According to The American Institute of Stress, numerous studies have shown job stress is far and away the major source of stress for American adults and that it has escalated progressively over the past few decades.
Prolonged stress, whether as a result of emotional, environmental or physical causes, is disastrous for the adrenals. When our adrenals are stressed it releases an excess of cortisol. Cortisol is a life sustaining adrenal hormone essential to the maintenance of homeostasis. When are bodies are in a normal relaxed state and not overly stressed cortisol regulates our blood sugar levels, fat burning, immune response, blood pressure, and heart contraction.
While it is vital to health for the adrenals to secret more cortisol in response to stress, it is also very important that bodily functions and cortisol levels return to normal following a stressful event.
In chronic stressful situations due to our work, it results in elevated cortisol levels. The result causes us to gain weight (especially around the midsection), deregulates our blood sugar, thinning our skin, deteriorating our muscles, fogging our brains, raising our blood pressure, and causing other nutritional deficiencies.
There are 3 major cascading affect on our adrenals that turn into a vicious cycle that hurt our adrenals.
- 1st our job stress lead us to experience compounding stress in other areas of life.
When we are stressed out because of our jobs, it’s easy for us to become stressed out over areas in life. All of sudden a beautiful day driving to the office, is more focused on the red light delay verses the bright sunlight and cool air outside.
When we are in state of constant stress, cortisol puts on hold all nonessential organs in a fight or flight situation. It alters immune system responses and suppresses the digestive system, the reproductive system and growth processes. This complex natural alarm system also communicates with regions of your brain that control mood, motivation and fear. When stressors are always present and you constantly feel under attack, that fight-or-flight reaction stays turned on. The long-term activation of the stress-response system — and the subsequent overexposure to cortisol and other stress hormones — can disrupt almost all your body's processes. The top 5 symptoms of elevated cortisol in your system are, anxiety, depression, digestive problems, weight gain, and sleep problems.
That's why it's so important to learn healthy ways to cope with the stressors in your life.
- 2. When are stressed about our jobs, it’s hard for us to sleep.
Stress and adrenal function affect sleep, particularly the circadian pattern of cortisol secretion by the adrenal glands. Circulating cortisol normally rises and falls throughout the 24-hour daily cycle, and is typically highest at around 8 AM and lowest between midnight and 4 AM. Both high and low nighttime cortisol levels can interrupt sound sleep.
Stress normally causes a surge in adrenal hormones like adrenaline and cortisol that increase alertness, making it more difficult to relax into sound sleep – especially when they remain high or rise and fall irregularly through the night. Frequent or constant stress can chronically elevate these hormone levels, resulting in a hyper-vigilant state incompatible with restful sleep.
Lack of sleep can be a significant body burden that contributes to adrenal fatigue. Every time the wake/sleep cycle is altered, it takes several days to weeks for the body and cortisol levels to adjust. In fact, sleep ranks with diet and regular exercise as an essential component of a healthy life. People on alternating shifts with less than three weeks between shift changes are continually hammering their adrenal glands and may become very susceptible to adrenal fatigue.
3 Tips on getting better sleep:
1. Make it a ritual to go to bed at the same time every night.
2. When you don’t have to get up early allow your body to sleep in.
3. Read something boring prior to bed, you’ll be right out.
- 3 – When we feel stressed we crave sugar, when we eat sugar we feel more stressed.
Under stressful conditions, cortisol provides the body with glucose by tapping into protein stores via gluconeogenesis in the liver. This energy can help an individual fight or flee a stressor. However, elevated cortisol over the long term consistently produces glucose, leading to increased blood sugar levels
Repeated elevation of cortisol can lead to weight gain via visceral fat storage aka the hard fat to lose. Cortisol can mobilize triglycerides from storage and relocate them to visceral fat cells (those under the muscle, deep in the abdomen). Cortisol also aids adipocytes’ development into mature fat cells. The biochemical process at the cellular level has to do with enzyme control, which converts cortisone to cortisol in adipose tissue. More of these enzymes in the visceral fat cells may mean greater amounts of cortisol produced at the tissue level, adding insult to injury (since the adrenals are already pumping out cortisol). Also, visceral fat cells have more cortisol receptors than subcutaneous fat.
Sugar handing tip: When you feel yourself stressed out and want to grab something sweet, try some essential fatty acids instead i.e. a handful of walnuts, a scoop of almond butter, ½ avocado, and drink 16oz of water.
There is no easy one answer to deal with stress at the work place. There are many simple solutions that work, and each individual needs to practice which technique works for them.