We may not have the same stressors as our ancient ancestors—substitute a rampaging economy in place of a rampaging woolly mammoth—but our bodies don’t know that, says integrative medicine practitioner Charles A. Moss, MD. When stressed, we still go into fight-or-flight mode, complete with sweaty palms, increased heart rate, and rapid breathing. The response starts with a shot of adrenaline, followed by high levels of the hormone cortisol, which helps us perform by moving blood from the digestive tract to the muscles and raising blood sugar levels to increase energy.

Once a short-term stressor is removed, cortisol production shuts down, says Moss, author of Power of the Five Elements (North Atlantic, 2010). The problem is, many modern stressors—job worries, for instance—tend to linger, leading to chronically elevated levels of cortisol. Research has linked excess cortisol to blood sugar–related diseases such as obesity and diabetes, along with lowered immunity, depression, allergies, osteoporosis, and Alzheimer’s. The good news is that we can reset our cortisol levels by adopting a handful of simple, healthier habits. Start by going to bed a half-hour earlier and remembering to take your daily multivitamin. Beginning to feel more balanced already? Then try these seven surprising but proven techniques to keep your life on track and maintain your energy when the going gets tense.