If it wasn’t pre-crisis, investment banking is now one of the most stressful careers on the planet. The hours are brutal, the expectations are lofty and there are fewer seats available than at any time in recent memory.
To compensate, many admittedly rely on pharmaceuticals. As we reported in September, Adderall, an amphetamine used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), has become highly prevalent on Wall Street for beating all-nighters.
But amphetamines don’t do anything to help with stress. In fact, they tend to exacerbate the situation. Industry sources tell us that bankers, now more than ever, elicit the help of anti-anxiety medication to cope with pressure situations at work. Xanax and Klonopin are the two most popular varieties, they say.
While not as potent, there are other ways to manage work stress without the obvious potential side effects of depression, sedation and addiction, according to Dr. Laura Chan, a licensed naturopathic doctor and acupuncturist. If work has you pulling your hair out, give these natural alternatives a try.
As with improving energy, the key to managing stress is taking care of your body – something that is extremely difficult to do when “you” becomes less important. “One of the ironies of getting stressed out is that it is the time where you need to take care of body the most but we tend to make it the smallest priority,” said Chan.
But know that you don’t need to hit the gym for two hours a day and eat a gluten-free diet to help the body cope with stress. All you are looking to do is to normalize your cortisol levels – or your stress hormone – said Chan.
When your body feels threatened, cortisol and blood sugar levels will increase as a self-defense mechanism of sorts, giving you a boost in adrenaline and energy. But when you are stressed – or your body is seemingly “under attack” all day – cortisol levels get in the way of primary functions, causing increased anxiety, high blood pressure, impairment problems and sleeping issues.
Essentially, stress can create more stress if you don’t do something to stop it. Try elevating your heart rate and increase your breathing, said Chan. “Jump rope for 10 minutes, do 20 pushups a few times a day – you can even dance in your office,” she said. Anything to increase blood circulation and oxygen intake. “It sounds fluffy but even deep breathing works,” Chan said. This will help you process your stress levels, decrease your blood pressure and sleep better.
Another self-care factor is your diet. Again, you don’t need to make yourself a salad for every meal to mitigate stress; just order smart delivery and take-out options. “Don’t stoke the stress fire by eating a lot of sugar,” Chan said. High-sugar diets contribute to the same physiological stress-induced problems mentioned above.
Chan suggests an herb called Rhodiola to help the body manage stress. It’s known in some circles as an “adaptogen,” which allows the body adapt to and combat physical, chemical, and environmental stress. Rhodiola also helps improve mental capacity and increase stamina and energy, making it well suited for taking in the morning, according to Chan. Vitamin B complex is another great addition.
If you are having trouble sleeping due to stress, consider a supplement that contains the chemical phosphatidylserine, Chan said. It’s a natural substance derived from soy that helps lower the stress hormone cortisol, which tends to stay elevated at night for people under serious pressure. Like Rhodiola, phosphatidylserine is known to improve mental performance.
And if you have the time, try acupuncture. “It does wonders to kill stress,” Chan said.