Work with Carol Cortisol?

Long before our cortisol gal – let’s call her Carol Cortisol, arrives at work, she’s fed up and already well into anxiety. She fears taking any risks herself at work, and lambastes others who seek adventure when her down moods crank up her intolerance.

It doesn’t take much for Carol’s brain to stir up chemical hormones, and crankiness is the least of her problems when it happens. Her brain that pushes against relationships, leaks out any courage she may have mustered, stomps on solutions, and axes well being for everybody around. 

Carol’s cortisol is a potent chemical that surges whenever she slips into stress, and is now  recognized  as a drug that can literally shrink her brain.  It leaves other damaging footprints behind too, that luckily can be avoided whenever Carol grows awareness of its trickery. Researchers could have warned Carol for some time, for instance, that cortisol shuts down learning, creates anxiety attacks innovation, and can cause depression.

Less known, until recently, are tactics to counter Carol’s cortisol surges.

Others try to cope  and a few remind Carol that cortisol has useful purposes, and they are correct, yet it’s little consolation. While it’s a short term chemical which was useful to treat Carol’s allergies, or zap her with energy to survive a few shocking moments at work, cortisol also lowers her sensitivity to pain.

It helped Carol survive grief, and pulled her whole group through a short term pressure project, but there are costs. How so?

Long-term cortisol surges often, and Carol tends to maintain harmful levels, which can result in highly toxic behaviors at work. Dangers to Carol’s own health, keep others concerned since research shows cortisol to:

1. Lower immune systems
2. Slow down thinking
3. Create blood sugar imbalances
4. Raise your blood pressure
5. Weaken muscle tissue
6. Decrease bone density
7. Increase fat to stomach areas.

Can you see why Carol reacts negatively when under the influence of harmful chemical surges?

To flee from and lower dangerous levels of cortisol, others try to get Carol to:

a. Relax, listen to music,  take a walk, and run from stress.
b. Spend time with upbeat people, laugh, and steer away from cynics.
c. Manage time, create  doable daily targets, and avoid overloads
d. Take up a sport, do stairs, park far from doors and avoid passivity.
e. Give away things, care, join Rotary, and run from financial anxiety.
f. Teach from your strengths, inspire excellence, yet flee perfectionism.
g. Propose winning solutions and avoid fixation on problems at work.

At times, Carol sees her problem, and thinks she has better alternatives than these, to sidestep cortisol’s confinement. Strange as it may seem, the best key is to do the opposite of whatever creates cortisol. To do the opposite of a cortisol response, is to rewire her brain literally for more serotonin guided behaviors, for instance.

Luckily Carol’s brain also comes fine tuned for serotonin success, whenever she remembers to actually do healthier actions.  For example, on a good day her brain can rewire dendrite brain cells for serotonin‘s well-being and for growth of plasticity in areas that had once caused cortisol imbalances.

It’s hardly worth an effort to make these changes, Carol complains, because she can’t think about the rewards, when she’s so depressed. People who do so, tell Carol, they tend to replace her kind of cortisol crankiness for serotonin serenity. Her reaction, Carol seems to be jealous of peers who come to work with lower levels of cortisol drugs, or seem to generate fewer fluctuating cortisol surges.  Carol comments at times about  how calmly and rationally other people react at work – even when hairy spiders strut past their feet

Spiders aside,  research shows that 22 stressors will creep in on each of us in an ordinary day, and yet everybody in her workplace suffers double when these same stressors hit Carol. How about you?

By the way, Guys, I know you likely feel left out of Carol’s story – but stay tuned. Your turn is coming soon:-).

3 Comments

  1. Hi Ellen,

    What an engaging post! Many will be able to relate to Carol, I’m sure. I am wondering if there is research that shows that meditation (any kind or a specific kind) lowers cortisol? It is my own favorite stress relieving technique, and has been a significant part of my day for decades.

  2. eweber says:

    Thanks Mary Jo, yes, the research comes from many sources and some are cited in my earlier posts on cortisol. It’s a topic no longer disputed now by the scientists although they are find more daily about this rather potent chemical! It’s fun to integrate the research and roll it into real situations we all face:-)

  3. [...] Carol Cortisol had been part of Money Shysters Inc. since it opened in 1990, so staff grew accustomed to bad moods, put downs, and general irritations at work, in much the same way you cope with side effects from annoying colds in winter. Few staff paid attention to her outbursts anymore, much less reacted to Carol’s daily doses of criticism for pretty much everything they did. [...]

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