Here’s another great reason to take time to relax: Reducing the stress hormone cortisol not only soothes your nerves, it also improves insulin control. Recent European research reveals this effect cuts the risk of type 2 diabetes in half and heightens blood-sugar control by as much as 60 percent if you’re diabetic. And it’s easy! Check out our tips below.
Breathe in bergamot.
Inhaling bergamot essential oil tamps down cortisol release in five minutes, boosting calmness and blood-sugar control by as much as 45 percent if you enjoy this scent whenever you feel tense, Australian research suggests.
“Bergamot’s sweet, spicy aroma prompts your brain to release GABA — a hormone that calms the cortisol-producing adrenal glands,” says Charles Marsden, Ph.D. Tip: Place two drops of bergamot oil onto a light bulb before turning it on.
Wake up happy.
Take 10 minutes to pray for the happiness and health of loved ones while you stay cozied up under the covers. Italian researchers say starting each day in this positive way cuts cortisol release in half, heightening blood-sugar control for up to three hours.
Admire something beautiful.
Stretching out and gazing at something beautiful can cut cortisol levels by 55 percent in 10 minutes, steadying blood sugar for two hours, suggests research in the journal PLOS ONE. Study coauthor Yvonne Heerkens, Ph.D., explains every time you take a break to focus on something beautiful, your brain sends stay calm messages to your adrenals.
Send a loving message.
Texting your pal helps cut cortisol release by 51 percent in one week. And that’s as effective as meditation for taming stress and steadying blood sugar, say researchers at Brown University. Turns out connecting with loved ones daily releases oxytocin, a calming hormone that also heals the insulin-controlling pancreas.
Try pie before bed.
Eight hours of deep sleep cuts daytime cortisol release, halving the risk of irritability and boosting blood-sugar control by 50 percent in 72 hours, say Cornell researchers. The best bedtime snack? Pie! UCLA researchers say the familiar flavors release sleep-deepening hormones.
This article originally appeared in our print magazine.