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In today’s fast-paced world, stress is one of the biggest issues that people are dealing with. As a holistic health coach, with one of my main focuses on stress reduction, I find it very important to talk about why conscious stress management is inevitable nowadays.

Our bodies are miraculous “tools”, our hearts never skip a beat, our lungs provide us oxygen without us focusing on it, our skin is being replaced every month, our blood supply is every 3 month. But when they are under constant, even chronic stress they can’t do their job properly. And we tend to forget that and take our bodies’ functions for granted.

Stress is a normal reaction to exciting events in life, like falling in love, working on a project that makes you excited, or purchasing a new house or a car.  At the same time, stress is also a hardwired survival technique, built into your body as a means of protection. When triggers arise, the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) signals the “fight or flight response,” which sets you off to take action and avoid danger.

Running late, oversleeping, being stressed in your job,  finances, there are a lot of ways to get stressed easily. Our bodies can’t tell whether these situations are actually real life-dangering situations, or just everyday related stress factors.

We are way overstressed nowadays, so it is not surprising that our bodies can’t function properly. In addition to this, stress can stay in the body, causing further (even physical) issues. Also, if our bodies are constantly getting the signs for being in stressed situations it might cause burnout as well.

But let’s discuss, why is it really crucial to deal with and to manage our stress well and intentionally and consciously and carve out some me-time frequently.

 

There are 3 stages of stress response in the body:

1. THE ALARM STAGE

When you get into a stressful situation, your body goes into panic mode right away, prepare you to “fight or flight”, in other words, your SNS (sympathetic nervous system) is activated to protect you from stress.  Your brain triggers adrenal glands to secrete hormones like cortisol and epinephrine (adrenaline). The rest of your body is then alerted to these symptoms, equipping you with emergency fuel and energy in reaction to your panic.

With the rising of stress levels, your blood pressure, pulse, blood sugars start to increase, you start to sweat and your pupils dilate. 

2. THE ADAPTIVE/RESISTANCE STAGE

After the initial stress response, your body attempts to return to homeostasis (its stable and balanced state). However, if these stress reactions are constantly triggered, your body will remain on high alert.  As a result of this, your body builds up a resistance and a tolerance to coexist with continuous stressors.

This will result in an extended-release of stress hormones that has adverse effects on your body, lowering your immunity defenses, speeding aging and making you a lot more susceptible to illness.

These are the following REACTIONS that stress can cause in the body:

  • Mood issues, including anger and depression, lack of energy, and sleep issues

  • Reduced ability to fight and recover from illness (the weakening of the immune system)

  • Stomach cramps, reflux, and nausea

  • Increased blood pressure and heart rate, higher cholesterol, and risk of heart attack

  • Loss of libido, lower sperm production in men, and absent or irregular menstrual cycles in women

  • Increased fat storage and disrupted hunger cues (so yes, chronic stress can mess up your digestion, metabolism and can result in weight gain)

 

3. THE EXHAUSTION STAGE

When the body continues to function in this wired state (never fully returning to the rest state), your emergency resources get depleted and your body starts to shut down. That’s when it can’t concentrate on important bodily functions, it will stay in the”flight or fight’ mode and puts all your energy to fight against stress. As mentioned earlier, you will have a much harder time to digest your food, regenerate, heal and your hormones will become out of whack. 

This will be the final, burnout stage that represents the body’s inability to cope with continuously high demands. After all, it’s not natural to constantly feel like you’re being chased by a tiger or a bear.

Now you see as well, why it is crucial to intentionally and consciously reduce and release stress from the body and break this continuous cycle of being on this high, dangerous and destructive state.

Stopping this vicious cycle ⇒

Activating the parasympathetic nervous system

There is a system, called the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS), that is the opposite of the sympathetic nervous system that turns off the flight or fight mode and turns on the “rest and digest” mode which is the balanced state of the body. It activates the conservation of the energy and puts the body into a relaxed mode, which is critical for your well-being. It is vital to find ways and take time, energy and effort to consciously release stress and activate this relaxed condition.

STRESS REDUCTION TECHNIQUES

 

You don’t necessarily have to think of things like taking a month vacation or getting a massage every day (let’s be honest these are quite unrealistic to get, at least the second one, but it might be possible for you:)) in order to relax the body and reduce stress.

 

You just have to consciously put effort towards a few simple techniques that you do frequently, especially when you are in a more stressful period than usual.

 

I will share a few simple and easy tricks here, that can help tremendously to fight against stress.

 

 

FOODS THAT REDUCE STRESS

 

 

1. Chamomile and lavender tea

 

In general, warm beverages have a calming effect on the body, because holding and sipping one increases feelings of interpersonal “warmth” and friendliness. Certain herbs such as chamomile and lavender are especially amazing and have been shown to have a relaxing effect. 

I usually sip one before bed, because it also helps with sleep, or one in the morning, so the morning can already start well.

 

2.  Dark chocolate (oh yes:))

 Who else loves chocolate? (Crazy chocolate lover here)

 I like all kinds of chocolate and I could eat it all day long, but unfortunately, not all of them are exactly great for you. (bye-bye milk chocolate with all kinds of flavors and lots of sugar and other bad stuff, I still love you sometimes)

 Dark chocolate, the more cocoa content (at least 70% is a good one), the better, has multiple benefits on the body, with one of them being a great stress reducer. (Just to mention a few, it has antioxidants, it improves mood, memory, and immunity.)

 Different studies revealed that chocolate can be great when it comes to stress reduction.

 It contains magnesium for example and the deficiency of this important mineral can be linked to anxiety, stress, bad sleep as well.  Eating other types of magnesium-rich foods can hugely help too, but come on, I had to highlight dark chocolate;)

 

3.  Leafy greens

 Oh, those leafy greens, such as Swiss chard and spinach, you are so good to us! They are such nourishment for the body. Not only because they contain essential vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fiber for the body, but they are rich in magnesium as well, so they can be another amazing food to eat often especially in stressful times.

 

4. Ashwagandha

 It is one of my favorite adaptogenic herbs which is also soo good for the body.  It is a very effective one for stress-release and it also helps adrenal fatigue and hormonal balance. I usually add the power form of it to my smoothies, oatmeal, granola, or I take it in a supplement form.

  

5. Oatmeal

 Another favorite of mine! Nothing like a good bowl of warm oatmeal in the cold mornings! (and on the summery ones with lots of fresh fruit on top as well)

 

Similarly to the warm beverages, it is warm and comforting. Not only that but also helps your brain generate the de-stressing neurotransmitter, one of the happiness hormones serotonin.

 

 

SIMPLE STRESS RELEASING ACTIVITES

 

  • Preplan your week and days, go through your schedule ahead of time

  • Prioritize your tasks and focus on one thing at a time.

  • Delegate tasks whenever possible if you feel overwhelmed.

  • Organize your work and living spaces to be clutter-free,

    peaceful environments

Breathing exercises and meditation

Meditation and conscious deep breathing can be a safe haven, not only when you are going through hard and stressful times, but every day.

 

Meditation is said to decrease stress, improve mental clarity and energy, and foster creativity. It has been scientifically proven to mitigate addiction, depression, anxiety, stress, cognitive function, and even eating disorders.

You can try any kind of meditation. You can choose guided ones, especially if you are a beginner or have a hard time meditating on your own, or you can just use relaxing and calming music and just let your mind be quiet if you are more advanced.

 

If you can’t meditate because you are sitting in your car, traveling, or walking, you can turn to your breath and practice deep breathing. It works wonders and has a similar effect to meditation. set a reminder in your phone in the beginning until it becomes a habit.

 

Deep breathing activates the parasympathetic nervous system that is the “rest and digest” phase, meaning it reduces stress, ignites healing and calms the body in every level.

 

Every day just for a couple of minutes, practice deep breathing. You can use the count of 5 that I used in my meditation. You can also use longer breaths as you are getting used to it.

You can inhale deep down to your belly, you will feel as it is rising, do it for 6, hold for 7 and exhale for 8 seconds. Repeat at least 4 times but do it as much as it feels to do so. When you are exhaling try to have your mouth open and sigh out if you can. This activates the throat chakra and enhances helps to change the vibration in the body as well.

breathing

 

Walking

Walking is one of the simplest ways to unwind and just let go of all the everyday problems, plus it is a great way to get those steps in, get fresh air, clear your mind and move your body.

Just put on some comfortable clothes and go out to nature. Leave your phone behind, and let yourself wander in the trees, water, sand, whatever is around you.

Take deep breaths and just listen to the sound of nature. Or if you want, listen to calming music while out walking. Depending on your situation try doing your walk at the same time each day, so it becomes part of your daily routine and something you will keep up.

walking

Yoga

I can’t praise yoga enough! Luckily it has become more and more well-known and practiced by more and more people because it is truly medicine for the mind and for the body.

Since it involves conscious breathing, stretching, staying in poses, mindfulness, it is very effective for stress release both mentally and physically (as I already mentioned the stress can be stored in the body causing further issues)

If you like to practice it in the warmth of your home, here are my two favorite yogis on Youtube, Boho Beautiful and Yoga with Adrienne.

yoga

 

EFT (Emotional freedom technique)

The Emotional freedom technique (EFT) is a healing psychological acupressure technique that is great for physical and emotional problems as well.

Gary Craig, the developer believes, that the disruption in the energy of the body is the cause of all negative emotions and pain.

With EFT, you tap on specific energy (meridian) points on your body with your fingertips, think of a specific problem (trauma, pain, current issue you are dealing with) and use voice affirmations. 

It provides AMAZING relief when it comes to stress as well, and I find it one of the most effective practices you can do.

I love to tap along with Brad Yates and  Nick Ortner. You can find videos here and here with them for stress.

tapping points                                                   Pic source: The Tapping Solution

Laugh

Sounds easy, huh?

A good laugh is always the best medicine.

When I am super stressed or in a bad mood I always make sure to watch some funny videos or a funny movie, because that always makes me snap out of the bad mood. (When I am emotional I might watch a sad movie to cry it out, and that’s helpful too, haha, but laughter is better:))

Believe it or not, laughter decreases the stress hormones and it triggers an emotional change in the body, improving mood, strengthening the immune system, releasing anger and sadness.

laugh                                                                               (laugh event with a client ;))

 

Let me know if you try these techniques above and make sure to tell me which one you liked the most!

Do you have any other favorite stress-reduction techniques? Let me know in the comments!

If you feel like your stress is taking over and you want me as your guide to help you to kick it in the butt, feel free to reach out!

Get a complimentary, one-on-one, 50-minute discovery consultation here.