Both cortisol and adrenaline help us respond to the everyday stress but there are some important differences. Find out why some people handle stress more easily. Learn to recover better from good stress. If you are chronically stressed, you can change this. It will protect you from illness and injury.
Adrenaline has a quicker response time than cortisol because it bypasses the HPA Axis. That initial surprise you get when your kid jumps out of the closet is adrenaline. It is made in the medulla of the adrenal gland and triggers the brain to slow motility in your gut, mobilize your skeletal muscles and increase your heart rate immediately. Adrenaline is a both a hormone and a neurotransmitter.
Your body breaks down adrenaline within two minutes after the intial shock unless your have a specific genetic mutation. A COMT ((Catechol-O-Methyltransferase) or MAO (monoamine oxidase) SNP. (single nucleotide polymorphism). If you have one of these SNP’s then you may be agitated for longer because your body is slower to process adrenaline. Some people process adrenaline faster. These are the people who are fazed by nothing.
Cortisol is a little different. As you may remember cortisol has an important anti-inflammatory component. Learning to regulate cortisol throughout your day can decrease pain and speed up recovery time. The brain releases ATCH (adrenocorticotropic hormone) from the pituitary signalling the adrenal cortex to produce cortisol. This process takes about ten minutes so it’s not immediate like adrenaline.
A stressful event will amp up your physiology and prepare to put all systems into fight/flight or freeze mode in a similar way to adrenaline. Your digestion slows down and glucose gets mobilized. Coming down from a cortisol takes about an hour after you’ve resolved the issue. The tricky part is that most modern day stresses don’t find resolution so many people are living in a wired and tired state most of the time.
Train for Everyday Life
Our physiology is wired to respond to stress in a specific way. Imagine a time when you needed to protect yourself from predators and this was the main stress. Mimicking this in your lifestyle will help you thrive. Training ourselves to resolve stress quickly supports optimal health and mitigates symptoms of chronic illness. Here is what you can do:
- Build strength. Muscle mass tells your physiology that it can handle whatever life brings.
- Rest. Deep rest and meditation means being completely unplugged for a period of time everyday. Start with 5 minutes and build.
- Social contact. Real, in-person relationships calm our nervous system. We are wired to survive and thrive together.
- Heart rate. Get your heart rate up a few times each week doing an activity you enjoy.
- Pleasure and unstructured time. This creative time is how we resolve and move through stressful events.