We all experience stress. And, sometimes that can be beneficial as it’s the body’s reaction to harmful situations. As explained perfectly on WebMD:
“When you feel threatened, a chemical reaction occurs in your body that allows you to act in a way to prevent injury. This reaction is known as "fight-or-flight,” or the stress response. During stress response, your heart rate increases, breathing quickens, muscles tighten, and blood pressure rises. You’ve gotten ready to act. It is how you protect yourself.”
However, when stress becomes too overwhelming, or it becomes chronic, it can negatively affect all aspects of your life.
Physically, stress can cause headaches, fatigue, muscle tension, insomnia, and upset stomach. It can also alter your mood and behavior by causing anxiety, restlessness, depression, irritability, overeating, substance abuse, and social withdraw. In the long-term, stress leads to cardiovascular disease, weakened immunity
Fortunately, there are natural ways for you to relieve and manage stress before it causes too much harm.
1. Physical activity.
When you exercise, your body releases those “feel-good chemicals” called endorphins. Physical activity is also one of the best ways to burn off any anxious feelings you may be experiencing. Exercise also helps improve your sleep, makes you feel more self-confident, and strengthens your immune system.
If you don’t have time to go for a run or visit the gym, even just going for a short walk or doing some stretching exercises is enough to help clear your mind and get the blood flowing.
2. Relaxation exercises.
These are simple exercises that invoke the "relaxation response.” As explained in Harvard Health, this technique was first developed in the 1970s at Harvard Medical School by cardiologist Dr. Herbert Benson and is “a state of profound rest that can be elicited in many ways,” such as:
Taking long, slow deep breaths.
After focusing on your breathing, conduct a body scan where you “focus on one part of the body or group of muscles at a time and mentally releasing any physical tension you feel there.”
Guided imagery where “you conjure up soothing scenes, places, or experiences in your mind to help you relax and focus.”
Mindfulness meditation where you sit comfortably, focus on your breathing and bring your attention to the present.
Yoga, tai chai, gigong which are ancient arts that “combine rhythmic breathing with a series of postures or flowing movements.”
Repetitive prayer where “you silently repeat a short prayer or phrase from a prayer while practicing breath focus.”
3. Eat a healthy diet.
Research shows that the foods that you do eat can affect your emotional state. With that in mind, avoid foods that are high in sugar and trans fat and consume foods that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon. Also, foods like avocado, eggs, and walnuts are known to regulate your mood and energy levels.
Scents are another easy and effective way to soothe stress and anxiety. The most well-known calming scents are:
Sometimes just writing down whatever is on your mind is enough to help clear your head and decompress. It may even help you find out what’s really stressing you out so that you can change that.
You could also start a gratitude journal. You can reduce stress and anxiety when you focus on the positive and not the negative.
6. Do something creative or fun.
Not only is having fun a distraction but sometimes laughter is the best medicine. Ideally, you should also engage in activities that get your body moving or encourage you to get in touch with your creative side. For example, there was one study that “found that anxiety levels decline in people who were coloring complex geometric patterns, making it a perfect outlet for stress reduction.”
7. Spend time with loved ones -- pets included.
Whether if it’s a spouse, best friend, or your pet, spending time with those you love helps release oxytocin and lower cortisol, which lowers blood pressure and heart rate -- both of which are common physical symptoms of stress.
8. Listen to music.
“Create a playlist of songs or nature sounds (the ocean, a bubbling brook, birds chirping), and allow your mind to focus on the different melodies, instruments, or singers in the piece,” suggests Cathy Benninger, a nurse practitioner and assistant professor at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center in Columbus.
Or, if you need to blow off some steam, then don’t be afraid to listen to more upbeat music. And, you could also sing at the top of your lungs when you’re really stressed out.
9. Manage your time.
Track how you spend your time and then eliminate the unproductive and time-consuming activities in your life. Take social media as an example. Not only can spending too much time on social media cause more stress in your life, but it’s also preventing you from doing something that’s healthier. So, consider limiting your social media usage.
Also, when you track your time, you can see how much you can realistically get done in a day. Knowing this will help you reduce the number of commitments you make and trim down your to-do-lists so that you aren’t spreading yourself too thin.
Are there any natural ways that you’ve reduced stress in your life? If so, please share your strategies with us.