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What You Need To Know About Stress But Haven’t Been Told

Cortisol is your primary stress hormone, also known as your “fight or flight” hormone. Its primary purpose is to regulate metabolism during stress, giving energy to the tissues that need it. It’s also vital to keep your body and its processes working properly. BUT when cortisol is always elevated, it can turn a good thing into a not-so-good thing—kind of like Darth Vader going to the dark side. Chronic stress can lead to an outpour of cortisol throughout the day—and that’s a problem.

These days it’s common to have chronically elevated cortisol levels. High cortisol can lead to a host of health issues that feel as minor as “eh, that’s a bummer” to extreme as “by the power of Zeus almighty, help me!” The issue is, most of us don’t know the symptoms of high cortisol to even begin to find ways to balance it.

Balanced Cortisol vs. High Cortisol

If you relate to any of these high cortisol symptoms, read on…you may have high cortisol. 


Why Might You Have High Cortisol?

You can have high cortisol as a result of pituitary or adrenal gland issues, medications, elevated estrogen levels (for women), or living in a state of perpetual stress. One of the main causes of perpetually high cortisol is the latter. 

Your body is hardwired to have short, acute spikes of cortisol, and then immediately regulate cortisol back down to normal levels. Like back in caveman days when our ancestors needed to run for the hills from that saber tooth cat—then shrug it off and go back to picking berries. Or like now when you slam the brakes when that 18-wheeler cuts out in front of you. What our bodies are NOT made for is having constantly elevated levels of cortisol throughout the day and night, yet sadly, this is more common than not.


Most people are battling high cortisol levels to some degree due to multiple life stressors—work, kids, finances, traffic, politics, exposure to trauma, news, social media, illness, get the idea. But your body cannot distinguish between the life-threatening events that require bursts of cortisol to stay alive and the looming tax papers still yet to be filed just to stay out of trouble with the IRS. Therefore, with all of our modern-day stressors, our bodies are pumping out cortisol like the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill. Clearly we lost mastering our cortisol somewhere between the caveman and now.

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High cortisol in the short term = Good

It’s the fight or flight mechanism doing its thing

High cortisol in the long term = Bad

It’s your adrenal glands going into overdrive

Part II: What Cortisol Does and How It Works

Think you have high cortisol?