Stress can have a powerful impact on various aspects of your life. Not only can it affect your mood, energy level, relationships, and work performance, stress can also cause (and exacerbate) a wide variety of health conditions. When you are stressed, the brain undergoes both chemical and physical changes that affects how it functions. During periods of high stress, certain chemicals in the brain (like dopamine, epinephrine, and norepinephrine) begin to rise, causing larger amounts of these and other “fight or flight” hormones like adrenaline to be released by the adrenal glands. The release of these chemicals contributes to certain physiological effects like rapid heart rate, high blood pressure, and a weakened immune system. When left unmanaged over time, chronic stress can even lead to the development of things like stomach ulcers, stroke, asthma, and heart disease.1 So what are some of the ways you can manage excessive stress? Let’s take a look.
Tap Your Creative Self to Manage Stress
Before we go any further, let’s first talk about deep breathing. We’ve all heard that deep breathing is helpful when it comes to stress. And with good reason. Deep breathing, also known as diaphragmatic breathing, encourages full oxygen exchange – that is, the beneficial trade of incoming oxygen for outgoing carbon dioxide. It can slow the heartbeat and lower and stabilize blood pressure. So diaphragmatic breathing is a good practice to get into, if you haven’t already. Go ahead – try a few deep breaths now . . . Ok, let’s take a look at some creative outlets that can help you to manage your stress, and keep you relaxed.
Drawing/coloring: Doodling on a pad of paper, painting with watercolors, or even getting a coloring book can be helpful. These activities have the ability to relax the fear center of your brain, the amygdala. It induces the same state as meditating by reducing the thoughts of a restless mind.2 This generates mindfulness and quietness, which allows your mind to get some rest after a long day at work.
Photography: Photography can have a positive effect on your wellbeing, boosting self-esteem, confidence, memory, and helping you to focus and calm the mind from your everyday hustle.3 Mindfulness is very effective at fighting stress. Many forms of art promote mindfulness, including drawing, and photography is no different. Photography offers participants a moment to focus on the present, be “in the moment” and relax a bit. Not to mention capturing some beautiful scenes that you can keep or share, to relive whenever you need a moment of Zen.
Gardening: In a study in the Netherlands (as reported by CNN), two groups of students were told either to read indoors, or garden for 30 minutes, after completing a stressful task. The group that gardened reported being in a better mood than the group that read. And they also exhibited lower levels of cortisol, the stress hormone.4 Time to get your hands in the dirt!
Natural Supplements Can Help
Now that you have some different creative outlet options in your arsenal for managing your stress, what else can you do, to help keep your stress level low? Certain herbs, nutrients, and vitamins can help promote reduced stress and anxiety. Look for supplements that combine GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) along with B vitamins, which can support healthy relaxation and increased alertness. Other nutrients to look for in a de-stressing supplements are omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to reduce anxiety, ashwagandha, which is an herb used in ayurvedic medicine to help lessen anxiety, and valerian root, which is a popular sleep aid, due to its calming effects5.
Taking advantage of these creative outlets, along with trying these supplements, can help you to manage your stress and focus on the things that matter most to you.