Whether you’re menopausal or menstruating, have a naturally high body temperature or are battling the air con wars with your co-workers, sweating at work is a genuine concern for many women.
Sweating is an important natural function that keeps you from overheating and cools you down. But in some situations, sweating can become excessive and embarrassing. In fact, for 367 million people globally (that’s 5% of the world’s population), it’s down to a serious medical condition: hyperhidrosis.
In this post, we’ll be taking a look at why the notion of sweating at work is a conversation that needs to be had, the myths and truths around this issue, with some tips on self-care.
Common causes of excessive sweating
Excessive sweating is a perfectly normal thing to experience, so don’t worry if you’re wondering why you sweat so much. It could be down to a number of things, such as lifestyle or physiological reasons. Here are the most common causes of excessive sweating:
Hyperhidrosis is a common medical condition characterized by excessive sweating. While sweating is normally your body’s naturally cooling response to being overheated (due to exercise or feeling hot), this type of sweating can be unpredictable and seem like you’re sweating for no reason at all, at any time.
Hyperhidrosis can really affect your mental wellbeing and quality of life if you don’t find a successful way to live with it and treat it.
Did you know that your eating habits can have a huge impact on the amount that you sweat? You’ve probably heard people mention “meat sweats” or suffered from them yourself, but not thought any more of it. Well, it’s true: meat causes the body to sweat because it uses more energy to break down the high levels of protein. As a result of your body’s hard work breaking down that steak you’ve just eaten, it becomes overheated and needs sweat to cool it down.
Unsurprisingly, spicy foods like curries can also affect your body temperature, as they trick your body into thinking its temperature is rising, producing sweat.
Another big offender — and this one may surprise you — is caffeine. Caffeinated drinks like coffee, tea and fizzy drinks can produce excessive sweating, as they stimulate our adrenal glands which causes us to sweat.
If you’re menstruating, pregnant, or menopausal, you may notice that your body is producing more sweat than normal and you’re feeling hot and flustered.
All of this is down to hormonal fluctuations in our bodies, which simultaneously increase our body temperatures ever so slightly, as well as making us less tolerant to these temperature changes. This can produce the hot flushes and excessive sweating that you’re experiencing.
Anxiety and stress
Ever noticed that you break out in a sweat just before you have an important meeting, interview or presentation to give? Anxiety and stress in the workplace can also cause you to break out in sweats uncontrollably.
Stress and fear — regardless of the origin — put your body into a state of panic, releasing stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol. These hormones speed up your heart and pump blood around your body quickly to prep your muscles for action — to tackle whatever the source of the stress is. This is known as ‘fight or flight’ mode, and while it was very handy when we were cavemen running away from mountain lions, it’s not that useful in an office environment. Unfortunately, evolution hasn’t cracked this one for us just yet.
So if you work in a very fast-paced, stressful environment, then it’s no surprise that your body is reacting in this way. Of course, if you suffer from extreme sweating due to stress and anxiety, this can make you feel even worse, and even more stressed and nervous.
As you can see, there are many different reasons why you are sweating so much. It could be down to a number of things, from hormonal changes (typically affecting women) to diet to mental health issues.
If you are unsure why your sweating, perhaps use a diary to take note of when your extreme sweating starts. You may notice a pattern, such as your caffeine intake is particularly high that day, or that you are feeling very overwhelmed with your workload. If in doubt, you can always speak to a doctor and get an expert medical opinion.
Simple self-care solutions for sweating at work
Regardless of the reason behind excessive sweating at work, the results can be devasting — severely impacting the confidence, work performance and mental wellbeing of the sufferer.
So how can you stop sweating so much? Check out the below simple self-care solutions for sweating at work.
Wear the right clothes
You might not be able to change that your body sweats excessively, but what you can do is dress for the occasion — so even if you do start to sweat in work, you’re still prepared.
Wearing light, breathable clothes will get air flow to your body, evaporating the sweat away from your skin and cooling you down. Light colours are best to reflect sunlight (and therefore heat), but you may feel more self-conscious about obvious sweat stains, so go for patterns if it makes you more comfortable.
You can also wear moisture-wicking, sweat proof undershirts that are specifically designed to tackle excessive sweat, such as this sweat-stopping t-shirt with built-in underarm panels to prevent sweat stains and odour.
Avoid sweat-provoking foods
As we’ve mentioned already, there are some foods that will naturally make you sweat more, such as spicy food, meat, and caffeine.
So whether you’re going out for a business lunch and packing your lunch in the morning, avoid these foods. Aim to eat plenty of fruit and veg, and swap triggering meat for calcium-rich foods like cheese and dairy — calcium regulates body temperature and helps suppress sweating.
When it comes to coffee, you can substitute your usual for either a decaffeinated alternative or pick a herbal tea instead. There are many herbal teas that are great for stress, such as chamomile or peppermint. Sage tea can even help with hyperhidrosis.
Don’t forget to dry plenty of cool water during the day too, to keep your body hydrated and feeling fresh!
Learn how to keep your body cool
There are all sorts of little changes you can make to your work environment to cool your body down and ease your sweating in the workplace.
For example, keeping your desk in the shade by putting down the blind will help, as will investing in a fan that you can keep directed at you during the day.
You can also keep your moisturiser in the fridge as well so that you feel nice and cool when you apply it!
Millions of people across the world suffer from excessive sweating, so don’t worry — you’re in good company. Sweating is a perfectly natural thing, and can be caused by all sorts of different factors.
The thing to remember is that worrying about sweating doesn’t have to take over your life — there are ways to tackle it. If in doubt, speak to a doctor and they’ll help you with a plan of action.