75% to 90% of all doctor’s office visits are related to conditions caused by stress.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Instead of popping a pill that can often cause more problems than it solves, why not try some natural solutions first? Trust us, you’ll be amazed by the results. To help you take the first step towards a calmer, more content life, here are some of our best tried and test all-natural anti-stress solutions.
Boost your diet with nutrient dense foods
If you don’t put enough gas into your car it won’t run, right? So why should your body be any different?
Now, if your doctor offered you a pill to resolve all of your aches, pains and ails you’d take it right? Well then, just look at nutrient dense foods as pills in chewable form!
What your body needs in particular are omega-3 fatty acids which are found in nuts, seeds, avocados, olive oil and coconut oil. Your body cannot produce these essential fatty acids by itself and they are crucial for helping your brain and nervous system to function. In fact, supplementing your diet with omega-3 fatty acids has been shown to reduce anxiety, inflammation and depression whilst promoting better overall physical and mental wellness.
Alongside these amazing omega-3 fatty acids you should also eat foods rich in B vitamins (such as oatmeal, wheatgerm, brown rice and soya beans) that have been shown to boost energy levels. You should also take in plenty of calcium and magnesium (found in seeds, almonds, beans, lentils and green leafy veg). Packed full of minerals and electrolytes, these foods help to relax muscles, relieve headaches and support better sleep cycles.
Top tip : Combine these healthy eating practices with reducing your intake of sugary foods, caffeine, alcohol and refined vegetable oils that have all been shown to increase stress by disrupting your body’s natural processes. Do so and you’ll begin to see an incredible improvement in your mental welfare as well as your general physical health.
Exercise on a regular basis
Ever felt great after completing a particularly difficult run or tough weight-lifting session? That’s your body releasing powerful endorphins into your brain. These incredible chemicals are your body’s natural mood-lifters and painkillers which are brilliant for reducing stress and preventing anxiety.
The best way to spark your body’s natural production of endorphins is through exercise. In fact, there’s a name for the negative effects of stress on the body by people who are inactive; it’s called ‘stress-induced/exercise deficient’ phenotype (doesn’t have the same ring as couch potato does it?).
It all comes down to the theory that we react to stress by experiencing changes in our neuro-endocrine systems. Exercise combats this stress system by regulating your body’s natural metabolic and psychological processes; restoring our natural rhythms, sleep cycles, mood levels and blood sugar sensitivities.
Think about it; when you’re stressed you can’t sleep. Not sleeping makes you tired throughout the day. But then you have energy at night. Not being able to function at your full potential only adds to this vicious cycle, increasing your stress and anxiety levels. It’s so frustrating! Regular exercise acts as a factory reset; restoring your body’s natural rhythms so you can stay calm, sleep better and feel more energized when you need it the most.
Want to know the best part? The way you exercise is totally up to you. Yoga and Tai Chi have been shown to be great stress relievers but you can just as easily go for a run, lift weights or join a local sports club where you exercise as part of a team.
We’ll let you in on another natural green secret; listening to uplifting music whilst exercising can power up your anti stress defences by improving recovery times, promoting better brain function and hormonal balance. This is because all those positive tunes help to activate your parasympathetic nervous system (i.e. your body’s personal anti-stress system). We knew there was a reason why the Rocky soundtrack felt so good!
Take care of your vagus nerve
Wondering what on earth we’re talking about? Well, your vagus nerve is the longest nerve in your body and it connects your brain to many of your most essential organs including your heart, lungs and gut. (Fun fact: ‘vagus’ actually means ‘wanderer’ in Latin which gives you an idea of how your vagus nerve travels throughout your entire body, reaching various important organs on its way).
However, this incredibly important nerve is often completely overlooked when it comes to anti-stress solutions. Which is crazy when you consider that your vagus nerve is a key part of your body’s parasympathetic ‘rest and digest’ nervous system. Basically, your vagus nerve influences your heart rate, breathing and digest functions, all of which go completely haywire when you’re stressed!
As such, taking care of your vagus nerve will help your body prevent the onset of stress as well as helping you to relax far quicker after a stressful incident or anxiety attack. In fact, taking care of your vagus nerve now can boost your mental wellness and physical health for many years to come. As clinical psychologist Dr Arielle Schwartz explains;
“By developing an understanding of the workings of your vagus nerve, you may find it possible to work with your nervous system rather than feel trapped when it works against you”.
Some great ways to take care of your vagus nerve include regular exercise, eating foods high in essential fatty acids, taking in probiotics, acupuncture, as well as deep and slow breathing.
Not sure how to deep breathe properly? Normally we take in about 10-14 breaths each minute. With deep breathing you’re aiming for about 6. Breathe in deeply from your diaphragm (You’ll know you’re doing it right when your stomach extends outward) and then exhaling long and slow (aim for 5-10 seconds of exhaling). And there you have it! A simple, effective and completely natural solution for showing stress who’s boss.
So what do you think about our natural stress solutions? Any suggestions? Let us know your favourite anti-stress remedies in the comments section below!