Stress is a natural part of life. The stress response system was designed to trigger the “fight-or-flight” response to save our primitive ancestors from life threatening situations. Today, this same mechanism jumps into action even if we’re not in physical harm. Although some stress can motivate us, long-term (chronic) stress can impact our health—physical and mental—negatively.
Although modern living can create extra stress, there are plenty of ways to unwind and manage it naturally. Try these simple, daily routines to improve your well-being.
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Caffeine is often thought of as a necessary evil. It acts quickly to increase alertness and concentration, which are great for getting through a long day of studying or work, but too much caffeine can lead to insomnia, nausea, increased heart rate and anxiety. You might be super-productive, but boosting caffeine consumption ups the body’s cortisol levels (stress hormone) which results in increased sugar production and reduces the ability to absorb specific amino acids that promote calm.
Vitamins, healthful fats and other essential nutrients allow the brain to handle stress better. If you’re feeling depleted, stress may be to blame. When under stress, the adrenal glands release adrenaline and cortisol which trigger our instinctive “fight-or-flight” mode. Vitamin C is necessary for the production of these hormones and chronic stress often eliminates stores of this essential vitamin.
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Recent research discovered that acupuncture administered to the Zusanli area, below the knee, was able to reduce the production of stress hormones in the hypothalamus pituitary adrenal axis (HPA). Although the study participants were rats, the Zusanli point is the same in humans and is used by acupuncturists to help patients alleviate stress.
Even if you have tried-and-true stress-reducing habits, sometimes it still gets the best of us. In these situations, adaptogens—medicinal herbs that combat the effects of chronic stress—may come in handy. These herbs can be used in tinctures or teas and have been shown to restore cortisol to a normal level and combat ailments associated with stress.
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The benefits of physical activity are well established, but exercise is also crucial for mental health because it produces endorphins, which improve sleep and reduce stress. Take your fitness routine outside to add even more stress-relieving benefits. Research has illustrated the importance nature has on our well-being and has shown that exposure to nature, in various forms, aids in how we cope with stress.