Moderate to high stress has been plaguing Americans due to multiple reasons and it’s not just life’s continuous fast pace or the growing responsibilities. It’s more than that. US citizens are stressed about the upcoming election, health care, mass shootings, climate change, sexual harassment, and the list goes on. The statistics are mind-boggling.
In the midst of a taxing modern era, where we might feel overwhelmed and like we cannot catch a break, certain remedies can be used to naturally lower our stress levels.
Here are 7 of the best natural stress remedies.
Identify the stressor(s)
When we’re swiped off by stressful situations, we tend to get wrapped up in the stress response and forget to identify the stressor(s).
In order to solve any problem, we have to get to its roots. The same principle applies to stress.
Knowing the cause gives you the opportunity to manage your situation. Take half an hour to an hour when you feel that stress is taking a toll on your body. Sit somewhere quiet and make sense of what’s going on. Figure out what’s been causing your irritation, fatigue, or mood swings.
Once identified, it becomes easy to take the necessary steps to overcome and conquer what seemed to be an awful situation.
Take up relaxation techniques
Stress is a natural response. It has a trigger that puts your body in a fight-or-flight mode. Adrenaline kicks in, muscles tense up, and alertness heightens. This reaction came in handy during the early days where our kind relied on it to survive in the wilderness or on the battlefield.
However, we barely need to anymore. We’re relatively safer than we used to. We’re no longer hunted down by animals and World War 3 was just a hoax.
Unfortunately, while getting rid of old-fashioned stressors, we created new ones (some of which are stated above). It seems like we’re on edge 24/7, which is unhealthy.
Therefore, learning certain techniques to help relax our muscles and assist in navigating our racing thoughts is highly beneficial in reducing stress and, consequently, its side effects.
Generally, when we talk about relaxation techniques, meditation and deep breathing are what come to mind. However, there are other techniques including guided imagery, progressive muscle relaxation, self-hypnosis, and biofeedback. They all have one common goal: to regain homeostasis.
It’s important to note that not all relaxation techniques have a positive outcome. People with psychiatric conditions or epilepsy can account for an intensification of stress symptoms.
Let’s face it, exercise is basically a universal cure, sort of. People who exercise live longer, healthier, and happier. The research supporting these claims is abundant. After a good bout of exercise, endorphin, a feel-good chemical, is released in the bloodstream. It relaxes the body and improves the mood.
Each person may respond differently to certain types of exercises. Some people respond positively to bodybuilding than to cardio. Others may respond well to meditative movements such as yoga, tai chi, and Qi Gong. Whichever works for you, stick to it. 30 minutes, 3-4 times per week is the recommended dose.
Join/create a support system
The term stress is vague. Attending a conference for the first time and a near-death experience are considered stressful events. Therefore, a classification system has been implemented to differentiate between different stressors.
Attending a conference for the first time is considered as short-term stress. The near-near death experience has a long-term impact, which relegates it in the chronic stress category.
Chronic stress contains three sub-categories:
- Traumatic stress: Being mugged at the subway station at a late hour.
- Routine stress: a long commute to and from work
- Emotional stress: a breakup
Chronic stress is more dangerous than short-term stress due to continuously elevated cortisol levels.
Joining a support group or creating a support system can help relieve some of the symptoms. Having empathetic people who will listen without passing judgment alleviates feelings of loneliness and social pressure. It helps us open up to others about our problems without shame or embarrassment.
We find comfort in our ongoing issues just by knowing that we’re not going through it alone.
Get your stuff together
Yes, it is a Rick and Morty reference. Jokes aside, while it is easier said than done, coming across a reality check or forcing ourselves to face our problems is one way to go about limiting our stress. Problems don’t solve themselves. Setting them aside for a while taking care of other pressing priorities is not a bad idea. However, storing them in the back of our minds for too long causes them to grow and become harder to solve.
Therefore, taking some time to sit down somewhere quiet with a pen and a paper to list your stressors and creating a mindmap of solutions to them is a great depiction of contingency planning.
Watch your diet
The human body is a piece of complex machinery. It can only work in optimal conditions if provided with the necessary input, just like any other machinery. In this case, it needs proper rest, hydration, fresh air, and nutrients.
Nutrients are comprised of macronutrients and micronutrients.
Macronutrients include carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. Our brain, the orchestrator of basically every hormonal response, runs on glucose. It specifically requires around 130 grams per day. Complex carbs help regulate blood sugar levels. They are slowly broken down and therefore, provide a steady surge of energy. Simple/refined carbs provide a quick spike of energy and serotonin (the happy hormone). While ingesting both types of carbs, serotonin is produced, which is why some people tend to gobble over junk food when stressed out.
It’s advised to prepare ahead for stressful situations by surrounding your environment with healthy meals and snacks.
Unfortunately, foods containing tryptophan may not serve the purpose because it is the least available amino acid in protein and the body is unable to produce it on its own. To achieve a surplus, we must consume foods that are high in Trp frequently throughout the day. These food include salmon, poultry, eggs, spinach, milk, nuts, and seeds.
An extensive body of research has investigated the effects of Omega-3 fatty acids and it reported that people with depressive disorders could benefit from this nutrient.
Antioxidants such as vitamins A, C, and E have been proven to significantly reduce the symptoms of individuals with generallized anxiety disorders and depression. Food like beef liver and salmon are high in vitamin A, while foods like broccoli, cantaloupe, and cauliflower are high in vitamin C.
Practice Expressive Writing
Stressful thoughts can feel like a flurry of Nascar racecars running around in circles. They can be suffocating. It can restrict the airflow in the respiratory system and disturb our inner peace. Being in a compromised state leaves the door open for negative thoughts. This, in turn, accentuates the stress response and can lead to depression.
Expressive Writing is a great technique to stop the downward spiral. Research has shown its effect in reducing specific stressful situations two of which include “stigma-related stress in gay men”, chronic stress in caregivers of older adults, and test anxiety in students.
The premise of Expressive Writing is simple: Write about a traumatic experience for a minimum of 15 minutes per day, every day, over an extended period of time.
Studies have shown positive effects in reducing symptoms of patients suffering from physical health conditions.
It is hypothesized that this technique has the following combined effect:
- Alleviate emotional inhibitions
- Organize thoughts
- Give meaning to traumatic experiences
- Being the first push that leads people to talk about their traumatic experiences with others
Expressive writing may not be an ideal solution for those suffering from severe mental problems such as PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). It is also advised to take up this technique a month or two after suffering from a traumatic experience, once the acute psychological impact start to wear off a little bit.