The nervous system or automatic nervous system (ANS) and cortisol are closely related to regulating our body’s response to stress. The nervous system coordinates and controls all of the body’s functions, including its response to stress. Without getting into the nitty-gritty of the ANS, there are two main parts of the nervous system: the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) and the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS). The SNS is responsible for the “fight or flight” response to stress, while the PNS is responsible for calming the body down and restoring balance after a stressful event.
Cortisol is a hormone that is released by the body in response to stress. It helps to mobilize energy and resources in the body to deal with the stressor. However, when cortisol levels remain elevated for long periods of time, it can have negative effects on the body, such as decreased immune function and increased risk of chronic diseases. Increased cortisol levels also often increase anxiety, insomnia, and stress.
Cortisol and Therapy
As a Catalyst Center therapist, I work with clients to regulate their nervous systems and manage their stress response to reduce cortisol levels and improve overall health and well-being. This can involve teaching clients techniques such as deep breathing, mindfulness, and progressive muscle relaxation to activate the PNS and reduce the effects of the SNS.
By regulating the nervous system and reducing cortisol levels, clients can improve their ability to cope with stress and experience a greater sense of calm and relaxation. This can lead to various physical and mental health benefits, such as improved sleep, reduced anxiety and depression, and improved immune function.
Cortisol and Ketamine-Assisted Psychotherapy
As a Ketamine-Assisted Psychotherapy (KAP) therapist at the Catalyst Center, I have seen how KAP can help reset chronic high cortisol levels. KAP is a type of therapy that uses low-dose ketamine, a dissociative anesthetic, to assist in the therapeutic process.
Ketamine has been shown to have rapid and potent antidepressant effects, and one of the ways it does this is by modulating the activity of the glutamate system in the brain. Glutamate is a neurotransmitter that plays a key role in regulating stress responses, and chronic stress can lead to imbalances in the glutamate system, resulting in elevated cortisol levels and symptoms of anxiety and depression. By restoring balance to the glutamate system, KAP can help to reset chronic high cortisol levels and alleviate symptoms of anxiety and depression. Additionally, our KAP program at the Catalyst Center can facilitate deeper and more meaningful therapeutic work by allowing clients to access and process traumatic memories and emotions that may contribute to their chronic stress and high cortisol levels.