Stress is a normal part of everyday life, and a little stress is good for our bodies because it helps stimulate us to achieve our goals. But overwhelming stress, also called distress, is a big problem.
Stress is the body's response to a threat. The "fight or flight" response prepares the body to respond physically, and the end result is an increase in heart rate, breathing rate, blood pressure, muscle tension, and increased blood flow to the brain, lungs, heart, and muscles. This isn't much of a concern if your body experiences this every so often, but chronic stress has a significant impact on your overall health.
Stress has been linked to a long list of health problems, including heart disease, high blood pressure, Type II diabetes, headaches and migraines, obesity, cancer, sleep disorders, and rheumatoid arthritis.
The key to avoiding chronic stress is to remove stressors from your life, but that's often easier said than done. If you can't prevent stress, learning how to manage and diffuse stress is the next best thing. Here are our five tips for managing stress naturally:
Physical activity provides some of the best natural stress relief. Aerobic exercise releases endorphins, the "feel good" hormones that act like an antidepressant in the brain. Exercise also gets your muscles working, which helps relieve the muscle tension associated with stress. In addition, exercise acts as a sort of reboot button for your brain—-the muscle activity focuses your brain on the activity, moving the emphasis away from the things that were causing you stress.
Make Time for Yourself
Me-time is a must for stress relief. When you have kids, a partner, siblings, parents, friends, bosses, and even dreaded bills all vying for attention, the stress can seem palpable. Take a step back from all those demands and indulge in some time all to yourself. Wake up before everyone else and have a cup of tea. Enjoy a relaxing bath. Get a massage. Listen to relaxing music. Take the time to do something just for yourself and you'll feel the stress melt away.
Get Plenty of Sleep
Most adults don't get nearly enough sleep, and some 60 million Americans suffer from regular or extended periods of insomnia. Sleep is essential for recharging your body, especially during times of stress. A good night's sleep will do more good than just about anything else.
Support Your Body
Vitamins and supplements can help your body cope with stress. Vitamin C and many of the B-vitamins help support your immune system, which is weakened by chronic stress, and they're key to adrenal gland health. Ginseng also helps support the adrenal system, while ginkgo, also called gingko biloba, reduces blood pressure and cortisol levels. St. John's Wort is also used for anxiety, so it can be a considerable help in managing chronic stress.
Breathe and Meditate
Deep, relaxing breathing is one of the simplest ways to dissolve stress. Posture is key to good breathing. Be sure to sit up straight or lie flat on your back on the floor. Close your eyes and slowly take a deep breath through your nose, filling your lungs completely. Exhale slowly through your mouth. You'll feel your shoulders settling and relaxing with each exhale. Meditation is just a step beyond relaxation breathing. The key to meditation is to clear your mind and to open yourself to the essence of your being, becoming aware of your self. Rest your mind and simply just be. You may only have a few minutes, but it can be extremely relaxing and rewarding.
Managing stress is a necessary part of life. But if you suffer from chronic stress, try to find ways to resolve at least some of the issues that are causing stress. Remember: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.