Stress is the root cause of many different diseases and health issues. Being mindful of your stress levels is very important to your overall health. If you’re constantly operating in the sympathetic (fight or flight) nervous system, your body may become “stuck” in it, and it can negatively affect your health.
5 Ways To Reduce Stress
Your autonomic nervous system controls so many different functions in your body automatically: your heart rate, your respiratory rate, blood circulation, and blinking to name a few. When operating in the parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest), the body’s energy is used to make all these systems function properly. When the sympathetic (fight or flight) system kicks in, energy is diverted from ensuring these systems are functioning properly to preparing the body to fight or flee.
Making sure that you take time to control your stress levels is extremely important. When your body is in a constant state of fight or flight, you may notice health issues like cardiovascular or digestive issues. If you work on getting your body into the parasympathetic state on a regular basis, you can help guide your body back to optimal health. Here are some things you can do help reduce stress:
Meditation gets your brain into an optimal state, and taking time to meditate can be life changing for some people. As you meditate, your brain waves slow down and move towards an optimal state. Below are a few different types of meditation:
- guided meditation
- mindfulness meditation
- mantra meditation
- tai chi
- qi gong
As you meditate, over time you are physically changing the structure of your brain. This helps form new neurons and neural pathways that are healthier and better for your brain, increasing your resilience to stress.
Deep breathing exercises can be very effective to help the body relax and get out of fight or flight mode. There are certain breathing exercises you can follow, such as Wim Hof’s “4-7-8 method,” or you can just do something as simple as making sure your exhale is longer than your inhale. With the 4-7-8 method, you take a deep breath for 4 seconds, hold it for 7 seconds, and then exhale for 8 seconds.
When you partake in physical exercise, your body releases natural endorphins that help boost your mood. Dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin, and epinephrine are released when you exercise. These are the “feel good” chemicals that signal happiness to your body. When your body starts to release these chemicals, it can start to move into a parasympathetic state naturally. Exercise helps to provide stress relief for your body because it stimulates the fight-or-flight response and helps your body adapt better by working through the effects. It can cause a cascade of positive effects on your body- including better immune function, cardiovascular health, and digestion.
Many people find that when they eliminate certain food groups, they start to feel more calm and less stressed. Some foods are naturally inflammatory and by cutting them out, the body’s inflammation is reduced, causing people to feel a lot better physically. Sometimes it is trial and error for an individual to find their individual food triggers.
A lot of fruits and vegetables contain natural antioxidants, fiber, and compounds that can actually quell inflammation, so making sure that you’re consuming enough fruits and vegetables is never a bad idea.
Connecting With Others
Spending time with people you love is a wonderful way to reduce stress. Talking to loved ones when you’re feeling stressed can help you uncover a solution and also make you feel better. When you spend time connecting with others, face-to-face communication can help reduce the occurrence of anxiety, depression, and other mental illnesses. When you feel connected and supported, you’re less likely to feel alone, and the strong emotional support of loved ones can help carry you through rough times.
Ways To Manage Stress
Reducing long-term stress is a great goal to support your physical and mental health. While a lot of the above-mentioned tips are wonderful at helping the body reduce stress over time, sometimes there just isn’t time to implement them. Here are some tips you can try that aren’t too difficult, or take too much time:
- Take a deep breathe
- Look for the sun
- Counting backward
- Sit alone in the quiet
- Listening to happy music
- Take a short walk
- Try laughing
Some people find that when they are stressed, if they simply start to smile or laugh, that can release endorphins in their body and reduce stress. The brain doesn’t know that the smile or laugh is fake, and it releases the endorphins anyway.
Find The Best Way To Reduce Stress In Your Body
Reducing stress in your life is very personal to your unique life and situation. When you’re under stress, it can feel overwhelming, but be assured that help is possible. If you have tried all the techniques and still aren’t finding relief, talking to a healthcare professional is a good idea. Living your best life is within your hands!