Cortisol: All About the Stress Hormone 

by Natalie Meriwether, BSN

What is cortisol? 

Cortisol, often referred to as the “stress hormone,” is a steroid hormone released by the adrenal glands in response to stress. Cortisol is a part of our “fight or flight” response and helps us react to stressful situations by keeping us on high alert. Under normal circumstances (low or no stress) cortisol is released in a circadian rhythm, with the highest levels secreted in the morning, and the lowest levels secreted late at night. 

Why is cortisol important? 

Cortisol is an important hormone as it helps us recognize when a threat is present and triggers our response to the threat. Along with aiding in our response to stress, cortisol is also involved in metabolism, a healthy inflammatory response, blood sugar utilization, and immune function.1 While cortisol is an important part of our stress response, it’s important to keep levels at bay when there is no real threat present.   

How can I manage my cortisol levels? 

Monitor caffeine intake: Too much caffeine can interfere with your sleep and may stimulate cortisol secretion. Try to stick to 1 cup of coffee or tea per day and avoid caffeine at least 6 hours before bedtime.  

Avoid skipping meals: Ever feel “hangry”? Elevated cortisol might be a culprit. Although meal-skipping has been widely normalized, skipping meals usually isn’t a good idea. Your body recognizes hunger as a stressor, and as a result, cortisol is released. Prioritize eating well-balanced meals and snacks throughout the day to keep yourself energized and feeling your best.  

Sip a warm mug of tea: Drinking a warm beverage can make you feel relaxed on its own, and teas like green, black, and oolong contain an amino acid called L-theanine, which can help support a calm, relaxed mood.* When possible, opt for caffeine-free teas.  

Prioritize quality sleep: Because cortisol is released in a circadian rhythm, getting enough quality sleep is important to help regulate levels. Keeping a cool bedroom, limiting screen time around bedtime, and sticking to a regular sleep schedule can help.  


Cortisol plays an essential role in our body’s response to stress, but it’s important to keep levels at bay during normal circumstances. Avoiding excessive caffeine, eating regular meals, enjoying a mug of relaxing tea, and getting enough sleep can promote cortisol regulation and overall well-being. 


  1. Thau L, Gandhi J, Sharma S. Physiology, Cortisol. [Updated 2023 Aug 28]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 Jan. 

* These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.