What does stress look like?
Symptoms of stress look different from person to person and can literally affect you from head to toe. Physical symptoms could include nausea, a weakened immune system, a rapid heart rate, and even missed or irregular menstrual cycles. Poor cognitive ability, moodiness, and feelings of loneliness are just some examples of how stress is not only taxing on physical health but emotional health and well being.
Our bodily systems are so interrelated that running on constant stress will cause both your mind and body to suffer in the long-term. Cortisol is one of the main stress hormones and while its intention is to combat rising stress, it can have a damaging effect on your body over long periods of time.
Don't be fooled: stress presents itself in various ways and can worsen at any time. As a result, it is important to know a few techniques that you can use to reduce stress, no matter where you are.
Talk to Someone
Simply having a face-to-face conversation with another human being releases hormones that counteract stress. A brief conversation or connection with a friend is enough to slow your anxious nervous system.
Talking to someone, especially to someone we trust, can provide perspective and a sense of clarity, allowing us to feel heard and understood. Not only can this be very comforting and validating, but can also help us feel less alone and isolated. While it's not always easy to open up, it can help us feel more empowered and capable of managing our current situation. Whether it's a friend, family member, or health professional, talking to someone can be a powerful tool for managing stress and improving our overall well-being.
Center Yourself in the Present
Rather than reflecting on your past or worrying about your future, focus on the present. Performing a short, grounding meditation can help you feel calm, peaceful and centered.
Tune in to your senses. Simply stop and pay some loving attention to how you feel, what you see, what you hear, and what you smell. Giving attention to your breath and your senses in the present moment helps you slow down and gain perspective.
Follow a Balanced Diet
We all know that what you eat has a direct impact on your physical health. Similarly, what you eat also has a great impact on your mental health. Opt for anti-inflammatory foods rich in Omega-3 fatty acids and nutrient dense fruits and vegetables that will fuel your brain, cognition and emotional state.
Aim to eat regular meals and snacks that contain healthy fats, proteins, and carbohydrates which will not only help balance your blood sugar but also positively affect your mood. Strengthen your ability to cope with stressful situations by replacing processed foods with nutrient rich whole foods.
Exercise is an effective way to bring cortisol levels down. Mild to moderate exercise stimulates the production of endorphins, which result in feelings of happiness and relaxation.
Incorporating small forms of movement into your day will make a noticeable difference in your stress levels. Try going for a walk at lunch or playing a sport with loved ones in the evening.
Write it down
Unload built up anxiety by writing down your thoughts. Writing is a great coping mechanism as it takes off the pressure of remembering and allows you to creatively express your thoughts.
Both keeping a journal and keeping an agenda can serve to decrease stress. Any form of writing allows you to clear your mind and perform your routine tasks with more intention.
Bonus! – The Power of Essential Oils
Aromatherapy has been used for centuries to promote relaxation. Although you can’t necessarily use this stress relief strategy everywhere, products such as essential oil roller-balls and bracelets make them easy to incorporate into everyday life.
What’s interesting about essential oils is that their aromatic molecules can pass right through the blood-brain barrier and have a direct effect on the stress center of your brain.
Here are some of the top essential oils for calming the mind and body:
The next time you realize you are becoming overwhelmed or stressed, take a moment to stop and reflect on your thoughts and feelings. Choosing to be mindful will help you begin to understand your stress triggers and give you better control in each stressful situation. Start caring for your physical and emotional health by incorporating the five natural ways to de-stress mentioned above.