The Role of Cortisol in Stress Management

What is Cortisol?

Cortisol is a hormone that is produced in the adrenal glands and is released during stress. It is often referred to as the “stress hormone” because of its role in managing the body during times of crisis. When an influx of cortisol enters the body: heart rate, blood pressure, and blood glucose increase. Furthermore, it temporarily shuts down systems in the body that are not necessary during times of crisis such as the digestive or reproductive system.

It is an integral part of enabling human’s “fight or flight” reaction when they feel like they are in danger or are under great duress. Having a healthy level of Cortisol is important for the body to function properly however there are situations when the body is in danger because too much or too little Cortisol is flowing through the blood stream.

Too Much Cortisol

Having too much cortisol can result in several harmful symptoms for the body. This includes weight gain, fragile skin, and acne. Women may also suffer from irregular menstrual periods as well. One condition that may lead to increased cortisol levels is getting to stressed out, this can result in a host of issues including weight gain, depression, sleep issues, and heart disease.

Too Little Cortisol

Not making enough Cortisol is also harmful for the body, a lack of cortisol can lead to changes of skin, being chronically tired, muscle weakness, diarrhoea, and weight loss among others. It can also lead to mental health issues like depression, irritability, and salt craving as well. If left untreated, it can become what is known as an Addisonian crisis where one can suffer from back or leg pain, severe vomiting, low blood pressure, and loss of consciousness.

How to Manage Cortisol Levels

Cortisol levels can be managed through stress relief activities. This includes eating a balanced diet, exercising, laughing, or social interaction to name a few. Getting good sleep or a massage is also a good way of getting stress relief to manage your Cortisol levels. You may also go to your doctor and have them help boost your cortisol levels if you don’t have enough hormones in your system.

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