- Mental Health
5 Healthy Ways To Reduce Stress and Anxiety Naturally
As society increasingly becomes more fast-paced and deadline-driven, stress and anxiety levels in recent years have been on the rise. Many sufferers of anxiety and stress turn to prescription medication to relieve their symptoms for a quick fix. The downside to this solution is the continuous dependency on medication which treats only the symptoms and does not address the cause. This article lists five major ways to relieve stress and anxiety naturally. Whether you are a chronic sufferer of generalized anxiety disorder, are worried about your finances, job, an upcoming test, relationship problems, etc., these steps will help to regulate your body chemistry so that it can better handle stressful conditions.
1. Exercise Regularly
This is the number one most effective way to help your body cope naturally with stress, anxiety, and even depression. The endorphins released by exercising (especially cardiovascular exercise) cause the body to feel happier, calmer, and more relaxed. Unfortunately, when we are stressed, we have a tendency to not want to work out because we are so busy, tired, or wound up, and the thought of exercising seems to be just "1 more thing" on top of everything else we are concerned about.
In order to overcome this, it is imperative to set up a regular exercise schedule ahead of time. Block off at least 20 minutes of time on your calendar dedicated to your preferred form of exercise. Generally cardiovascular exercise is the most beneficial for stress relief, but any exercise is better than nothing. Commit only to exercising during these 20 minutes. Do NOT dismiss these times and book other events over them. Even when you are not feeling stressed, it is imperative you continue to regularly exercise to maintain your body's ability to cope with anxiety when high-pressure situations do occur. Just 20 minutes a few days a week is not a lot to ask when it comes to your mental and physical health.
Naturally, this method also works best in combination with healthy eating habits (i.e. complex carbohydrates in the form of whole grains, leafy green vegetables, fruit, and foods low in simple sugars and fats).
2. Change Your Routine and Environment
This method has worked exceedingly well for me on multiple occasions when I have been on the verge of breaking down. When you are stuck in the same routine and work environment day in and day out, as the stress builds, it seems the pressures become insurmountable. By taking a week for vacation or even a weekend trip away from your home and environment, your brain resets and is stimulated by new sensations and feelings. This removes you from the negative pattern of your thoughts and helps to refresh you so that when you return back to your usual life, your brain can find new ways to tackle situations that seemed impossible.
If you cannot get away for a vacation, at least try to change up your daily routine somewhat. Take a walk around the office periodically throughout the day. Call up a friend and grab a drink or dinner after work if you normally just head on home and cook. Take a class and learn a new hobby. You will feel empowered by learning a new skillset.
3. Meditate or Pray.
As a Christian, I find that sitting in silence in a natural sanctuary (i.e. a garden or walking trail with few people) and asking God to give me peace and strength for the day brings a sense of calm over me. This is different from normal prayer. Instead, I remain silent, admire God's creation, and allow Him to speak to me or give me His peace that transcends all understanding.
For those who are not Christian or religious, meditation also helps. Sit quietly and draw a picture in your mind of a place you would like to be, carefully filling in all of the details and allowing yourself to feel that place with all 5 of your senses. If you find your mind starts to wander, catch yourself and re-focus. Do this exercise for 10-15 minutes or more as you become more adept at it. Like changing your routine and your environment, this forces your mind to focus on a pleasurable place completely in your imagination, thus pushing out the worries of the world.
4. Watch a Funny Movie or Read a Book That Makes You Laugh
In general, smiling and laughing are great ways to relieve stress and anxiety. I suggest a funny movie or book because the characters and plot will whisk you away to another reality outside of your own and allow you to feel happiness and humor at their situations. Again, your concentration and focus are removed from your own situation, allowing your brain to rest from its constant racing thoughts and cycling fears.
5. Focus on Achievements Accomplished in the Past.
Oftentimes stress and anxiety stem from our feelings of being out of control of a situation or of our lives. By reminding ourselves of the things we are thankful for and of our accomplishments from the past, we realize that there are many great things in our lives that we are blessed with. We recall that we ARE capable human beings and have done the best that we can and can take pride in the fact that we have done all that is humanly possible. Knowing that success IS possible, and reminding ourselves that our lives are worthwhile help us to focus on the positives in our lives rather than the negatives and seemingly impossible outcomes.
Stress and anxiety are silent killers that can be very damaging to the human mind and body if left unchecked. These are 5 ways that have helped me to relieve potentially damaging anxiety in the past when I have felt overwhelmed by the pressures of my job and my life. I hope that they will be beneficial to you as well!