FoxNews.com highlighted a study the other day that talked about cortisol levels in moms, and how, when stress increases, cortisol levels (a good indicator of stress) increase. According a study on working mothers that was conducted and published (by Purdue University authors, Leah Hibel, Jill Trumbell and Evelyn Mercado) in the Journal of Family Psychology:
- Cortisol levels were higher in working moms on weekdays than on weekend days.
- Working moms who reported that they experienced a high amount of pressure and strain at work in addition to a high amount of stress as a parent demonstrated much higher cortisol levels on days that they had to work.
- Women maintain higher levels of cortisol that men, in general - possibly stemming from the everyday demands of balancing work and family life.
- Having children, high levels of stress from family life, and the added demand of household chores are factors that were associated with increased cortisol levels on workdays.
Why worry about cortisol levels? Why are these studies so important?
Cortisol is a crucial hormone in the human body which the adrenal glands produce. This hormone plays a valid role in inflammatory response, immune system, glucose metabolism, circulatory system, and stress response.
It has been proven that high cortisol levels can lead to the following issues for moms:
- Cardiovascular problems
- Suppressed thyroid fuction
- Decreased bone density
- Decreased muscle tissue
- Mental/physical health problems
Results of the Study
Let's take a look at the not-so-surprising results of the study, based on the (morning time) cortisol levels of 56 working mothers with jobs outside of the home, and children aged 2-4. Saliva samples from the mothers were taken and compared, consisting of samples from two weekday mornings and two weekend mornings.
Some interesting conclusions:
1) Working moms got about and hour more of sleep nights before non-working days than on nights before working days. (Just the opposite of what they really need!)
2) Working moms who reported high amounts of parenting stress demonstrated higher levels of cortisol on weekdays than they did on weekends. However, the moms who reported that they did not have high levels of stress, as a parent, did not demonstrate a difference in cortisol levels.
3) Moms who reported both high parenting stress and high stress at work demonstrated significantly higher cortisol levels on workdays than on weekend days.
Lower the Stress - Lower those Risky Cortisol Levels
Laurie Tarkan, health journalist and author, suggested the following ideas to lower that morning stress, and reduce the cortisol levels:
1. Get organized the night before.
The morning rush and stress can be greatly reduced by preparing for the next day the night before. Pack lunches and backpacks, line up school clothes and shoes, and also work clothes, jewelry, and other essentials. This way, you can avoid the time it takes to hunt down matching shoes and socks, and other stressful issues, in the morning.