Stress and chronic stress have become a major issue for the vast majority of the population. For many of us, our fast-paced everyday lifestyle gives us little time to slow down, relax and introspect. Working long hours, refraining from physical activities and getting too little sleep can exacerbate stress and take a toll on our health and well-being. The current circumstances of the health crisis in America have elevated our stress problem by curtailing outdoor activities, recreation and socialization – all of which are essential for relieving stress.
Considering all this, it is essential that you take note of powerful stress-relief techniques that have scientific backing and incorporate them into our daily routines.
Here are proven stress- relief techniques you can benefit from:
Yoga is a very effective and safe way of relieving stress and anxiety.
Yoga is popular among all age groups, including seniors since its gentle movements are easy on your body. This meditative practice does not involve the same level of physical strain, hard work and intensity as other exercise regimens like aerobics, running and high intensity and training. Hence, it is something that even people with health conditions and those with very low fitness levels can perform without many complications.
Beginners may be daunted by the diversity of yoga practices. Although there are several different styles, they all have one thing in common. They all emphasize focusing your attention on both your mind and your body. They encourage you to practice mindfulness, slowing down your breathing rate and paying attention to your body – all of these steps are crucial for stress relief, yet many of us rarely perform them outside of yoga or some other meditative practice.
One review analyzed 25 randomized control trials to understand the effects of yoga on mood, stress and anxiety. These studies measured the effects of key parameters related to stress and well being like cytokine expression, cortisol levels, heart rate and blood pressure. Some of these studies even involved brain scans that showed activities in areas related to stress. The authors stated that all of these studies indicate that yoga can improve the regulation of your sympathetic nervous system, which is activated during stress. In other words, yoga can improve our stress response. The studies also show that yoga can improve anxiety, stress and depression symptoms across a wide range of populations. (1)
Social interaction is useful for improving your mood, reducing stress and improving your quality of life. Unfortunately, the present circumstances have reduced our opportunities for social engagement. Even if you are in isolation, you should still reach out to friends and family using the internet. You can use Zoom, Skype and several other video calling apps to get in touch with your loved ones.
Light a Candle
Essential oils and burning scented candles can help you to cope with stress and anxiety. Not only will you be able to enjoy the scent of amazing natural fragrances, you will also feel calmer and relaxed.
Certain scents are more soothing than others. Here are some of the best scents that you can select for stress relief.
- Roman chamomile
- Orange blossom or orange
The use of scents for stress relief and improving your mood is known as aromatherapy. There are numerous studies that show that aromatherapy can reduce stress and help you to sleep better.
High stress levels can trigger the sympathetic nervous system and send your body in the fight or flight state. Once your body is in this mode, it will start releasing stress hormones that will further elevate stress. You may experience symptoms of stress in this state like higher blood pressure, faster breathing rate and a quicker heartbeat.
To avoid going into this state and to bring your stress level under control, you should practice deep breathing. Deep breathing triggers the parasympathetic nervous system, which can induce relaxation throughout your body.
There are a number of deep breathing exercises that you can follow to activate the parasympathetic system and trigger the relaxation response. You can carry out paced respiration, belly breathing, abdominal breathing and diaphragmatic breathing. All of these techniques involve slow and deep breathing to induce a state of calm.
While breathing deeply, you should focus on your breath so that you can make it consistently slower and deeper. Instead of breathing through your mouth, you should breathe through your nose. Make sure that you breathe deeply so that your lungs are full of air. When you do this, your belly will rise due to the movement of your diaphragm.
Slow and deep breathing will bring down your heart rate, thereby helping you to relax and minimize your stress levels.
Maintain a Journal
Another way to gain control over your stress is to maintain a journal. You may want to write about those things that please you so that good thoughts come to your mind and you feel relaxed. You should practice gratitude since many people use this approach to improve their outlook on life and feel more positive.
The key to the exercise is to focus your thoughts on positive aspects of your life so that you can better handle any stressful situation that comes your way.
Magnesium is one of the most abundant minerals to be found in your body. It has several important functions and provides numerous benefits, not the least of which is stress reduction.
One 2010 review on herbal and nutritional supplements suggests that magnesium may be useful for reducing stress levels. (2)
A recent 2017 review study concluded that magnesium can lower stress levels. The review analyzed 18 papers and found that magnesium can induce a positive response for various stress symptoms like general anxiety, postpartum anxiety and premenstrual syndrome. As these studies were subjective in nature (that is, based on patient recall), authors of the review recommended more rigorous trials. (3)
One reason why magnesium may be so helpful for reducing stress levels is that it may have important neurological functions. Magnesium is thought to improve brain functions that manage anxiety and depression. Magnesium might affect the hypothalamus, the part of the brain that controls adrenal and pituitary glands. These glands have a strong effect on your stress response. (4)
The B vitamins have several roles in the body, including mood regulation. B vitamins are often prescribed for improving mood, reducing fatigue and increasing energy levels. A few studies suggest that B vitamins are capable of lifting your spirits and enhancing mental performance.
One study performed on 215 healthy adults for over a month showed that B complex can improve several aspects of brain functions, including stress response. Not only did the intake of B vitamins improve stress levels, it also boosted cognitive performance and overall mental health. (5)
Although B vitamins are not regarded as treatments for stress, anxiety and depression, research shows that these vitamins can improve some of these symptoms.
One study showed that in comparison to a placebo, B vitamin supplementation for two months can significantly relieve stress and anxiousness. (6)
There is also scientific evidence that these vitamins can improve the response to anti- depression medication. According to one study, ingesting high doses of B vitamins along with anti-depression medication for a year can improve depression and stress symptoms when compared to a placebo. (7)
Several studies also suggest that low levels of B vitamins in your blood can leave you more susceptible to depression symptoms. (8)
Curcumin is found in the Indian spice turmeric. One way in which curcumin may help with stress is that it helps to neutralize free radicals and is a powerful anti-inflammatory.
One 2017 meta analysis compared the results of 6 studies involving over 370 patients suffering from low-mood. Curcumin was administered to patients and the results obtained were compared to a placebo. Researchers concluded that curcumin may ease stress and anxiousness. (9)
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