We all experience stress at some point in our lives, and how you choose to handle it can make all the difference. Stress is the body’s normal response to an initial trigger that causes you to feel anxious or concerned, but this feeling tends to fade quickly. However, chronic stress can tell a much different story.
If you are constantly feeling emotional pressure for a prolonged period of time, it can have many negative health effects related to heart disease, sleep problems, mental health issues, and more. The best way to prevent against this persistent strain on your mind and body is to find appropriate ways to de-stress, and make them a habit in your everyday lifestyle.
Leading Causes of Stress
Stress can be brought on by a multitude of circumstances, especially those that relate to major life changes like a marriage or divorce, the birth of a new child, or moving into a new home.
Additionally, some other common types of stressors include:
- Financial instability
- Death of a loved one
- Loss of a job
- Public speaking
- Feeling overworked or unfulfilled
- Discovery of a chronic illness
All of these stress triggers elicit a chemical response within the brain, which in turn releases stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. According to Michael E. Platt, MD, “The number one cause of stress is excess adrenaline,” meaning that the key to reducing stress is likely linked to a decrease in this “emergency hormone”.
Given that these types of hormones are the reason we experience the symptoms of stress, it’s important to also determine what causes adrenaline and cortisol release. This includes the many new-found stress-inducing factors that have arisen over the years due to enhanced technology and societal changes in America.
Michael Levitt, the CEO of Breakfast Leadership Inc. notes some of the additional factors contributing to people’s stress include:
- Cell phone addiction. We have never been more connected as a society, but the side effect is that we have disconnected from real conversations, single tasking, and our sleep patterns are dramatically impacted by our phones in our bedrooms.
- With constant connectivity means we’re never really off from work. Bosses that lack boundaries are emailing or texting their employees at all hours, which creates new stress.
- Our commutes are getting longer and longer, because we cannot afford to live close to work. These long commutes impact our health.
- Our dietary choices are of convenience, and not based on healthy choices. Obesity rates increase, which creates additional stress because we simply do not feel good.
With so many potential factors contributing to the feeling of stress, there are also a myriad of ways that you can de-stress your life.
How to De-stress Naturally
If you’re feeling tense, there are many natural remedies and everyday activities that work to reduce stress levels, including:
An intense workout or yoga session may be the perfect way to distract yourself from any stressful situations that have you feeling on-edge. Exercise boosts endorphins, otherwise known as the “feel good” hormone, and helps uplift your mood and alleviate stress. Staying physically active also helps get your blood pumping and decreases your chances of high blood pressure or heart attacks, which are health problems commonly associated with chronic stress.
- Eat well
Your diet can play a large roll in how your body functions, and how you manage stress. One of the most popular dietary recommendations for reducing stress include complex carbs like whole-grain breads, pastas, and oatmeal. Oranges and other citrus fruits are also a good place to start, since they are full of vitamin C that enhances the immune system and reduces stress hormone levels. Fish is another great option since it is rich in omega-3 fatty acids that have many heart health benefits in addition to stress prevention advantages.
- Reduce caffeine intake
In addition to maintaining a healthy diet, moderating the amount of coffee or other caffeinated beverages you drink can mitigate feelings of stress, especially if you usually have a high caffeine intake. We’re all familiar with the jitters that may come after drinking a cup of coffee, but what does this mean? Caffeine is a stimulant, and it sends signals to the brain that amp up the feelings of stress, which could make things worse if you’re already tense. You don’t have to quit cold turkey, but it is something to consider the next time you’re feeling stressed out.
- Get proper sleep
Sleep plays a large role in the restoration and recovery of the body and mind. If you’re stressed, it’s even more important to give your body the proper rest that it needs to avoid feeling burnt out day after day. However, it’s inherently more difficult to get a good night’s sleep when you’re stressed out, but soaking in a warm bath, exercising regularly, or taking a melatonin supplement before bed can make it easier to drift off into a restful slumber.
- Take wellness supplements
For many people, certain dietary supplements have helped them manage their stress in a more natural way. Magnesium or B12 vitamins are good options for promoting energy and concentration, which are traits you tend to lack when you’re under pressure. When it comes to reducing feelings of anxiety or tension, passionflower, valerian root, and CBD oil are popular choices that make it easier to relax after a stress-filled day.
- Take a break from your phone and other electronics
Modern technology is a great communication source that keeps us constantly connected with others, but sometimes it’s good to detach ourselves from the hustle and bustle of the outside world. Take this extra time to read a good book, relax on the couch, or go for a nature walk on a nice day. In addition, the blue lights emitted by our cell phones, televisions, and other electronics can also make it more difficult to fall asleep at night, and hinder our body’s recovery process.
Many people have found certain scents to be soothing in times of stress, and it’s easy to fill a room with these aromas using an essential oil diffuser. Lavender and chamomile are well known essential oils that help enhance relaxation and stress relief, and they may be perfect for helping you wind down after a long day at the office. Other essential oils may be better suited for promoting concentration, like lemon or peppermint scented oils, which may also help improve your overall mood with their bright and refreshing fragrances.
Understanding the Symptoms of Stress
There are many different ways that stress may affect the body, including emotional, behavioral, physical, and cognitive symptoms, such as:
- Easily agitated or frustrated
- Feeling overwhelmed
- Decreased energy levels
- Headaches or stomach aches
- Increased heart rate
- Trouble sleeping at night
- Loss of sexual desire
- Teeth grinding
- Racing thoughts
- Difficulty concentrating
- Changes in appetite
Stress is also a common trigger for more serious anxiety disorders, which have similar symptoms to stress, but the persistent feelings of worry last for much longer. For anxiety and stress, it’s important to understand the difference between the two, and when it may be time to seek out additional help if your symptoms do not improve with these natural remedies.