There’s no denying that life is stressful, but it is possible to manage stress so that it doesn’t get the better of you. The key is in understanding how stress works.
When we are in stressful situations, the adrenal glands flood the body with cortisol. Cortisol has gotten a bad reputation, but it’s actually very important in the regulation of a number of physiological processes, including immune response, inflammation, cardiovascular function, nervous system function, and more. When we are under stress, cortisol triggers an increase in energy and concentration among other physiological changes intended to deal with a potential threat. When stress is prolonged, however, cortisol continues to flood the body, leading to negative effects, including adrenal exhaustion, reduced immune function, anxiety disorders, and chronic disease.
The first thing to be aware of is that eating junk food can exacerbate stress and anxiety. When stressed, most people crave foods that are high in sugar, fat, and salt, and perhaps even caffeine. It makes sense, if cortisol raises energy levels, it has to come from somewhere, and these foods offer the quick energy needed to meet a threat. Over time, however, the adrenal glands have to work overtime to keep your blood sugar under control. Choose snacks that are high in protein and healthy fats such as nuts. Go with almonds or macadamia nuts for the magnesium for an efficient energy boost and to calm your nervous system. Swap your coffee, especially in the afternoon, for peppermint tea or another soothing alternative.
Moderate exercise lowers stress levels by reducing cortisol production and triggering the release of endorphins which can raise your mood.
Meditation is becoming increasingly popular thanks to recent research into its potential for lowering stress levels. People in stressful situations or who work in high stress fields may be able to lower stress levels significantly just by spending a few minutes in meditative practice. Meditation requires very little and can be done anywhere. Even taking a few minutes in your car or on the bus is often enough to clear your mind.
Supplements for Managing Stress
If you’re looking for even more powerful stress relief, supplements may help. Try these:
With its calming effects, emergency essence is great for calming the emotions in a crisis. In a medical emergency, this remedy will help comfort an injured person until medical help is available. Emergency essence can be taken every hour as needed until you’re feeling better.
This herb is useful for balancing hormone levels and supporting the adrenal glands. Studies have have found that Rhodiola may improve the ability of the cells to produce ATP, which can boost mental and physical health, as well as lowering anxiety. It is a great supplement for students who are getting ready for exams.
Lithium is often used to treat mood disorders.Research shows that around 20mg of lithium per day can lower humans depressive symptoms and protect the brain from those conditions.In the UK, lithium carbonate (often referred to as just lithium) is the medication most commonly used to treat bipolar disorder.
Photo Credit: Anna Gutermuth on Flickr
This post has been updated since its original publication in 2015.