Prevent serious physical and mental effects of chronic stress
Stress: we all deal with it. Yet we know how much better off we’d be, both physically and mentally, if we could only get it under control. We need stress relievers that really work. We know stress can be a positive, motivating factor at times such as when you’re under pressure to perform well at work. But research shows that chronic stress impacts the body in ways similar to a poor diet or lack of sleep or exercise.
Chronic stress and how it affects us
Would you believe that 75 to 90 percent of all doctors’ office visits are related to conditions caused by stress? How exactly does stress negatively affect our health in so many ways? It mostly boils down to changes in our hormones, which then cascade to an increase in inflammation and various other problems.
Uncontrolled stress experienced over a long period of time is considered “chronic.” Chronic stress is dangerous and capable of increasing someone’s risk for heart disease, diabetes, weight gain or obesity, mental disorders, autoimmune diseases, digestive disorders, and even cancer.
Let’s face it, the stress we face today isn’t going anywhere, which is why it’s more important than ever to find natural ways to bust stress that work well for us. If you have substantial stress in your life, studies show you can benefit from carving out more time for things such as regular exercise, meditation, spending time outdoors and keeping up with hobbies.
We can’t always control sources of stress in our lives, but we change how we react to them. The good news is this: the human body is actually designed to experience and handle stress, which is exactly why our bodies react strongly to it. With practice, we have the power to learn to use certain elements of stress to our advantage. For example, stress keeps us more alert and attentive. Meanwhile, we can learn to better control other negative reactions such as like digestion problems or eating unhealthy foods.
If you adhere to the following eight practices, you’re sure to feel less pressure and better manage your stress on a daily basis:
Exercise and yoga
One of the best stress relievers available to us is exercise, a natural remedy for anxiety because it releases powerful endorphin chemicals in the brain, which act like the body’s built-in painkillers and mood-lifters.
Research suggests the negative effects of stress on the body seem to be exaggerated in people who are inactive, a phenomenon called”stress-induced/exercise deficient” phenotype. Because we react to stress by experiencing changes in our neuro-endocrine systems, regular exercise is protective because it regulates various metabolic and psychological processes in the body, including reinforcing our natural circadian rhythms, sleep/wake cycles, moods and blood sugar levels.
Exercises improves insulin sensitivity, can help someone become more aware of their hunger levels, improves confidence/self-esteem, and leads to better mental processing and a lower risk for depression. Can’t sleep? Well, exercise can help with that too, which is very important considering quality sleep is needed to regulate hormones and help the body recover.
Yoga has been shown to have similar benefits, reinforcing the “mind-body connection,” improving how people (especially women) feel about their bodies, helping with sleep and controlling anxiety. A review of over 35 clinical trials that tested the effects of regular yoga on stress levels and health found that, overall, yoga offers significant improvements in various physical and psychological health markers for the majority of people.
Looking for an even more impactful way to feel the benefits of exercise? Do so while listening to uplifting music. Research findings indicate that music listening positively impacts the psycho-biological stress system, helps activate the parasympathetic nervous system, improves recovery time, and has benefits for hormonal balance and brain functioning overall.
Meditation or devotional prayer
Meditation and healing prayer are both proven stress relievers that help people deal with worry, anxiety and finding peace of mind. Best of all, they can both be practiced conveniently anytime of day, in your own home and with no therapist, practitioner or program needed, making them a no-brainer.
Meditation and prayer have been used for literally thousands of years to improve well-being and connection to others, but today they’re actually backed up by science as well. Breathing exer
Natural stress relief meditation and mindfulness-based stress reduction are types of simple mental techniques that are practiced for as little as 10–15 minutes once or twice a day in order to bring about more “mindfulness” and reduce stress or anxiety.
Various other forms of meditation have been shown to lower physiological responses to stress, improve mental alertness, and help people overcome various emotional and physical problems, such as: anxiety, depression, poor mental health that affects quality of life, attention problems, substance use, eating habits, sleep, pain and weight gain.
Acupuncture has increasingly been used to treat many stress-related conditions. These include psychiatric disorders, autoimmune or immunological-related diseases, infertility, anxiety and depression. Research indicates that acupuncture treatments result in positive changes in the cardiovascular and immune systems. Acupuncture increases protective T-cell proliferation and helps with cellular immuno-responses.
Studies show that acupuncture is one of the best stress relievers for patients recovering from heart disease. It helps regulate the nervous system, creating positive effects on blood pressure levels, circulation, hormones and more.
A nutrient-dense diet
A steady supply of nutrients help your brain handle stress better. Maintaining proper levels of essential vitamins, trace minerals, healthy fats, electrolytes, amino acids and antioxidants benefits your entire body.
Some of the best foods for natural stress relief include:
- Foods high in B vitamins (which the body uses to convert nutrients to energy) — raw or cultured dairy products, cage-free eggs, grass-fed beef, wild-caught fish, poultry, brewer’s yeast and green leafy vegetables.
- Foods high in calcium and magnesium — as relaxing minerals and electrolytes, calcium and magnesium are important for relaxing muscles, relieving headaches and helping you sleep. Try unsweetened organic yogurt, wild-caught salmon, beans/legumes, leafy green veggies, cruciferous veggies like broccoli, avocados and nuts.
- High protein foods — foods with protein provide amino acids that are needed for proper neurotransmitter functions.
- Healthy fats and omega-3 fatty acids — cold-water, wild-caught fish like salmon or sardines can reduce inflammation and help stabilize moods, plus omega-3s are great for the brain, development and heart health. Other healthy fats that support brain health include nuts/seeds, avocado, olive oil and coconut oil.
On the other hand, foods to avoid to keep stress levels down include:
Packaged or sugary foods – processed, refined foods or those with added sugar can give you blood sugar highs and lows throughout the day, increasing anxiety and causing cravings and fatigue.
Too much alcohol or caffeine – both alcohol and caffeine can cause or worsen anxiety. They can dehydrate you, interfere with sleep leaving you tired, and interfere with your ability to cope well with stress.
Refined vegetable oils – imbalances in polyunsaturated fatty acids (meaning getting much more omega-6s than omega-3s from your diet) are tied to metabolic damage, inflammation and even poor gut health. These conditions can affect mental processes.
Challenging your thoughts with “Cognitive behavioral therapy”
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a type of therapeutic practice that has been proven to lower anxiety, stress and multiple disorders. These include addiction, eating disorders, insomnia and depression. At least 50 percent of mental disorders occur in response to chronic, untreated stress reactions. Therefore, therapists use CBT to train all types of people to better react to situations that are stressful.
CBT focuses on challenging and changing your thoughts, first and foremost. The way you perceive an event, not the actual event itself, means everything in terms of how your body reacts. Once you can identify the root thought pattern causing harmful behaviors, you can work on changing how you think about events. Then, you can react to them differently.
For instance, if instead of panicking over a job change you choose to embrace it, prepare as best you can and seize the opportunity to start fresh. In this way, you can literally reduce the stress you wind up feeling from the event. CBT is useful for training us to avoid internal causes of stress. We can minimize “all-or-nothing” thinking, jumping to conclusions, pessimism, having unrealistic expectations, expecting worst-case scenarios, and feeling guilt or shame over events that are out of our control.
Spending more time in nature and being social
Making time for connecting with people, spending time outside, and doing things you love with family and friends are all stress relievers. They’re good for your health in many ways. Social connection is tied to longevity because it helps people feel as if they’re a part of something larger than themselves, giving them perspective.
Being outdoors has similar effects, reminding people that they’re one piece of a much larger universe. It lifts their moods and makes it easier to get good sleep.
Keeping a journal
Keeping track of both your positive and negative emotions, along with events that can trigger them, helps you identify what’s causing stress. A journal is an easy, effective way to monitor your state of mind throughout the day. Use it to focus on thoughts that cause you harm and figure out what’s bothering you when you’re unsure.
A journal can also reduce stress by helping you to stay organized. List appointments, household responsibilities or job assignments, so you’re less frantic about missing important deadlines.
Using adaptogen herbs and essential oils
Several adaptogenic herbs and essential oils have been shown to improve anxiety symptoms by reducing the effects that stress and cortisol have on the body. Adaptogens include ginseng, ashwagandga, maca, rhodiola, holy basil and cocoa. They’re a unique class of healing plants that balance, restore and protect the body. In essence, they make it easier to handle stress by regulating hormones and physiological functions.
Essential oils include lavender, myrrh, frankincense and bergamot. These natural remedies are also capable of reducing inflammation, improving immunity, balancing hormones, and helping with sleep and digestion.
Bonus: breathing exercises
Slow, deep breathing and specific breathing exercises helps the body override the sympathetic system, which controls our fight-or-flight response. Deep breathing lets the parasympathetic system, which controls our ability to relax, play a more dominant role.
Stress is an unavoidable part of life. Everyone deals with it, and certain types of stress are even good for your health. However, chronic, negative stress can really impair your physical and mental well-being.
That’s why it’s so important to find the proper stress relievers to maintain a strong quality of life. These eight stress relievers can help you maintain a good mood, remain calm and better handle your day-to-day stress. Your body and mind will benefit, leading you to an even better, more well-rounded life.
Edited and reprinted from the original, published at: https://draxe.com/stress-relievers/