Looks and sounds like a brand of mouthwash but is a chemical steroid (given my Grade E in O Level Science) that makes us rage or run.
You know that instinct that kicks in when you want to lamp someone and end up incarcerated for bodily harm or run away and cry in a corner.
I’ve been there myself at work mainly when some psychotic twat of a headteacher has behaved malevolently, when instead of picking up a chair in the head’s office or walking down the SLT Admin corridor with an AK47, you simply seethe and then fuck off home to lick wounds.
Cortisol does that to you.
You lose reasoning, your rationale, your mind.
I do occasionally still have the urge to fight or fly but given that cortisol levels seemed to rocket when I was employed in some shitty teaching jobs, or working with some bellends of clients more recently, they’ve lessened.
The last month though, my cortisol levels have been up and down, up and down, like a yo-yo.
I’ve been incandescent with rage at working relationships, frustrated and lashing out at people who were caught in the cortisol crossfire and then oddly becalmed. I’m not proud of these chemical swings. No one was really hurt – except me. And I’ve quickly recovered and reflected on my actions, apologised and moved on.
I read a quote this week on social media and felt inspired enough to repeat it here and unpick it:
We either make ourselves miserable or we make ourselves strong. The amount of work is the same.
Since 2012, I’ve worked solely on making myself miserable, wearing booze blinkers and being a selfish twat, ignoring my loved ones and friends in a drunken self-medicating haze. I spent so much money and time making myself and others miserable by being permanently pissed, looking backwards at malevolent incidents in education in Norfolk, that I forgot to work on making myself strong.
This week, a friend from the north, a fellow teacher at a school in Lancashire, contacted me about leaving teaching with a paltry pay-off. 5 years ago I’d have said fight the bastards, stir up your cortisol and take no prisoners. I know now though that is wrong. It is time spent making yourself miserable.
After he’d been out cycling for some thinking time, Pete messaged me to say he was taking the money and rebuilding.
I was pleased.
Pete in his Preston home can now make himself strong, recover from the malignant black dog of depression and stop being miserable. Those twats in schools who shafted him won’t have that escape tunnel either. They’re trapped with their own stresses and cortisol swings.
I know something else too.
It won’t take Pete a month or 6 months to recover; it took me years, but focusing on making yourself stronger is far more productive than making yourself (and others) miserable.
Cortisol may make you want to punch someone’s lights out, or run away and hide, but the best course of action is always to keep it under control and choose a course of action that will make you happy and strong.
People advised me back in 2013 what to do, to let it go, to stop dwelling in the teaching cave of recent years.
I wish I’d listened to them.
You can’t control cortisol but you can choose routes that make you happy and strong.
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