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Cortisol And Adrenaline:  The Stress Hormones

Cortisol and Adrenaline are just two of the hormones our body uses in a stressful situation.

Understanding what they do and how they affect us is all part of understanding stress and our reactions to it.

Once you know what is happening inside your body, the easier it is to begin to learn how to relax and manage your stress levels.

The survival Instinct

We all have the survival instinct; we are all naturally programmed with this most basic of instincts. When we find ourselves in a situation where we need to react quickly our body responds by increasing the levels of certain hormones in your bloodstream which help us to cope with the situation.

This instinct to survive stems back to the time when we were hunter gatherers, roaming the plains looking to find and kill our food, whilst trying not to become dinner for another creature. Our bodies were designed to be on alert and ready to react at a moment’s notice, ready to pump all the right hormones into our system so that we would survive the situation.

Even though we no longer have the same dangers in our lives today, the survival instinct remains an important one, whether it be avoiding the speeding car or being able to react quickly to changing work situations and workloads.

What Do Stress Hormones Actually Do?

Adrenaline

Adrenaline is used to give you a quick boost of energy and this is responsible for the fight or flight response many of us feel in a stressful situation. It enables us to run like mad from the danger or to turn around and fight.

Adrenaline produces effects in your body which are often the ones you will notice first when you are feeling stressed. It:

  • Increases the heart and breathing rate, this you to think quicker and gives you faster muscle response
  • Helps the blood to clot faster and draws it away from the skin. (Useful to avoid excessive bleeding)
  • Draws blood away from your digestive tract to help reduce the possibility of vomiting

These actions can cause you to feel and experience:

  • Pounding in the chest, often described as palpitations.
  • Experience a cold sweat
  • Feel butterflies or knots in the stomach

Cortisol

Cortisol is designed to keep your response to the stressful situation going for as long as possible. So if you are in as stressful situation that needs you to be on full alert for a extended period of time, you will be ready and able to respond quickly to it.

As you can see both these stress hormones and their effects are vital for your survival in an emergency situation.

But what happens if you are experiencing stressful situations on a regular basis which also makes your body react in the same way.

Too Much of A Good Thing

The trouble with adrenaline and cortisol is that if you are releasing it every day into your blood stream it will eventually cause other more unwanted and unpleasant results too. Such as:

  • Exhaustion
  • Physical pain
  • Lack of concentration
  • Memory problems
  • Anger
  • Sleep problems
  • Aggression

Because of the way Cortisol works it can also produce symptoms in the long term which you may not realize is a result of stress, such as:

  • Excessive levels in your bloodstream can suppress the immune system therefore you may experience more colds than what is normal for you
  • You may experience an increase in allergies
  • Asthma suffers may experience worse symptoms
  • It can also play a big part in feelings of failure, anxiety and depression
› Cortisol