7 Easy Ways to Help Reduce Stress
This blog does not intend to provide diagnosis...
In this article:
- Stress Impacts Your Health
- 1. Supplements for Stress Support
- 2. Curb the Caffeine
- 3. Spa-ify Your Personal Care Regimen
- 4. Exercise It Out
- 5. Wind Down Your Day
- 6. Essential Oils
- 7. Eat Well to Manage Stress
We have all experienced stress. For better or for worse, stress is a regular part of all of our lives and can be caused by many different factors.
Though we all experience stress, stress presents itself differently in everyone. While some of us notice an increased heart rate or have trouble sleeping, others experiencing stress may have digestive issues or a loss of appetite.
Let’s explore the different types of stress, how they affect our bodies, and steps we can take to better manage the stress in our lives.
Stress can be broadly categorized as acute or chronic. While acute stress—like what you may feel if you are running late to a meeting—can actually benefit you and your body, chronic stress is more worrisome for your health and wellbeing.
Yale Medicine defines chronic stress as “a consistent sense of feeling pressured and overwhelmed over a long period of time”.1
Dealing with prolonged stress can negatively impact your body in several ways. In fact, according to Mayo Clinic, stress that is left unmanaged can contribute to serious health conditions, like high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, and diabetes.2
Stress management may require changes in your work and home environment, adding meditation to your routine, changing your eating and exercise habits, and using supplements and other products to limit the stress you feel. In some cases, stress can be dramatically reduced with one of these changes. For others, a more significant habit and lifestyle overhaul may be necessary to reduce stress.
Here is my list of the top products and ways to help reduce your stress.
Taking a supplement cannot resolve the stressors in your life. But several may help reduce feelings of stress and help you better manage the stress you are facing.
Ashwagandha is one of the most popular herbs in Ayurveda treatment and has been used for centuries to lower levels of stress, improve concentration, and increase energy levels.3 This herb is classified as an adaptogen, which means it may help your body manage stress.
Studies have investigated how ashwagandha impacts not only stress but sleep and anxiety too. Current research suggests ashwagandha may help lower cortisol levels in the body, which can reduce perceived stress.4 Additionally, in one study, participants who took ashwagandha root extract experienced significant improvements in sleep compared to a placebo group.4
You can easily incorporate ashwagandha into your daily self-care routine in the form of a capsule, tablet, or gummy.
Many other “calming” ingredients are commonly used in a wide variety of stress-relieving supplements. You’ll often find lavender, magnesium, and vitamin B12 in supplements developed to help with stress management.
Calming supplements increasingly include magnesium as it may help with muscle relaxation and create an overall feeling of calmness. Additionally, magnesium supplements may aid in improving digestion, which may be an added perk of using one of these supplements to reduce stress.
Like ashwagandha, current research suggests magnesium may be able to reduce levels of stress and anxiety by lowering the secretion of cortisol, a stress hormone, in the body.5 In addition to a magnesium supplement, you can also increase your intake of the following magnesium-rich foods:
Coffee is a morning ritual for many of us, whether for the flavor, energy boost, or just out of sheer habit. While coffee beans offer some health benefits, like antioxidants that combat damaging free radicals in the body, the caffeine naturally found in coffee may actually exacerbate feelings of stress and anxiety.
In fact, research indicates caffeine can elevate blood pressure, which contributes to the effects of stress.6 Additionally, caffeine may also increase the production of cortisol in the body, further compounding feelings of stress and anxiety.
For those who enjoy a cup of morning coffee or two, switching to a decaffeinated option may be a good solution. While there is still some caffeine in decaf coffee, it is significantly less than what is found in regular coffee beans—and is less likely to exacerbate stress levels.
If you feel like caffeine increases your level of perceived stress, be sure to limit your caffeine intake from other sources as well. Energy drinks, soda, tea, and some pre-workout supplements often contain concentrated sources of caffeine. Consider reducing your intake of chocolate to further cut caffeine from your diet.
There are many approaches to personal care, and each of us has our own unique regimen. What may seem relaxing and indulgent to me may be unappealing or uninteresting to someone else. Figuring out what helps you relax and destress is important in keeping stress from taking over and wreaking havoc on your mental and physical health.
Creating an at-home spa is one easy way to practice self-care. Bubble bath in a calming scent, like lavender or eucalyptus, can help set a tone of relaxation. While soaking, a nice hair treatment, body scrub, and face mask can add to your relaxation, helping to melt stress away.
Other forms of self-care may include going on an evening walk and listening to your favorite podcast, chatting on the phone with a close friend, or heading to a fitness class.
Exercise is obviously great for physical health as it increases circulation, challenges your cardiovascular system, and builds muscle, amongst other physical benefits. But physical activity also benefits your mental health.
According to Mayo Clinic, all forms of exercise, from yoga to cardio, can relieve stress.7 While it is most beneficial to include cardio and strength training weekly, any intentional movement can help increase your release of mood-boosting endorphins and aid in stress management.
During exercise it is important to stay hydrated, especially during the hot and humid months, so keeping a reusable water bottle on hand is a great habit to complement your exercise.
End each day with a de-stressing ritual to help you manage stress levels. Like self-care, this routine will look different for everyone.
While some may enjoy the spa-like experience described above, others may enjoy a nice cup of tea and guided meditation to end their day. For some, simply lighting a candle and reading a book may be enough to help wind down after a busy day and release stress before heading to bed. You may have to try out a few routines to figure out what helps you de-stress best, but once you do, try to make it a daily ritual.
No matter what your self-care or de-stressing routine looks like, essential oils in a diffuser can help you relax. Scents like lavender, chamomile, bergamot, ylang-ylang, and clary sage are thought to aid in stress reduction and improve sleep. Simply having your diffuser running throughout the day with a soothing combination of scents may help manage your stress and keep you calmer during even the most stressful of days.
While these essential oils may be best for aiding in stress management and relaxation, other oils may offer additional health benefits. For example, some believe adding frankincense to your diffuser can support your immune response and peppermint lends an invigorating, uplifting feeling to your environment.
The foods you eat can make the difference between feeling overwhelmed by stress or staying cool and relaxed when the going gets tough.
Limiting sugar can help you feel calmer, and in turn, less stressed. In place of the regular sugar, you may use in beverages and baking, try a low-calorie sugar substitute.
Also try adding fatty fish, like salmon, to your weekly menu to help soothe stress. The omega-3 fatty acids found in salmon and other fish, like sardines and tuna, may help boost serotonin production and aid in the reduction of stress and anxiety. If you aren’t a fan of these fish options, an omega-3 supplement is a great alternative.
Other foods that may help reduce feelings of stress include artichokes, kimchi, eggs, and liver, along with those magnesium-rich foods previously listed.
Enjoying a well-rounded diet complete with lean protein, healthy fats, complex carbs, and fruits and vegetables will help you meet your nutrient needs, including omega-3s and magnesium, while supporting your overall health and longevity.
While there are many ways to manage stress, sometimes it is easier said than done. No one product or fix works for everyone, which is why it is important to try several methods to see what works best for your lifestyle and situation.
When implementing new habits to manage stress, choose those that are practical for your lifestyle and can be used regularly. Sometimes the best solutions are those that are easiest to implement!
In addition to the suggestions here, if your stress is negatively impacting your quality of life, consult your healthcare provider to discuss other treatment options.
- Chronic Stress > Fact Sheets > Yale Medicine. Accessed April 19, 2022. https://www.yalemedicine.org/conditions/stress-disorder
- Stress symptoms: Effects on your body and behavior - Mayo Clinic. Accessed April 19, 2022. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/stress-symptoms/art-20050987
- Tandon N, Yadav SS. Safety and clinical effectiveness of Withania Somnifera (Linn.) Dunal root in human ailments. J Ethnopharmacol. 2020;255. doi:10.1016/J.JEP.2020.112768
- Salve J, Pate S, Debnath K, Langade D. Adaptogenic and Anxiolytic Effects of Ashwagandha Root Extract in Healthy Adults: A Double-blind, Randomized, Placebo-controlled Clinical Study. Cureus. 2019;11(12). doi:10.7759/CUREUS.6466
- Cuciureanu MD, Vink R. Magnesium and stress. Magnesium in the Central Nervous System. Published online January 1, 2011:251-268. doi:10.1017/UPO9780987073051.020
- Lane JD, Adcock RA, Williams RB, Kuhn CM. Caffeine effects on cardiovascular and neuroendocrine responses to acute psychosocial stress and their relationship to level of habitual caffeine consumption. Psychosom Med. 1990;52(3):320-336. doi:10.1097/00006842-199005000-00006
- Exercise and stress: Get moving to manage stress - Mayo Clinic. Accessed April 19, 2022. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/exercise-and-stress/art-20044469