Healing Stress The Natural Way

What is stress? This word is highlighted these days to such an extent where in if you ask even a teenager he would say that yes he is stressed. Everyone is stressed at each phase of life with different situations and circumstances.

So let’s understand how stress affects our body and why is it important to deal with it! For optimal survival, the human body maintains homeostasis, which means that it wants to remain constant. The central nervous system is responsible for overseeing these functions. So when body is under stress, nervous system responds by releasing flood of stress hormones called adrenaline and cortisol, which help body for emergency action that increase your strength, stamina and reaction time to enhance your focus. It is also known as fight or flight response – body’s way to protect you.

Stress can take a toll on our body organs from respiratory to heart, digestive system, muscular system and most importantly, immune system.

Also, in the presence of cortisol and adrenaline, liver produces more glucose - energy for "fight or flight" in case of an emergency. So if you don't use all of that extra energy, glucose gets reabsorbed but if the stress is chronic it can even lead to type 2 diabetes. In short, this was a technical explanation wherein to make you understand how our body works under stressful situation.

But the truth is that stress is unavoidable. It’s a part and parcel of life and most of the adults suffer from stress related health issues. So, in spite of stress counteracting on us, let us counteract it. Here’s a list of techniques to cope up with stress without affecting the body too much.

1. Yoga: Stress is all around so hit the mat and give yoga a try. Yoga is a mind-body practice that helps reduce stress and stabilise both blood pressure and heart rate. Yoga brings physical and mental disciplines that help you achieve peaceful mind and body, thus making you feel relaxed and manage stress and anxiety better.

The health benefits of yoga include:

  • Stress reduction: Studies have shown that yoga helps reduce stress and anxiety by enhancing your mood and overall sense of well-being. 
  • Improves fitness: Practicing yoga helps improve balance, flexibility, range of motion and strength. 
  • Management of chronic conditions: Yoga helps reduce risk factors for chronic diseases such as heart disease, high blood pressure, depression, pain, anxiety and insomnia.

2) Breathing: Breathing or pranayama means “to extend the vital life force”. Pranayama, when practiced correctly, supports the parasympathetic nervous system and activates “relaxation response,” reducing stress and its effects on your body and mind. As a result, you become calm and more focused.

3) Meditation: Meditation can help ease anxiety. It alters the brain’s neural pathways, making it more resilient to stress. It's a simple posture where you need to sit up straight with both feet on the floor. Close your eyes and focus your attention on one thing.

4) Getting Vitamin O: Vitamin O is nothing but the oxygen levels in the body. Under stress, our breathing pattern changes. We take small, shallow breaths, using shoulders rather than diaphragm to move air in and out of lungs. This style of breathing disrupts the balance of gases in the body. It increases carbon dioxide levels and decreases oxygen levels, making us more anxious and worsening our stress.

5) Walk it off: Taking a walk can help lower stress hormones by increasing your endorphins which makes you feel good.

6) Think positively: Thinking positively can help calm you down and get you through each challenge. Instead of telling yourself that a task is impossible, try thinking that you will do the best you can.

7) Munch on healthy snack: Stress makes our brain deprived of energy and we feel like eating chocolates or desserts, but hold on… Try taking a few minutes for a small, healthy snack – like nuts or a piece of fruit – to fill you up.

8) Music: Listening to music you love immediately boosts your dopamine levels, giving you an instant pick-me- up.

9) Get creative: The repetitive motions involved in several crafts, (like knitting) can be soothing and help you get rid of stress by getting your mind away from your stressors. 

By the end of this, I am sure that you must have noted down the tips to deal with it the next time…

The writer is an integrative and Lifestyle Medicine expert, Holistic Nutritionist, Exercise Physiologist and Founder - Pure Nutrition.

-Luke Coutinho

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