Stress-busting techniques that actually work
While short-term stress can boost your cognitive performance and activate your body’s natural defenses, long-term stress can be damaging to your health. We all experience stress and anxiety at one time or another, so knowing how to manage it is important. You can protect your body and mind with these natural, science-backed ways to reduce stress.
Without magnesium, your heart, immune system, and nerves wouldn’t function properly. Magnesium deficiency is also linked to stress. Unfortunately, over half of the population receives less than the recommended daily amount. If you’re stressed, try upping your magnesium. Increase your intake by eating magnesium-rich foods or taking a supplement. You can also use lotions and Epsom salt baths to absorb magnesium through your skin.
Mindful meditation has been proven effective in stress management. It trains your brain to focus on the present instead of ruminating over the past or worrying about the future. During this practice, you can perform a body scan or focus your attention on your breath. There are apps and meditation teachers to guide you through your practice, but you can also do it on your own. And it’s okay if your mind wanders—it happens to everyone!
In acupuncture, a thin needle is inserted into specific pressure points throughout the body. It’s often used to treat pain, but it can also reduce stress. In one study, participants were split into two groups. Those who received real acupuncture experienced a substantial decrease in stress while those in the placebo group didn’t experience nearly as much relief. If you decide to go to acupuncture, make sure you find a licensed acupuncturist.
Emotional freedom techniques (EFT) tapping is like acupuncture in that pathways are stimulated and release a flow of energy when you apply pressure to certain points in the body. Scientists believe EFT tapping triggers the nervous system and releases specific chemicals providing stress relief. There are instructional videos but also step-by-step guides to teach you the process.
Exercise plays an important role in healthy living, but did you know it can also reduce stress? When you exercise, endorphins are released into the bloodstream helping you feel less stressed and anxious. Your workout routine doesn’t have to be high endurance or physically exhausting either; a brisk 10-minute walk has been shown to effectively reduce stress.
Spending time in nature can provide a range of stress-busting benefits, including lower blood pressure and reduced cortisol levels. You can head to the forest for a long hike, but if you don’t have much time to spare, spending 20 minutes walking around a park works wonders too.
When experiencing certain levels of stress, your body reacts as though you’re in danger, enacting a “fight or flight” response that spikes your blood pressure and speeds up your heart rate. When this response continues long-term, it suppresses your immune system, increases blood pressure, and can lead to heart disease. Practicing deep breathing techniques for a few minutes each day, can lower blood pressure and slow your heartbeat thus reducing the stress response.
When we don’t get enough sleep, our anxiety levels increase. Sleep eludes many of us, but if we try to figure out why we’re struggling to get adequate sleep, our stressed bodies will thank us. It may be as simple as limiting screen time or not eating and drinking in the evening hours, but some people need more complex solutions to get some shuteye.
If you’re looking for a natural alternative to reduce stress but don’t have a lot of time, adding stress-reducing supplements to your morning smoothie or latte may prove effective. Evidence suggests that ashwagandha has a significant impact on stress reduction. Ashwagandha, can be found in a tincture and easily added to foods and drinks. Another herb, lemon balm, may promote calmness in those under distress. Lemon balm can be found in tinctures, teas, or pills.
A recent study suggests that journaling may reduce anxiety. Participants were asked to write as a form of self-regulation for 12 weeks. At the end of the study, patients experienced less stress and an increased overall sense of well-being. To get started, you can record your feelings about things that happened throughout the day, or you can write about the things you’re grateful for every day.