As busy women, we often find ourselves stuck in the midst of chaos. Our days are filled with endless responsibilities and we rarely take the time to stop and take care of ourselves (it’s wrong I know we should be touting self care). Unfortunately, this lifestyle tends to lead to increased cortisol levels, which can have negative effects on our physical, emotional, and mental wellbeing. That’s why I’ve compiled a list of 9 polyvagal exercises to help lower cortisol levels and help you achieve better overall health.
9 Polyvagal Exercises to Lower Cortisol
Shoulder shrug + release
This exercise involves lifting your shoulders up and squeezing them tightly toward your ears. Hold for a few seconds before releasing and letting them drop back down. This can help release tension in the neck and shoulders, which in turn can help lower cortisol levels.
Hum (my favorite polyvagal exercise!)
My favorite polyvagal exercise! Humming produces a vibration that stimulates the vagus nerve, which is linked to the parasympathetic nervous system responsible for relaxation. Try humming for a few minutes each day to help your body relax and lower cortisol levels.
Gargling with warm salt water for 30 seconds can help activate the vagus nerve and stimulate the release of oxytocin, a hormone that can help lower cortisol levels.
Stretching can be a great way to release tension in the body and lower cortisol levels. Try incorporating a few simple stretches into your daily routine, such as reaching for the sky or stretching your arms and legs.
Singing can have similar benefits to humming, as it produces vibrations that stimulate the vagus nerve. Plus, it can be a fun and uplifting way to lower cortisol levels and boost your mood.
Lay down and relax one muscle at a time from feet to head
This polyvagal exercise involves consciously tensing and then relaxing each muscle group in your body, starting with your feet and working your way up to your head. This exercise can help release tension and promote relaxation.
Rebound (a simple and fun polyvagal exercise)
If you have access to a mini-trampoline, try rebounding for a few minutes each day. This exercise can help stimulate lymphatic flow and promote relaxation.
Deeply breathe (in for four counts – hold for four counts – exhale for eight)
Deep breathing exercises can be a powerful tool for reducing stress and lowering cortisol levels. Try practicing this breathing exercise for a few minutes each day to promote relaxation and calmness.
Close your eyes and orient your senses (what do you hear, smell, etc)
This exercise involves taking a few minutes to focus on your senses and be present in the moment. This can help calm your mind and lower cortisol levels, leading to a greater sense of calmness and wellbeing.
No matter what you’ve got going on in your life, it can be easy to neglect our own health and wellbeing. However, by practicing these 9 polyvagal exercises, we can lower our cortisol levels and achieve better overall health. Whether it’s humming, stretching, or taking a few minutes to focus on our senses, there are many simple and effective ways to promote relaxation and lower stress. So, next time you’re feeling overwhelmed, take a deep breath and try out one of these exercises- your body and mind will thank you!