We all deal with some kind of stress every day, and we all know we would be a lot better off mentally and emotionally without it however it’s a reality for us in today’s world. Some stress can actually benefit us and even motivate us at times to accomplish great things, however it can also weigh us down, making us feel tired and slow. There’s also more and more research indicating that chronic stress damages the body in similar ways as a lack of sleep, or poor diet or non-active lifestyle.
Web MD states that 75 percent to 90 percent of all doctor office visits are related to conditions caused by stress. (1) To put it lightly, stress can be a killer! You might be thinking; how does stress affect my health? Stress makes changes in our hormones that trigger inflammation and numerous other symptoms.
Chronic stress is when you experience stress for a long period of time. If it goes untreated it can increase the risk for diabetes, autoimmune diseases, mental disorders, heart disease, weight gain and certain types of cancer.
Unfortunately for the most of us, the stress we experience every day is not going away it’s actually increasing with cell phone towers, smart phones and other environmental stressors. That’s why it’s so important to find natural ways to detox stress, and relax physically. Studies show that you can really benefit from things like prayer, meditation, exercise, a healthy diet, spending time outdoors and engaging in exciting hobbies.
The good news is that the human body is created to not only handle stress but also endure it for some time. When we add stress reducing practices into our lifestyles, we can learn to use stress to our advantage to feel more alert and focused.
So how can we relieve stress and make sure we never allow it to control our lives? Use the following 7 ways to dramatically reduce stress, so you can feel less pressure and start getting more done each day.
7 Natural Ways to Reduce Stress
Exercise is one of the best stress relievers on the planet! It’s great for calming anxiety because it releases endorphins chemicals into the brain and acts like a natural pain killer and mood booster.
The New York Academy of Sciences conducted research which suggests the negative effects of stress on the body is compounded with people who are inactive. When we experience stress, we also experience changes in our neuro-endocrine systems. Regular exercise has shown to be protective against this stress because it regulates and reinforces our blood sugar levels, moods, and sleeping cycles. (2)
Another amazing benefit of exercise is that it improves confidence/self-esteem, leads to improved mental clarity and lowers the risk for depression. Exercise can even improve the quality of sleep we experience, which is very important because sleep is needed to regulate hormones and repair the body.
Do want to compound the benefits of regular exercise and recover faster for increased impact? Exercise while listening to uplifting music because research is showing that music improves not only recovery time, but also benefits brain function and hormonal balance. (3)
Prayer and meditation are both excellent ways to destress, find peace and calm your mind and spirit to help people deal with anxiety and worrying. The best thing is, you can do it from the comfort of your own home.
Both prayer and meditation have been used throughout the ages to communicate and strengthen one’s relationship with the Creator, and improve well-being but it’s also now being backed up by science.
Meditation and prayer lower stress naturally in as little as 10-15 minutes a day, by reducing stress and anxiety making one feel more “peaceful and connected”. (4, 5) Meditation has also been shown to improve mental alertness and lower physical responses to stress associated with anxiety, substance use, depression, sleep, pain and weight gain. (6)
Nutrients like vitamins, minerals, healthy fats, amino acids, and antioxidants are essential to give your mind and body the cofactors it needs to manage stress and age less.
The best foods to dissolve stress and make you feel calm and healthy are:
Foods high in magnesium are known to relax muscles nerves, regulate blood sugars levels, relieve headaches and help you sleep better. A good clean, source of magnesium is raw cacao or chocolate with 70% cacao solids or more, avocados, nuts like almond, brazil nuts and cashews, green leafy vegetables like kale and spinach, banana’s and legumes/beans like black beans, lentils and chickpeas.
Protein rich foods provide amino acids which are needed for optimal brain function. The best sources of protein are pasture raised eggs, almonds, lentils, raw oats, pumpkin seeds, organic chicken breast, 100% grass fed beef, wild caught tuna, quinoa, and turkey breast.
Foods high in B vitamins allow the body to convert nutrients into raw energy. Foods like pasture raised eggs, 100% grass fed beef, sprouted brown rice, barley, millet, sunflower seeds, almonds, broccoli, spinach, avocados, citrus fruits and bananas.
Omega-3 fatty acids and healthy fats obtained from cold water, wild caught fish like sardines, and anchovies can lower inflammation and assist in mood, not to mention omega-3s are great for protecting and development of the brain and supports good heart health. Coconut, avocado and olive oils are all other great source of other healthy fats.
On the contrary, here’s a list of foods that you want to avoid to keep stress levels low:
Alcohol and caffeine are both known to cause or increase anxiety, dehydrate your body, and disrupt sleeping patterns leaving you feeling tired and unable to cope with stress efficiently.
Packaged processed foods or those with added sugar can spike your blood glucose levels leaving you feeling the highs and lows associated with too much sugar, increasing anxiety and fatigue.
Vegetable oils are refined and processed which creates an imbalance in polyunsaturated fatty acids. When we consume vegetable oils, we get much more omega-6's than omega-3's which can lead to inflammation, poor gut health, and metabolic damage, which can affect energy production and cognitive mental processes.
Getting Outdoors and Social Activity
Studies show that exposure to natural environments protects people against the impact of environmental stressors more so than urban environments. Natural environments elicit greater calming responses and a general reduction of the symptoms of stress. With more and more of us living in urban area it’s never been more important to connect with loved ones around us and to get outdoors to relieve stress and maintain good health. Social connections are also tied to longevity because it gives us a sense of being part of something greater than ourselves. Spending time outdoors has similar benefits like making it easier to get a good night’s rest and restoring positive mood. (7)
Studies have demonstrated that electromagnetic waves may alter cognitive behaviors depending on the frequency and energy. Low energy waves with low frequency could alter this by causing changes in neurotransmitters and neurohormones. We are surrounded by these electromagnetic frequencies (EMF) every day when we are exposed to Wi-Fi networks, or use our smart phones, computers, microwaves and TV’s. These frequencies are constant stressors bombarding our bodies causing many symptoms like, problems sleeping, headaches, chronic fatigue, brain fog, and difficulty focusing and learning. One easy way to reduce your daily EMF exposure is to turn off your cell phone anytime you are in close proximity to it (6 feet or less) especially when transporting it in a pocket or car. Another great way to limit exposure is to schedule your days off as an opportunity to detox digitally. Go for a hike, or a walk, or plan a day at the beach or park and engage with friends and family instead of using social media or the internet.
Keeping a journal has long been associated with stress relief. By tracking both your positive and negative emotions, you consciously become aware of what your beliefs and thoughts are saying to yourself, which in many cases is negative directly causing stress on our bodies. A journal is an easy way to effectively monitor your thoughts to find out what’s really bothering you.
Using a journal to schedule appointments, tasks, and responsibilities helps you stay organized and less likely to stress about missing deadlines or important dates.
Many adaptogenic herbs have been shown to relieve anxiety by decreasing the effects of the hormone cortisol and stress the have on the body. Reishi mushroom, maca root, ashwagandha, ginseng, and rhodiola are all amazing healing plants called adaptogens which restore balance, and fortify the body making it easier to handle stress by controlling hormones and nourishing the body with nutrients.
How Does Stress Impact Your Health?
Stress has an instant and noticeable effect on the body. Have you ever noticed that when your excited or anxious you lose your appetite, or get sweaty palms when you’re nervous, or have trouble sleeping at night before an important meeting or date with someone you care about?
Stress can also exist in many other ways which we can’t always feel like, increasing cortisol levels, causing blood sugar to rise, changing your cravings and appetite, affecting normal digestion by disrupting the gut flora and environment which triggers problems with hormone production.
There are numerous studies which demonstrate that chronic stress is connected with many health conditions, including:
- Chronic fatigue
- Heart disease
- High blood pressure
- Sleep disorders
- Acne and other skin conditions
In today’s digital world stress in an unavoidable part of our lives. We all deal with it and some stress can actually be beneficial in moderate amounts, but chronic stress can really hurt your physically and mental well-being.
That’s why it’s more important than ever to utilize proper stress relief to maintain good health and longevity. The seven stress solutions above can help you remain focused and calm, boost your mood and equip your body to better handle everyday stress.
When you do that, your entire body and mind will thank you, leading to a better quality of life!