How To Reduce Stress Hormones - 5 Practical Ways
When you think of work or work-related mental health issues, stress dominates your mind. Work nevertheless contributes to the highest stress levels among people worldwide, despite the paradox.
In the workplace scenario, it has become essential to prioritize employees' health both mental and physical health as the world changes its dynamics regarding health. As a result, wellness programs for employees are becoming more holistic and are incorporating all dimensions.
These programs should also include stress management to help employees cope with stress at work. Stress and a poor work environment can increase stress hormone levels in the workplace.
Thus, when creating a wellness program, it is only convenient to incorporate more strategies for reducing cortisols at work.
This article will discuss stress hormones and how to reduce them at work in 5 effective ways.
What Is Cortisol?
Cortisol is the stress hormone released by the adrenal glands when your body feels threatened. Whenever you experience stressful situations, your body releases cortisol and goes into a fight-or-flight response. It is your body's way of dealing with traumatic events.
The glucocorticoid hormone suppresses inflammation and helps in metabolisms, such as regulating blood sugar and energy. It tells your body to pump more blood and glucose for energy when faced with a stressful event.
High cortisol levels can affect your physical and mental health. If you are experiencing chronic stress, it can increase your body’s cortisol levels, causing anxiety, depression, and sleep deprivation. This can further have a negative impact on your physical health.
The amount of cortisol in your body peaks in the morning as soon as you wake and decreases as the day progresses.
How Do You Know If Your Stress Hormone Levels Are High?
Staying in a state of high stress or going through chronic stress is detrimental to your mental and physical health. Often at work, it can be challenging to avoid stressful situations. Workplace stress is inevitable, and finding the right strategy to manage stress and anxiety at work is important for better mental health.
Stress affects people differently. What may act as a stressor for you might not be for your colleagues. So, before addressing the concern or finding the right stress management strategies, you first need to understand the stressors at your workplace.
Understanding triggers is vital if you want to reduce cortisol levels. Cortisol is naturally good for your health. However, if your body is exposed to chronic stress, your body will exhaust from being in a fight-or-flight response. The energy it releases will be used for dealing with the stressors rather than help function your other body organs.
Excessive hair growth is another symptom of high cortisol levels in your body.
Managing anxiety or stress at work is easier said than done. However, knowing the signs of high cortisol can help deal with it. It helps you to know when to slow down and address the stressors that might create difficulties in your work life.
Here are a few symptoms to know if your stress hormones are high -
The decreased performance and productivity
Lack of concentration
Lack of motivation and confidence in your work
Drastic mood swings
High heart rate and blood pressure
High tension or constant fatigue at work
Deteriorating mental health
Difficulty in managing emotions at work, like being more irritable and twitchy at work
Feeling emotionally and mentally exhausted at work
Cortisol helps to regulate your sleep-wake cycle.
5 Practical Ways To Reduce Stress Hormones
When it comes to reducing cortisol levels, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. It is more about practicing and adapting to a healthier lifestyle and being more mindful of your surroundings. Managing or taking a break from stress is not as easy as it sounds, yet it is not impossible. You can use both professional and healthy handful coping techniques to prevent your stress hormones from peaking.
In the case of Cushing Syndrome, you might require medical treatment, but if not, then there are these five daily lifestyle tips to keep your cortisol levels low -
1. Identify Your Stressors Or What Triggers You
When it comes to finding a solution to any problem, be it health, or financial stress, the first thing that you should always do is find the root cause behind it. The same goes for dealing with stress at work. You have to be aware of your stressors or the things that make you anxious or uncomfortable.
A stressor doesn't necessarily have to be physical. It is a stimulus that causes anxiety or stress and can be both physical and psychological.
It is important to understand your triggers for reducing your stress hormones. It can be done by keeping a journal of your day-to-day activities. You don't have to give a detailed explanation, just the key points, so you can see why they happened or why you reacted the way you did.
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2. Prioritize Regular Exercise
For regulating your cortisol levels, exercising regularly or having a morning workout routine is the best way. Physical exercise can decrease and increase your cortisol levels depending on the duration and intensity of your exercise.
Although it can be quite hard to prioritize regular exercise or find your fitness motivation, it is not impossible. If you cannot incorporate exercise into your daily routine, then you can take some time off at work to practice office yoga or desk exercises. Engaging in physical activity for even 30 minutes can help you reduce stress and cortisol levels.
Participating in physical activity or exercising regularly is beneficial not only for your physical health but also for your mental health. All you need to do is choose your exercise regimen wisely so that your body can adapt to it and increase your endurance and regulate cortisol levels simultaneously.
The best way to achieve optimal cortisol levels is to exercise moderately. It is best not to engage in high-intensity exercise late afternoon or evening, as it might spike your cortisol and keep you awake.
3. Practice Mindful Meditation
Thinking or procrastinating about what can go wrong can increase your stress hormones. Negative thinking is one of the key factors behind high cortisol levels in your body. Research has shown that negative thinking can increase your cortisol levels, especially when contemplating a traumatic event.
So, if you are experiencing the same, practicing or indulging yourself in mindful techniques like meditation, deep breathing exercises, and yoga at work can help you calm down and keep track of your thoughts. A recent study has shown mindful meditation can help combat negative emotions and lower stress.
Learning how to relax your mind and body can be helpful when managing your mood and perspective. It further helps to manage your stress and anxiety at work. Relaxation techniques don't necessarily have to be alone. It can be as simple as closing your eyes and taking deep breaths or even using stress balls at work.
A study found that meditation programs benefited those at risk of high cortisol levels, including those with depression or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The longer the interventions, the more successful they were.
4. Make Sure You Eat Clean And Healthy
Maintaining a clean and healthy diet is important for your mental and physical health. What you eat determines a lot about your mood. And eating the wrong food can trigger your cortisol levels. Consuming a high amount of sugar and caffeine will spike your stress levels and increase your chances of getting heart disease or, even worse, diabetes.
Again, when dealing with highly stressful events or even anxiety, you might find comfort in alcohol or any other substance as a coping mechanism. Still, these are not healthy and only worsen the condition later. Limiting alcohol is one of the best ways to start your journey of eating clean and healthy. Although a glass of wine might look fancy at first, remember it is a depressant that can disrupt your sleep pattern.
Drinking just half a cup of green tea daily can keep your depressive thoughts at bay.
Also, limiting caffeine intake and drinking plenty of water can hydrate your body and improve your digestion. Try to include foods high in polyphenols in your diet as they help lower your cortisol levels. Since most of your cortisol interacts with the neurotransmitters in your brain, food plays a big role in regulating your mood.
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5. Maintain Good Sleep Hygiene
Sleep is an integral part of your wellness regime. It cannot be stressed enough how much your health can benefit from just a good 7-8 hours of quality sleep. Cortisol and sleep are interlinked, and a good night's sleep is a key factor in reducing stress.
So, maintaining healthy sleep hygiene is essential if you want to reduce stress and anxiety. Remember, it's not just the duration of your sleep, but also the timing that is equally important. Sleep deprivation can increase your risk of chronic stress, and high cortisol levels can further lead to more health issues.
If your work shifts require you to stay awake at night, it can disrupt your circadian rhythm. In that case, your cortisol level will naturally rise, causing severe mood swings and other health problems. Prioritizing sleep might sound odd, but it is necessary to stick to a proper sleep schedule, even on weekends. You should try to get at least 8 hours of sleep.
Moreover, if your work demands odd hours of sleep, it is best to incorporate power naps in between your schedules to avoid burnout.
Suggested Read : How To Improve Your Sleep - 5 Do's And Don'ts Of Sleep Hygiene
Summing It Up
Thus, it can be surprising how you can invite stress in your life without even knowing. And stress at the workplace is something you cannot get a break from. From meeting deadlines to having too much workload, pressure can naturally spike your stress hormones.
Therefore, it is better to take preventive measures and eliminate all work-related stressors. In order to maintain a healthy work-life balance, it is better to reduce any activities that trigger your anxiety and stress at work. It might be challenging at first, but with regular practice, it will be rewarding and help you be healthier and happier.
I hope this article helped you get a better insight into what stress hormones are and how to reduce them at work.
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