MY ACCOUNT

Stress

Quick start tips for healthy stress

You are on a quest for your 100 Year Heart, and you are feeling better than ever. You have more energy, feel invigorated, and have even been able to reverse your heart arrhythmia through positive lifestyle changes. You are on top of the world.

Then out of the blue, you are fired from your job. This single act sets you on a downward spiral into chronic stress. You’re worried about how you will pay bills, what you will do for insurance, and what your family and friends will think of you.

You stop exercising as often, you binge-eat ice cream every night, and you slowly start to crumble under the weight of your stress. Your blood pressure spikes, your heart arrhythmia returns, and you gain five pounds. You are plagued by stressful thoughts, unable to sleep, and have difficulty focusing throughout the day.

Your body is rebelling against chronic stress, and eventually, if left unchecked, this stress will kill you.

The brain and the body are interconnected, and when we neglect one, the other suffers. But there is hope! Stress doesn’t control you. In this guide, we’ll dig into the benefits of acute stress, the danger when it becomes chronic, and ways to reclaim control of your life and make your stress work for you.

A history lesson:

Why Stress has Such a Bad Name

Eat or Be Eaten

Close your eyes and picture yourself in a dark jungle. You have a rudimentary spear clutched in your hand and are navigating the dense underbrush by the pale light of the waning moon.

Your tribe depends on you to bring home an animal, as food has grown scarce with the oncoming winter. Suddenly, you hear a rustling in the trees behind you, and a low, guttural growl pierces the heavy silence of the night.

This noise triggers a cascade of hormones, activating your “fight or flight” response. The sympathetic nervous system kicks into gear, releasing adrenaline and noradrenaline. This triggers the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, and cortisol pumps through your body.

Your instincts take over. Your heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing rate go into danger mode, revving up like an overclocking computer.

Your muscles start to tense, your pupils dilate, and your skin becomes pale and drained of color as your body instinctively redirects blood flow to your muscles, brain, legs, and arms. Incredibly, even your natural blood-clotting ability improves, protecting you from fatal blood loss should the animal attack.

Your senses are heightened, and your body responds appropriately to the perceived threat. This acute stress and your body’s preparation could save your life, giving you the ability to flee from danger or stand and fight.

After you manage to run back to the relative safety of your village, your body slowly (about 20 to 60 minutes later) returns to a normal, relaxed state as the parasympathetic nervous system takes over.

For thousands of years, this was daily life for humanity—short bursts of intense, acute stress were necessary for continued survival. The people with the best stress response were the fittest, the strongest, and the most likely to survive and procreate. Meaning this natural predisposition toward acute stress is intertwined with our genetic evolution.

Stress was good. It saved lives.

So when did it all go wrong?

The rise of a stressed-out culture

As civilization became more developed and life on this planet started to change, the body’s natural response to stressful situations stayed the same. But instead of fending off a predator or chasing an animal on a hunt, our primal stress reaction now responds to job pressures, relational issues, and traffic on the way to work.

It is possible to experience brief bursts of beneficial, lifesaving stress that improve focus and allow you to accomplish a goal. However, many people live in stress overdrive, wearing out the overworked cardiovascular system and increasing the risk of heart conditions.

Humans are not meant to stay in that heightened state. Stress is no longer used as nature intended. Modern stressors (in general) are usually not “life or death,” but our body doesn’t know that. It pulls out all of the stops to keep you alive when in reality, you’re just worried about an awkward conversation or that work project you’re behind on.

Unlike our ancestors, who would fight off the bear and move on, our bear follows us, leaving us stressed and ragged.

You’re not fighting a bear — you’re fighting marriage problems, health concerns, or money troubles. These aren’t issues that you can battle or run away from, yet your poor, hardworking sympathetic nervous system still responds.

Our bodies only have one instinctual reaction to stress. The same process occurs whether we are stressing about public speaking or outrunning a volcano.

Sympathetic vs. Parasympathetic

It is crucial to define parasympathetic and sympathetic to understand the stress response fully.

Parasympathetic: This is known as the “rest and digest” state. It is responsible for your ability to relax, engage in sex, conserve energy, and regulate bodily functions like digestion.

Sympathetic: Also called the “fight or flight” response. This is triggered in the event of a perceived threat and activates your body’s stress hormones and survival instinct.

The autonomic nervous system regulates these systems, which control involuntary processes like heart rate, breathing, digestion, sexual arousal, and blood pressure.

Chronic stress means that you never (or rarely) return to your pre-stress baseline. Your body thinks that the stress is never over. This overloads the parasympathetic nervous system and paves the way for a whole host of imbalances that contribute to disease throughout your body.

Simply put — acute stress is good and can be life-saving. Chronic stress is bad and could kill you.

Ways Stress Impacts Heart Function

1. Raises heart attack risk

Chronic stressors take a toll on the heart. Though stress is often good and helpful in the short term, regular, persistent, uncontrolled pressure produces a perfect storm of conditions that directly impact heart attack risk.

Studies show that patients with coronary heart disease had an increased risk of an acute cardiovascular event due to mental stress-induced ischemia (inadequate blood supply to the heart muscles).

Research published in The Lancet in 2017 shows that resting metabolic activity within the amygdala, the brain region primarily associated with emotional processes, could predict the development of cardiovascular disease even after adjusting for existing cardiovascular risk factors.

This study found a relationship between neural tissue activity and cardiovascular events. The brain, bone marrow, and arterial inflammation all contribute to cardiovascular disease in a body under stress.

Not only can stress increase the risk of heart attack, but it can reduce your chances of surviving one. A clinical research study published in The American Journal of Medicine found that cardiac rehabilitation patients with high psychosocial stress were four times as likely to die as those with low-stress levels.

2. Increases atherosclerosis risk

Atherosclerosis, caused by plaque buildup, reduces blood flow to the heart from narrowed arteries. This condition can lead to numerous cardiovascular events such as heart attack and stroke.

Studies suggest that stress initiates a chronic inflammatory process, contributing to atherosclerosis. Stress could cause 40 percent of atherosclerotic cases in patients with no other known risk factors.

3. Raises blood pressure

Though many other effects of chronic stress are noticeable, you likely don’t know if you have high blood pressure. Uncontrolled hypertension is linked to an increased risk of heart disease and cardiovascular conditions.

When your body is under stress, your blood pressure naturally rises. Your heart rate increases, and your blood vessels narrow. When this stress circuit is activated for prolonged periods, you can experience chronic stress-related hypertension that impacts your heart health.

4. Contributes to AFib

In times of chronic stress, continuous activation of the sympathetic nervous system can contribute to a dysfunctional nervous system that cannot process inflammation. This state contributes to the development of many heart conditions, including heart arrhythmias such as atrial fibrillation (AFib).

Many people with AFib are incredibly ambitious and high achievers. While this isn’t inherently bad, an extremely stressful life causes a severe stress imbalance and strains the heart, kicking it out of rhythm.

5. Leads to weight gain

It is well established that a body carrying excess weight is at a higher risk of cardiovascular disease. Stress and weight gain are intrinsically linked — studies suggest that unchecked cortisol in the body could contribute to weight gain.

However, the primary connection between stress and weight gain is negative lifestyle choices made by a person experiencing extreme stress. Many people struggle with physiological cravings for comfort food when under stress and turn to emotional eating in times of vulnerability.

Of course, this uncontrolled binge eating can be deadly and contribute to increased weight, higher insulin levels, increased cortisol, and higher total cholesterol, negatively impacting heart function.

6. Contributes to diabetes

The metabolic process breaks down when the body is under stress for prolonged periods. Stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline can interfere with insulin in your body, eventually leading to insulin resistance and increasing the risk of diabetes. Studies suggest that those with anxiety, depression, or chronic stress are at a higher risk of developing diabetes.

People with diabetes are twice as likely to have heart disease or stroke than people without diabetes.

Other effects of chronic stress:

Chronic Pain

High cortisol levels can contribute to headaches and cause inflammation and tense muscles.

Skin Conditions

Stress doesn’t just destroy the inside of your body. It is linked to skin issues like acne, atopic dermatitis, and increased signs of aging. Chronic stress can also lower your wound-healing capabilities.

Sleep Disruptions

If you’ve ever lain awake at night with racing thoughts, you’ve experienced stress-related sleep disturbances. Studies indicate that stress leads to fatigue, daytime drowsiness, low energy, and insomnia.

Depression

Stress and anxiety and depression are closely linked. Many people experience depression after becoming overwhelmed by prolonged periods of chronic stress and find it hard to regain a balanced mood. Pro-inflammatory cytokines, chemicals released during the stress response, could also trigger inflammation which contributes to depression. 

Digestive Disturbances

This goes both ways; not only can chronic stress wreak havoc on your gut health, but studies show that microbial imbalances could contribute to mental health illnesses like depression and anxiety. Gastrointestinal diseases such as Chron’s and ulcerative colitis are also linked to stress.

Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)

Because chronic stress contributes to an unchecked inflammatory response in the body, arthritis is a natural result of a high-stress life. This condition causes the immune system to attack the joints and tissues in your body and leads to chronic pain and stiffness.

Cancer

Though the research doesn’t indicate a direct cause and effect relationship between stress and cancer, evidence suggests that poor lifestyle choices made by people under stress contribute to cancer development.

High cortisol levels can contribute to headaches and cause inflammation and tense muscles.

Stress doesn’t just destroy the inside of your body. It is linked to skin issues like acne, atopic dermatitis, and increased signs of aging. Chronic stress can also lower your wound-healing capabilities.

If you’ve ever lain awake at night with racing thoughts, you’ve experienced stress-related sleep disturbances. Studies indicate that stress leads to fatigue, daytime drowsiness, low energy, and insomnia.

Stress and anxiety and depression are closely linked. Many people experience depression after becoming overwhelmed by prolonged periods of chronic stress and find it hard to regain a balanced mood. Pro-inflammatory cytokines, chemicals released during the stress response, could also trigger inflammation which contributes to depression.

This goes both ways; not only can chronic stress wreak havoc on your gut health, but studies show that microbial imbalances could contribute to mental health illnesses like depression and anxiety. Gastrointestinal diseases such as Chron’s and ulcerative colitis are also linked to stress.

Because chronic stress contributes to an unchecked inflammatory response in the body, arthritis is a natural result of a high-stress life. This condition causes the immune system to attack the joints and tissues in your body and leads to chronic pain and stiffness.

Though the research doesn’t indicate a direct cause and effect relationship between stress and cancer, evidence suggests that poor lifestyle choices made by people under stress contribute to cancer development.

Stress can also lead to:

  • Hair loss
  • Weakened immune system
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Reduced libido
  • Hormonal imbalance
  • Ulcers

Can you die from a broken heart?

If you’ve ever experienced extreme grief or sadness, you’ve likely felt it, that sharp pain in your chest that you could only describe as a broken heart. While the heart can’t break, this extreme emotional response could lead to stress cardiomyopathy. 

This cardiovascular event, known as takotsubo cardiomyopathy (or broken-heart syndrome), doesn’t follow the standard rules for heart disease. It isn’t related to blocked arteries but is from an extreme emotional or physical shock, essentially an overload of stress and an artery spasm from an epinephrine surge.

Symptoms include chest pain and shortness of breath and mimic heart attack symptoms. Arrhythmias can also occur with this syndrome.

Though broken heart syndrome can be dangerous, most people recover within a few weeks. Middle-aged and older women are at a higher risk of developing broken heart syndrome.

Mental problems and how to deal with them are rarely discussed in the short office visit with a primary care doctor. If the subject comes up, going after the cause is not likely — the pharmaceutical approach is always first in line. One nation under Prozac has to stop.

Dr. Jack Wolfson

Why Your Doctor Doesn't Talk about Stress

Modern medical professionals are not trained to find the root cause of disease. In their eyes, the human body is inherently broken, and surgery and medication are the only answers. Rather than taking the time to identify stress as a contributing factor and giving the patient tools to harness the body’s innate healing ability, doctors prescribe drugs that simply cover up disease. 

Or, if they do identify stress as a component of your illness, they simply say, “don’t be so stressed.” Not very helpful, is it?

The mind is a powerful force for healing. But because a healthy mental state cannot be bottled or prescribed, your conventional doctor likely won’t even consider the physical toll that chronic stress can take on your health.

Anxiety and the Heart

"There is no data suggesting psychiatric drugs decrease cardiovascular events.”

- Dr. Jack Wolfson

Anxiety conditions are the result of an overactive or imbalanced sympathetic nervous system. When the body perceives a threat, it sets off the acute stress response. There is usually no immediate danger or reason for this stress response to be activated in people with anxiety conditions. 

Chronic stress and anxiety are different, as anxiety is usually long-term periods of intense fear and worry, often without an identifiable stressor. People with anxiety disorders often feel tired a lot, have difficulty concentrating, have insomnia, and have trouble functioning normally throughout their day.

Studies suggest that people with diagnosed anxiety disorders such as panic disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and generalized anxiety disorders are up to 26 percent more likely to develop heart disease. The reverse is also true; after a major cardiac event such as an acute coronary syndrome (ACS), 20-30 percent of patients experience increased anxiety levels. 

Anxiety can produce an adrenal surge, leading to an abnormal heart rhythm and further complications. People with anxiety often have heart attacks, and heart attacks can lead to the development of anxiety. Plus, many of the symptoms are the same for both conditions, such as chest pain, tightness in the chest, and breathing issues.

Lifestyle changes are always a great place to start and benefit anyone with heart disease or anxiety. However, many people diagnosed with anxiety disorders may need professional help. 

Remember, pharmaceuticals aren’t always the answer! These drugs merely cover up an existing condition and can leave you feeling foggy and mentally clouded. Many prescription drugs contribute to anxiety and stress. 

Speak to your holistic doctor for alternatives to medication if you believe you have anxiety and are concerned about your risk of heart disease. Lifestyle modifications and appointments with a licensed therapist can be incredibly beneficial.

"Anxiety leads to heart attacks and irregular heartbeats"

- Dr. Jack Wolfson

All stress is bad...

Or is it?

Didn’t we just establish that chronic stress is killing people? How could we turn around and say stress isn’t evil? Before we get too confused, let’s go back to science. 

A large study from the University of Wisconsin-Madison might change the way doctors and researchers approach the idea of stress. This study involved 29,000 people and used a questionnaire to determine their stress level and perception of stress. 

Eight years later, researchers found that those who reported high levels of stress and perceived stress as harmful to their health increased their risk of premature death by 43 percent. On the contrary, people who responded to the survey and indicated a lot of stress but didn’t believe that stress was affecting their health were at the lowest risk — even lower than people who indicated almost no stress in their life. 

Wait, does that mean that stress is good, but thinking stress is bad is really harmful? Maybe. 

Stay far, far away from artificial sleeping pills, as even occasional use of sleeping pills could increase your risk of death and prove more harmful than interrupted sleep.

Speak with a natural doctor to see what supplements are right for you.

Changing your mind about stress

“The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another.”

– William James

When stress and the mind work in harmony (not fighting against one another), the body can accomplish incredible things. 

Health psychologists are now starting to look at stress in a new light. Rather than this constant battle to eliminate and reduce the stress response, researchers suggest that it’s time to reframe stress and make it work for you. View it as something that energizes you and prepares your body for action. 

Your heart rate elevates, and your breathing becomes faster. These are ways that your body is getting more oxygen to the brain to help enable you to make quick decisions and function at a higher level. 

The truth is, you will never be able to eliminate every area of stress in your life, and you won’t always be able to relax and wrangle your stress response to your will. Life is inherently stressful, and trying to fight that stress could be the real killer. So what’s the answer?

Harnessing the power of stress

We’ve established that fighting off stress only increases stressful emotions, and we know that believing that stress is harmful contributes to an early death. The key to reframing your thoughts around stress is to stop believing that stress is something to be feared and attacked. It is a weapon you can wield to improve your life.

This isn’t a suggestion to seek out the most stressful situations and circumstances — avoiding stress where you can is still the best option. But for those stressors you can’t avoid, trust your instincts to look out for you and enable you to handle difficult situations better. 

The truth is, you will never be able to eliminate every area of stress in your life, and you won’t always be able to relax and wrangle your stress response to your will. Life is inherently stressful, and trying to fight that stress could be the real killer. So what’s the answer?

Benefits of Acute Stress

Stress acts as an accelerator: it will push you either forward or backward, but you choose which direction

– Chelsea Erieau

Here are a few ways that moderate acute stress works for you rather than against you:

Builds resiliency

Resiliency is the concept of mental elasticity or the ability to spring back into shape when stretched. Stressful situations create this resilience inside of you that allows you to respond better the next time you are confronted with a difficult or uncomfortable task.

Protects your immune system

That “fight or flight” response activated when you experience acute stress stimulates the immune response as your body prepares to fight off danger and infection. This can improve your body’s wound-healing capabilities and decrease your risk of sickness. Researchers have found that norepinephrine, released early in the stress response, leads to this immune-cell mobilization. 

Remember, this is only referring to acute stress. Chronic stress can interfere with the function of the immune system.

Boosts brain function

Acute stress strengthens the connection between the brain’s neurons and boosts productivity and mental clarity.

Do you work best under a deadline? This might be why:

Animal studies have found that acute stress in rats doubled the production of new brain cells and contributed to increased performance in a memory test two weeks later. According to the researchers, the effects of this nerve cell proliferation were seen two weeks later because it takes time for the cells to become mature, functioning neurons. 

Essentially, moderate stress can improve brain function and boost mental capabilities over time. 

Stress is not the bogeyman or some significant hurdle to overcome. After all, our bodies are inherently perfect, and the stress response wouldn’t exist unless it served a critical purpose. The goal is reframing your perception of stress, understanding what stress is good, and not letting bad stress overtake your life. This mindset could directly impact your health and help you achieve your 100 Year Heart.

A case study:

Jenny Brown and her Quest to Reduce Stress

Jenny Brown was a middle-aged woman with a high-profile job, two teenage children, and a seat on her local city council. Her life was constantly, go, go, go. She rushed her kids from one after-school activity to the next, all while climbing the corporate ladder and pursuing public service. 

Six months ago, that all came to a screeching halt. While sitting in her office on a typical Tuesday afternoon, Jenny Brown had a heart attack — an event that would change her life.

After being released from the hospital and thankful to be alive, Jenny knew it was time to make some changes. She cleaned up her diet, started exercising regularly, and decided to reduce stress in her life. She knew that stress had played a role in her heart attack, and she was determined to fight it.

Jenny had read that taking baths and journaling could help reduce stress, but where was she supposed to find time to do that? Even thinking about taking a bath was stressful. She couldn’t stop thinking of her mile-long to-do list. 

The very thought of reducing stress was contributing to her stress level. 

Jenny needs to stop trying to eliminate stress. She needs to reframe it to recognize that while stress can negatively impact your health, the bigger problem is the influence you let stress have over your life. 

Stress doesn’t control you — you can harness its power, escape the cycle of chronic stress, and achieve your 100 Year Heart by changing your mindset and reframing stress.

"To experience peace does not mean that your life is always blissful. It means that you are capable of tapping into a blissful state of mind amidst the normal chaos of a hectic life.”

- Jill Botte Taylor

How to reframe stress

  1. When you start experiencing negative stress feelings, remove yourself from the situation, if possible, and find a quiet area.
  2. Close your eyes and allow yourself to become aware of every area of tension in your body.
  3. Take a few deep breaths and slowly and intentionally release any clenched muscles and recenter yourself. 
  4. Allow yourself to smile slightly (the simple act of smiling causes your brain to release neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin and reduces your heart rate).
  5. Instead of getting rid of the stressful emotions, allow yourself to process them and remind yourself that stress can be a good thing. It can give you energy and help you think.
  6. Use this new perception to reenter the situation with a fresh mindset and a positive outlook. View it no longer as a traumatic, stressful circumstance out of your control but an opportunity for you to bravely overcome an obstacle.

Is Stress Genetic?

Do you feel like you’re constantly stressed out and unable to cope? You might need to blame your great-grandparents.

Animal studies have shown that stress has a compounding effect over generations. In one particular study, researchers evaluated the stress levels of a group of lizards that had lived near a fire ant colony for 30 generations compared to a group that was not affected by the ants. A low-stress society compared to a high-stress society. 

They found that transgenerational exposure to stress influenced the lizard’s stress physiology in adulthood more than early life stress. Though this is an animal study and would need to be repeated in humans before a cause and effect relationship could be established, the results are intriguing.

Human studies have also shown that prenatal stress makes people more vulnerable to emotional disturbances. Plus, many children are not breastfed, increasing the chances of mental health problems.

At Natural Heart Doctor, we believe that the human genetic code is perfect. Your body has everything needed to succeed, and virtually every health condition is lifestyle or environment-related. However, generations of poor coping mechanisms, trauma, or unhealthy choices add up and could put you at a certain predisposition for a negative stress response. 

Remember, not all stress and anxiety are inherited, and there is no excuse for letting it reign unchecked in your body. You have the tools you need — now is the time to break the cycle. Regain control of your stress and make it work for you. 

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Stress Quiz

Sometimes it can be hard to figure out if you are experiencing chronic stress. Take this simple quiz to help you identify your stress level:

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11 ways to manage chronic stress

“Stress is more than merely job-related; poor nutrition and lifestyle choices create stress and increase the risk of heart problems.”

- Dr. Jack Wolfson

As we mentioned above, focusing on “fighting stress” will hurt your heart even more. Instead, change your relationship with stress for a healthier mindset and body. It is crucial to have stress-management techniques to help you relax and keep you from getting overwhelmed.

1. Deep breathing or mindfulness meditation

Calling attention to your breathing brings you more centered awareness and can activate the parasympathetic nervous system. Studies show that this mind-body training helps you process stress, reduces anxiety, and alleviates emotional exhaustion. Any deep breathing technique is effective; just do whatever works for you.

Try This:

  1. Go to a dark, quiet room and lie down on your back on a comfortable surface. If you can’t do this, simply close your eyes wherever you are. 
  2. Place one hand over your stomach and the other on your chest. 
  3. Breathe in through your nose, feeling the air fill your belly first, then your ribs, then your chest. 
  4. Release the breath in three parts, feeling it travel back down through your chest, ribs, and belly. 
  5. Focus on your breathing and do this five times until you feel calm and centered. 

The 4-7-8 breathing technique is another well-known method for inducing relaxation through breathing. Breathe in for four seconds, hold that breath for seven seconds, and exhale slowly for eight seconds. Focusing on counting the seconds is a great way to clear your mind.

2. Talk (and laugh) it out

Most people don’t associate feelings of stress with the “love” or “cuddle” hormone oxytocin. This bonding hormone plays a role in breastfeeding, childbirth, sex, and physical intimacy. However, studies suggest that natural oxytocin levels could also be higher in people under stress. 

This research suggests that oxytocin could alleviate the “fight or “flight” stress response and contribute to the “tend and befriend” response after a stressful situation. Oxytocin could help you reach out and talk to others after experiencing stress, as it is the natural human condition to desire that connection and emotional support. 

While you’re at it, don’t forget to laugh. Laughter has been associated with an improved mood, boosted immunity, and relaxed muscles. It’s practically impossible to feel stressed or anxious while laughing!

Try This:

Bottling up your feelings is never a good idea. Develop a support system and talk to your trusted friends and family about your stressors — this is the body’s natural inclination. Don’t fight it! Embrace the oxytocin and surround yourself with people who care about you.

3. Try gratitude journaling

While journaling about your day can be an effective way to detox from any emotional burdens and channel relaxing thoughts, a gratitude journal could be even more beneficial. 

Rather than simply brain-dumping whatever comes to mind, use your journal to write down all of the things you are grateful for on a particular day. This mental exercise reframes stress, helps you cultivate a positive mindset, and slowly changes your emotional response to stressors.

Try This:

Even if you don’t have a fancy journal on hand, grab a simple composition notebook and start writing. Aim for at least five things every day that made you smile or general things in your life that you’re grateful for. When you are feeling stressed or anxious, read over your journal and remember all of the good in your life.

4. Learn to say “no”

Many people find themselves in dangerous cycles of chronic stress because they are unwilling to say “no.” Sometimes it isn’t healthy to take on more responsibilities at work, and overcommitting socially can leave you feeling burned out. Declaring “no” and setting boundaries can enable you to take control of your own life and give you time and mental clarity to deal with unavoidable stressors. 

Set realistic goals for yourself and be mindful of things you cannot control or change.

Try This:

To regain an appropriate stress response, try sticking to set hours at work, only planning one social activity per week, and avoiding spontaneous plans. After a few months, slowly start saying “yes” again to things you enjoy but only if you can do so without relapsing into a stress cycle.

5. Get active every day

Any form of movement reduces the effects of chronic stress and triggers beneficial, acute stress as you push your muscles and stretch your body. It is one of the best ways to balance stress, reduce the negative emotional consequences of stress, and restore a sense of calm in your life. Regular, consistent exercise has been connected to decreased anxiety and depression. 

Try This:

Get outside and go for a brisk walk or a light jog. Yoga and tai chi are also excellent stress-busting exercises as they utilize the power of deep breathing combined with stretching to get you sweating and focused.

Put on some music and have an impromptu dance party when you start feeling stressed. The music and the free movement get your heart rate up and release endorphins that help boost your mood. Whatever activity you do, get moving every day.

6. Change your diet

What you put into your body fuels your physical and mental wellbeing. When you feed your system processed, chemical-laden, fake food, it won’t operate effectively or handle stress very well. Blood sugar fluctuations from refined carbohydrates trigger adrenaline production and contribute to severe mood swings. 

Many people crave unhealthy food, excessive alcohol consumption, and tobacco when under stress. Stop using tobacco completely and limit alcohol consumption to help reduce your chronic stress response.

Eating a diet rich in whole foods like fruit and vegetables can reduce stress levels. Real, organic food is also full of beneficial nutrients and vitamins that keep your body healthy and allow your heart to function optimally.a

Try This:

Ditch any processed food in your home, cut out refined sugar, and eat a clean, 100 Year Heart Diet full of organic vegetables (especially leafy greens), grass-fed meat, and heart-healthy dietary fats like nuts, coconut oil, and avocado.

7. Utilize essential oils

Essential oils are powerful for relaxation and can help improve mental clarity and reduce the adverse effects of chronic stress. Rose, roman chamomile, sandalwood, and more all have calming benefits. 

Lavender is the most famous and perhaps the most effective essential oil for managing stress. It can improve sleep, decrease anxiety disorders, and even reduce depression. Citrus also boosts mood and lowers stress chemicals in the body. 

Try This:

Diffuse pure lavender or citrus oil any time you are experiencing high levels of stress or before bed to help reduce insomnia and aid in your sleep.  

8. Get Sleep

This can be difficult, as chronic stress often leads to insomnia and poor sleep quality. The more tired you are, the more stressed you will be. Prioritize getting at least eight hours of sleep each night to give your body a chance to calm down and heal.

Try This:

Yoga or deep breathing before bed can reduce stress and help you sleep. Diffuse lavender essential oils, go to bed as close to sundown as possible, and avoid blue light devices after dark. Taking these steps to reclaim healthy sleep is crucial for stress management. 

9. Get Outdoors

Sunshine is the best prescription there is. Get outside and turn your face to the sun to soak in its life-giving, stress-reducing rays. Vitamin D is critical for mental health and stress relief, and the best source is the sun. Lack of sunshine is linked with increased depression, while sun exposure can boost cognitive function and alleviate stress. 

Try This:

Get outside for at least 15 minutes a day with no sunscreen and no clothes (if possible) to give your body what it needs to produce vitamin D. 

Grounding, exposing your bare feet to the natural earth and its healing energy, is an excellent way to jump-start the healing process and recharge your body.

Other tips for reducing stress

  • Visit a chiropractor

Related Post: Why Your Heart Loves Chiropractic Care

  • Get a massage
  • Listen to soothing music
  • Join a support group
  • Minimize environmental toxins

Related Post: How to Minimize the Toxins in Your Life

  • Try a digital detox
  • Practice better time management

Related Post: You Need a Digital Detox

Stress Support Supplements:

As we mentioned, poor nutrition choices directly impact stress and anxiety levels. When you aren’t getting proper vitamins and minerals, your body cannot function. Quality nutritional supplements can help provide the support necessary for good physical and mental health.

Remember, supplements are not a substitution for a clean, organic diet. These supplements work alongside stress reduction techniques, clean eating practices, and regular exercise. 

Magnesium

Supplementing magnesium is an excellent way to restore your body after long-term chronic stress. It can lower chronic cortisol levels and reduce neuroinflammation (inflammation in the brain), which can clear your mind and help you relax. Magnesium is an excellent choice if you struggle with anxiety and are looking to replace your prescription medication with a safe, natural choice. 

B-Vitamins

Fish, meat, and leafy greens are all excellent sources of B vitamins. However, if you struggle with stress in your life or have a vitamin B deficiency, supplementation could be beneficial for stabilizing your mood. 

Studies have shown that B-complex vitamins could enhance cognitive performance, reduce stress, and alleviate mental fatigue. B vitamins could even help improve symptoms of anxiety.

Testing

Heavy metals and toxins in the environment and your body could be contributing to your stress levels. Get tested to determine your toxic burden and eliminate these physical stressors from your life.

Other vitamins

Vitamin D, vitamin C, and omega-3 fats could also help reduce stress.

Taking Control of your Stress

Everyone has their purpose and passion in this life. Is your stress keeping you from pursuing that passion? Here at Natural Heart Doctor, we are dedicated to helping you become the best version of yourself and giving you the tools you need to live in health and wellness. 

“You can achieve your 100 Year Heart by reframing stress and cultivating a hopeful, peaceful mindset.”

Take a few deep breaths, give yourself grace when you stumble into a stress cycle, and get back up again, ready to take on new challenges and use your stress response to achieve your goals. 

In this modern world, stress is king. Are you allowing yourself to be its pawn?