In the past (and let’s be honest, I’m still working on this), I’ve been notorious for taking on too much, and because of that, frequently experience stress and feelings of being overwhelmed. That said, challenges are a part of life. No matter how much margin for rest or balance you create, some stress-inducing situations are unavoidable.
When stress levels (aka the stress hormone, “cortisol”) are too high for an extended period of time, it takes a toll on us.
“According to the American Psychological Association, chronic stress is linked to the six leading causes of death: heart disease, cancer, lung ailments, accidents, cirrhosis of the liver and suicide. And more than 75 percent of all physician office visits are for stress-related ailments and complaints.
Chronic stress can affect your brain, suppress your thyroid, cause blood sugar imbalances, decrease bone density and muscle tissue, raise blood pressure, reduce your immunity and ability to heal, and increase fat deposits around your abdomen that are associated with heart attacks, strokes and elevated “bad” cholesterol.” (3)
It is crucial that we learn how to combat stress in healthy ways. Next time stress strikes, try to manage your stress naturally by utilizing some of the following tips:
1) Shift your mindset. Ask, “When I look back on this, without emotion, what will I be grateful for? What can I learn from this situation?”
2) Have devotional time. This will help shift your mindset more than anything else. Take time to journal, pray, and listen to worship music.
3) Talk it out with a trusted loved one. Talking through an issue with someone else helps you to see situations from another perspective. It’s also helpful to receive advice from someone who loves you, understands you, and has your best interest in mind.
4) Go for a walk, or better yet, walk the dog. Getting outside and breathing in fresh air helps to clear your head as well as boost endorphins, a chemical in your brain that triggers positive feelings. Additionally, studies show that simply being around a pet, let alone petting or snuggling one, lowers blood pressure.
5) Incorporate stress-fighting foods and adaptogens into your diet. Adaptogens are ancient herbs that help your body adapt to stress (hence their name). I’ll frequently add a teaspoon of maca powder and/or ashwagandha to my morning smoothies. Other stress-fighting foods include: dark, leafy greens, blueberries, fermented foods, nuts, lean protein, and other nutrient-dense, antioxidant rich foods. Though tempting, you want to avoid sugar, gluten, and processed foods. They may satisfy you for a moment, but they’ll only make you feel worse in the long run.
6) Diffuse essential oils. Something about turning on the diffuser and diffusing lavendar oil throughout the house after a long day is just so calming. “Lavendar oil is excellent for improving mental concentration, reducing stress, calming agitation and alleviating insomnia.” (4)
7) Exercise. Research shows that exercise can benefit your mind just as much as it does your body. Overcoming challenges physically (running a longer distance, faster pace, lifting a heavier weight, etc.) helps us learn how to overcome challenges mentally.
10) Practice gratitude. Cultivating gratefulness can make a profound impact on one’s health, and they way the view life. To learn to be content with what you have, where you are at, can drastically reduce stress. It’s OK to have goals and work towards growing, but it’s important to be thankful and appreciative for how far you’ve come as well.
(1) Axe, Josh. “Stressed? Fatigued? Gaining Weight? You Might Have This Condition.” Dr. Axe, 3 Jan. 2018, draxe.com/cortisol-levels/.
(2) Broyles, Jen. “Why Everyone Should Try An Epsom Salt Bath.” Mindbodygreen, 31 May 2014, http://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-13952/why-everyone-should-try-an-epsom-salt-bath.html.
(3) HARTZ-SEELEY, DEBORAH S. “Chronic Stress Is Linked to the Six Leading Causes of Death.” Miami Herald, 21 Mar. 2014, www.miamiherald.com/living/article1961770.html.
(4) UpNature. “Top 17 Best Essential Oils for Stress and Anxiety – And How to Use Them.” UpNature, 20 Feb. 2017, www.up-nature.com/blogs/news/top-17-best-essential-oils-for-stress-and-anxiety-and-how-to-use-them.