Most of us can attest to the fact that stress is reaching epidemic proportions in modern society. Balancing family, work, health, money, etc. is a challenge that many of us feel ill equipped to face.
Eighty percent of the doctor visits in our country are stress related. Our quality of life and health is largely determined by how we adapt and relate to daily stressors. As a normal part of life, stress enables us to get things done. However, if left unmanaged, stress can lead to emotional, psychological, and even physical problems.
Stressful situations that last over a long period of time can create an ongoing low-level stress that puts continual pressure on the nervous and endocrine systems, and can cause the overproduction of hormones. These extra stress hormones–particularly cortisone–over an extended period of time may wear out the body’s reserves leading to fatigue, depression, infertility, a weakened immune system, and a host of serious physical and psychological ailments.
Excessive stress not only takes its toll on our bodies, but strips the joy out of life and suppresses our creative instincts.
A Few Signs of Stress Overload Include:
- anxiety or panic attacks
- sadness or depression
- irritability or moodiness
- feelings of being constantly pressured, hassled or hurried
- physical symptoms such as stomach problems, headaches, or chest pain
- allergic reactions, such as rashes, eczema or asthma
- sleep disturbances, either falling asleep or staying asleep
- overindulgence in food, alcohol, smoking, or drugs
Without physical health, joy, and creativity, life can feel challenging. Dissolving stress is certainly possible, but takes a commitment to making lifestyle choices that create balance throughout our lives. Here are a few ancient techniques for eliminating stress, increasing energy, and improving emotional balance. These are some of the most powerful tools we have for achieving optimal health and preventing future disease, naturally.
5 Tips to Dissolving Stress Naturally
1) Meditation: Practiced for thousands of years in many Asian cultures, meditation has long been recognized as one of the most powerful tools we have for cultivating peace of mind and balance. Numerous studies have proven the incredibly positive effect that meditation has on stress reduction. There are literally hundreds of meditation techniques taught around the world. For beginners, the most helpful approach is to start with basic mindfulness techniques that develop both relaxation and alertness.
Once a basic ground of awareness has been stabilized, then more advanced meditation practices can be undertaken. Meditation is a practice that helps us identify with stillness and silence. It cultivates intuition and surrender. It can deeply help just about anybody, but is truly a miraculous practice for reducing stress and anxiety.
2) Gentle movement; Yoga, Tai Chi & Qi Gong: These ancient practices have also been utilized by millions of people throughout history. These practices are often considered a form of meditation which involves putting the body into a variety of poses in combination with intentional and directional breathing to induce mental clarity, increased energy, and physical strength and flexibility. The healing benefits of have been repeatedly documented by a variety of clinical studies at the NIH (National Institute for Health).
There are many forms of yoga, Tai Chi and Qi Gong, and it is best to experiment to determine which form feels the most helpful for your needs. I highly recommend combining these practices with sitting meditation, as they work synergistically to induce deep states of relaxation and reduce stress.
3) Acupuncture: One of the pillars of traditional Chinese medicine, acupuncture has been practiced for at least 2,500 years. Perhaps one of the last truly holistic forms of healthcare remaining on the planet, acupuncture works with the Qi (life force ) of the body in order to induce a variety of therapeutic effects. The safety and efficacy of this practice are well documented which accounts for its incredible surge in popularity in the Western world. Acupuncture is considered one of the most powerful treatment options for stress reduction.
Numerous studies have demonstrated the substantial benefits of acupuncture in the treatment of stress. Acupuncture improves circulation of blood throughout the body, which oxygenates the tissues and cycles out cortisol and other waste chemicals. The calming nature of acupuncture also decreases heart rate, lowers blood pressure and relaxes the muscles.
According to Chinese medicine, stress, frustration, and unresolved anger can play an important part in throwing the immune system off and allowing pathogens to affect the body. Through acupuncture, these energy blockages can be addressed. By stimulating the acupuncture points on your body, a licensed practitioner can help stagnant energy flow more smoothly, and alleviate not only the symptoms of stress and anxiety, but the stress and anxiety itself.
4) Herbal medicine: There are a variety of both Chinese and Western herbal formulas that have been clinically proven to reduce stress and create emotional balance. Herbs are much less concentrated than pharmaceuticals, which is why they have far less side effects (but can still be as effective). If you are interested in this treatment option, many acupuncturists can skillfully prescribe herbal formulas. I particularly recommend scheduling an appointment with a licensed practitioner rather than buying herbs over the counter, especially if you are someone with little knowledge of their intended usage.
5) Nutrition: Eating a diet high in antioxidants, essential fatty acids, and low glycemic carbohydrates can go a long way toward healing stress. The standard American diet (high in processed foods, saturated fat, sugar, and transfats) has been linked to anxiety, depression, and increased stress in numerous studies. Change your diet to an organic, whole foods approach and both your body and mind will reward you beyond measure. Poor adaptability to stress is often a sign that our brains are starving for nutrients that we aren’t getting from our standard American diets.
You Can Resolve Stress and Get Your Life Back
Making these lifestyle changes may not be easy in the initial phases. It is often helpful to seek out the support of a health care practitioner to guide you through these transitions. Once you start feeling the enormous payoff of making such changes, there truly is no turning back. Your stress will dissolve, your weight will decrease, and your energy will improve, not to mention the preventative measures you are taking for heart health. Isn’t that enough to warrant making a few changes?
While it isn’t always possible to remove the external forces causing stress, the ability to effectively deal with stress is a choice. Take time for yourself to cultivate the energy you need to handle your stress more skillfully and effectively.
Yours in Health,
Cally Huttar, PhD, LAc