Nurturing Balance: Holistic Approaches to Manage Chronic Stress and High Cortisol

6 March 2024
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In the hustle and bustle of modern life, chronic stress has become a prevalent issue, taking a toll on our overall well-being. This persistent stress triggers the release of cortisol, often called the "stress hormone," impacting both our physical and mental health. In this blog post, we'll explore the manifestations of chronic high stress, delve into the effects of elevated cortisol, and discover natural and holistic approaches to restore balance and promote overall wellness.


Understanding Chronic Stress:

 Stress is an inevitable part of life, but when it becomes chronic, its detrimental effects on the body and mind become pronounced. Chronic stress differs from its acute counterpart in its prolonged nature, leading to an ongoing release of cortisol, a hormone produced by the adrenal glands.


Effects of High Cortisol:

Elevated cortisol levels can wreak havoc on our health. From disrupted sleep patterns and weight gain to weakened immune function, the consequences of prolonged high cortisol are far-reaching. Understanding these effects is crucial for those seeking natural and holistic ways to mitigate the impact of stress on their well-being.


Chronic stress can contribute to weight gain through physiological, behavioural, and hormonal factors. Here are some key ways in which chronic stress may lead to an increase in body weight:


Hormonal Changes:

Cortisol Release: Chronic stress activates the body's "fight or flight" response, releasing stress hormones, including cortisol. Elevated cortisol levels over an extended period can stimulate fat storage, particularly in the abdominal area. This central or abdominal fat deposition is associated with an increased risk of metabolic and cardiovascular problems.


Insulin Resistance:

Chronic stress can contribute to insulin resistance, where the body's cells become less responsive to insulin. Insulin is a hormone that helps regulate blood sugar levels. Insulin resistance can lead to higher insulin levels in the bloodstream, promoting fat storage.

 Craving and Emotional Eating:

Stress often triggers cravings for comfort foods high in sugars, fats, and calories. These cravings can lead to overeating, as individuals may use food as a coping mechanism to deal with stress and negative emotions. Emotional eating, especially when combined with the consumption of energy-dense foods, contributes to weight gain.

Disruption of Eating Patterns:

Chronic stress can disrupt normal eating patterns. Some individuals may experience decreased appetite, while others may engage in stress-induced binge eating. Irregular eating patterns can interfere with the body's metabolism and contribute to weight fluctuations.

Impact on Physical Activity:

Stress may lead to fatigue and a lack of motivation, reducing the likelihood of engaging in regular physical activity. Physical inactivity is a significant factor in weight gain, as it can slow down metabolism and contribute to the accumulation of excess body fat.

Metabolic Changes:

Chronic stress can impact metabolic rate and energy expenditure. Some studies suggest that chronic stress may lead to a decrease in basal metabolic rate (BMR), which is the amount of energy the body needs at rest. A lower BMR can make it easier to gain weight and more challenging to lose it.

Gut Health Influence:

Emerging research suggests a connection between chronic stress and alterations in the gut microbiota. Changes in the gut's microbial composition can influence metabolism and may contribute to weight gain.

Sleep Disturbances:

Chronic stress is often associated with sleep disturbances such as insomnia. Poor sleep quality or insufficient sleep has been linked to weight gain and obesity. Sleep deprivation can disrupt hormonal balance, increasing hunger and a preference for high-calorie foods.

It's essential to recognize that the relationship between stress and weight gain is complex and varies from person to person. While stress is a potential factor in weight management, other lifestyle factors such as diet, physical activity, and genetics also play crucial roles. Addressing stress through holistic approaches, such as mindfulness, relaxation techniques, and lifestyle modifications, can be valuable for stress management and weight control.


Holistic Approaches to Manage Stress:


Mind-Body Techniques:

Mindfulness practices, such as meditation and deep breathing, offer effective tools for managing stress. Incorporating these into daily routines can help restore a sense of calm and balance.


Nutritional Support:

A balanced diet plays a crucial role in stress management. Foods rich in antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals contribute to overall well-being. Additionally, certain supplements, such as omega-3 fatty acids, can support the body during times of stress. Melbourne naturopath can help you change eating and lifestyle habits to reduce stress.


Physical Activity:

Regular exercise is a powerful stress buster. Engaging in physical activity promotes the release of endorphins, the body's natural mood lifters, and helps regulate cortisol levels.


Adequate Sleep:

Quality sleep is essential for stress recovery. Establishing a consistent sleep routine and creating a conducive sleep environment contribute to better overall health. Using Alchemy Cryo Whole body Cryotherapy can also help with sleep management.


Herbs and Supplements:

Explore the benefits of adaptogenic herbs like ashwagandha and rhodiola, renowned for their stress-relieving properties. Additionally, consider incorporating omega-3 fatty acids and other nutritional supplements to support your body's stress response. Melbourne Wellness Melbourne Naturopath can work with you to provide herbal support to manage stress.


Both ashwagandha and rhodiola are adaptogenic herbs, which are believed to help the body adapt to stress and maintain balance. While the exact mechanisms are not fully understood, research suggests that these herbs may influence various physiological processes to counteract the effects of chronic stress. Here's an overview of how ashwagandha and Rhodiola work:



Ashwagandha has been shown to have cortisol-lowering effects. Cortisol is a hormone released during the body's stress response, and elevated levels over an extended period can contribute to various health issues. Ashwagandha appears to help regulate cortisol levels, promoting a more balanced stress response.

Ashwagandha is classified as an adaptogen, which may help the body adapt to stressors. It's believed to modulate the body's stress pathways, helping to reduce the physiological and psychological impact of stress.

Chronic stress often leads to inflammation, and ashwagandha has anti-inflammatory properties. Reducing inflammation may contribute to an overall sense of well-being and alleviate some of the physical symptoms associated with chronic stress.

Ashwagandha has been studied for its neuroprotective effects, which may be relevant to stress management. It appears to support the health of nerve cells and may positively impact cognitive function, potentially mitigating the cognitive effects of chronic stress.



Rhodiola is known for its ability to modulate the release of stress hormones, including cortisol. It helps regulate the body's stress response, preventing excessive cortisol production during chronic stress.

Rhodiola has adaptogenic properties that are believed to enhance physical and mental endurance. Supporting the body's adaptation to stress may help individuals better cope with the demands of daily life and reduce feelings of fatigue associated with chronic stress.

Research suggests that rhodiola may have cognitive-enhancing effects, including mental fatigue and concentration improvements. This can be beneficial for individuals experiencing cognitive challenges due to chronic stress.

Rhodiola exhibits antioxidant properties, helping to neutralise harmful free radicals generated during times of stress. By reducing oxidative stress, it may contribute to overall cellular health and resilience.

It's important to note that individual responses to these herbs can vary, and more research is needed to understand their mechanisms of action fully. If considering the use of ashwagandha, rhodiola, or any herbal supplement for stress management, it's advisable to consult with a healthcare professional, especially if you have underlying health conditions or are taking medications. Additionally, these herbs are often used as part of a holistic approach to stress management, which may include lifestyle changes, dietary modifications, and other wellness practices.


Lifestyle Changes:

 Holistic wellness extends beyond specific practices. Setting boundaries, effective time management, and nurturing positive relationships are essential lifestyle changes that contribute to stress reduction.


Mind-Body Connection:

Recognizing the intricate relationship between thoughts, emotions, and stress is key to holistic well-being. Mindfulness practices and techniques that foster a positive mind-body connection can significantly enhance stress resilience.


Professional Guidance:

 While self-care practices are invaluable, seeking guidance from Melbourne Wellness Melbourne Naturopath can provide personalised strategies for managing chronic stress.




In conclusion, navigating chronic stress and high cortisol levels requires a multifaceted approach rooted in holistic wellness. By incorporating mind-body techniques, nutritional support, physical activity, and lifestyle changes, individuals can nurture balance and resilience in the face of life's challenges. Embrace the journey toward well-being, and let holistic practices guide you to a life of harmony and vitality.