Stress. It’s become one of the great issues of our day. How do we manage it? How do we alleviate it? How to we remain present with it? These are all questions we deal with on a daily basis, because let’s face it – the material world is a stressful place, to put it mildly. That said, let’s take a look at five of the most effective ways to work with this modern day malady.
1. Maintain a Regular Sleep Schedule
We all know how stressed out our body and mind feels when we’re sleep deprived. We can’t think straight, we make poor decisions, we even get in accidents, which causes even more stress. It’s an endless cycle. Therefore, establishing and maintaining a regular sleep routine, in order to get more hours of high-quality sleep is essential. Maintaining normal circadian rhythms keeps cortisol (the stress hormone) levels under control, and supports adrenal health. Practice going to bed by ten pm and waking up around six am. Getting on this schedule will help you develop your normal circadian rhythms if they’ve gotten out of whack.
2. Do Yoga and Pranayama
They say “the issues are in our tissues,” and it’s true. The body holds onto chronic stress if we don’t move in such a way that releases the toxic tension. Yoga is the best physical exercise to practice if you want to avoid holding onto stress and trauma in the physical and emotional body. Twists are great detoxifiers of stress while breathing and moving prana (life force energy) throughout the body in a fluid way gets rid of blockages and patterns of holding tension. The deep breathing techniques known as pranayama also work wonders for working with stress because deep breathing activates our parasympathetic nervous system – the one responsible for our relaxation response. Try inhaling to a count of four, holding for a count of seven, and exhaling for a count of eight and feel your stress melt away.
3. Eat Whole Foods
Eating whole foods, and anti-inflammatory ones in particular, reduces stress by giving your body and brain the nutrients they need to function optimally. A diet high in essential nutrients helps manage blood sugar levels, balance hormones and keep cravings under control. Eat lots of fresh fruits and veggies, healthy fats like avocados, coconut oil and nuts, and avoid too much sugar, caffeine and alcohol. Incorporate, grass-fed beef, eggs and wild-caught salmon into your diet as well as probiotic foods such as kimchi, sauerkraut and kefir.
A regular meditation practice actually trains the brain to turn off the stress response. Practices like mantra meditation and mindfulness have profound calming effects on the body and mind, and teach us how to deal with the traumas of everyday life. For an introduction to meditation, check out “mindfulness based stress reduction,” a meditation practice designed to work with stress, and one that’s accessible to everyone.
Written By: Aimee Hughes