The Stress Hormones: Adrenaline & Cortisol

Stress hormones play an important role in survival.   Not all stress is bad, as discussed in another post.  However, long-term consequences of chronic stress can result in debilitating and life-threatening illnesses.   For this reason, all the topics in this website are directly or indirectly related to stress management.

One way to start reducing stress is to gain an understanding of how our bodies respond to it.  Here’s a brief summary of how stress hormones work.

Adrenaline spikes quickly and enables us to gain more strength, energy, and a higher level of alertness.  It also dissipates more quickly than cortisol.  It’s sometimes referred to as the “Fight or Flight” response.

A surge of adrenaline results in the following:

  • Increased heart rate
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Dilated pupils (all the better to see you with, my dear…),
  • Expanded airways to the lungs
  • Increased delivery of blood and oxygen to muscles
  • Increased metabolism

Cortisol builds more slowly and is longer lasting than adrenaline, so its effects can cause significant changes in your body over the long term. Cortisol’s primary purpose is to break down body tissues to be used as an energy source.

This is what happens in your body as cortisol levels increase:

  • Suppressed insulin production to allow higher glucose levels for energy
  • Suppressed immune system
  • Increased metabolism of fats, proteins, and carbohydrates
  • Decreased bone formation

Note:  Sleep deprivation, caffeine, and alcohol may increase cortisol levels.


Future  posts under this category will focus on the detrimental effects of long-term stress.  I can’t emphasize enough how extremely important this will be for you to know. Once you gain more knowledge in this area, you’ll understand my purpose for all the other categories on this website.   They’re all meant to help you in ways that will reduce your stress, avoid stress-related illnesses, and ultimately promote your well-being.


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