Stress is something that we all deal with in some capacity. Not only can it have a negative impact on us physically, but it can do so mentally as well. Some types of stress can be beneficial since it has the potential to result in a production boost, giving you the energy and drive to help you get through difficult situations. On the flip side, an extreme amount of stress could result in dire health consequences, affecting your cardiovascular system, immune system, central nervous system, and neuroendocrine systems, and can even eventually take a severe emotional toll on you. Untreated chronic stress could result in severe health conditions such as muscle pain, insomnia, anxiety, and weakened immune system. Research also indicates that stress can play a major role in the development of major illnesses like obesity, depression, and heart disease.1
However, by adopting positive and healthy ways to manage your stress as it occurs, most of the negative consequences of stress will be reduced. People are all different and so are the ways in which they decide to manage their stress. Some people will opt to pursue hobbies like creating art, playing, music, and gardening, whereas others will find more relief in solitary activities like walking, yoga, and meditation.
Impact Of Stress On Your Health
Stress is something that can be very detrimental to your health and can effectively be defined as a sudden body reaction to any change that requires a sudden response and/or adjustment. While minor levels of stress can allow us to react positively in a way, too much stress can do very dangerous things to our health.
There are plenty of things that can cause stress in individuals. Whether its due to a job interview, work-related issues, marital problems, or something else – stress can play a role in our lives whether we like it or not. It can either be perceived as a good or bad feeling depending on the context and how the body reacts to it. Regardless of the cause or if the stress is serious or not, your body is not going to be able to distinguish the difference which can cause your stress levels to spike even for relatively small things. Chronic stress has been linked to everything from, to obesity, diabetes, acne, arthritis, asthma, sleep disorders, addiction, high blood pressure, and more.
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One of the biggest known effects of stress is its ability to skyrocket cortisol levels in the body. Cortisol is the primary hormone that is responsible for triggering our ‘fight or flight’ response which is how the body ends up reacting to something by telling us to either fight through it or run. When spikes in cortisol happen time and time again, it can cause significant wear and tear on the body and end up causing a lot of negative chain reactions including sped up aging.
Below, we will be going over some of the natural ways that you should be able to effectively deal with stress and limit the overall impact it can have on your life.
Yoga is often viewed by many people as the oldest defined practice of one’s self-development. Classical yoga includes methods like physical posture, ethical disciplines, meditation, and breathing control. Numerous studies have revealed that a bit of yoga practice in the morning before you go to bed and in between work breaks could reduce stress and improve your productivity. Yoga is believed to be an effective stress relief tool because apart from the physical benefits it provides, it increases mindfulness, encourages a good mood, and also encourages positive self-compassion.
What is Involved With Yoga?
Yoga practice often entails stretching your body and forming various poses while keeping your breath slow and controlled, resulting in the body is relaxed and energized simultaneously. There are different yoga styles, some moving through different poses at a quick pace, similar to aerobic workouts, while others relax deeply into every pose. Some are used exclusively as a form of exercise whereas others take a more spiritual angle.
Everyone can reap physical benefits from yoga, and its practice can also provide psychological benefits like stress reduction as well as an improved sense of well-being. There are also some spiritual benefits associated with yoga, like the feeling of connectedness with Spirit or God, or the feeling of transcendence. Some poses can be done just about anywhere and yoga programs can span some minutes to several hours depending on your schedule and the class.
There are various mechanisms in yoga which affect stress levels, implying that there are different ways in which this practice can help reduce stress levels. Research shows that some of the most effective ways yoga targets stress are by giving you a positive mood, allowing for an increase in mindfulness, and increasing self-compassion. By simultaneously getting you into a better mood, enabling you to remain focused on the current moment, and encouraging yourself to take a break, yoga is definitely an effective stress management tool that everyone should leverage.
Meditation often has many health benefits and is an effective way to relieve stress and live a healthier lifestyle. With consistent practice, meditation eventually becomes an easier habit for you to maintain and becomes more of a hobby as well, owing to the fact that it builds resilience to stress over time. Putting in some effort to practice and learn meditation could eventually transform your perception of stress in life. There are different ways to meditate, and the technique discussed here is among the most basic of all techniques, and with practice, could be used to feel inner peace when needed most.
Step 1: Take a Comfortable Position
Some prefer sitting cross-legged on the floor while others will prefer sitting in a comfortable chair. You should be in complete relaxation while you remain awake. Make sure that you are in the correct posture since it becomes easier for you to remain awake through long meditation periods when your back is straight. If you start meditation practice with this aspect in mind, the body gets accustomed to this position and you will find yourself going for longer periods of time. If you decide to rest on a chair, sit towards the front and have your feet firm on the ground.
Step 2: Gently Close Your Eyes
Once you are in a comfortable position, stare into the horizon with a soft gaze and then lower your eyelids. You should also keep your jaw slightly open and slack, and should also ensure that all facial muscles are relaxed. The trick is not to squeeze your eyes tight. If you feel that your face is tight, open your eyes slowly, regain that soft gaze and then lower your eyelids again. Here, the aim is to have every part of your body relaxed.
Step 3: Clear Your Head
This part of meditation really takes a lot of practice and could end up in lots of frustration. Maintaining a clear mind is the most essential, yet most challenging aspect of basic meditation practice. Learning to do this as you practice meditation could help you let things go in your life. The whole idea here is to remain unattached to any kinds of thoughts. You should never get discouraged if you can’t clear your thoughts entirely. We all have never-ending thoughts and even some of the most seasoned meditators need to first silence their inner voices.
Step 4: Time to Keep Going
Yes, you heard it right. It is now time for you to keep letting go of all thoughts that might come up in your mind. The quiet spaces that crop up between thoughts will be larger and more frequent the more you choose to practice.
Positive Psychology in Stress Management
This branch of psychology has identified various positive emotional states which could result in greater emotional fulfillment, resilience, and health. Here are some positive emotional states that help with stress management:
The mere act of appreciating what you have in life could result in more happiness and satisfaction. Both having what you desire and wanting what you already have could result in a sense of gratitude. Gratitude-promoting activities could result in more feelings of life satisfaction and abundance in addition to lifting your mood.
Human beings tend to have some natural tendency towards pessimism or optimism, and this is just an aspect of our being. We could work towards developing a tendency towards optimism if we decided to, and since optimists will always see the positives in life, this is definitely something that should be worked towards.
Irrespective of the path you follow, a slight focus on spirituality could result in a greater sense of meaning to your life, in addition to better resilience when you are stressed. Meditation and prayer could be good ways for one to be more centered, and being involved with spiritual communities could be a good source of social support when you are battling stress.
Applying some of these principles in your life could be a huge step towards effective stress management. A very simple strategy you could go by is adding more pleasures to the life you are already living so that you increase your levels of positive effect.
Journaling typically involves the practice of maintaining a journal or diary which explores the feelings and thoughts surrounding various events of your current life. Journaling, as a self-exploration and stress management tool, works wonders when it is done consistently. However, sporadic and occasional journaling could also help in stress relief when the practice is geared towards emotional processing or gratitude. One of the most effective ways through which you can use journaling to reduce stress is writing in detail about thoughts and feelings which are related to stressful events, just as you would talk about topics in therapy and consequently brainstorm solutions. There are various ways through which you can practice journaling, and the method you decide to go by will depend on your personality as well as your needs at that moment.
Benefits of Journaling
Journaling lets people clarify their feelings and thoughts, thus gaining crucial self-knowledge. This is also an excellent problem-solving tool because one could easily spell out a problem and develop solutions more easily when written down on paper. Journaling about some traumatic events you have been through helps you to process them by completely exploring and eventually releasing all the emotions involved, and by engaging the whole brain in the process, letting the entire experience be integrated into your mind. Journaling can also help focus on aspects of your life which you are likely to focus on often, as is often the case with coincidence journaling or gratitude journaling. This practice has been found to counteract most of the negative effects associated with stress.
Guided imagery is a simple and convenient relaxation technique which could help easily and quickly manage stress as well as reduce tension in the body. It is usually as easy as immersing yourself into vivid daydreaming, and with continued practice, this technique can help easily access your inner wisdom. There are several ways through which you can practice guided imagery, including taking classes where an instructor guides you, creating recordings of your own, using audio recordings, or using imagination and inner voice.
Getting Started With Guided Imagery
Step 1: Start by Getting Comfortable
You need to get yourself in a relaxed position, like the one which you would use for self-hypnosis or meditation. If lying down will most likely get you to slumber, go for a recline on a comfortable seat or the cross-legged position. Try positioning yourself in a manner in which physical comfort will not be a cause of distraction.
Step 2: Breath From the Belly
Using diaphragmatic breathing while closing your eyes and focus on peaceful breathing as well as breathing out the stress. This means that you should let your belly expand and contract as you breathe. If you realize that your shoulders are rising and falling, the chances are that there is tension being carried in your body, rather than being able to breathe in a more relaxed way.
Step 3: Select a Scene and Imagine It Vividly
Once you have yourself in a relaxed state, try to visualize yourself in the midst of some of the most relaxing environments you could imagine. For some people, it could be floating in the cool, pristine waters off their favorite tropical island while for others it could be sitting next to a fire in a secluded wood cabin, deep in the jungle. You want to trigger memories of a place and instance when you felt relaxed and wonderful.
Step 4: Indulge Yourself In All Sensory Details
As you continue imagining your scene, you should make an effort of involving all senses. How does it feel? And what does it look like? What scents are involved? What sounds did you hear? Make your vision as real as it can be. Noticing such details in your everyday life is a good way to increase your mindfulness, which could result in lasting stress management benefits.
Step 5: Now Relax
Remain here for as long as you fancy. Enjoy your imaginary surroundings and distant yourself from anything that stresses you. When you are ready to revert back to the reality, count back from twenty and let your conscious know that when you reach one, you will feel more alert and serene. You will definitely feel refreshed and calmer, just like coming home from a mini-vacation.
Another effective stress reduction and stress management technique would be a complete diet overhaul and lifestyle change. As our jobs become increasingly technical based and our lives become increasingly busy, many are unable or unwilling to spend the time it takes to find and eat healthy meals throughout each and every day. Because of this, a lot of people have a severe lack of nutrient intake on a daily basis that can lead to major problems with common bodily processes. When you deprive your body and organs of the essential nutrients it needs to function optimally, it is going to make sacrifices in various areas that can cause major issues with your physical and mental health. By switching up your diet and eating a healthier and much more balanced diet, you should be able to avoid these common deficiencies.
Some of the most important foods that you will want to be sure are implemented into your diet are foods that are high in vitamin B. B vitamins are some of the most important vitamins when it comes to regulating your natural energy levels.
Calcium and Magnesium
Along with this, you are going to want to get in both calcium and magnesium as they are important for everything from relaxing your muscles to helping you get proper rest and sleep.
A study showed that there is suggestive but inconclusive evidence that magnesium supplementation can have a positive effect on mild anxiety in individuals that suffer from it. 1
You want to get a healthy intake of high-quality proteins as well because the amino acids in the protein are necessary for allowing your mind to have the proper neurotransmitter functions that it is supposed to. An amino acid composition is important to the effective management of stress levels in the body. A pilot study conducted by the Department of Urology, Medical Nutrition Science, the University of Bonn in Germany found that a group given serum concentration of taurine amino acids, folic acid, and l-tryptophan were able to experience high improvement in perceived stress than the placebo group. 2
Omega 3 Fatty Acids
It is also important to keep an eye on your omega 3 fatty acid intake. A majority of people take in far too many omega 9’s which can result in a severe imbalance causing inflammation throughout the body and brain. By getting more omega 3 fatty acids to balance out the level of fatty acids in the body, you will not only be able to effectively reduce inflammation throughout the body, but it can also help provide an optimal environment for healthy brain development while supporting the brain health overall.
While the food and nutrients you ultimately include in your diet are hugely important, it is also important to be sure that you are keeping certain ingredients away from your body as well. Various ingredients that you will find in a lot of foods regularly available in the supermarket can have severe negative effects on your stress levels.
Foods To Avoid
When it comes to sugary foods, it is important to avoid them like the plague. Unfortunately, as good as they might taste, sugary foods are going to cause blood sugar levels to spike dramatically, which is not only going to be bad for your overall health, but it is going to cause your anxiety levels to increase which can completely ruin your stress levels.
If you are someone that suffers from high stress and/or anxiety, one of the major ingredients you will want to avoid completely is caffeine. Caffeine is something that can worsen your anxiety and stress levels. Not only is it going to increase the amount of cortisol in your bloodstream, but it can cause the body to become jittery and make you less capable of coping with stress.
Alcohol is something else that will also have a negative impact on your ability to cope effectively with stress. It can also negatively impact your cortisol levels.
You want to avoid frying your foods in vegetable oils as they are full of unhealthy fats which are going to cause more omega 6 fatty acids than omega 3 fatty acids in your diet which can wreak havoc on your body through boosted inflammation. This can even cause leaky gut syndrome which can have a negative effect on your mental health and stress levels.
Using Essential Oils
Essential oils are another way to effectively cope with stress and minimize stress issues and have been shown to have a dramatic impact on anxiety and stress levels in the body. One of the biggest ways it can successfully minimize stress levels is by reducing the effects that stress and cortisol can have on the body, to begin with.
There are two primary essential oils that have shown a unique ability to help one deal with stress. Two of the primary essential oils that have proven to be very effective at reducing stress levels in the body are frankincense and Ylang-Ylang.
Benefits Of Frankincense On Stress Management
Helps Reduce Stress Altogether
When it comes to managing stress levels throughout the body, frankincense has the unique benefit of being able to help do all of the above. It is capable of doing so by helping reduce heart rate and lower blood pressure which can effectively minimize anxiety and stress levels throughout. Along with this, it has been shown to have positive mood-lifting properties which you would normally only be able to find in medications that would have a lot of potentially negative side effects. Instead, this essential oil is able to have the same positive effect with little to no negative side effects associated.
In fact, one study conducted the results showed that the burning of resins from the Boswellia tree had effective antidepressant qualities for mice. 3
Helps With Sleep
Another common issue among those that might have problems with their stress and anxiety levels is an inability to sleep or some may even experience insomnia in severe cases. Frankincense has been shown to effectively function as a sleep aid for those that are having a hard time sleeping. While there certainly needs to be more research to get a proper analysis on how and why it works, it has been shown to help those that use it improve their sleep patterns and minimize the anxiety that they might be dealing with which can cause them to be unable to fall asleep at night.
How To Use Frankincense For Stress Management
When it comes to using frankincense, the primary way that the majority of people have found it useful is by incorporating aromatherapy into their daily routines. It has actually been used as an incense for a very long time and it is able to be smelled directly from the bottle if you are looking for a quick fix. Overall, one of the best and most reliable ways to use frankincense is through a personal essential oil diffuser.
Another way that some use this for stress management is topical. When used topically and applied to the body, it can have a relaxing effect on your body and mind. You can even drop some of the oil into a bath for the same kind of effect.
Benefits Of Ylang-Ylang For Stress Management
Helps With Sleep
One of the most powerful benefits that Ylang-Ylang is able to offer those that are looking to apply it to manage stress is its ability to act as a sedative for the user. Because it has shown an ability to help sedate and calm the nerves, it is a great option to take right before bed if someone suffers from significant anxiety or stress at night. It can help provide a relaxing feeling and a reduction in everything from stress, to anxiety, to anger while trying to sleep.
Another effective way that Ylang-Ylang can help people deal with and/or effectively manage stress is by acting as somewhat of an antidepressant. Because it has shown an ability to help fight off depression and be effective at relaxing the body, it is something that can help drive away anxiety and chronic stress, which is what tends to cause depression in many individuals. It can also have somewhat of an uplifting effect on the mood and can induce various feelings of joy in an individual which can keep their mind off things that might be stressful and causing their anxiety to spiral out of control.4
Lowers High Blood Pressure
Ylang-Ylang has also been shown to be effective at helping lower high blood pressure in individuals. Because high blood pressure is a common symptom in those that are dealing with elevated stress levels, it is something that can reduce the negative consequences it can have on the body and mind.
One study conducted by the Department of Pharmaceutical Chemistry in Thailand found that a group that was given Ylang Ylang felt much more relaxed and calm as opposed to the controlled group, which shows that Ylang Ylang can have significant relaxing effects and provides some evidence that it can be used to decrease instances of stress in humans. 4
As you can see, there are many kinds of natural solutions that you can turn to if you are looking to effectively manage stress levels naturally without any sort of medication. Whether you are looking to do so through yoga, lifestyle changes, diet, meditation, essential oils, or different kinds of massage, it shouldn’t be too difficult to find something that works for you.
Unfortunately, many prescription medication alternatives that are available can be extremely harmful to the body and mind and even have potential negative side effects that go far beyond what you would want to subject yourself to.
By focusing on natural alternatives and solutions, you should be able to effectively manage the stress levels in your body without having to introduce any potentially harmful chemicals or other ingredients to your body at the same time. Don’t let stress take you down, there is plenty that you can do to fight it. Ideally, you want to find something that works with your body chemistry. You should be able to find an effective and safe alternative to dealing with your stress and/or anxiety levels. By following some of the tips above and incorporating these techniques into your routine, you should experience success with your efforts.
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