Let's be honest with ourselves, life is not all bad. In fact, taking a walk on the bright side of life is a great exercise. Being thankful, noticing your challenges as affirmations of the goals you are setting out to reach and the stress that comes with that is just the simple physics of the situation proving your moving forward.
In order to achieve, you must work and work creates tension and tension creates stress. But what about when that stress becomes more than you want to handle? What steps can you take to make sure you maintain a healthy level of stress and can reclaim your calm and distress when you need to?
Stress itself is natural and good and a part of life we shouldn’t form a bad relationship with. It shows that you are living and moving forward however it serves a purpose and that purpose needs to be well defined in order to understand when you need to take actions to reduce stress and focus on reclaiming calm and rest.
What Purpose Does Stress Have?
Stress is your body’s natural response to excitement or even anxiousness. We are actually built to respond to stress in a way that will not only keep us alive but help us achieve our goals. This internal system is what is commonly known as our ‘fight or flight’ reflexes.
Our autonomic nervous system consists of two components, the parasympathetic and sympathetic. These systems are how we deal with everything from eating and digesting food to making a quick decision in crazy rush hour traffic. It’s how our bodies know when to calm down and concentrate blood circulation to your brain so you can think through a complicated decision, helping to slow down your heart rate and steady your breathing. It also can constrict your blood vessels and push blood into your muscles if you get frightened and need to make a run for it.
Without this stress use system, there’s a good chance we would struggle to do even basic things like cross the street correctly. However, sometimes we kick into our sympathetic system (that’s the fight part) when we don’t need to.
To Much Fight
When we are utilizing the sympathetic nervous system, our bodies are doing a number of things - like releasing stress hormones, elevating our heart rate and modifying our breathing pattern. In a pinch - these sense heightening techniques can really be of use. When we are waking up in the morning with no apparent danger, experiencing this translates to anxiety.
Consistent use of the sympathetic nervous system can have some very unfortunate side effects, such as feelings of restlessness or even negatively impacting our mood. This can also be something that comes between a person and their goals. While stress, within it’s natural boundaries can be used by the body to help achieve, it can also become a deterrent.
So how do you get back to a place of leveling out again and de-stressing and finding calm in your life? How do you reclaim the mornings from anxiety or the evenings from feelings of restlessness and insufficiency?
Well, the truth is there are a couple different paths you can take, and there’s absolutely no reason why you can’t take more than one. For many, routes like talking to your medical care provider about options or even seeking counseling is an excellent and great first potion. However, we all have things in our lives we can start implementing now to help you reclaim your calm. Let’s take a look at a couple of things you can start doing right now.
Breath In - Breath Out
Yes you guessed it - simply breath! It’s common knowledge that our bodies need oxygen - you learned about this little fact way back in the day, however it’s something we actually often forget. When we are feeling restless or stressed we can start allowing our breathing pattern to get all wonky. Short, gaspy breaths or even holding our breath becomes an unconscious decision. So take a minute, set a timer, and just close your eyes and breath. Deep breathing and meditation exercises daily can help tremendously when you feel the tension in your body rising.
Take a Break - Stretch Your Legs
This goes back to the idea of our bodies needing oxygen, but it also ties in with what we learned about our bodies releasing stress hormones. When we get anxious we can start not supplying our bodies with the oxygen it needs to remain calm, getting up and moving causes blood flow that helps with this. It also helps your body process any cortisol it released while you were feeling stressed and anxious.
Drink Plenty of Water and Keep Some Food in Your
Did you know that your brain, on average, needs one hundred and twenty grams of glucose a day to function correctly. This is an impressive amount of glucose and that’s just one organ in your body. Making sure you are well hydrated and well stored up with fuel is a vital part of making sure you are prepared to reclaim calm and destress when needed.
When looking to clear your headspace and destress, the following activities can be very beneficial to calm the mind and relax:
- Naam Yoga hand trick - applying pressure to the space between your second and third knuckle (the joints at the base of your pointer and middle fingers)
- Progressive muscle relaxation
- Practice gratitude
- Short Walk ( Even a minute walk in fresh air to reduce cortisol levels)
- Enjoying a cup of tea
- Eat a Banana (potassium helps to regulate blood pressure) or a healthy snack such as half an avocado
- Chewing gum
- Light a scented candle
- Stretching (to increase blood flow)
- Get a massage
Listen to music (decreases stress hormones which cause harm to the immune system)
On the contrary, caffeine, comfort foods and other stimulants can increase stress levels and should be avoided when looking to calm negative thoughts and destress.
Effects of Chronic Stress
Experiencing high levels of chronic stress can lead to other health related issues. Therefore it is crucial to know how to manage your stress accordingly so you can understand your symptoms before they affect you in other detrimental ways. Effects of chronic stress can lead to a fight or flight response in the body which may result symptomatically in the following ways:
- Mental health issues
- Sleep problems
- Heart problems
- Muscle tension
What About Supplements?
This is a very important part of understanding what you can do in your life to help destress and find calm. Supplements are a healthy, natural, and safe way to promote your overall wellness and propel you on your health journey.
Our bodies actually produce all kinds of natural vitamins and minerals and compounds that help supplement our health and energy, and nature does the same thing. In fact, it is common to need to boost these incredible vitamins and compounds to further their healing and health promoting benefits.
Taking advantage of supplements as a powerful tool to help you reach your goals is a great step in the direction of reclaiming calm in your life. These supplements can come from a variety of different origins and many times can be combined so that their health benefits are boosted even further.
A Couple Good Options that Go a Long Way
When it comes to the world of supplements and what to get involved with, it can feel like going online for a chocolate chip cookie recipe. Everyone has an opinion and everyone claims their opinion is the best. While this is no small step and the journey to understanding natural supplements is substantial, there’s no reason that you can quickly find some that can help you with your goals. Here are a couple we want to highlight.
This ancient medicinal herb has been used in parts of Asia for many years. It is known to boost cognitive function and relieve system wide stress throughout the body focusing on areas of high use like joints and muscles.
This fungus got it’s fun name from the fact that it’s hair-like structural components make it look like a lion’s mane. Aside from having an eye-catching profile, it has been known to aid in digestive wellness and even help with reducing mental tension that could build up through the day.
Lastly, we'll introduce Saffron to you. This ancient adaptogen is a powerhouse of medical benefits and is highly valued all over the world. Saffron is thought to be correlated to multiple health benefits from helping maintain a good healthy weight, to overall celular health and even to helping relieve feelings of restlessness and stress.
Supplements Enhance Your Life - They Don’t Weigh It Down
Now that you have a couple of good supplemental ingredients to be looking into - let's talk about the real life problems of getting to a healthier state, convenience. While the old adage that anything that’s worth having is something worth working for - the truth is we live jam packed lives.
Arguably the hectic lifestyle patterns could be the actual reason behind your stress. So what’s the point of trying to reduce your stress if adding something to it just adds more stress in the end? Well, the good news is that supplements don’t have to be stressful to benefit from.
Whether you are a health junkie who frequents the gym at four in the morning before working a 12 hour day, or you have a much more sedentary lifestyle, taking supplements that boost your body's natural stress relief pathways can be convenient.
Not only will companies work hard to combine multiple supplemental elements into one easy to take unit like a capsule or powder, but you can even find companies who will ship them to your doorstep. When it comes to learning how to destress and find calm in your life, combining the physical, practical steps along with the chemical benefit of natural, wholesome supplements is a powerful move toward helping you reach your goals.
Meet our Experts
This article has been reviewed by members of our Scientific Advisory Board.
Dr. Jay Cowin, Nutrition Expert
Founder of Functional U, a Nutrition, Performance & Optimal Health practice.