January 06, 2021
Stress follows you everywhere; there’s no way to avoid it. But, can you reduce stress naturally and quickly? Yes, research points to some easy ways you can quickly reduce stress at work, or home. When you have strategies that manage and reduce stress, you can get back to enjoying the joys of a healthy life. To each of us, stress is felt differently, from headaches to moodiness. Regardless of how you feel it, there are scientifically researched ways to reduce stress: get enough rest, eat healthy foods, and in times of need, reach for quick stress-relieving strategies. Here are what scientists have discovered are the fast ways to reduce stress naturally.
Stress affects everyone differently. Some notice headaches, dizziness, tightness in their chest, a feeling of depression, trouble sleeping, difficulty concentrating, or a loss of appetite. These symptoms can be annoying and distracting; however, it’s what’s happening inside your body, that has experts advising we all learn and adapt our lifestyles to better manage stress. In the body, stress negatively affects major organs and systems:
When your ‘to-do’ list reaches lengths, you begin to doubt your ability to manage, or perhaps a thought has got your mind racing, and your belly aching, you need fast ways to reduce stress naturally. Here are a few techniques researchers have found can reduce stress naturally.
Slow, long inhales followed by a pause to hold the breath, then slow, intentional exhales can help refocus the mind. A group of researchers from Beijing recruited 40 participants to study the effects of deep breathing on healthy adults. After 2 months of using deep breathing, the participants were experiencing lower levels of stress (reduced cortisol levels) and were able to maintain attention for longer periods of time. Deep breathing triggers body relaxation which benefits both your physical and mental health. When you relax muscles in the body, it reminds the body that you are okay; there is no present danger that needs you to be tense in preparation for. Research mentions the value of including meditation into your day if you are struggling with stress as it lowers the body’s state of readiness.
STRESS FACT: Slow down your breath and relax your muscles to quickly lower your body’s stress response.
Physical exercise can benefit your mental health, improve brain function, and mood. Exercise triggers your brain to produce neurotransmitters (that’s a geeky word for little messengers that travel around your nervous system) that make you feel good, such as dopamine and serotonin. But, what’s more exciting, researchers have found physical activity helps reduce your reactivity to stress and enhances your resilience to it. Tell that giant deadline it has nothing on you now, because you took a brisk walk at lunch that’s helped you be stronger and ready to handle it.
STRESS FACT: Exercise helps the body handle stress, and builds resistance to future stress.
Melting chocolate on your tongue may be one of your favourite ways to escape the stress of the everyday. If so, you’ll be excited to discover there is some science behind why chocolate helps reduce stress. Chocolate contains tryptophan, the amino acid needed to create serotonin. Chocolate stimulates more blood flow and neuron activity in the brain. Go on and indulge in a mouthful of luscious, molten, dark chocolate if you’re feeling the effects of stress on your brain. In a study, eating chocolate reduced stress in adults. (Before you sink your teeth into a jumbo chocolate bar, know the researchers gave the participants 40 grams of dark chocolate for 14 days to see these stress-relieving results). No more feeling guilty about indulging in some dark chocolate every now, and then – it’s good for you!
STRESS FACT: Dark chocolate has higher amounts of helpful nutrients that reduce stress than candy bars, or milk chocolates.
The traditional calming effects of tea have been enjoyed around the world for centuries. Recently, scientists have discovered how tea relaxes you. Drinking tea lowers levels of the stress hormone, cortisol. That’s important as reducing stress at work may improve your ability to think clearly and creatively. As for the benefits of reducing stress at home, Alzheimer’s research experts link stress with increased risk of dementia as stress is linked to brain shrinkage. (We’ll pause here while you go start your kettle, and prepare a mug to make a cup of fresh leaf tea.)
STRESS FACT: Fresh tea leaves contain theanine, a natural relaxing compound that boosts mood, and cognitive performance.
All tea comes from leaves of the same plant, Camellia sinensis. How the leaves are processed after harvest determines if they become known as black, oolong, or green tea. Better yet, don’t process the leaves and use them fresh. As with all edible plant parts, fresh tea leaves contain more nutrients than dried ones. Fresh tea leaves can be flash-frozen to remain fresh until you’re ready to brew them. Research shows fresh tea leaves create a green tea that is five-times more antioxidant-rich than dried green tea.
Inside your cup of tea are natural compounds that have a warming, relaxing effect, as well as the ability to enhance your mental clarity and performance. A cup of tea contains catechins, caffeine, and theanine:
When researchers reviewed the scientific data from 21 green tea studies, it was clear that the brain is beneficially affected by green tea’s components, caffeine, catechins (EGCG), and theanine. These natural components of tea enhanced attention and other cognitive functions, and had positive effects on mood, promoting relaxation and calmness. The beneficial effects of green tea could not be attributed to any one compound found in green tea. The natural components in green tea work best when consumed as a cup of tea. As such, in times of stress, take a breath, bite into a hunk of dark chocolate (if you so desire), and put the kettle on to brew a cup of fresh leaf tea.
(Yes, this witty blog was made possible by a calm mood and attentive brain thanks to a morning spent sipping a few cups of fresh, loose leaf green tea sponsored by Millennia Tea.)
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Metabolic effects of dark chocolate consumption on energy, gut microbiota, and stress-related metabolism in free-living subjects. J Proteome Res 2009;8(12):5568-5579.
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