Chronic stress and anxiety are overwhelmingly common in today’s society. And while prescription drugs and medication are often touted as the solution, they rarely do more than mask the symptoms. If you want to get rid of stress, you need to pull it up from the root.
Understanding Stress Through a Modern Lens
We all know the feeling of stress, but what is it?
According to Cleveland Clinic’s definition, “Stress is the body’s reaction to any change that requires an adjustment or response. The body reacts to these changes with physical, mental, and emotional responses. Stress is a normal part of life. You can experience stress from your environment, your body, and your thoughts. Even positive life changes such as a promotion, a mortgage, or the birth of a child produce stress.”
The word “normal” is an important one. We often think of stress as some terrible thing that has no place in our lives. But the reality is that stress serves a very real purpose.
In the past, the human stress response is what gave our ancestors the fight or flight response needed to run from a tiger or seek shelter in a storm. Today, it helps us make quick decisions in an emergency or concentrate in the heat of a critical moment on the job.
But stress is intended to be temporary and short-lived – a brief burst adequate for the challenge at hand. The problem is that stress systems can experience prolonged activation – something that’s become especially prevalent in modern society. And when stress becomes chronic, it can lead to a variety of health symptoms. This could include headaches, digestive issues, high blood pressure, sexual dysfunction, depression, and anxiety. Stress is even linked to the six leading causes of death in the world: heart disease, cancer, lung disease, accidents, cirrhosis of the liver, and suicide.
Understandably, people are constantly looking for ways to fight stress. Sadly, this often leads to unhealthy life choices – such as alcohol, narcotics, and/or risky behavior. And even when an individual sees a doctor, addictive prescription medication is often the default.
But there are better ways – and that’s what we’re going to discuss in this article.
Natural Ways to Fight Stress
Just as stress is a natural response by your body to outside influences, there are plenty of safe and natural ways to combat stress. Let’s explore a few of them:
Looking to ward off stress? Exercise and physical activity are excellent options. There’s something about getting the body moving and channeling your energy and concentration into the task at hand that causes stress to dissipate.
While all forms of exercise can help curb depression and anxiety through the release of feel-good chemicals and endorphins, walking, jogging, cycling, and yoga are all considered great options.
2. Proper Diet and Nutrition
You are what you eat. If you consume tons of processed foods and meals that are high in sugar and trans fats, you’ll feel it. If you supply your body with fresh and healthy food, you’ll feel good.
Research shows that refined carbs – like the ones found in potato chips and cookies – cause blood sugar to spike and then crash. This increases feelings of stress and anxiety. Healthy fats – such as eggs, avocados, and walnuts – have the exact opposite impact. They actually produce favorable hormone signaling in the brain. This helps to regulate moods, promote better sleep, and reduce stress.
3. Vagus Nerve Stimulation
The vagus nerve is the longest nerve of the body’s autonomic nervous system. In fact, many say that it’s the most important nerve in the body. But it can easily become compromised and/or overtaxed.
Vagus nerve stimulation sends messages to the brain to generate calming sensations to the body. The results include less stress, better sleep, brighter mood, and greater overall tranquility.
At the end of the day, there’s no stress reducer that’s quite as effective as sleep. And more importantly, you need the right amount of sleep. Too little sleep and you’re cranky. Too much sleep and you’re sluggish. Find that right balance (likely seven to eight hours) and maintain a consistent schedule.
Tackle Stress the Right Way
Chronic stress shouldn’t rule your life. It wears down your body’s defenses, leads to dozens of unwanted symptoms, and ultimately puts a strain on your mental health and emotional well-being. But thankfully, you don’t have to be a willing participant. And likewise, you don’t have to turn to unhealthy habits or become dependent on prescription drugs. By making smart, healthy choices, you can push stress back and enjoy your life again.