Simple Ways to Reduce Stress Naturally

stress reliefThere are times when I feel really stressed. I know; it happens to everyone, even those of us with a generally calm demeanor. Life has a way of throwing a lot of tiny little challenges at us – and, unfortunately, sometimes some bigger ones. Stress can add up, so managing it in small doses before the symptoms spiral out of control is a smart thing to do.

With the holidays approaching, stress is an especially timely topic. People seem to get crazy around this time, but I don’t think it has to be this way. Some simple strategies can help you cope.

You do have time to manage stress

Maybe you’re thinking that adding a stress-management strategy to your routine is just one more thing to do –and your to-do list is what’s causing the stress to begin with, right? Remember this: A step in the right direction is better than taking no action at all. And once you take one step, you’re likely to take another – and another. You don’t have to have the perfect plan that guarantees you will never feel stressed, but the more tools you have in place the better, even if you don’t use all of them all of the time.

So what are some simple ways to manage stress effectively (without a trip to your doctor for a prescription)?

Choose stress-relieving nutrients

Different kinds of foods affect your body – and your stress response – in different ways. The trick to managing stress with nutrition is to choose foods that are calming, nourishing and soothing over those that will give you a jolt or make your blood sugar sour. Three simple nutrients to start with are vitamin B6, potassium and magnesium.

Vitamin B6 helps create serotonin, the “feel good” chemical that quickly gets depleted when you’re stressed. You can increase the amount of B6 in your diet by eating leafy greens, seeds, beans, egg yolks and fish. Potassium and magnesium help relax muscles that tend to get tense when you feel frazzled. You can get potassium from whole grains, potatoes and bananas, while spinach, nuts, beans and chocolate are good sources of magnesium. (If you opt for chocolate, don’t overdo it; sugar will quickly counteract the relaxing qualities of magnesium.)

Try some calming herbs

Herbs that can help you stay calm include chamomile, valerian, passionflower and lemon balm. There are capsules and tinctures that can you can take as supplements or you can brew a nice cup of herbal tea. You’ll want to be sure to choose a high quality product so that you can truly experience the herb’s anti-stress properties.

Stay active

If you don’t exercise regularly, ask yourself why not? You will never regret finding time to get up and move your body. You don’t need to work out for an hour or spend a lot of money to do this. Ten minutes three times a day will do if that’s all the time you have. If you have time for a coffee or internet break, you have time for a quick, brisk walk, some light weight lifting or simple stretching. And if you do have more time, do more. Join a gym or sign up for tennis lessons. Or turn on some music and dance! Do whatever works for you – as long as you’re moving.

Practice yoga and meditation

While yoga can come under the heading of exercise, it is really so much more. Combined with meditation, it’s the ultimate antidote to stress. The physical yoga postures help tone and strengthen the body and get the blood flowing throughout your body – even to your brain, where you’ll need it to deal with all the things that life throws your way. You can do all kinds of yoga, from the most passive, restorative poses, to all-out power yoga. Again, do whatever works for you.

No matter what kind of physical yoga practice you choose, keep in mind that one of the most important goals of yoga is to prepare your body for meditation. If you can cultivate a regular meditation practice, whether for 5 minutes, 30 minutes or even an hour or more each day – you will be amazed at what a powerful stress-management tool this is. And it doesn’t have to be a formal practice. Even paying attention to how you’re breathing while you scurry about doing all of those tasks can count as part of your meditation practice

Surround yourself with relaxing aromas

Did you know that your brain processes emotions and scents in the same area? That’s why aromatherapy is so effective, so if you want to feel calm, fill the air with relaxing aromas from high quality essential oils. Some pacifying scents include sandalwood, lavender, geranium, cedar, jasmine and lemongrass. Use a diffuser, or add essential oils to bath water or unscented body lotion.

Stress does not have to get the best of you

Chances are at least one of the tools on this list that will work for you, so why not start there? If you need more, try another. As you get more skilled at stress management and develop your own set of strategies, you’ll uncover an amazing truth: Calm is a powerful thing.

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1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: Valerian Root: The Sleepy Time Herb | Third Eye Well-being

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Maria Kuzmiak, M.A. is a health and well-being writer with a background in nutrition, psychology and education and a passion for yoga. Over the last 10 years, she has written hundreds of articles, blogs and newsletters for clients in health-related fields, particularly those specializing in yoga, natural medicine, nutrition, and spiritual health and healing. Maria has also worked as a nutritionist, teacher and technical editor. Learn more about her writing at www.wellbeingwriter.net.
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