Stress is the body’s reaction to demand and challenges. Anxiety is a feeling of worry, unease, or nervousness, normally about a particular event. Stress and anxiety are part of a human being; they can drive you to get things done. Even high stress from job loss, serious illness, breakup, a death in the family, or even a devastating life event can be a natural part of life. You may feel low and anxious, and it’s normal to feel that way for a while.
Stress and anxiety response includes increased heart rate, blood pressure, beliefs about a stressful event, emotions, fear, or anger. Although we think of stress as being negative, stress can result from positive life changes, e.g., having a baby or being promoted at work.
If you feel stressed and anxious for several weeks, or if it starts interfering with your daily activities, talk to your doctor. Therapy, medication, and other strategies can help.
Strategies that Can Help Reduce or Manage Stress and Anxiety
One of the best ways to combat stress is by exercising. It may seem odd, but exercising can relieve mental stress.
Physical activity helps stimulate different brain chemicals that leave you happier, less anxious, and more relaxed.
Exercise helps you feel better about your appearance, hence boosting your confidence and improving your self-esteem.
The benefits are observed when you exercise frequently. Individuals exercising regularly are less likely to be stressed compared to those who don’t exercise.
Exercise does the following:
- Sleep – it improves sleep quality, which can be highly affected by stress and anxiety.
- Stress hormones – it regulates stress hormones, like cortisol. It also helps release chemicals like endorphins, which improve mood and act as painkillers.
- Confidence – exercise boosts your confidence, which in turn boosts your mental well-being.
Examples of exercises include :
- Rock climbing
- Playing football, etc
Try finding exercise routines you can enjoy.
Use Supplements to Manage Stress and Anxiety
Several supplements have been proven to reduce stress and anxiety. Some include:
- Rhodiola (Rhodiola Rosea) – this is an ancient herb that was used to manage depression. It’s classified as an adaptogen, meaning it can help your body adapt to stress and anxiety. It also has antidepressant properties that help balance neurotransmitters in the brain. Unbalanced neurotransmitters lead to stress and anxiety. You can purchase Rhodiola supplements online.
- Ashwagandha– is an ancient herb used in ayurvedic medicine to treat anxiety and stress. It’s an adaptogen; it helps the body adapt to stress. It also helps lower levels of cortisol, a hormone that causes stress. Ashwagandha has anti-anxiety, anti-inflammatory, and antidepressant properties. These properties help reduce emotional and physical stress. They also balance out mood swings and increase mental focus, alertness, and concentration.
- B vitamins- B vitamins such as B6, B12, and folate help produce and regulate neurotransmitters like dopamine, gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), and serotonin. These neurotransmitters help boost mood and neurological functioning.
- Zinc– Zinc is a mineral that helps keep the brain healthy. It also helps block neurotransmitter pathways that may cause stress and anxiety. Zinc also boosts antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
- Omega-3 fatty acids– people with depression have low brain chemicals known as eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Both of these chemicals are found in omega-3 acids. Thus, taking omega-3 acids reduces depressive symptoms.
Research showed EPA to be most effective in fighting depressive symptoms compared to DHA.
Reduce Caffeine Intake
Caffeine is a stimulant found in tea, coffee, energy drinks, and chocolate. High doses of caffeine increase anxiety.
Caffeine affects the body by increasing blood pressure, heart rate, and levels of stress hormones (hormone cortisol and epinephrine). These, in turn, lead to increased stress and anxiety.
Caffeine intake blocks activities of adenosine, a neurotransmitter that makes you sleepy and feels tired. It also lowers gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), a calming neurotransmitter that helps you feel happy and relaxed. Low levels of GABA lead to anxiety and panic attacks.
Caffeine causes insomnia, just like anxiety. Getting enough sleep is essential for brain health and mental well-being. During sleep, the brain rejuvenates and creates new brain cells. So lack of sleep can cause stress and anxiety.
When used alongside medication, it can increase levels of anxiety. It either increases the effects of medication or undermines its effects. All these aspects illustrate why you should reduce caffeine intake to avoid stress and anxiety.
Chewing a stick of gum is an easy and quick stress reliever.
Studies show that individuals who chewed gum had a higher sense of well-being and lower stress.
Chewing gum causes brain waves similar to relaxed people. It also allows blood flow to your brain.
Chewing gum during stressful times helps boost alertness, reduce stress, anxiety, and reduce salivary cortisol levels. It also helps reduce depressive symptoms such as flatulence and loss of appetite.
Getting Enough Sleep
Getting enough sleep is essential for good mental health.
Since depression affects the brain, there is a significant relationship between depression and lack of sleep. Sleep rejuvenates the brain’s function more than any other part of the body.
When we sleep, our brain processes ideas, feelings, and emotions. With enough sleep, you can be more creative, focused and manage your emotions throughout the day. Without enough sleep, many activities start to fail.
If you are stressed and anxious and have problems sleeping, the following can help:
- Go to bed at the same time every day.
- Get up at the same time daily.
- Avoid using phones or laptops one hour before bed.
- Sleep for at least eight hours daily.
- Avoid eating or exercising one hour before bed.
- Block excess light and noise that may interfere with your sleep.
- If you can’t sleep, try breathing exercises or guided meditation sessions.
Managing Stress and Anxiety – Bottom Line
Apart from therapy and medication, other strategies like exercise, supplements, quality sleep, etc, can help relieve stress and anxiety.
It’s better to try some of these practices to discover what works for you, as what works for one person may not necessarily work for the other. Also, it’s advisable to talk to your doctor before incorporating these routines into your lifestyle.