Top Strategies for Reducing Stress
One of the biggest impacts on our health today is our daily stress level. More commonly, we experience fast-paced, technology-filled days that are packed with more and more activity and responsibilities. What’s worse is that your brain doesn’t know whether stress is a tiger that is chasing you or the fact your email just went down! If you are rushing to keep up with stressful work and family environments, stress will surely take a toll.
With high, daily stress comes the output of stress hormones. These hormones go on to impact many areas of your body, including your heart rate (how quickly your heart is beating) and your blood vessels. The more stress you are under, the more stress hormones are released, making blood vessels stiffen and your heart work harder. This is how stress can increase the risk of heart disease. The buildup of stress hormones also charges your brain up, which can reduce your memory and focus during the day and can make it difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep at night. Stress also impacts your digestion, gut health, and immune system.
Lots of people today are wearing the latest health monitoring devices, tracking everything from sleep quality to heart rate, which can indicate the effects of stress, but what we really need are effective solutions so that you aren’t the next person falling prey to illness due to stress. Here are some of the most effective ways I have found to help reduce stress:
- Deep breathing exercises. Taking a yoga class is a great way to slow down and breathe. Or you can try using a breathing app, like Inner Balance, which you can do five minutes, twice a day. Retraining your body to take deep breaths literally sends the signal to your brain that the “tiger“ has left the room. But it’s important to remember that you have to breathe from the abdomen and not the upper chest or the breathing won’t help. Practice until you get it!
- Moderate Exercise. Exercise can help to reset the stress response. But it’s important to keep it moderate because trying to exercise intensely can compound the problem. Moderate exercise is anything that elevates the heart rate to 50- 60% above resting. Even taking a walk a few times a day for 15 minutes can help shake the stress off your nervous system, and can also help boost immunity, which is so important.
- Better sleep habits. Try to stop answering emails, looking at computer screens, and texting at least an hour before bed. Dark quiet rooms send the message to your brain that it is time to sleep. Lavender essential oil can be diffused in the bedroom to help settle the nervous system. If these measures don’t help, adaptogenic herbs, like rhodiola and holy basil, also help reduce the output of stress hormones. Take these in the late afternoon and evening. You can also use melatonin at bedtime to help you fall asleep.
- Add other nutrients. If you experience stress you can use nutrients to help combat its effects. Stress-fighting nutrients include B vitamins and immune supportive herbs, like astragalus and phytosterols. Probiotics also support better digestion and immunity to keep your gut microbiome in balance. For heart health, one of the best natural products you can use is Aged Garlic Extract (from Kyolic). Kyolic AGE is a unique form of garlic, which studies show lowers blood pressure and reconditions blood vessels that are too stiff due to stress. Remember, heart disease is the silent killer and stress is one of the biggest reasons that blood pressure issues happen to people. So why not get proactive and take care of yourself now?
In summary, it takes a lifestyle strategy to improve your environment and your health to really beat stress. Better sleep habits, managing your day, taking time to honor your body and reaching into nature’s medicine cabinet can create big rewards on how you feel in today’s modern stressful times.
James LaValle R.Ph., C.C.N
James LaValle is a nationally recognized clinical pharmacist, author, board-certified clinical nutritionist, and founder of Metabolic Code Enterprises, Inc., a web platform and practice solution enterprise, launching AIR Support and the Metabolic Code Assessment.
This article is for informational purposes only. This article is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice.