Cortisol: The Stress Hormone

Stress Hormone
 our number two stress hormone, is secreted in high doses when our unconscious deems it necessary to fight, fly, or freeze for survival. After a stressful situation passes, the body needs to enter a “relaxation phase” in order for cortisol and the other 149 odd secreted biochemicals to return to normal levels. In our current high-stress culture, the body’s stress response is activated so often that it doesn’t always have a chance to return to normal. This results in a state of chronic stress and a constant state of physical arousal.

Humans are built for acute stress, not chronic stress. Chronic levels of stress mean constant high levels of cortisol that affect the body in some of the following ways:

  • impaired cognitive performance
  • suppressed thyroid function (negative affects on our metabolism) –
  • blood sugar imbalances (like hyperglycemia)
  • higher blood pressure
  • muscle atrophy and decreased bone density
  • lowered immunity and chronic inflammation
  • increased abdominal fat
  • insomnia

But cortisol in small and interrupted doses, actually works to our health benefit:

  • proper glucose metabolism
  • regulation of blood pressure
  • insulin release for blood sugar maintenance
  • immune function
  • inflammatory response

Stress Hormones
Interrupting our “stressors” with periods of relaxation allows cortisol levels to normalize, gaining health benefits rather than dis-ease. Meditation techniques have been proven to benefit our body and brain’s need to “drop” into a deep state of rest or calm. This helps the body repair itself, align hormone levels, balance metabolic states, and avoid damage caused by chronic uninterrupted stressors.

When practicing meditation, heart rate and breathing slow down, blood pressure normalizes, adrenal glands produce less cortisol and immune function improves. The mind also clears, and creativity increases.

In my next blog entry I will offer up some great examples of ways to meditate to help relieve stress and reduce cortisol.