“I am so stressed!” This is a common expression that we use to indicate that what we are supposed to do is limited by our physical, mental or emotional ability at that time. Did you know that any change that occurs inside or outside your body is a stress stimulus? Even though there are ways to reduce stress naturally, modern medicine is still tasked with accurately defining and identifying all its health implications within the human body.
At this time stress is defined as “a state of mental tension & worry caused by problems in life, work, etc”. The fact that the effects of any physical or emotional change in our bodies result in some form of physical manifestation makes stress a response.
Not all stress is bad: stress is beneficial for human advancement and survival in short-term and controlled bursts, however, prolonged stress can have negative effects on your physical and mental health.
How Stress Can Damage Your Health
We live in a world that is gradually evolving and with it come factors that either scares us or cause us concern. To understand the extent of stress on your body and mind, it is important to first establish what causes it. The level at which an individual is affected by stress is determined by the type of stressors they are dealing with and our individual reactions to those stressors.
In the face of danger, the body reacts by either fighting it off or fleeing the scene of danger. Science has now established that there is a third response to stress in the face of danger. Have you ever been so engrossed in your thoughts that you forget to breathe and you notice the random sighs you let out? This is survival stress and it usually leads to distractions in varying degrees. Faced with the possibility of losing your job, failing an exam or heartbreak, this is the kind of stress you will be dealing with.
Just like any other mental condition, stress can be addictive and this is characterized by people who are ever on the lookout for trouble. Even when an issue does not concern them, such people will brood over it for extended periods of time. When you become addicted to this kind of lifestyle, you leave little room to develop yourself and this leads to interdependence in all spheres of life.
Do you feel like you have so much to do that you cannot afford the time out for a meal or rest? Fatigue results from overworking and it cuts across all areas of life. Stress due to working excessively is the leading cause of chronic disease and digestive disorders all over the world. In an effort to keep up with the demands of the work one must do, the temptation to enhance performance may lead to mental health concerns and chronic diseases.
Since we have already ascertained that some stress is good for you, the trick is to keep stress levels with “acceptable range” for your personality and unique lifestyle. If stress levels become chronic, the body’s immune system decreases, adrenal fatigue can occur and the digestive, excretory, and reproductive systems can no longer function properly.
Ways To Reduce Stress Naturally
If stress is not addressed early, its effects tend to accumulate with time. Since stress has a direct influence on an individual’s happiness and attitude towards life, it is important to take steps to reduce or eliminate stress. Before stress gets to uncontrollable levels, it is important to deal with any resultant problems as they emerge. Here are some of the practical ways that one can use to reduce stress naturally:
- Develop a Morning Ritual: Creating a ritual helps to program the mind to perform certain tasks in a specific order. This allows for more work to be done without having to give it much thought. When you wake up to an established schedule of how you will accomplish tasks during the day, not only do you manage to finish them faster, but you are also happier since you don’t need to plan for anything in the course of the day.
- Meal prep day for the week: I was always caught between that place where I would feel great when I prepared a healthy meal for my family and the reality of my life when, some nights, it is almost impossible to cook anything healthy when late home from work and, perhaps, have only minutes between arriving home and getting your kids to their activity. Using convenience food is often an easy choice to take the pressure off but it’s costly and, for me, it was always followed by feelings of guilt. Avoid the stress of agonizing about your inability to fix quality meals by preparing way ahead of time. Set aside time when you are not so busy and prepare food to be eaten for an entire week. I use Sundays and prepare homemade soups; pasta sauces, quinoa, and roasted chicken so I am always ready for the time crunch and, at the same time, save money and feel great about what I am feeding my family.
- Use Grocery Delivery Services: So yes, I love to spend my Saturday morning with a coconut milk tea latte and peruse the local farmer’s markets smelling, tasting and selecting the freshest and most beautiful ingredients. This is my happy place! However, I get that sometimes it does not always work and the idea of taking the stroller and packing the kids up for this afternoon adventure may not be in you that day. I suggest you try using one of the organic grocery home delivery services or grocery stores that offer shopping assistance. Such stores will shop for you; all you have to do is send in your list then show up. They will load all your groceries for you and it’s free!! If you are always pressed for time, why don’t you create more time for yourself by taking advantage of these services carving out more time in your week for you?
- Diffuse relaxing essential oils as part of your bedtime ritual: Most essential oils are popular for their relaxation benefits which are a reason they are used in spas and wellness centers around the world. Identify combinations that promote mental health and have an EO routine before going to bed. Use a diffuser, adding EO to filtered water by your bed, or buy roll-on stress reducing blends and massage into your temples, or soak in a bath of Epsom and lavender essential before bed which is also beneficial for muscle relaxation.
- Be Mindful of your Food & Mood Connection: Watch the composition of foods you eat because food nutrients can either trigger or control stress. We have all experienced the effects of too much caffeine or sugar causing us to feel anxious and nervous. If you observe that a certain diet leads to excessive agitation and restlessness, try to identify the exact food group that is responsible and reduce/eliminate it. Mindful Eating practices can support a healthy food and mood connection if you are interested in learning how this connection works check out the article, Mindful Eating 101: Benefits & 7 Tips to Get Started.
- Incorporate B Vitamins in the diet: B vitamins are water-soluble so they are easily lost and not stored well in the body, which can easily lead to a deficiency. Stress also can make us lose B’s faster than we would like. This powerful vitamin is important for the normal functioning of the Nervous System and is often helpful in bringing relaxation or energy to those that are stressed and tired. B’s are also important coenzymes to catalyze many functions in the body, eg. in the metabolism of fats, proteins, and amino acids. Brewers yeast and nutritional yeast is a rich source of B vitamins, along with spinach, eggs, cremini mushrooms and beet greens.
- Getting Enough Magnesium: Stress increases magnesium excretion and we need our Magnesium, as it is known as the anti-stress mineral. Magnesium is responsible for over 100 enzymatic reactions, such as energy production, cardiovascular functions and is big news in alleviating PMS. Magnesium is also known as a natural tranquilizer that relaxes skeletal, smooth muscles and the gastrointestinal track. It is crucial in relaxing and dilating coronary arteries. Excellent sources of Magnesium include clove, oat, brown rice, garbanzo beans, spinach, pineapple and beet greens.
- Move your Body: Exercise is a great way to crush stress. Remember to do what works for you! Listen to your body! Are yoga and meditation awesome forms to practice deep breathing and slow down the body/mind? Yes. Is it everyone’s solution to stress? No. Some people find a greater stress release from higher intensity workouts such as cross fit, running or a boot camp class to burn off that anxious/ stressed energy. There is no one answer here, try a variety of activities to get active, see what makes you feel awesome after. Keep it up to hold stress and its negative health impacts at bay.
Each one of us manifests stress in our own unique way and that is perhaps one of the reasons why this condition is so hard to define. To understand the complexity of being in a stressful situation, imagine a group of people climbing a mountain. Some start off with intense energy but lose strength along the way, others are trying their best to reach the top so that they can finish the course as fast as possible but at the bottom of the mountain, there are those who are just about to start going up. Wherever you are in your health journey, be mindful of stress and its prolonged dangers to your health. Try some of these tips to reduce stress naturally in your day.
- Merriam-Webster. Stress definition.
- Haas, Elson. MD. Staying Healthy with Nutrition, the complete guide to diet and nutritional medicine. 21-century edition. (2006)
- Matelijan, George.The World’s Healthiest Food, Second edition. (2015)
Joanna is the founder of Rejoice Nutrition & Wellness; a company committed to ensuring people have the information, resources, and the tools they need for optimal health. Joanna is a Certified Holistic Nutritional Consultant, Natural Nutrition Clinical Practitioner, Natural Weight-Loss & Wellness Coach, and a Certified Corporate Wellness Specialist. Joanna obtained her Bachelor’s Degree in Community Rehabilitation with a specialization in Health & Disability studies, her Rehabilitation Practitioner Diploma, and is a Raw Food Chef.
Joanna is a passionate advocate in addressing food insecurity issues and is an active member with several groups and projects to see whole foods be accessible and affordable to Everyone. Joanna’s collaborative approach includes developing highly customized nutrition & lifestyle plans to support people to Reclaim Balance, Regain Health, & Rejoice in the most vibrant body possible!