Beginners Guide to Stress Relief
Unless you live under a rock, there is no way to avoid stress. Okay, even leaving under a rock would be a pretty stressful situation. Stress is inevitable. No matter how you try you just can't avoid it. So your best strategy is to try to manage it by using all the available stress relief tips and strategies available to mankind.
One of the best tips for dealing with any form of predicament is to first get a bit of education on the situation. So first, let's talk a bit about what exactly is stress and how it may be affecting your health.
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What is Stress?
Stress, for those who may not know, is our body's natural response to changes that take place. These changes can be either physical, mental, or emotional.
Stress can arise from many aspects of your life such as bills, work, and can even include positive changes such as a job promotion. These reactions are a normal part of life. However, too much stress can have an effect on your health.
How Does Stress Affect Your Health?
Our bodies were created to experience and react to stressful situations. The positive thing about stress is it helps activate our fight or flight response which can cause us to be alert and ready to avoid danger.
However, when a person is exposed to too much stress, it can have a negative effect on our bodies because stress-related tension builds up. Also, the constant activation of the fight or flight response during a continuous stressful situation can cause wear and tear on the body both emotionally and physically.
If you continue to expose yourself to stress without relief it can lead to the condition called distress. Distress is a negative stress reaction and this can cause an imbalance to your body's equilibrium.
Stress is also said to become worsened when a person engages in the use of substances and compulsive behaviors. Substances or behaviors that can worsen stress include food, alcohol, tobacco, drugs, gambling, sex, shopping, and the Internet.
The reason engaging in this behavior is dangerous is because the body tends to stay in a stressed state rather than receiving the relief needed. This causes the distressed person to stay in a vicious cycle of repetition.
So how does one know that they are being exposed to too much stress and what should you do?
What are the Warning Signs?
When one is exposed to too much stress for a long period of time(chronic stress) this can wear down your bodies natural defenses and cause many different physical symptoms, including;
- Indigestion or acid reflux symptoms
- Increase or loss of appetite
- Racing heartbeat
- Trouble sleeping
- Muscle tension
- Tiredness or exhaustion
- Loss of sexual desire
- Upset stomach
- Weight loss or gain
- Grinding teeth
- Cold or sweaty palms
- Trembling or shaking
- General aches and pains
Stress Relief Tips
Just because we can't avoid stress doesn't mean we have to let it ruin our lives. There are many different ways you can manage your stress and enjoy life again.
Here are a few simple stress relief tips to get you started;
Everyone knows exercise is one of the keys to great health but did you know that it is also one of the best things you can do for a stressed body?
Not only is exercise an effective way to lower your blood pressure and help you get a good night's rest, but it also helps your body release the chemical endorphins which put you in a good mood and act as a natural pain killer.
Taking a walk after a stressful conversation or going for a walk in the park around nature gives you the added benefit of increasing your mood.
If you are looking for a natural way to relieve stress, you may want to look into supplements. Some supplements can promote stress and anxiety reduction by increasing the hormones and chemicals in our bodies responsible for reducing stress. Here is a list of a few popular supplements:
- Lemon balm: Lemon balm is a member of the mint family that has been studied for its anxiety fighting effects (Source).
- Omega-3 fatty acids: One study showed that medical students who received omega-3 supplements experienced a 20% reduction in anxiety symptoms (Source).
- Ashwagandha: Ashwagandha is an herb used in Ayurvedic medicine to treat stress and anxiety. Several studies suggest that it can be very effective (Source).
- Green tea: Green tea contains many polyphenol antioxidants that provide different health benefits. It increases serotonin levels which may lower stress and anxiety (Source).
- Valerian: Valerian root is a popular sleep aid due to its tranquilizing effect. It contains valerenic acid, which alters gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) receptors to lower anxiety.
- Kava kava: Kava kava is a psychoactive member of the pepper family. Long used as a sedative in the South Pacific, it is increasingly used in Europe and the US to treat mild stress and anxiety (Source).
Due to the fact that some supplements can interact with certain medications, it is best to always consult with a doctor before taking a supplement if you have a medical condition.
4. Aromatherapy Candles
Essential oils have been used for many years and have many benefits from helping improve your sleep to aiding indigestion. So it isn't surprising that they would be a useful way to help us relieve stress.
When you use scents to improve your mood, that is called aromatherapy. So aromatherapy candles are the technique of using candles made of special scents to improve your mood.
So which scents work best at reducing stress? Here is a list of the most calming scents:
- Roman chamomile
- Ylang Ylang
There is nothing more therapeutic than expressing oneself. So I guess that is why another way you can get some stress relief is through writing things down in a journal.
Although the normal approach would be writing down what it is you are stressing about, you can also take the gratitude approach and write about the positive things in your life.
Need a Journal? Shop for Journals online
Mindfulness is the practice of being aware of your present moment.
It is a great way to help you fight negative thoughts that can induce anxiety.
Some ways you can increase your mindfulness include; yoga, meditation, breathing exercises, mindfulness-based cognitive therapy, and mindfulness-based stress reduction.
There are even simple exercises you can teach your children to help them practice mindfulness and reap the benefits of stress reduction.
Yoga has many benefits to our mental and physical well-being including lowered blood pressure and reduced insomnia. However, yoga has become a very popular way to reduce the symptoms of stress and anxiety.
This can be achieved through yoga's ability to increase our focus on the body and mind and the awareness of both that it brings.
Yoga may be able to lower cortisol levels, blood pressure, and heart rate and increase gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), a neurotransmitter that is lowered in mood disorders.
It is hard to be sad when someone is making you laugh so I guess that is one reason laughing is a good way to cure anxiety. Not to mention laughing is good for your health because it
- relaxes your muscles and relieves tension and
- it relieves your stress response
In the long run, laughing can even improve your mood and help to improve your immune system. Now, that is definitely something to laugh about.
With the number of funny additions to Netflix lately, you have no reason to not sit down in front of the telly with friends and/or family and laugh away the stress.
9. Spend Time With Family and Friends
Everyone can benefit from the support of others when they are feeling down. When I am stressed, I find the best stress relief is the support I get from my husband, my kids, and my family members.
A study even showed that for women especially, spending time with friends and children helps our body to release our bodies' natural stress reliever oxytocin. Which is the opposite of our bodies fight or flight response and is called "tend and befriend".
Another study conducted among men and women showed those with few social connections are more likely to suffer from depression and anxiety.
10. Cut Caffeine
Caffeine is a stimulant found in drinks such as coffee, tea, some sodas, energy drinks, and chocolate. Consuming large amounts of caffeine can cause anxiety.
We all have a threshold for how much caffeine we can tolerate. So if you notice that your body is starting to get jittery or anxious when consuming a certain amount you should cut back.
Many studies have shown that having a pet can be beneficial to your health but did you know that having a pet could actually help reduce stress?
It seems that according to a study when you interact with your pet the hormone oxytocin is released which is responsible for improving your mood.
Having a pet is also said to reduce stress because it keeps the owner active. Going for walks in the park helps promote exercise which is another way to relieve stress.
Common Questions/FAQ About Stress Relief
What are the causes of stress?
Although stress can be caused by many different situations there are times you may not know what is causing you stress. However, the most common reasons for stress are:
- financial difficulties
- work or school demands
- personal life changes (such as moving)
- bereavement (such as loss of a loved one)
- illness or injury
- relationship troubles (such as breakups, or divorce)
What are the warning signs of stress?
Everyone handles stress differently so how stress affects each person depends on how each individual's body is able to withstand the pressures of that stress. So, I may experience different symptoms from my stress than you. Some of the common effects to look out for are mood swings, headaches, short-tempered, irritability, anxious, or depressed feelings.
What does stress do to your body?
Stress may cause you to have physical symptoms such as fatigue, trouble sleeping, headaches, stomach pains, nausea, diarrhea, constipation, muscle tension, hyperventilating, and lack of interest in sex.
Are stress and anxiety the same?
We all may experience stress and anxiety but by definition, they are not the same thing. Stress is how we react to change (i.e, a situation, or a threat). Anxiety is our body's response to stress. So although stress causes anxiety, anxiety is not stress.
What is a healthy reaction to stress?
Stress, in itself, is not a negative thing but how we react to situations or threats is what makes the outcome negative. By first identifying (when possible) what is causing your stress, you will have a better chance of reacting in a healthy way.
Even though you can encounter stress in many aspects of your life, there are many simple ways you can help yourself manage your stress.
All of these tips include ways to help get your mind away from the stress.
Exercise, aromatherapy, yoga, and spending time with family and friends are all great ways to relieve stress and anxiety - and they will help improve your overall health.
Being a parent may be difficult but you don't have to let stress make it that much more complicated.
Do you have a technique you use when you are stressed? I would love to hear about it below!