5 Ways to Beat Daily Stress
An experienced meditation yogi once informed me "stress is natural, positive and negative, it allows us to grow if we let it." When understanding or thinking about anxiety, stress, or our reactions to daily situations it's important to understand that we need to look past feeling "stressed out", and rather understand we can only control how we react to the natural stresses we face every day.
Stress allows for a natural biological advantage for the human race. It connects our body and our brain via the autonomic nervous system, which essentially regulates our internal organs and bodily functions, our hormones, and the immune system. Our stress response helps us to allocate resources to fight a common enemy, react in a "fight, flight, or freeze" fashion and allows us to adapt to changes in our environment. For example, when you’re sleeping your heart rate and blood pressure are low, but when you exercise they both increase—this is allostasis, the processes in which your body reacts to change to regain normal activity.
Repeated exposure to stress increases our allostatic load, or wear and tear on the body, which over time can weaken our immune system, cause hormonal imbalances, digestive issues, impair cognitive function and leave our body susceptible to disease and injury.
It is impossible to avoid stress altogether because stress can be positive or negative, but if we’re able to alter our perception of it and limit the physiological response, we’re better off. This is the idea behind stress management—not necessarily to limit the triggers, but rather to increase our threshold, or the point in which stress becomes destructive to our physical and mental wellbeing. Here are 5 helpful ways you can actionably handle your daily stressors.
1. A healthy, balanced diet.
While it’s tempting to reach for sweets, processed food, or alcohol when stressed, choosing healthier alternatives is much more effective. In particular, fruits and vegetables high in vitamin C, magnesium-rich foods like leafy greens, legumes, omega 3 fatty acids found in fatty fish, nuts and seeds, and even dark chocolate all are shown to reduces surges in stress hormones.
At its core, meditation expands our consciousness beyond the ups and downs of everyday life, leaving us better equipped to handle stress. This may sound impalpable, but studies show that meditation can help regulate the autonomic nervous system when faced with chronic stress. To learn more about meditation and active breathing read our post about Meditation Techniques for Stress here
While CBD does not make you feel high, research shows that it does elicit a calming effect on the central nervous system and can reduce the activity of our primary stress hormone, cortisol. CBD oil has also been shown to help manage anxiety and the body’s stress response by helping to normalize the activity across numerous regions of the brain, including the amygdala and hypothalamus, which are most often associated with anxiety and stress. The benefits of CBD are cumulative, which means you’ll get the best results with consistent use.
The relationship between stress and sleep is much like the chicken and the egg debate. Poor sleep can increase stress levels, and increased stress levels can disrupt our sleep.
Physical fitness and regular exercise are protective against the negative emotions associated with the stress response. This means you are more resilient to the effects of acute stress, which results in less wear and tear (remember that allostatic load?) over time.