How to Reduce Stress Naturally: 3 Strategies to Improve Your Health
Understanding how to reduce stress and anxiety can help you perform better in all areas in your life!
Stress can pop up in a mere instant yet linger for years. And the effects it can have on your body are real and undeniable. Learning ways to manage and reduce stress can literally give you back your life.
Case in point, about a year and a half ago, my husband and I moved our little family out of our three bedroom apartment and into our first home. This was one of the most stressful times in my life because the apartment we were leaving was one I had lived in for almost 17 years! Guys, this was my happy place! It started out as my bachelorette pad that slowly morphed into our newlywed palace, and then into our cramped and crowded family abode.
After baby #2 we quickly realized these two boys needed a backyard (and we needed a sliver of our sanity back!)
Here’s the thing. While I thought I was prepared to leave my apartment, my body was not as convinced. From the moment, I mean the MOMENT we found the house we wanted to buy, my body revolted! I have never once experienced the pain, the ugly and the itching that eczema can produce on one’s body, but there it was, all over my legs. When this house popped up on the market and we knew we were going for it, my legs quickly reminded me that I do NOT do well with change! The nastiness that my body put on display was impressive. From my knees to my ankles, on both legs, were these red boils that itched like a mother!
I’ve never seen my legs so crusty, blotchy, and downright horrendous looking. The stress was literally taking over my body and it itched incessantly. I refused to go get pedicures until I could get it under control because it was so embarrassingly out of control.
I clearly was not ready to move (because change freaks me out!!)
I knew stress had come to visit me and it planned on staying awhile. That’s why I set out on discovering natural ways I could reduce stress and anxiety (because those two are BBF’s! If one comes to visit, the other is right there holding its hand, refusing to be dismissed). I had quickly realized that I needed to deal with this head-on, otherwise, it would simply take over, one limb, and one organ at a time! Facts were facts, we were moving and I had to figure out how to best handle the situation.
Here is what I came up with that proved to be the best ways to reducing stress for me. When you have a few strategies up your sleeve even that can provide you with some relief, especially when you just want to crawl under your covers for days. (And scratch the living daylights out of your legs!)
My hopes are that these three strategies can help you, even if it’s only for a moment… but then again, life is all about the moments, so you may as well try your best to make them as enjoyable as possible!
3 Ways to Reduce Stress
1. Lose yourself in music
This one is my favorite! I absolutely love putting on my headphones and tuning out the world around me. Sometimes it’s the best medicine. You get that guilty pleasure playlist going and something internal shifts. Your hormones start bopping to the beats and next thing you know you’re dancing around like Ellen not giving a sh*t. Happy tunes have the ability to turn it all around and I believe there is magic in music.
I’ve found that when I’m totally stressed out and incessantly focusing on all the crap that’s creating massive anxiety, I grab my headphones without even giving anything else another thought. I get into my Spotify and next thing I know Bonnie Tyler is “Holding out for a Hero”, and I know I’m gonna be ok.
It helps to create the space between stressed out and more stressed out. It’s that little window that you can stick your head out from and breathe in all the fresh air that’s there for the taking. Because when we’re in the midst of a stress attack, it’s as if you can’t breathe. And then you realize you’re struggling to breathe and it becomes this whole game of wanting to breathe more, but not being able to because you’re all seized up on the inside.
Take a music break. Create a little space. Save yourself.
2. Eat foods that naturally boost your mood
In times of stress it’s almost an automatic response to grab the most unhealthy kinds of food there is (Potato chips. Jelly beans. French fries. Ice cream. Pinot Grigio.). “ I’m stressed!!!!!!” is the universal excuse that no one questions. Everyone simply backs away at the afflicted, nodding their head in agreement.
If you haven’t done this yourself, then you’re simply not human. However, we know it’s a super short-term fix that is not doing you or your waistline any good. What you need to be doing is instead, is to go for a little fat.
Yes, have a little fat with your stress!
Omega-3’s have been shown in studies to help reduce stress and anxiety and improve your mood. Your brain loves fat and it needs it to perform and function. So give it what it needs, not what it wants! (Yes, that whole carton of ice cream does sound amazing and it is filled with fat, but that’s the wrong kind, sugar!)
You’re better off going for the healthier options of salmon or avocado toast with an egg on top. You want to fill your belly with good foods that your body can use in times of stress. This will go a long way in keeping you healthy even when it feels like everything else is falling apart.
If we want to get into the nitty-gritty, eating foods that are high in tryptophan are your best bet when stress comes a knockin! Tryptophan is an essential amino acid needed for general growth and development, producing niacin, and creating serotonin in the body. (Yes serotonin! That’s the happy, feel-good hormone you need at times like these!)
A few foods you can stock up on are nuts and seeds, meats (all grass-fed and finished), chicken/turkey (organic), fish (wild-caught), eggs, beans, and lentils. Basically, you want to eat a healthy diet especially during times of high-stress. Resist the urge to dive into a bag of chips by acknowledging that that bag will only result in you feeling worse, about yourself! Stay healthy, stay hydrated, and stay guilt-free!
3. A little exercise every day
Number one stress reducer! I saved the best for last. (You knew this one was coming, right?)
What better way is there to get your happy hormones pulsating throughout your body than moving your body with purpose? (And playing your favorite music while doing it? OMG, killing it!) Get your body moving because exercise is the magic pill that you can’t get over the counter.
Did you know that exercise produces endorphins, which are nature’s natural painkillers? And it doesn’t cost you anything to access these endorphins. They’re FREE! You can go outside for a run. Walk up and down the stairs for five minutes. Have a dance party in your kitchen.
Release the tension and stress that is consuming you and you will find that you’ll feel lighter and more energized. Do it every day and soon the fog will clear and you’ll be dealing with life and its challenges with a stronger mindset.
That was how I dealt with getting through our big move, and I’m happy to report, my horrendous eczema completely receded back from whence it came about two months later, never to be heard from again.
Make time to take care of yourself, even if that means just sitting down and reading a book for a half an hour. Life will always present a challenge. It’s how you handle the challenge that helps you grow and learn.
As always, I’d love to hear from you! If you’re struggling with something, let me know how you’re handling it. What tactics do you employ when stress creeps in and begins to take hold?