I am addicted to Cortisol
I am an addict, although this admission is not for what many would consider an addiction — but I will explain why it is an addiction and it is self-destructive.
My addiction is to Cortisol, known as the Stress hormone — it works with Adrenaline and Noradrenaline to ready your body for fight or flight. Cortisol is the longer acting hormone of the three, it is released more slowly but its effects are stronger. It controls the body functions’ responses to the stressor. When you are stressed Cortisol is what helps your focus and keeps you running longer to help you accomplish more.
It is an amazing chemical within our body, but it has a dark side for many people. Long term stress has many nasty side effects on our body, including weight gain, low sex drive, poor memory and poor sleep. These things increase our stress levels as well as decreasing our happiness which creates a vicious cycle. I have structured my life to get the feel not just of Cortisol in my system but also the sense of accomplishment of a task that is close to impossible. It is this drive which it ultimately self-defeating and self-destructive because of the effects it has on my body.
For the last 19 years I have lived my life in two states, manically busy or procrastinating. I have wasted weeks of research trying to fix this, I’ve tried every task system or app to improve my effectiveness and eventually failed every single time. I failed for a simple reason, I wasn’t addressing why I procrastinated — because I wanted to feel the rush and panic of a tight deadline or completing a body of work that was impossible for a normal person, I wasn’t interested in building a structure which would ultimately remove that rush from me.
I am not sure what brought this realisation to me, but as I observe my behavior and that of other people I know with the same procrastinating problem — we have the same pattern. Taking on too much work for any normal sane person and getting stressed to get it all done or waiting until the last minute to start it — each behaviour with the same outcome, a Cortisol hit.
Now that I’ve identified what I feel is my root cause what can I do to fix it. Well that’s where I am on a journey, the research I have done has resulted in an embarrassment of articles of total bull crap. It appears that while people recognise the link between Cortisol and procrastinating, very few people have answers on how to turn the bad behaviour needing the Cortisol hit for one which has a different and more positive reward mechanism.
The most frequent advice address the behavioural triggers with physical exercise, transferring the need for Cortisol to craving the endorphins from exercise. I agree that the endorphins from exercise are an amazing substitute and easily attained with positive reinforcement, although not everyone is athletically inclined and so this will be doomed to failure for those people — the same way task lists were for me. The worst articles talk about detoxification and new age hokem about cleansing rituals.
So I now I have identified and named the monkey on my back, I have to do something about it. For me that is going to be a return to the gym and getting back in shape. I have used the crutch of Cortisol for too long, I am out of shape and getting older by the day. If I am going to regain my happiness, fitness and mental faculties it has to be through exercise.
So I am starting a new path on the journey of my life