Cortisol Creep–The Subtle Signs of Fight-Flight

brain temperature cortisol creep 123rf 20043998_sUgh.      #sigh      “Seriously?!”

We’ve all had these thoughts float through our heads at one time or another. We might not pay much attention to them or consider how they affect us. And yet, science tells us that they do affect us.

Mark Waldman (author of one of Oprah’s “Must Read” books, How God Changes Your Brain) explains in a TEDx talk that if you were to be put you into an fMRI machine and shown the word “NO” for less than one second, it would “release more stress neurochemicals than can possibly be good for your body or your brain.”

Cortisol Crash, Cortisol Creep

We know when we’ve had a “cortisol crash”—a near miss in a car accident, a big blowup with a family member, a race to catch a plane only to miss the plane doors closing by minutes. We can feel our heart racing, blood pumping, temperature rising.

But it’s the “cortisol creep” that can also derail us. Cortisol creep is subtle, quiet, pervasive. Do you recognize any of these cues for “cortisol creeps”?

  • First thought on awakening: OMG, how am I going to get everything done!
  • Thoughts about a coworker: Why in the world did my boss schedule that meeting on Friday afternoon. How inconsiderate of her to assume I could stay late as we head into a three-day weekend.
  • Feelings about a prospective client: Geez, I blew that presentation. The prospect could probably feel my desperation a mile a way. I will never land that account.
  • The CNN loop (the constant replaying of/gnawing on a disappointing or difficult situation): That was so rude of him. What did he mean by that? He doesn’t like me. He doesn’t respect me. How will this impact our future relationship? Will he do it again? If I respond this way, it will just make things worse; if I respond another way, that may jeopardize the success of my new project. Yada, yada, yada.

We know what happens when cortisol creeps into our systems:

  • Cognitive resources (creativity, strategy) drained
  • Immune system depleted
  • Resiliency derailed
  • Optimism disappears

How will you be aware of cortisol creep today?

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