8 Ways to Naturally Reduce Stress
People everywhere are experiencing stress like never before. A 2017 Gallup poll revealed that 79% of Americans feel stress sometimes or frequently during their day. Worse yet, it’s estimated that one-third of all Americans have had an illness primarily caused by stress.
Being stressed out takes a serious toll on our quality of life – compromising our health, happiness and longevity. It zaps our energy and focus, increases our anxiety, depletes our body’s ability to protect itself, disturbs our personal relationships, and causes challenges at work. Stress also disrupts our foundational systems of health including our immunity, cardiovascular, neurological, gastrointestinal, metabolic, and psychological well-being.
The good news is that there are many ways to combat and relieve stress. Here are some of the most effective ways to get back into emotional, mental and physical balance.
Exercise and physical activity produce endorphins – chemicals in the brain that act as natural painkillers. It also improves our ability to sleep, which in turn reduces stress. Scientists have found that regular participation in aerobic exercise has been shown to decrease overall levels of tension, elevate and stabilize mood, improve sleep, and increase self-esteem.
2. PHYSICAL RELAXATION AND STRETCHING
Practiced for thousands of years by numerous cultures around the world, meditative stretching and physical routines are a proven technique for reducing stress. By enabling us to focus on the present moment and not on our busy lives, s we can take time out of our hectic lifestyles to focus on healthy body and mind. This also clears away the information overload that builds up and contributes to stress. Examples of this practice include Qi gong, Tai chi, focused breathing, and yoga.
3. CULTIVATE A SOCIAL SUPPORT NETWORK
Surrounding ourselves with at least a few good friends and confidants is a great way to improve our mental health and improve our ability to cope with stress. Studies show that social isolation and loneliness are associated with a greater risk of poor mental and cardiovascular health.
Research indicates that there are numerous benefits of having a network of social support including: alleviating the effects of emotional stress, promoting lifelong good mental health, and enhancing self-esteem. Some great ways to cultivate a social network are by volunteering for a cause that is important to you, joining a fitness group, or taking a class.
4. LISTEN TO PEACEFUL MUSIC
Music has been used for hundreds of years to restore harmony between the body and mind. Slow, quiet, relaxing music can act as a potent stress management tool, and a host of scientific studies have shown that listening to music can induce the relaxation response by slowing the pulse and heart rate, lowering blood pressure, and decreasing levels of stress hormones.
The saying “Laughter is the Best Medicine” turns out to be true. Laughter strengthens our immune system, boosts mood, reduces pain, and protects us from the damaging effects of stress. Laughter triggers the release of endorphins which promote an overall sense of well-being. In addition, it diminishes distressing emotions, helps us relax, shifts our perspective and draws people closer to each other. So take some time to focus on the funny side of life by watching a TV comedy or movie, going to a comedy club, or hosting a game night or karaoke party with friends or family.
6. SNUGGLE UP
There are few things in life that feel as good as a reassuring hug, and now science can tell us why. Stimulating touch receptors can lower blood pressure and cortisol levels, effectively reducing stress. One study from the University of North Carolina found that women who hugged their spouse or partner frequently (even for just 20 seconds) had lower blood pressure since a warm embrace increases oxytocin levels in the brain.
7. GET A PET
Anyone with a furry family member can tell you what science has proven – that pets and therapy animals can help alleviate stress, anxiety, depression and feelings of social isolation. Positive human-animal interaction causes physiological changes in both humans and animals, such as reducing stress and increasing oxytocin levels in the brain.
8. HERBAL SUPPLEMENTS
There are numerous supplements including herbs, amino acids and essential nutrients that can help mediate the effects of stress on the body. Herbs called adaptogens can increase our resistance to stress and calm anxiety. Used for centuries in traditional Indian and Chinese medicine, adaptogens are also backed by scientific research.