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December 7, 2020

Below is a lesson from Ten Percent Happier on taking control of cortisol with mindfulness, as well as our key learnings.

The Blue Courage team is dedicated to continual learning and growth.  We have adopted a concept from Simon Sinek’s Start With Why team called “Learn, Share, Grow”.  We are constantly finding great articles, videos, and readings that have so much learning.  As we learn new and great things, this new knowledge should be shared for everyone to then grow from.


Mindfulness of Cortisol

By Jay Michaelson

Cortisol is your best friend and worst enemy.

It’s probably saved your life, if you’ve ever had to make quick decisions in danger. It’s your “fight or flight” hormone, secreted by your adrenal gland (just above your kidneys) when the brain tells it that peril is near. 

You know the effects. Your heartbeat increases. Your body tenses up, ready to pounce or flee. And your mind goes a mile a minute, optimized to process as much information as possible to save you from…

Oh.

To save you from that tweet. Or that email. Or that comment on Facebook.

That’s the trouble with cortisol. Evolved to save us from sabre-tooth tigers, now the body releases it whenever there’s a provocation, creating stress and anger in the short term; anxiety, depression, and heart disease over the long term.

And 2020 has really been the year of cortisol, hasn’t it.

Continue reading here.


Key Learnings:

  • Cortisol – It’s your “fight or flight” hormone, secreted by your adrenal gland (just above your kidneys) when the brain tells it that peril is near. 
  • Now the body releases it whenever there’s a provocation, creating stress and anger in the short term; anxiety, depression, and heart disease over the long term.
  • Mindfulness of Cortisol:
    1. Seeing Cortisol as Cortisol – notice that I am experiencing the effects of cortisol, and that they are not helpful right now, so how about I let the thought go. Just see it for what it is, and let go.
    2. Cortisol is not “Me” – labeling stressful experiences as “cortisol” reinforces the message that this is simply something happening to the mind-body system. It’s cause and effect. This is the core Buddhist insight of “non-self” – that things we take to be I, me, or mine, are really just cause-and-effect phenomena. Seeing the “emptiness of cortisol” provides a helpful, healing reminder about what is happening, and how I can relate to it with some compassion and self-care.
    3. Some Compassion for the Pathos and Tragedy of Human Existence – Cortisol is often profoundly painful and deeply destructive. When I see someone manifesting signs of cortisol overdose, I can demystify it, seeing it with both wisdom (just a chemical, cause-and-effect phenomenon) and compassion (this is suffering, and causing even more suffering in other people). When I see myself about to act under the influence of cortisol, I can be Mindful of Cortisol and stop.
  • This is not to say that rage is never justified or that anger is somehow bad. On the contrary, the experience of cortisol is to be accepted with compassion and seen clearly for what it is.
  • Mindfulness of Cortisol – reassert some agency over when that happens.