Inside Scoop: Find out how to reduce stress naturally with some simple physical and mental exercises for a healthy and happy body!
This post was submitted by Tess DiNapoli, an artist, freelance writer, and content strategist who writes for a number of health websites.
Are you feeling stressed, anxious, or mentally fatigued? Stress affects your overall health and needs to be managed before it starts managing you! Read on to learn more about the stress response and effective strategies to combat it.
Physiology of Stress
What is stress? Stress is the body’s response to a perceived threat and is a necessary mechanism to help us survive. When your brain believes that you are in danger, it releases a cascade of hormones and communicates with the various bodily systems to help you escape the threat. Your heart rate goes up, your palms start to sweat, and your muscles contract—preparing you for fight-or-flight.
The threat could be physical, like an aggressive person or animal; a major life event like marriage, divorce, or moving to a new house; or a particularly busy period at work or school that has you up late at night. The threat could even be imagined—such as an overreaction to a personal failure or a general sense of dread. The body doesn’t distinguish whether or not the threat is real and reacts the same way to both.
Acute Versus Chronic Stress
Periods of acute (short-lived) stress are healthy and keep you alert. The problem is when your brain perceives danger on an ongoing basis and your body’s response system remains activated over longer periods of time. This is called chronic stress.
Impacts of Stress On Your Health
If not managed appropriately, chronic stress can damage your endocrine (hormones), metabolic, gastrointestinal, and immune systems. Stress has also been shown to lower immunity when you are exposed to a virus such as a cold.
So, how can you reduce stress naturally and enjoy a healthier, happier state of mind and body? There are a number of things you can do to help your mind and body relax.
How to Reduce Stress Naturally Starting Today:
Exercise Your Body to Relax Your Mind
It might seem counterintuitive, but putting stress on your body through exercise actually reduces mental stress. By focusing on your muscles, breathing, and movement, your mind is distracted from whatever you are stressing about and can begin to think more creatively. Exercising the large muscle groups—such as with running, walking, or dancing—is one of the best ways to reduce mental stress. A self-defense discipline like Krav Maga is especially good as it teaches you to be more assertive and prepares you to face real threats as they appear.
If you can, exercising with a group or exercising as a family has added benefits for reducing stress because it combines fitness with social support. Being in the company of others helps to reduce stress, as it shifts the focus off your own anxiety and provides people to talk to. Often, just expressing your thoughts and feelings through words is enough to help your mind and body begin to relax. If you can’t find anyone to talk to, writing or journaling are other good options.
Calm Your Body to Calm Your Mind
As a complement to vigorous exercise, you can also calm your mind by calming your body. This approach is called autoregulation.
One of the simplest exercises you can do to slow down the body’s stress response is to breathe slowly and deeply. Another is to consciously tense and relax groups of muscles from your head to your toes. As your muscles relax and your breathing deepens, this sends the signal to your brain that you aren’t in danger and it’s okay to relax.
Let Go of Perfectionism
To prevent chronic stress in the first place, it’s important to understand where that stress is coming from. One is the most crippling sources of stress is perfectionism. While it is great to live a life of discipline and always try to do your best, things don’t always work out as planned. Learn to accept the bad along with the good and focus on progress rather than perfection. Overcoming perfection in your diet and food choices is one wonderful area to start seeking balance in the new year.
Fill Your Mind With Positive Thoughts
To combat the negative thoughts that elevate your stress levels, harness the power of positivity. You can do this by:
- Finding three things to be grateful for every day
- Focusing on solutions instead of problems
- Reading and listening to inspirational ideas
With so much positivity buzzing around in your brain, there won’t be as much room left for negative and anxious thoughts.
Learn to Meditate
An excellent daily practice for thinking more clearly and calmly is the ancient practice of meditation. This doesn’t need to be anything fancy or religious, but it can be if you wish. To meditate, simply sit down in a quiet place, close your eyes, and focus on one thing—such as a word, phrase, or picture. Setting aside worries, cares, and plans and just refocusing on your phrase (or mantra) is hard work at first, but as you exercise your mind, you’ll find that the practice becomes easier and even addictive!
Nourish Yourself with Relaxing Foods and Natural Mood-Boosting Supplements
What you eat has a big impact on how you feel. When you’re stressed, it’s tempting to grab something sweet for comfort or down a coffee for a quick pick-me-up. However, sugar causes your body to produce more cortisol (the stress hormone) to rebalance your blood sugar levels. Caffeine speeds up your already-overworked nervous system. In fact, an excessive caffeine intake in secondary school children was found to correlate with higher levels of anxiety, stress, and depression.
So, what should you eat to lower your stress levels? For a calm, happy body, focus on the following nutrient-dense whole foods:
- Dark leafy greens
- Turkey breast
- Wild-caught Alaskan salmon
- Fermented foods
- Dark chocolate
Take the First Step Today!
Stress can easily become a habit, but it’s a habit that can be overcome. Choose one strategy from this article and put it into practice today. By taking proactive steps to nourish your mind with healthy thoughts, healthy foods, and exercise, you can be happier and healthier in no time!
What is your favourite tip on How to Reduce Stress Naturally? Let us know in the comments below.
Tess DiNapoli is an artist, freelance writer, and content strategist who writes for a number of health websites, including Physica Energetics. She has a passion for yoga and often writes about health and wellness, but also enjoys covering the fashion industry, collaborating with industry insiders and designers, getting insight on the latest trends. She loves encouraging others in their wellness journey, and makes sure to include a good dose of happiness (chocolate!) in her diet every day.