How to naturally manage stress and anxiety
You may be noticing increased stress levels during these uncertain times resulting in symptoms such as anxiety, low mood, or even insomnia. Anxiety can cause mental and physical reactions, and is usually triggered when a person feels threatened or endangered and is unable to regulate their emotions.
This is a normal response, also known as fight or flight, and involves hormones such as cortisol.
Cortisol is produced in the adrenal glands when the brain perceives a threat in the environment.
This is an ancestral response, and is absolutely vital in times of crisis, however nowadays our crazy busy lifestyles are constantly triggering this state of hyperarousal. The body can handle this in acute doses but when it becomes chronically activated, the body starts to experience symptoms of wear and tear.
Chronic stress can create all sorts of imbalances in the body such as:
- Cardiovascular disease
- Insulin resistance
- Digestive problems
- Low libido
- Thyroid imbalances
- Decreased muscle mass
- Hormonal imbalances
- PMS Brain fog
- Belly fat
- Weight gain
This is why proper management is so important not just to improve quality of life but also to reduce the risk of chronic diseases that can develop over time.
Tips to manage your stress and anxiety naturally
- Keep your meals balanced by including fat, protein, and fiber rich vegetables
- Eat regular meals and don’t skip breakfast! This can create more stress on the body by secreting cortisol to get your blood sugar back up
- Eliminate caffeine or limit to 1 cup before noon, and always consume it with food! Caffeine is a stimulant which can weaken the endocrine system and cause blood sugar imbalances, creating further stress on the body.
- Include brightly coloured fruits and vegetables in your diet everyday. These foods are high in vitamins B and C which are nourishing to the adrenals, protect cells from oxidative stress, and promote energy production in the body. Examples include berries, bell peppers, citrus fruits, broccoli, leafy greens, and tomatoes.
- Meditation :
Dating back to around 1500 BCE, meditation is an ancient practice that can help to reduce stress, increase calmness, and promote happiness. Meditation simply means to become present and aware. A regular meditation practice will provide the most benefits, however even a single session has been shown to reduce anxiety (1).
If you are new to meditation, there are many apps available that you can download such as Headspace, Calm, and Insight Timer.
- Deep breathing
We especially recommend practicing deep belly breaths before meals and when you feel stressed. This helps to decrease cortisol levels while releasing endorphins that can relax the muscles.
Writing down your thoughts and worries can be an extremely therapeutic practice that can help to release whatever is ruminating in your mind. By being aware of your thoughts and emotions you will be better equipped to then deal with them and dissect them to find out where they are coming from.
The right amount of exercise can make a tremendous difference for your mental health. In fact, research has found that regular aerobic exercise has been shown to decrease stress levels and depression, while improving mood and self-esteem (2)(3).
- Get outside!
Nature is so healing and calming to the nervous system. And one of the best things you can do outside, is ground yourself. Grounding is the practice of electrically connecting to the earth via practices such as walking barefoot, hugging a tree, swimming in a body of water or simply lying on the grass.
- Get enough sleep
Sleep is the time for repair and regeneration, and lack of sleep can actually cause anxiety as studies correlate sleep deprivation with nearly all psychiatric disorders (4). Try to get into the habit of turning off electronics in the evening and including relaxing activities before you go to bed, this will help to support melatonin production and promote sleep. Try to be ready for bed before 11PM.
After addressing your nutrition and lifestyle habits, supplements can be very helpful in lowering stress levels and managing anxiety. Below are some of our favourites:
A naturally occurring amino acid found in green tea, l-theanine exerts anti-anxiety effects by promoting alpha brain wave activity in the brain as well as GABA production. L-theanine is also great to use during mental exercise such as studying because it helps to calm the mind, without causing drowsiness, while increasing focus (5).
Adaptogens are herbs that help our bodies adapt to stress, as they increase the body’s resilience and act as a tonic to the adrenal glands and the nervous system. Although they can make a difference fairly quickly it usually takes a few weeks to feel their therapeutic effects. Popular adaptogens include ashwagandha, ginseng, and rhodiola.
Magnesium is an essential mineral with many functions in the body, and magnesium bisglycinate in particular, is well known for its calming and relaxing effects. During times of increased stress magnesium can become depleted from the body. You can take magnesium in the evening if you also have trouble falling asleep as it acts as a nervous system and muscle relaxant.
- B vitamins:
Commonly found in adrenal or stress formulas, the B vitamins are critical for healthy functioning of the adrenal glands. B vitamins are important in neurotransmitter production like GABA and serotonin. Vitamin B5, also known as pantothenic acid, is an especially important B vitamin for stress as it supports the stress response and modulates cortisol secretion. We recommend taking a B complex supplement at the beginning of your day as B vitamins can increase energy in some individuals.