We have two main divisions of the nervous system the parasympathetic and sympathetic. The parasympathetic stimulates automatic processes like “rest and digest” and the sympathetic as the “flight or fight”. During times of stress the sympathetic nervous system stimulates the release of hormones from what is referred to as the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (1). These hormones include adrenaline, norepinephrine, cortisol and angiotensin II. This hormone cocktail causes your heart rate to speed up, increased blood flow to skeletal muscles and raises blood sugar to fuel muscles for the impending fight or flight! But of all these hormones it is the atherosclerotic plaque building impact that Angiotensin II which is we need to lessen stress (2).
Although it isn’t possible to completely get rid of stress (it does serve a purpose!), we can learn to manage it better. Here are our top seven tips for reducing stress to help you release the negative energy that may be holding you back from inner peace.
1. Get enough sleep
Adequate, quality sleep is critical. Even the smallest problems feel insurmountable when you are tired. Sleep helps regulate your hormones, appetite, and mood. Aim for a minimum of 8 quality hours of sleep a night.
2. Laugh your heart out
Laughter really is the best medicine! Laughing enhances your intake of oxygen-rich air, stimulates your heart, lungs and muscles, and increases the endorphins that are released by your brain. Laughter can also stimulate circulation and aid muscle relaxation, both of which help reduce some of the physical symptoms of stress. Watch humorous movies, videos, and tv shows or listen to humorous podcasts to keep you laughing.
3. Develop a positive attitude
Negative thoughts manifest into chemical reactions that can affect your body by bringing more stress into your system and decreasing your immunity. In contrast, positive thoughts actually release neuropeptides that help fight stress and potentially more-serious illnesses. Practice positive thinking and surround yourself with positive quotes, music, and affirming people.
4. Be physically active
Exercise isn’t just good for your physical health and weight status, it can also help relieve tension and anxiety that you may be carrying around in your body. As you begin to regularly release your daily tensions through movement and physical activity, you may find that this focus on a single task, and the resulting energy and optimism, can help you remain calm and clear in everything that you do. Aim for a minimum of 10-30 minutes of activity each day. Remember that any form of exercise can provide you with mood-boosting benefits, the important thing is just to move!
5. Relax or meditate
Take some quiet time for yourself. If stress has you anxious, tense or worried, consider trying meditation. Spending even a few minutes in meditation can restore your calm and inner peace. I would recommend setting aside at least 10 to 20 minutes a day for your relaxation practice. If you’d like to get even more stress relief, aim for 30 minutes to an hour. Meditation not your style? Tai chi and yoga can deliver the same relaxation benefits.
6. Build your relationships with others
As amazing and capable as we all are, no one should have to go through hard times all alone. Building and nurturing relationships with others helps give you support and perspective. Compliment others daily, show gratitude, and applaud those who did a good job. Another important part of this- forgive. Holding onto grudges will only cause you more stress and pain.
7. Nourish yourself
If feeling stressed or anxious, food should be your ally, not your enemy. Proper nutrition is vital when managing stress. Do your best to eat balanced meals with protein, complex carbohydrates and high-quality fats every 3-4 hours. This will help keep your blood sugar balanced and will support your mood and energy. Also essential, limiting alcohol and caffeine which can deplete long-term energy stores and create anxiety or depression.
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This information is not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your physician or other healthcare professional or any information contained on or in any product label or packaging. Do not use the information from this article for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, or prescribing medication or other treatment. Always speak with your physician or other healthcare professional before taking any medication or nutritional, herbal or homeopathic supplement, or using any treatment for a health problem. If you have or suspect that you have a medical problem, contact your health care provider promptly. Do not disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking professional advice because of something you have read in this article.
Saavedra, J. M., & Benicky, J. (2007). Brain and peripheral angiotensin II play a major role in stress. Stress: The International Journal On The Biology Of Stress, 10(2), 185-193. doi:10.1080/10253890701350735
Kai M Schmidt-Ott, Shuntaro Kagiyama, M.Ian Phillips, The multiple actions of angiotensin II in atherosclerosis, Regulatory Peptides, Volume 93, Issues 1–3, 25 September 2000, Pages 65-77, ISSN 0167-0115, https://doi.org/10.1016/S0167-0115(00)00178-6. 3. Tiffany Field, Yoga research review, Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice, Volume 24, August 2016, Pages 145-161, ISSN 1744-3881, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ctcp.2016.06.005.