The Importance of Managing Work Stress
Managing work stress is not just a matter of mental well-being and having the ability to perform well at your job, it has implications on your health and the quality of your life in general. In a study of 75 men and women, UK experts noted that subjects showed steeper increases in the stress hormone cortisol on workday mornings than on days off. Since this rise occurred within 30 minutes of waking up, the mere anticipation of work may trigger job-related stress, according to Dr. Andrew Steptoe and his team at University College London.
What was most interesting in the findings was that cortisol levels during the rest of the workday were similar to those on days off. Earlier research has shown similar results with some evidence suggesting the early-morning increase in cortisol is highest among people with high job stress.
In the study, Dr. Steptoe and his team measured cortisol levels in the participants’ saliva. Samples were taken immediately upon waking, 30 minutes after waking and every two hours until late evening. Regardless of the day, the participants’ cortisol levels were highest in the morning. The sharpest increase however occurred 30 minutes after waking on workdays.
Information provided is courtesy of and compiled by the Academy of Anti-aging Research staff, editors, and other reports.
An Anti-Aging Perspective on Managing Work Stress
Cortisol is one hormone that is pro-aging. The hormone plays a key role in regulating metabolism, blood pressure and cardiovascular function, and it suppresses immune system activity. Cortisol also helps the body respond to stress, mobilizing the body and preparing it for vigorous activity. Excessive cortisol levels are believed to wear on the heart, brain, metabolism and other bodily functions. Cortisol levels naturally wax and wane over the course of a day, peaking in the morning and declining through the afternoon and morning.
But what happens exactly when the body is exposed to stress, whether mental or physical? That has much to do with the NeuroEndoMetabolic (NEM) Stress ResponseSM.
The NEM is composed of six circuits, each one playing a key role in the handling of stress. They are the metabolic, cardionomic, detoxification, hormonal, inflammatory, and neuro-affective responses.
Two of the more active organs within the NEM are the adrenal glands. They produce over 50 different kinds of anti-stress hormones, including cortisol.
With chronic stress, the burden falls on the adrenal glands to produce more and more cortisol, which can overwork them. At a later stage, they begin to fall into exhaustion. This leaves the body exposed to stress without the stabilizing and neutralizing effects of cortisol.
Whether in the beginning stages or advanced, this cycle can create Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome (AFS), a debilitating condition with symptoms such as tiredness, brain fog, sleep problems, weight issues, loss of libido, inability to handle stress, mild depression, anxiety, heart palpitations and more.
Besides stress, cortisol level also goes up with high sugar intake. Taking desert at night will increase the cortisol level. A high cortisol level also inhibits the release of growth hormone level in our body. Growth hormone is one anti-aging hormone we need more of during the aging process.
Leading an unhealthy lifestyle and not managing stress not only causes dysregulation to the NEM and adrenals, it can also open us up to more illnesses, faster aging and the shorter life expectancy that comes with those.
For example, chronic stress and overconsumption of sugar can also cause an imbalance of the gut’s microbiome, which can then lead to gastrointestinal (GI) tract disorders.
With many GI tract disorders, the immune system is involved and the inflammatory response of the NEM is constantly triggered. The adrenal glands then need to produce cortisol to bring down the inflammation and suppress the immune system.
This cycle repeats, however, because the stress ensues and the disorder continues.
It is vital at this point to heal the gut and subdue inflammation by managing work stress and other stressors that caused it as well as improving the lifestyle and diet. And if AFS accompanied these issues, it is all the more reason to take extra care with diet.
Many of us spend most of our time at work, preparing for work and even thinking about work at the end of the day. So managing work stress and using stress relief exercises can spell the difference between a happy, healthy life and one that is lackluster or riddled with health issues.
Whether you need a full AFS recovery plan or simply to keep your cortisol levels more even during the day, the lesson from this study is simple: reduce stress and live longer!