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Cortisol gets a lot of blame for the adverse effects of stress. While it certainly plays a significant role in that process, that’s not all it does. Your body wouldn’t produce a hormone just to hurt you.
It has a purpose. The main problem with cortisol isn’t the hormone itself, but rather the amount of time that you spend producing it. In small bursts, cortisol is a necessary and beneficial hormone.
It keeps you going when you’re feeling exhausted from stress, and it helps you with your fight or flight reflexes by acting as a pain killer. In fact, in small doses, cortisol does a lot of really important things for you, and you would definitely miss it if you had to go without it.
However, cortisol is only meant to help you in short, quick stressful situations. You’re meant to be able to relax afterwards and let its production slow down. If your entire life is a stressful situation, then your body is going to keep on producing cortisol continuously, leading to a number of adverse effects.
If you’re always under stress, then cortisol will stick around, and many of your other important bodily functions will suffer as a result. Cortisol works by stopping some processes briefly in order to direct more energy towards doing what you need to do, which is useful in a survival situation like those that prehistoric humans were in.
However, over time, the stopping of these functions proves harmful to your body. Your bones won’t be repaired anymore, which can lead to osteoporosis. You’ll start to lose your memory and even muscular structure.
Your aging process will speed up and you’ll start to look older and feel a lot worse. It won’t necessarily kill you, but it won’t feel good. You need to put a pin in your stress so that cortisol levels don’t get out of control.
A healthy amount of this hormone is a good thing. It’s what keeps you excited and driven, and it gives you energy when you need it. You just can’t have that energy all the time, though, because it has to come from somewhere.
You can’t always be relying on your backup energy, either, because that takes a lot of effort to sustain and you’ll tire yourself out quickly. Take time to relax every now and then so that you can recuperate and continue doing what you need to do in life on a regular basis.