Stress is a natural part of our lives, whether we like it or not. It is our bodies response to a
challenging situation and can be both physically and mentally draining. It can be brought on by significant changes in life, or even letting a smaller problem manifest itself into something larger.
Long-term stress can lead to a number of mental health issues, such as anxiety, headaches, and depression. It can also be a contributing factor in physical problems like heart attacks or strokes.
Everyone experiences stress differently, but there are ways we can adjust our lifestyle to help stress management and achieve a calm and relaxed mind.
Exercise is as important for your mind as it is for your body. Keeping an active and healthy
lifestyle is not only about physical wellbeing, such as reduced blood pressure and protection from cardiovascular disease, but the mental benefits too.
Regular exercise assists in controlling the bodies chemical balances. It helps to reduce
hormones that naturally occur in the body that can cause stress, such as adrenaline and
cortisol1. High levels of these hormones can cause a person to experience anxiety and insomnia, so using exercise to combat this is a great way to keep the body in harmony.
Not only does exercise help to remove unnecessary amounts of harmful chemicals, but promotes the production of the chemicals that benefit us. When we exercise, our body releases endorphins, the chemical in our brain that acts as a natural painkiller and gives us an overall sense of wellbeing. If you’ve ever heard of a “runner’s high”, endorphins are the chemical behind it.
Meditation has been practiced by cultures all over the world for thousands of years. Originally associated with religious or spiritual traditions, the health benefits of meditation have become so widely known that people from all walks of life practice it to help relieve stress.
One of the many ways in which meditation can alleviate stress is by deactivating your
sympathetic nervous system. This reaction in the body, also known as the ‘fight or flight’
response, is your brain responding to a stressful situation. Activating this system too often can lead to high levels of stress hormones being released in the body.
Once your brain deems the stressful situation is over, it activates the parasympathetic nervous system. Activating this system allows for your brain and body to relax and rest. With meditation, you are helping your body to deactivate the sympathetic system and turn on the parasympathetic. 2
Regularly practicing mediation can allow you to have better control over your mind and stress levels by actively controlling these two systems. Studies have shown that people who meditate on a regular basis see a reduction in depression, stress and anxiety.
Spend Time in Nature
Spending time in nature is one of the best ways to improve feelings of wellbeing and reduce
stress or anxiety. You might’ve noticed it yourself after going for a walk or bike ride that being outside can give you a feeling of invigoration and positivity. Recent studies have shown that there is scientific proof to back up these feelings.
Studies have found that by merely sitting in nature and looking at trees, people show a reduction in blood pressure and to their levels of stress related hormones.3 It gives our mind time to relax and contemplate on how we could deal with stress, allowing for a better sense of judgement.
Stress can also lead to our immune system becoming inhibited, causing sickness and poor
health. When we’re out in nature, we expose ourselves to phytoncides, an airborne chemical that plants release to protect themselves from disease and bacteria. Breathing in this chemical causes a reaction in our body, and we start to increase production of a type of white blood cell that helps us fight off infection.
Massage is one of the oldest forms of traditional relaxation and stress relief. It is widely used throughout the world to alleviate people of the stress and strain that comes as a part of life. Not only can massage help with muscle relaxation and the treatment of injuries, but it can also help to flush out harmful toxins and balance the natural level of chemicals in the body.
Massage has a physiological effect on the body similar to exercise, where increased production of beneficial chemicals causes the body and mind to relax. Stimulating the autonomic system through gentle or deep manipulation of muscle releases endorphins and gives you a sense of wellbeing, just like exercising.
Serotonin and dopamine are also released during massage, the chemicals responsible for
elevating our moods and preventing depression. If the body is low on these positive hormones, a person can become stressed and anxious.4
Levels of harmful chemicals in the body also decrease when receiving a massage, due to
increased blood circulation. Assisting in circulation helps to flush out any negative hormones like cortisol, and replace them with the beneficial chemicals previously mentioned.
If you’d like to know more about massage and all the ways you can benefit, click here.