Cortisol and adrenaline are both hormones that our “stress systems” rely on. Adrenaline deals with short-term needs while cortisol deals with the long-term.
Cortisol helps control blood sugar levels, regulate metabolism, reduce inflammation, and assist with memory formulation. It has a controlling effect on salt and water balance and helps control blood pressure.
Cortisol is the primary stress hormone, enhancing your brain’s use of glucose and increasing the availability of substances that repair tissues. Cortisol is best known as the “fight or flight” response.
Adrenaline also known as epinephrine helps the body react quickly to situations making the heartbeat faster, increasing blood flow to the brain and muscles, and stimulating blood sugar production to use for fuel.
Both of these hormones serve a purpose in our body in times of specific situations of stress or in a situation where a quick reaction is needed. Both are important in our body’s ability to survive, however too much production of either of these can have negative long-term effects.
The problem with stress in our society today is that we perceive many situations to be “highly stressful” causing the production of these two hormones to enact in our system more than just in distressed situations.
Think of it like this: You are going skydiving, and you are excited to embark on your new experience. When you are standing at the edge of the plane, cortisol and adrenaline are pumping through your system to give you the courage to jump out of the plane. Your heart is racing, palms are sweaty, butterflies in your stomach, mind racing- what did I get myself into?!
The problem is, many of us spend 80% of our day in this exact mode because of the way we perceive our situations at work, at home, with family, and with other responsibilities.
Too much of either of these hormones in the system for too long can lead to things like high blood pressure, anxiety, impaired cognitive performance, weight gain, headaches, increase chances of a heart attack or stroke, suppressed thyroid function, etc.
The key is to balance the production of these hormones, identifying when you feel they are activating within your body and finding ways to reduce and balance them.
Deep, slow breathing is a short-term modality to calm the production of both of these hormones, meditation is another long-term tool to calm their production and balance stress.