What Every Working Man Ought to Know About Stress and Testosterone

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“Oh, you hate your job? Why didn’t you say so? There’s a support group for that. It’s called EVERYBODY and they meet at the bar.” (1)

What Drew Carey describes in this joke is real, and that scares me. I’m not even talking about the bar part, which has its own troubling implications.

I’m talking about your job. If you find yourself hating what you do, this would undoubtedly cause you stress. I have some bad news for the men reading this article that are feeling any source of daily stress.

Stress has been linked with low testosterone.

Yes, your stressful job or home life could be making you less of a man in the hormonal sense. Who is to blame?

To find that out, we must trace all the way back to the beginning of our manly lineage. Yes, cavemen could be to blame for your low testosterone.

As the original men evolved in dangerous conditions, activities that were brought on by testosterone, like mating, could have been deadly if there was a big ol’ grizzly bear barreling towards your cave. Eventually, adaptation led to a link between high levels of stress and low testosterone. (2)

Now let’s look at the modern man. Stress still has an effect on low testosterone today. In a study from the journal Hormones and Behavior, researchers tested 57 men in one-on-one competition. Testosterone and cortisol were measured both before and after competing. Each man who lost was asked if they would like to compete a second time. Each man who declined replay had higher cortisol levels and lower testosterone after the first round of competition. Researchers theorized that the hormonal changes were preparing the body to escape from danger as a response to stress. (3)

So stress and low testosterone are directly linked, but that’s not even the end of it. High levels of stress and low testosterone have also been linked to a certain thing we love but never get enough of.

I’ll give you a hint: It usually happens at night.

I know what your manly inhibitions are telling you, but I am actually not talking about sex.

I’m talking about sleep.

If you are experiencing stress, you may have noticed that it has been affecting your sleep. Stress leads to higher levels of cortisol. Cortisol is the “stress hormone” and is also associated with interruption in sleep patterns.

Sleep is very important to testosterone production. (4)

To achieve optimal natural testosterone production, two sleep factors are of utmost importance: sleep quality and sleep timing. In many ways, sleep quality is dependent on timing. Try these timing tips to get the best quality sleep:

  • Set a regular sleep/wake time

Wake up - couple waking up early throwing alarm clock. Funny bed concept with young interracial couple waking up late. Man throwing alarm clock, and woman sleeping. Asian female, Caucasian male models

Make sure you go to sleep at roughly the same time every night.

This includes weekends. If you want to change your bedtime, do it in increments of 15 minutes. For example, I want to change my bedtime by a half hour. Tonight I will go to sleep 15 minutes earlier and the next night I will be at my goal time.  For waking up, alarms are more than just alerts that it’s time to wake up; they are also alerts that you are not getting enough sleep.

If you have to use an alarm to wake up, then you need to set an earlier bedtime. You should be able to wake up naturally in the morning. (5)

  • Napping is better than waking up late

If you miss your bedtime, still wake up at your normal time. Take a nap in order to make up for those lost hours. Sleeping in past your regular schedule can throw you off for a few days and could result in insomnia.  (5)

Other than sleep, what can you do to protect yourself from low testosterone? Here are some tips to keep that cortisol at a healthy level.

  • Find that one thing

The moral of the story so far is get good sleep and love what you do on a daily basis.

The second half of that sentence may seem out of reach for many people. For most people, there is something that they love to do every day. Prioritize that. It could change your life. If you are one of those people who is really in a rut and has nothing that they love to do every day…change that.

You only get to go through life one time, so make sure there is at least one thing you enjoy every day. Make time for that one thing. Make it a priority.

  • Train for lower cortisol

Many people try to stay fit, and take part in endurance training. The sad thing is, endurance training is well-known for spiking cortisol levels and lowering testosterone. Strength training is the way to go to get the testosterone up and the cortisol down.

DO NOT OVERTRAIN.

Overtraining can completely backfire and spike cortisol levels. I am a huge proponent of going to the gym for 1-2 hours, 3-4 times a week. But there’s no need to over-do it. Another huge tip to consider: relax before you start lifting. Maybe do some yoga or find something that can calm you down before you hit the gym. Working out when you’re stressed will cause your cortisol to go up even more. (6)

  • Sit like you know what you’re doing

I actually learned this in a public speaking class.  You look different when you are stressed. Your body language screams it. So to relieve some of that stress, change your body language.

Take a dominant pose.

In public speaking class, my teacher told us to “power pose” before speeches. I would sit in my chair and put my feet up on the desk like I was some sort of macho man. Or I would stand up and put my arms out and take a wide leg stance. I looked like an idiot, but it worked.

There is actually a Harvard study that agrees with my PS teacher. When standing in a tall, relaxed, or confident pose, subjects’ testosterone levels rose by 20% and their cortisol levels declined 25%. (6) POWER POSE.

  • Watch and read comedy

This one is more obvious. Laugh a lot and your cortisol levels will go down. After you get home from work, try watching around 60 minutes of comedy a day. Studies show that 60 minutes is a good number to optimize cortisol decline. (6)

  • Pick the right foods

You are what you eat. There are specific foods that can help you lower cortisol. Anything with Vitamin C is very good. For specifics, wild salmon, black tea, dark chocolate, berries, garlic, olive oil, oats, and oysters all lower cortisol levels naturally. (7)

  • Relax the right way

A lot of this involves relaxing at the right time.

“Relaxing” can be just as stressful if it is preventing you from getting necessary work done. In that way, relaxing is just procrastinating. Procrastination is a fast way to high cortisol.  Also, find what type of relaxation you need. For me, I find that physical relaxation is the most beneficial.  This means some stretching or a nice walk.

Find what relaxes you, whether it is emotional, mental, physical, etc and relax the right way.

You may notice that a lot of these things are life tips. To truly relieve stress it takes some sort of a lifestyle change.  If you hate what you are doing on a daily basis, these may just be temporary fixes. Find something you love to do and try to make a daily hobby (maybe even a living) out of it. And always remember to power pose along the way.

Resources:

  1. Carey, Drew. “Quotes About Jobs.” GoodReads. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 June 2015.
  2. Iliades, Chris, MD. “Can Stress Affect Low Testosterone?” EverydayHealth.com. N.p., 23 Oct. 2013. Web. 10 June 2015.
  3. Bornstein, Adam. “The Truth About Low Testosterone – Life by DailyBurn.” Life by DailyBurn The Truth About Low Testosterone Comments. N.p., 13 Feb. 2014. Web. 10 June 2015.
  4. “How to Sleep Better.” : Tips for Getting a Good Night’s Sleep. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 June 2015.
  5. Kuoppala, Ali. “Cortisol and Testosterone: How to Lower the Stress Hormone.” Anabolic Men. N.p., 30 Sept. 2014. Web. 10 June 2015.
  6. Kuoppala, Ali. “9 Foods That Lower Chronically High Cortisol Levels Naturally.” Anabolic Men. N.p., 23 June 2014. Web. 10 June 2015.

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Christopher Walker

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