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November 21, 2017

Six easy, all-natural ways to cope with stress

Mental Health Stress

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Woman running on a beach Pauala May/

Experiencing stress is a normal part of life. In fact, it can sometimes even be used to motivate positive changes and challenge ourselves. But negative stress – the kind that causes feelings of dread and uncertainty – makes it difficult to control our actions and emotions, especially when we’re short on time, energy, and an awareness of what stress really is and how to manage it.

Stress is a perceived threat that strains our resources; we often feel most stressed when confronted with a situation we don’t know how to handle. The good news? You have more control than you may think. The next time you feel swamped or hopeless, try these six natural methods for calming yourself and better handling the stress in your life.

1. Meditate

Your body responds to stress with a fight or flight response, causing your blood pressure to rise, your pulse to accelerate, and rapid breathing.

Ten minutes each day is all you need to induce a relaxation response, which reverses the physical reactions of stress and enhances your mood. This state is achieved through an easy meditation technique that can be practiced daily to take the stress out even most challenging times.

2. Exercise

When your body feels better, so does your mind. Exercise and other types of physical activity produce endorphins, which are chemicals in your brain that serve as natural painkillers and help you sleep better. Focusing on the single task of exercising – whether it’s yoga or aerobics – will help you relax, feel energized, and regain confidence.

3. Use aromatherapy

Scents enter your nose and travel to your limbic system and amygdala, which regulate your emotions and mood. Believe it or not, certain scents and essential oils can actually bring balance to your mind, body, and spirit. 

Lavender, for example, is known to calm the nervous system, which induces relaxation. Other powerful scents – such as lemon and jasmine – can also help to reduce anxiety, depression, and sleeplessness. Using essential oils can be extremely therapeutic and effective in reducing stress.

4. Listen to music

Simply listening to your favorite songs can affect physiological functions, such as slowing your heart rate. Music helps distract you from stress and encourages you to explore your emotions. Try listening to music while you’re driving, in the shower, or in bed right before you go to sleep – it can work wonders in a stressful situation!

5. Express gratitude

Gratitude is a powerful force that can benefit you in many ways, from strengthening relationships to combatting stress. Simply put, thankful thinking can literally train your mind to handle stress.

Gratitude fortifies a “psychological immune system” that makes you more resilient to stress. By tackling mental obstacles with gratitude and looking at situations through a lens of personal improvement, you’ll be on the path to living contentedly (and stress-free)!

6. Take a deep breath

When your stress hormones are running rampant, deep breathing exercises can make a world of difference. Doing so activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which controls relaxation.

Whatever technique you choose, the goal is to focus on awareness of breath, making it slower and deeper. In addition, breathing in deeply through your nose allows your lungs to expand, which slows heart rate and puts you at ease.

Stress is a part of our everyday lives, and although it seems like the only option is to ride it out, it’s important to know that there are steps you can take to manage it. Your emotional well-being, or the feelings you experience and your ability to control them, plays a central role in your happiness, and it is something you can constantly work on and improve.

Are your stress levels at capacity? Take the IBX Stress-O-Meter Quiz and find out.

Try this class: Tai Chi: Every Tuesday at Independence LIVE

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