stress chemical that floods our bodies when we are faced with danger, real or perceived. It can also cause a wide-range of alarming issues from belly fat and inflammation to fertility issues and cardiovascular disease. Lowering stress levels is the best way to keep it under control, but unfortunately, the way many of us do this can increase the amount of it in our system. That extra cup of coffee in the morning (which is when our levels are the highest) or evening cocktails increase secretion of the hormone. What about that sugary fix with the trans fats? You guessed it. It will increase levels as well. Staying out late to “let loose” often leads to less sleep which will also work against you. Today, I want to share a few ways to lower your stress levels and get the hormone under control.

1 | Drink your coffee after 10:00 AM.

Studies have shown that the early morning is the worst time to have coffee as you wake up with the highest levels of cortisol in your system. Try having a glass of warm water with lemon first thing to fend off dehydration and flush your system, or, if you really need the boost, move to black tea which lowers the hormone.

2 | Meditate.

Taking 10 to 20 minutes to breathe is one of the best things you can do for yourself in terms of lowering stress (and blood pressure), reducing anxiety and getting in tune with your body. It’s also a great way to set the tone for your day.

3 | Listen to your favorite music.

Music is a scientifically-proven mood enhancer and has been shown to cut cortisol levels almost in half.

4 | Exercise or get a massage.

Both release feel good chemicals: endorphin and serotonin, respectively.

5 | Go to bed earlier.

It’s not always easy, but crawling in bed 30 minutes early (without an electronic screen) can do wonders for your wind-down and help you sleep better and longer.

Known for her focus on whole body transformation, JMP founder, Johanna May Irwin has spent the last five years training and teaching Pilates to a growing clientele that includes men and women of all ages as well as private celebrity clients. She holds a diploma of Professional Pilates Practice and trained with Pilates International. Johanna’s dedication to the physical, mental and spiritual health of her clients has earned her recognition in a number of editorial features. She is a writer for Badass + Living.

Follow her on Instagram: @JohannaMayPilates