April is Stress Awareness Month, providing a great opportunity for everyone to revisit and reprioritize healthy and productive stress relief strategies. Stress is one of the most damaging things that we deal with regularly. The irony is that stress itself is not a bad thing. In fact, stress is an important natural response to danger and to challenge, which increases our athletic performance, our focus and our likelihood of winning any confrontation.
The problem is when stress becomes chronic. When the stressor (the cause of stress) doesn’t go away, then the body spends too long in this aroused state. The immune system, the digestion and even our creativity are all suppressed when we’re stressed and this leaves us vulnerable to illness and depression. Not only that, but stress causes elevated heartrates and increased blood pressure, which can put us at risk of a stroke or even a heart attack. Chronic stress is the problem then and unfortunately, our modern lives are completely filled with it. That means it’s up to you to try and find ways to combat chronic stress and to get your body back under your own control. Let’s take a look at a couple natural ways to reduce stress.
1. Drink Some Green Tea
Green tea contains caffeine that will boost your metabolism and actually drive up your stress levels. The same goes for coffee and black tea; so many of us are unknowingly adding to our stress levels when we drink our favorite beverages. But when you drink green tea, you also get l-theanine. This is an amino acid that can help to relax the mind, the muscles and the heartrate and thereby act against the action of caffeine in order to provide you with a longer, steadier state of relaxation.
2. Go for a Walk
A walk is another good form of exercise and one that won’t raise the heartrate or require quite so much energy. You get the same endorphin boost this way and you’ll also get to breathe in fresh air (which is great for calming nerves). You’ll get to bask in some sunlight which will also improve your mood and boost your vitamin D level. There’s more too: going for a walk can also help immerse you in natural settings which has been shown to relieve stress and boost creativity!
3. Watch a Comedy
Laughing is a great way to let go of stress and to produce mood-boosting endorphins. In fact, it has even been shown to boost your immune system! Watching a comedy will have similar benefits to reading a book as it will let you escape into another reality for a bit and forget your own, while engaging your attention. Add in the laughter to boost your mood and you have a perfect tonic for stress. Watch with friends for added benefit.
4. Look at the Color Green
The color green has been shown to be relaxing and calming. When we see the color green, we unconsciously associate it with natural settings and this helps us to feel more calm and more at ease. Being more relaxed and less stressed can also trigger increased creativity. That’s because relaxation allows us to form novel connections between disparate ideas, rather than being focused on just one thing that’s happening (stress causes “tunnel vision”). This is why studies have shown that just placing a green plant on your office desk can actually increase creative problem solving at work!
5. Lie Down
Putting yourself in a more supine position is all it takes to slow your heartrate and help you begin to calm down. If you’re extremely stressed, then just try reclining in your seat slightly and you’ll probably find it offers some light relief. Otherwise, find a quiet room and just lie with your eyes closed for a few minutes. Taking small breaks throughout a tough day can give us the fuel we need to keep going!