Cortisol (Courty-Zal), is a very important stress hormone but in order to understand the word one must understand the different mechanisms of stress.

In an earlier post we talked about adrenaline and the role it plays in fight, freeze or flight and cortisol also plays a part in this. Anytime your body is under any kind of stress whether it be working out, anxiety, or even a nervousness before an interview your body prepares itself and releases cortisol.

Imagine you were standing there and a man walks up to you with a knife or gun, your first instinct is to either run away or do something to protect yourself. Cortisol gives you this energy while shutting down other systems in order for you to survive and this is where it all begins.

Now most people will say i’m fat, or stressed, or unhappy because “i have high cortisol” but that is not entirely true. What happens when the body is under stress for large periods of time is that cortisol production ends up getting disrupted and so the body stops making it. Think of it like the brakes on a car if you keep pushing the gas and speed and constantly push on the brakes they will start to wear away.

Now it is important to understand the different between ‘high cortisol’ and ‘low cortisol’. Imagine that most of us start off balanced but as we become stressed our body starts to have high levels of cortisol and if this persists for long periods of time then we have low levels because we get burnt out (adrenal fatigue).

Factors that increase cortisol levels:

Caffeine (stimulant)

Cocoa (stimulant)

Sleep Deprivation (negative stress if done constantly, positive if used to reset schedule)

Severe Trauma or Stress (negative stress)

Prolonged or High Intensity Exercise (positive stress)

Anorexia (negative stress)

Intermittent or prolonged fasting (positive stress)


Factors that decrease cortisol levels:

Massage Therapy


Vitamin C


Omega 3’s

Vitamin D


High levels of cortisol will leave you wired and up for long periods of time and low levels will leave you burnt out and fatigued. The key is harmony between the low and the highs which is very profound as this is how life should be, things are never constant and always changing. Typically you want to have high cortisol when you wake up and start your day and you want to have low levels when you are shutting down and getting ready to go to sleep.

Remember that anytime you feel stressed, it is just cortisol and your body is working for you to bring you back to balance 🙂

“Cortisol levels are like the yin and yang, most people see it as high or low, black or white, good or bad but in reality it is very much about harmony and balance.” -Project Posi+ive


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