Cortisol, the hormone that courses through our system when under stress, is often given a bad rap. Known as the “stress hormone,” elevated cortisol levels have been linked to health issues as well as an increased risk for developing a mental illness. But what is it’s core function? Cortisol is secreted as part of the body’s stress response; a perceived or experienced threat will create a physiological response, eliciting a quickening of our pulse, a burst of adrenaline and the release of cortisol which helps to regulate our system. Essentially, cortisol plays an important role in helping the body respond to stress. That is, acute stress; stress in the moment, periodic lapses of feeling overwhelmed (trying to get out the door in the morning), and moments when we immediately need to respond (a car veering into our lane).
It is chronic stress that elevates cortisol to levels that our system has difficulty with. Our bodies need to get back to the relaxation response that is necessary for the cortisol loop to best function. Reducing overall stress in our lives can be difficult, but necessary. In tomorrow’s post, we will look at ways to help reduce chronic stress and give cortisol its rightful place on the podium. 🙂
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