We’re showing you these 29 ways to reduce stress and stress hormones, naturally, to start an important conversation.
That’s because we at Downsize Me often see women who are too busy to cook, too busy to exercise, too tired to make healthy choices.
“Fix me up with some quick and easy carbs, now!” they say.
“Wine helps me relax, and sleep.” That’s the affirmation.
All of that sounds like stress to me.
And stress affects so many things beyond health and weight – it accelerates aging and increases your risk of depression. It weakens your boundaries and your motivation.
Most of all, stress really messes with your hormonal systems, including robbing your body of the fuels required to make sex hormones, like estrogen.
So let’s start this important conversation and show you 29 ways to reduce stress and stress hormones, naturally!
What is Stress?
Stress is simply your body`s reaction to harmful situations.
When your body gets stressed it puts you into “fight or a flight mode” and all bodily functions adapt to that state. This has been a part of the human body and brain since day 1. It`s a hormonal response that’s there for protection.
Picture the stone age man going out for a walk and then suddenly a sabre tooth tiger appears. Immediately,
- chemicals and stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol are released
- his heart rate goes up
- his breathing increases
- his muscles tighten in anticipation of a fight
- less blood flows into internal organs such as intestines and bowel
- blood pressure increases
…and he is ready to fight, or take flight.
Then, when the sabre tooth tiger decides not to have the stone age man for brekkie and the stressful situation is over, all of the above bodily changes goes back to normal. Phew!
The stone age man can just shake the scary feelings off and get on with his life.
All these types of reactions are totally normal, even in our modern world. In small doses we won`t really make much of them.
Good Stress and Bad Stress
As you can see, stress can be pretty useful. Life-saving, even.
However, if your body is constantly exposed to stress or stressful situations, the stressors will start to have a negative effect on your body, like these:
- stomach issues
- frequent colds and infections
- difficulty concentrating
- difficulty falling asleep.
Does any of this sound familiar? I bet it does.
It is normal to feel stressed from time to time, sometimes stress can be a good thing, like just before an exam, you find that extra energy to study and push through, or before doing a presentation at work.
This type of stress doesn’t cause you any harm – it’s short term and it goes away.
Long term stress on the other hand, well, that’s a whole other kettle of fish. You’re potentially setting up a stress hormone nightmare.
It’s better to work toward lowering stress in your everyday life.
29 Ways to Reduce Stress and Stress Hormones, Naturally
Obviously, it’s important to work out some strategies to reduce your stress and avoid those negative consequences. But first of all, it is important for you to identify your major stressors in life.
Is it work, family, health or your own expectations to life, family or work? How and where does stress manifest – during the day as anxiety or food cravings, or at night as insomnia?
Some of your stressors can be easily dealt with, and some you can`t do much about.
But simply writing down and naming your stressors puts you in a position to create strategies to counteract them.
Here are my top 29 strategies to help you unwind, relax and give your body and mind a little break. Have a look at these ideas and see which ones could work for you.
You might like to experiment with 2 or 3 this week!
You don`t have to be available and responsive all the time – that’s stressful. Here are some ideas:
1. Work out a routine to check your emails less often and at set times, such as first thing at work and half an hour before you leave. Find what works for you.
2. As soon as you get home, be at home, rather than distracted.
3. Try to switch off from all sorts of screens at least 30 minutes before bedtime to help lower your stress hormone levels.
Make room for some downtime every day, doing something that gives your brain a break from all that daily sound, light and noise input we are constantly exposed to. Here are some ideas.
4. Try playing soft music or daydreaming, or even colouring in.
5. Let your brain travel, if some thought shows up, acknowledge them, but then let them fly away again.
6. Distract yourself from the daily grind and do something different – see a movie, go to a concert, go to an art gallery.
7. Consider taking up a regular hobby that you enjoy, that uses different parts of your brain – like painting, knitting, crochet. All of these consists of slow, repetitive movements which will send your brain into a meditation-like state.
You know exercise is good for you and it releases feel-good hormones like serotonin, causing these happy hormones to explode in your body. Yet exercise can easily become one of those nasty negative stressors for you if you have a negative mindset around it. Here are some ideas.
8. Do exercise that’s simple, low key and enjoyable. Go for a walk. Do some gardening. Try yoga, qi gong or Pilates. Just move around a little bit. Dance!!
9. Call it something else, like ‘activity’ or ‘movement’ to get out of the negative connotations of the word ‘exercise’.
10. Create a positive mantra when you exercise to replace any negative driving or self-talk that you’d normally come up with.
11. Get outdoors, it doesn’t matter where, at the beach, go for bush walk or have lunch in the park. Being in nature has been proven to have a positive impact on anxiety and depression. Stop and smell the roses!
Meditation and Mindfulness
Mindfulness relaxation techniques and meditations have been found to have a positive effect on stress and stress levels. People who meditate seem to cope better with stress and enjoy other health benefits such as lower blood pressure, better sleep patterns and improved concentration, just to mention a few. Here are some ideas:
12. Research and experiment with different techniques, ranging from hold/relax techniques to guided imagery and breathing techniques.
13. Lower your expectations and start small – just a few minutes at a time – and then slowly increase your time as it feels more comfortable.
14. Find an app to help you (yes, I know, I told you to log off… but this might help you with logging off). Some of them are for free, some of them comes with a fee. The Mindfulness App, Headspace and Smiling Mind are just some of the apps out there.
When you are sleeping, your body is resetting, recharging and re-energizing. If you find it hard to get enough sleep or fall asleep, find a routine that works for you. Here are some ideas to help you get better sleep.
15. Switch off all screens and devices by sunset, so your stress hormones have a change to decrease before bed.
16. Have a nice calming bath with Epsom salts – the magnesium in these is a muscle relaxant.
17. Enjoy a nice cup of chamomile tea.
18. Create a ritual that prepares your body and your mind to calm down, and allow your body to calm down.
19. Read a book or listen to music before bed.
20. Get the temperature right so you can sleep soundly.
21. Avoid alcohol, sugary foods and caffeine after about 3pm. Should you drink caffeine? Watch this and decide.
22. Avoid food in general within about 2 hours of going to sleep.
Proper breathing helps to relax you. Here are some ideas.
23. Yoga and mindfulness training teach some great breathing exercises.
24. Try to use short breathing exercises in stressful situation, before a presentation or if you are feeling out of control to help keep you grounded and focused. Focus on your breath, let it find its normal rhythm, and then count; breathing in – one, breathing out – two… continue until you reach ten, and then start again. Let your thoughts come and go, focus on your breathing and on being right here and now.
Diet and Nutrition
Healthy foods replace the vitamins and minerals that are depleted by stress.
25. Look for brightly coloured fruits, vegetables and a good protein source.
26. Enjoy plenty of water to reduce the added stress that dehydration can place on your body.
27. Include a serve of healthy fats at each main meal – they’re good for your brain.
28. Boost vitamin C and zinc intake to boost immune function
29. Enjoy spinach and almonds to increase magnesium levels, which helps relax muscles.
That’s a whole bunch of strategies that can help you reduce stress and stress hormones naturally.
Which strategies will you try? Type in the comments below and let us know.
Downsize Me Healthy Lifestyle Coach
I’m a chiropractor, physiotherapist and qualified health and wellness coach who loves helping women create healthier lifestyle habits.