Stress and Sweat: 10 Tips to Stay Cool Under Fire

Medically Reviewed by Stephanie S. Gardner, MD on March 10, 2024
4 min read

It's the day of the big presentation at work -- the one that's either going to land you a promotion, or get you fired.

Your stress is beginning to show. Perspiration stains are seeping across the underarms of your expensive dress shirt.

Now you're not only stressed out -- you're embarrassed, too.

Excessive sweating (also known as hyperhidrosis) is such an uncomfortable problem that some people with the condition go to any lengths to avoid the gym, parties, and any other social or work situations that are likely to make them perspire.

Why do some people stay dry under pressure, while others look like they just took a shower? A number of factors make people perspire more profusely, including obesity, alcohol use, diseases like diabetes or an overactive thyroid gland, menopause, and certain medications.

Stress is another big reason why people sweat, and it's one cause that you can control.

Here are 10 tips for reducing the stress in your life, so you can stay cooler -- and drier -- under pressure.

1. Take a deep breath. Breathing might seem like a no-brainer, but give it a little thought and it will really help you relax. Even though you already know how to breathe, here's how to do it for stress relief: Find a quiet, comfortable spot. Sit or lie down on your back. Breathe in slowly through your nose until your abdomen fully expands. Release that breath slowly through your nose or mouth. Spend 10 to 20 minutes practicing deep breathing every day.

2. Consciously relax. Another effective stress-reduction technique is called progressive muscle relaxation. Lie on your back with your eyes closed. Starting at your feet, tense one body part at a time. Work your way up to your lower legs, knees, upper legs, and so on. Tense each body part for about 5 seconds and then let it relax. By the time you reach your head, you should feel calmer.

3. Take a warm bath. Soaking in warm water is not only relaxing, but washing your body with antibacterial soap will also kill off the bacteria that can make your sweat smell.

4. Turn on soothing music. There's a reason spas play gentle music while you're getting a massage. Music can help you relax almost as much as the massage itself. Studies of people with heart disease find that listening to music lowers heart rate and blood pressure, and slows breathing. Fill your CD or MP3 player with calming classical or new age music, close your eyes, and enjoy some much needed rest and relaxation.

5. Go for a swim. Exercise is a great stress-buster. When you work out, your body releases endorphins -- brain chemicals that give you a feeling of well-being. The problem is, people who soak through their workout clothes the second they step on a treadmill might be shy about going to the gym. Try swimming instead. It's not only good exercise, but once you're in the water no one can see you sweat.

6. Drink decaf. If you're addicted to your morning cup of java, find another way to wake up. Caffeine boosts blood pressure, increases heart rate, and one study shows it may amplify the daily stress you're already experiencing.

7. Have a good laugh. It's not just an expression -- laughter really is the best medicine. Put "Some Like it Hot" or another classic comedy in your DVD player and wait for the health benefits to begin. Just the anticipation of that first laugh is enough to lower your stress hormone levels, researchers say. Laughing first activates and then relieves your stress response, producing an overall feeling of calm. A good belly laugh also improves the body's oxygen flow and blood circulation, and it can do wonders to improve your attitude.

8. Write it down. Sometimes the best way to deal with stressful feelings is to put them down on paper. Start keeping a daily journal. Write about whatever stresses you out during the day. Once you begin to understand your stress triggers, you can start getting control over them.

9. Get help. Trying to deal with your sweating problem on your own can be stressful in itself. It can really help to talk with a professional psychologist or counselor, or to join a support group of people who have dealt with the same problem. If sweating is a persistent problem for you, see a doctor to find out what's causing you to sweat, and to learn about possible treatments.

10. Make it easier on yourself. Stress and sweating can turn into a vicious cycle. You get stressed out, so you sweat. Then you worry about sweating, which makes you stress out even more, which makes you perspire more. To make sweating one less thing you have to worry about, try these tips:

  • Wear cotton, silk, and other natural fibers that allow your skin to breathe and pull moisture away from your body.
  • Choose clothes in colors like black and white, which don't show sweat stains as much as other colors.
  • Bring an extra shirt with you when you go out, just in case you do get sweaty.
  • Apply an antiperspirant/deodorant twice a day -- once in the morning and once before you go to bed. Putting it on at night helps plug up sweat glands.