How To Relieve Stress The Natural Way!
Effective Stress Relief Techniques
Exercise is at the top of the list of effective natural stress-relief tools. Aerobic exercise burns out cortisol levels and promotes levels of beneficial endorphins in the brain that improve mood and general states of wellbeing.
If running late is a major cause of stress in your life, make the effort to leave before your normal time. This will help you offset the usual rush hour traffic and prevent you from getting to where you need to be late.
Meditation For Stress Relief
There are few things in life that illicit the relaxation response as well as meditation. Meditation calms, it’s really as simple as that, and it is the exact opposite of the ‘fight or flight’ response that instead of raising everything like heart rate, blood pressure and breathing, it calms everything, including the mind.
2012 research conducted at UCLA, (Lavretsky, et al) found that only 12 minutes of daily toxic chanting for 8 weeks greatly reduced stress in 48 subjects who were caretakers of Alzheimer’s and dementia patients, who are some of the most stressed people. It was determined that this occurs because chanting yoga reduces those biological mechanisms that trigger the immune system’s inflammation response that at chronic levels causes serious health complications.
Meditation falls into two broad categories.
The first one involves negation or eliminating all thoughts from the mind, leaving it a blank slate. This achieves the ultimate goal of relaxation as it eliminates all worries, cares, thoughts, concerns, and especially external stimuli from the mind. A sort of unconscious state while being conscious.
The second type requires an intense focus on something specific until it consumes the mind and replaces all other thoughts.
One of the reasons that meditation is so effective at managing chronic stress is that it trains you to control how you respond to external stimuli.
If someone punches you in the face, you will likely feel pain, get angry, and fight back. Conversely, if you have to give a speech in front of a hundred people, you will likely feel anxious, start sweating, and become very nervous. Both of these are examples of emotional, mental, and physical responses to some type of external stimuli.
In short, the brain and body respond to external stimuli based on your perception of said stimuli. If you are terrified of flying and your sister isn’t, then each of you will have completely different reactions when getting on a plane. The perception of the plane trip will dictate the effects in mind and body.
Meditation takes advantage of this and uses it to relax the mind, which consequently relaxes the body. By reducing cares and worries and refocusing the mind, the body responds with the relaxation response. Stress Relief is easier with meditation.
The idea of replacing stressful thoughts and chaos brewing in the mind with relaxing thoughts diverts your attention from the stress and thereby replaces the fight or flight response with the relaxation response in the body.
This is very effective, especially since the mind is only capable of focusing on one idea at a time. With practice, you can master the ability to refocus and eliminate all other thoughts but one, which allows you to manage chronic stress for the long-term. Furthermore, meditation is a tool that requires no external assistance, which means it can be, used anywhere, anytime.
The brain is a highly trainable organ, and its plasticity serves you well in getting chronic stress under control. Through the power of mental suggestion, you can train your mind to believe, feel, see and associate anything you want.
The act of meditation trains the mind on what to think, and with practice, meditators get so good at this that they can summon a state of relaxation on command, creating a mind over body effect that when presented to the brain will override any of the usual responses to any type of external stimuli.
The brain is an adaptive organ making it quite able to learn to relax on cue, so much so that over time the meditative state can be conjured on command.
Meditation Helps Keep Telemores Healthy
Elizabeth Blackburn The Nobel Prize winner in Physiology or Medicine 2009 and author of The Telomere Effect: A Revolutionary Approach to Living Younger, Healthier, Longer (with Elissa Epel) who is currently the President of the Salk Institute for Biological Studies has been studying telomere shortening for many years and told The Guardian, “Nobody had any idea that meditation and the like, which people can use to reduce stress and increase wellbeing, would be having their salutary and well-documented useful effects in part through telomeres. The book is also recognizing how much control we can have. Small tweaks in how you approach stress, for example, can lead to long-term habits that make a difference.”
Eat A Diet With Lots Of Whole Foods To Reduce Stress.
Whole food is not only the most nutritious but also fortifies the immune system, which is highly compromised by chronic stress. Processed foods, while convenient do nothing good for your health.
Many fruits and veggies also actively help to reduce the effects of stress on the body, helping manage inflammation and oxidation. As an added benefit, you will save money when you skip the processed factory food and chose a whole food, likely solving another source of your stress.
Choose Your Battles
“Rule number one is, don’t sweat the small stuff. Rule number two is, it’s all small stuff.” – Robert Eliot
Change Limiting Beliefs
Certain beliefs you hold may be holding you back in life. The good news is, once you identify them, you can change them for more helpful beliefs. Next time you catch yourself thinking a negative thought, just say, “I am no longer subject to that belief. I choose ….” Then insert your new, more empowering belief.
MBSR For Stress Relief
Created by Jon Kabat-Zinn, Ph.D., Mindfulness-Based Stress Relief is one of the most successful in training people to manage their stress. This is 8-week mindfulness program teaches meditation, body awareness, mindfulness practices, and mindful movement.
Progressive Muscle Relaxation
The muscle relaxation technique for stress doesn’t require much exertion for it to be effective, that’s probably why it has become so popular. One of the common methods is progressive muscle relaxation, which uses subtle movements to relieve tension and achieve relaxation.
The method is based on the idea that it’s easier to relax muscles by making smaller movements to relieve tension. It’s the type of tension in the muscles that causes body aches and headaches that you have probably had for days or at least so long you haven’t even realized they were there.
By tightening each muscle group and then releasing you start to feel more relaxed and less stressed. It’s all about exaggerating each conscious movement and release – this makes you more aware of your muscles and to when you’re holding tension.
This allows you the opportunity to complete the muscle relaxation technique in a bid to reduce your stress levels before it has a chance to get out of control.
How To Progressive Muscle Relaxation
- The first step is finding a room to practice this – it should be relatively quiet, dimly lit, and you should be able to sit comfortably or lie down.
- Close your eyes and start breathing deeply through your nose. Hold your breath for 3 seconds, and then exhale through your lips. Do this several times and imagine that your body is becoming heavy and warm. Release tension that you become aware of.
- Continue to breathe slowly and clench both of your fists, tightening your biceps and holding the tension for a few seconds. Now release the tension and let it ebb away. Your focus should be on the changing sensations in your muscles. As you allow the tension to flow from your arms, hands, and fingers keep your hands open to shake off the remnants.
You should continue this pattern through each of the major muscle groups in the body.
Some are under the impression that their life and all that happens in it is beyond their control, that they are a powerless victim falling prey to all the unpredictable forces around them. The truth is that this state of mind is not only erroneous but is quite harmful, especially when it comes to chronic stress and the effect it has.
In the victim mentality there is never a reason to take any action, and “lack of control” thinking only lends itself to ill health from chronic stress and other issues as a result of a non-proactive lifestyle.
You can control your emotions
You can control how you respond to stress
You can control how you respond to life and its problems
When you stop blaming circumstances and take back the reigns, you take back your power, and power is the ability to take action in order to control how situations and “life on life’s terms” affect you.
Some people thrive under constant change and even chaos, while for others managing chronic stress is simply a matter of a predictable, consistent, and stable living environment.
This does not mean that there will never be stress, but even the fact that the stress itself can be predicted, like that which occurs at work, makes it easier to deal with.
It’s really all about perception, where the unpredictable world leaves us at the mercy of randomness, as opposed to the comfort that can be found in predictability.
When you combine this with having an arsenal of tools to manage those stressful times, chronic stress becomes much more manageable.
Reduce Stress With Mind-Body Exercises
Yoga, Tai Chi, and Qigong are mind-body exercises, which numerous studies prove to be highly effective in relieving chronic stress.
The Mayo Clinic reports that yoga relieves stress because it boosts mood, increases mindfulness, and increases self-compassion. Its calming effects stay with you after any one session is over, and with regular practice, this makes a big difference in how chronic stress affects you.
The 2016 Yoga in America Study (Yoga Journal and Yoga Alliance) found that 56% of those surveyed cited stress management and relief as 1 of the top 5 reasons for starting yoga. Furthermore, 49% of subjects cited better health because of practicing yoga. 86% of subjects cited a strong sense of mental clarity as one of the main benefits of regularly practicing yoga.
According to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2.3 million to 3 million people practice Tai Chi in the United States, worldwide the number is 250 million people, and in China, it is a regular practice in parks across the country. Numerous studies have found Tai Chi to elicit the relaxation response and calm the mind making it an effective stress management tool.
Try Laughter Yoga For Stress Relief
Laughter yoga makes you feel more relaxed and happier: Even when you fake laughing, your brain thinks the laughter is real and understands it must create happiness chemicals because you are acting happy. Therefore, you become happier. Laughter yoga causes tensions to be released, mood to be elevated and stress to dissipate.
Optimists are far more efficient at dealing with stress, one of the reasons for this is that they see the bright side to everything and this type of positive attitude influences the perception of stressful events reducing their effects.
Positive thoughts help relieve stress naturally because they allow you to focus on things that are totally stress-free. This allows you to defocus your attention from stressful stimuli and situations and improves your mood.
The Heart Math Institute (HMI) has been doing research for more than twenty years and has discovered that positive emotions have an incredibly positive effect on reducing harmful chronic stress.
“Research has shown that sustained positive emotions lead to a highly efficient and regenerative functional mode associated with increased coherence in heart rhythm patterns and greater synchronization and harmony among physiological systems,” HeartMath Institute Director of Research Dr. Rollin McCraty writes in his paper, Heart Rhythm Coherence – An Emerging Area of Biofeedback.
HMI’s many trials have shown participants to have “significant reductions in stress levels and improvements in cognitive functions” by practicing deliberate positive emotions that include compassion, love, and care.
Gratitude is well known to be beneficial for emotional and psychological health. The Mayo Clinic reports that it can also boost your mood, and reduce cortisol levels by 23%.
Researchers at the University of California, Davis discovered that subjects who cultivated gratitude on a daily basis had more energy, better moods, and improved physical health.
Visualization can help you increase productivity or effectiveness and help you reach your goals. Imagine a goal: Picture yourself as having reached the goal already. Imagine in as much detail as you can the positive outcome you desire. Science shows that visualization causes you to act in ways that increase your chances of achieving your anticipated outcome.
Manage Your Emotional Response
It’s impossible to eliminate every stressor in your life, but what you can do is develop positive coping strategies to deal with the stress that you can’t get rid of. This should make it easier to identify positive coping strategies. It’s all about managing your response to the stress you experience, rather than trying to micromanage the stress that you experience.
Stress Relief And Time Management
A key skill in stress relief is managing time, this means prioritizing your schedule and responsibilities, using your time wisely and making sure there is time for rest and relaxation.
Do you find it difficult to say no to anyone who asks you for help, or asks a favor of you? This type of behavior could be fueling your stress directly because every time you say yes, something else is impacted. It always results in more stress, so you need to learn how to manage your time effectively and take “me” time without feeling bad about it.
Those who have fallen victim to chronic stress have likely forgotten what it means to have fun. However, in today’s busy and hectic world, fun is no longer a luxury but a necessity that your life may depend on.
Time needs to be made for fun every day, even if it’s just for a few minutes. This is something that is totally under your control, a choice, and the opposite of being a victim of stress and life’s circumstances.
Getaway from it all, and do something that relaxes you and makes you feel like a kid again.
It might not be easy to strike a balance between the work, home, and relaxation parts of your life, but it’s a necessity if you want to effectively manage chronic stress. Your mind needs time to relax, your body needs time to relax, these are facts that remain constant throughout your life.
Intermittent sessions of deep breathing throughout the day engage the vagus nerve that signals the brain to slow blood pressure, heart rate and diminishes levels of cortisol in the body.
This is really one of the easiest and most convenient ways to relieve stress on a daily basis. Take 10 to 15 deep breaths every couple of hours throughout your day, and you will feel the positive effects.
The fight or flight response is like being caught in a firestorm, with an incessant onslaught of chaotic and uncontrollable physiological manifestations that cause mental frustration, which can boil over like a pot of water sitting on a very high flame.
Find an activity that helps release this type of frustration. Hitting a boxing bag is a great example of a healthy way to vent, especially as opposed to yelling at others, cursing aloud or becoming violent, all examples of very unhealthy ways to manage stress frustration. The boxing bag is effective at venting pent up emotions, and it’s an activity that facilitates power and control over your body and mind.
Numerous studies find laughter to reduce stress hormones.
According to HelpGuide.org, “Laughter relaxes the whole body. A good, hearty laugh relieves physical tension and stress, leaving your muscles relaxed for up to 45 minutes after. Laughter boosts the immune system. It also decreases stress hormones and increases immune cells and infection-fighting antibodies, thus improving your resistance to disease.
Laughter triggers the release of endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals. Endorphins promote an overall sense of well-being, relieve stress and can even temporarily relieve pain.”
One major study found (Cortisol and Catecholamine Stress Hormone Decrease Is Associated with the Behavior of Perceptual Anticipation of Mirthful Laughter, Berk, et al) that the mere anticipation of laughter reduced levels harmful stress hormones in the body – cortisol was reduced by 39%, epinephrine by 70% and DOPAC, a dopamine catabolite that produces epinephrine by 38%.
So, you can literally laugh away stress? Yes!
Easy Ways To Create Laughter Opportunities
- Watch comedy shows, movies or funny videos on YouTube.
- Spend time with fun people, for some humor comes naturally and you find yourself laughing whenever you are in their presence.
- Get a Joke Of The Day calendar for your desk.
Listen To Music
Music has incredible effects on the brain, it lights up synapses, stimulates mood neurotransmitters, stirs emotions and yes, it can reduce cortisol levels to help manage stress.
According to the University Of Nevada, Reno, “Music can have a profound effect on both the emotions and the body. Faster music can make you feel more alert and concentrate better. Upbeat music can make you feel more optimistic and positive about life. A slower tempo can quiet your mind and relax your muscles, making you feel soothed while releasing the stress of the day. Music is effective for relaxation and stress management.
Research confirms these personal experiences with music. Current findings indicate that music around 60 beats per minute can cause the brain to synchronize with the beat causing alpha brainwaves (frequencies from 8 – 14 hertz or cycles per second). This alpha brainwave is what is present when we are relaxed and conscious.”
Any music that relaxes you work to relieve stress. Be it classical, jazz, or pop, go ahead, and turn up the volume. By the way, nature sounds, like rain, bubbling creek, and others are also a great way to use your auditory senses to relieve stress.
Vitamins To Relieve Stress.
Chronic stress means you need key nutrients more than at any other time; ask your doctor if you need a multivitamin.
Support System And Social Network
Elissa Epel, PhD, who has been researching the connections between chronic stress, telomere shortening, and accelerated aging for over 10 years at the University of California, San Francisco, where she directs the Center for Aging, Metabolism, and Emotion replied in an interview to the question of what risk factors of chronic stress are most underappreciated.
“Our social environment. How rich is your social fabric? How connected are you to the people in your social circle, starting with your family? A strong social network is probably the biggest buffer from toxic stress, next to exercise. Yet we often lack quality long-term social connections. There is frequent loneliness among high-risk groups like the elderly, who may be more isolated. For those of low income, many are working long and inflexible hours. Part of the problem is that there are limited minutes in the day, and if you are overworking, you are undercaring for your social network and for yourself.”
Your social network provides support through the most stressful times; this includes friends, relatives, and even co-workers. Something as simple as talking over your stressful day with a friend, going out to the movies with your family, or dancing with friends bolsters your personal relationships and offers respite when you’re under stress.
Stay The Course
If you have previously turned to unhealthy coping methods don’t lose hope if you have a slip-up. It isn’t the end of the world if you pick up a cigarette or have a drink, but don’t allow them to creep back in as a habit. Instead, focus on how you can regain control.
Most importantly, if you are having trouble getting your stress under control, see your doctor or a mental health professional, with the help you can manage and relieve your stress.
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Did you know that if you do not take care of your emotional stress that you are five times more likely to die within seven years!
Start Managing Your Stress Rather Than Let It Manage You!
Of course, each individual reacts to stress in different ways so the symptoms of stress, of one individual, are not concurrent with those of the next! Some people suffer from both emotional and physical symptoms and some just manifest the stress in their body while still being outwardly cheerful. Yet others can’t stop crying or sleeping while otherwise enjoying perfect health! It is also true that people react to stress in different ways and are also vulnerable to many different types of triggers. In our blog, we provide you with several other Stress Relief articles. Feel free to browse our blog we add daily new articles.