No One to Fight, Nowhere to Run: Reducing Unnecessary Cortisol

April 18 2018

Jacqueline Rosenhek

 

If you suffer from any form of anxiety and/or depression (which tends to go hand in hand) you have probably if not definitely had the misfortune of experiencing a panic attack. For those of you who do not exactly know what it is, a panic attack is essentially a sudden period of intense fear, dread, helplessness, stress, worthlessness, anger, confusion and overall irrationality usually followed by feelings of exhaustion and sadness. Panic attacks tend to be accompanied by increased sweating, dissociation, nausea, increased heart rate, dizziness, dry mouth, vomiting, diarrhea and headaches just to name a few physical side effects. It is a horrible, terrifying feeling that some people have to deal with on a regular basis. It does not help that there are still a lot of people who do not seem to be good at handling mental illness, unfortunately many people get put off by things they do not understand and rather than try and understand them, they have a bad tendency to judge and show general ableist behaviour (ableism being any type of discrimination against a person with mental illness or any form of disability, typically by characterizing people based on their mental illness or disabilities and treating them as inferior in any way). There is no shame in having a mental illness or having to take any medication for it, however there are some complimentary things you can do to help reduce the symptoms.

One of the main things you might want to do to reduce anxiety would be to try to reduce your cortisol levels. Cortisol is a steroid hormone that gets produced in excess when we deal with stress and is part of our fight or flight reflex. Cortisol helps to regulate your blood pressure and immune system when you are in any type of crisis; however when you are prone to panic attacks, your brain frequently tells your body that it is in crisis and therefore you produce an excess of cortisol. Being in intense distress releases cortisol as part of the fight or flight reflex. Once the alarm to release cortisol has sounded, your body becomes mobilized and ready for action — however, there has to be a physical release of fight or flight, otherwise, cortisol levels build up in the blood, which creates anxiety. A very good way to prevent cortisol build up is physical activity, especially something combative. This will help you satisfy the fight or flight reflex your mind is giving off and reduce cortisol. Aerobic activities, like walking, jogging, swimming or biking are great ways to recreate the “flight” outlet and burn up cortisol as well. Reducing stimulants is also a very good idea for reducing cortisol production in the body. If you are prone to anxiety, stimulants of any kind will only exacerbate it. Instead, it might actually be good to opt for some natural remedies that will help you relax, such as passion flower extract or vitamin B. It is also imperative to try to get regular sleep. Sleep deprivation causes a massive increase in cortisol production which will cause anxiety problems. More than anything else, however, try to distance yourself from everything that makes you stressed.

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