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9 Ways to Reduce Stress

1/24/2011 12:30:00 PM

Tags: natural health, health, stress, cortisol, yoga, breathing, caffeine, herbal teas, tea, sleep, pets, food, diet

Stress can have a lot of negative side effects on the body: weight gain, high blood pressure, insomnia, lack of focus. Many health articles will recommend lowering stress as a way to better health—but how do you lower stress? The answer: in whatever way works best for you. Here are 9 ideas, from the obvious and simple to those that require more effort, to get you started. Experiment and find out what makes you feel best.

1. Watch your caffeine intake. Caffeine stimulates the nervous system and makes the heart race, making you restless, anxious and irritable. Caffeine can also disturb sleep, leading to more stress.

2. Drink herbal tea. Tea is the obvious go-to remedy for reducing stress. Something about a steaming mug of hot liquid calms the nerves. Opt for decaffeinated herbal teas such as chamomile, tulsi, lavender and holy basil.

herbal tea 
Decaffeinated and herbal teas can help calm nerves and reduce stress. Photo By Ting Cheng/Courtesy Flickr. 

3. Breathe deeply. Breathing exercises are a good way to destress. By making the body feel the way it does when it’s relaxed, deep breathing sends a message to the brain to calm down. Breathing exercises are also relatively easy to perform. For the most basic exercise, sit up straight and inhale slowly. You should feel your stomach expand outward—not your chest swelling—as air pours in. Exhale slowly, then repeat.

4. Practice yoga. Yoga’s combination of postures, controlled breathing and mediation provide stress-relieving benefits. If you can’t squeeze in a class, check out the Yoga Journal’s list of stress-reducing yoga poses.

5. Get a full night’s sleep. Never underestimate the power of a full seven to eight hours of sleep. Sleep is the body’s way of repairing itself—don’t short yourself.

woman by river 
Need to relax? Take some personal time. Unplug your computer, find a quiet spot to think, or get outside and enjoy nature. Photo By Anna Gay/Courtesy Flickr. 

6. Take some “me” time. Turn your computer off, put your phone on vibrate and just say no to that cooking class, PTA meeting or other weekly obligation. Take some time to do an activity you enjoy: read a book, take a hot bath, work in your garden, bake cookies, play a game with your family or go for a bike ride.

7. Laugh or cry. Feeling emotional? Let it out! Laughter and tears are both excellent emotional releases. When we display our emotions, our brains release less cortisol, the stress hormone affected with weight gain and heart disease.

woman with dog 
Spending time with a pet can reduce stress better than spending time with friends or loved ones. Photo By Scarleth White/Courtesy Flickr.

8. Play with your pet. Spending time with friends and loved ones can boost your mood, but for real stress relief, hang out with your pet. Research shows that cuddling up with our furry friends can lower blood pressure and heart rate better than spending time with people.

9. Eat right. Stress can deplete your body’s store of nutrients, such as B vitamins, calcium, magnesium and potassium, so it’s important to eat a diet rich in fresh vegetables and fruit to restore lost nutrients. Take extra vitamin C, too. When the body experiences stress, the adrenal glands, which sit atop the kidneys, go into “fight or flight” mode and release adrenaline and cortisol. The adrenal glands require vitamin C to manufacture these hormones, so chronic stress could leave your body depleted of this essential vitamin.

How do you destress?


Susan Melgren is the Web Editor of Mother Earth Living. Find her on .



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