Written by Lauren Curl-Ferrell on December 13, 2021. Medical Data sourced from National Institute of Health.
70% of adults in the United States say they feel stress or anxiety daily.
Would it be okay if I got a little candid here? I have a lot of really great ways to reduce stress and anxiety. This is a subject that I, personally, relate to immensely.
In May of this year, at the age of 35 years old, I had a mild stress related stroke. That's right, you read that right. I was 35 years old and found myself in the hospital because of a small stroke.
When the doctors were going through crossing all their t's and dotting their i's, the largest cause of my stroke was stress.
When I looked back on my day to day triggers, I discovered that I showed a lot of signs of being really stressed out. It's easy to ignore the triggers and warning signs, but when asked to reflect - they were there.
So, in this article, I'm going to briefly discuss some of these warning signs and also 17 ways to help relieve stress and anxiety.
We're going to be real in this article, because stress is no joke.
Let's do it!
How Stress Affects The Body
Some of these aren't as obviously connected to stress as the others, so here's a little graphic to help guide us along.
Should we play pin the tail on what your stress side effect is?
Insomnia is a very common sleep disorder that is derived from stress.
Constant stress and chronic insomnia can go hand in hand together, but not everyone will experience that connection. Mostly, people who have been diagnosed with anxiety are at a higher risk of experiencing insomnia symptoms.
Sleep cycle changes that can occur from life events can also lead to insomnia.
Once chronic insomnia is established, it creates an anxious feeling about sleeping and other areas of their lives. Which in turn can increase day to day stress and further create insomnia symptoms.
Chronic stress may add to the development of depression.
One study of 816 women with major depression found that the onset of depression was significantly associated with both acute and chronic stress (
Another study found that high levels of stress were associated with higher levels of depressive symptoms in 240 adolescents (
In addition, a study of 38 people with non-chronic major depression found that stressful life events were significantly associated with depressive episodes (
Research is always ongoing on the connection between these two.
Infertility problems are most likely caused by multiple things and not just stress alone.
However, it does interfere with a woman’s ability to get pregnant.
Research has shown that women with history of depression are twice as likely to experience infertility. Anxiety can also have a negative effect by prolonging the time needed to achieve pregnancy.
Studies on women undergoing In vitro fertilization showed that stress decreases the pregnancy rate.
One of the more common signs of stress. Plenty of people make claims of experiencing changes within their sex drive during stressful moments of their lives.
One small study evaluated the stress levels of 30 women and then measured their arousal while watching an erotic film. Those with high levels of chronic stress experienced less arousal compared to those with lower stress levels (
Another study made up of 103 women found that higher levels of stress were associated with lower levels of sexual activity and satisfaction (
Similarly, one study looked at 339 medical residents. It reported that high levels of stress negatively impacted sexual desire, arousal and satisfaction
High Blood Sugar
A spike in blood sugar levels can be caused by stress.
The primary stress hormone, Cortisol, is released more when there are high levels of chronic stress.
A higher serum cortisol level causes the body to decrease insulin secretion.
Insulin helps bring sugar into cells from the bloodstream, where it's used for energy. Without the proper release of insulin, more sugar remains in the bloodstream and blood sugar levels become imbalanced.
Headaches are never a good time. Stress can contribute to headaches.
One study of 267 people with chronic headaches found that a stressful event preceded the development of chronic headaches in about 45% of cases (
A larger study showed that increased stress intensity was associated with an increase in the number of headache days experienced per month (
Other common headache triggers include lack of sleep, alcohol consumption and dehydration.
A fast heartbeat and increased heart rate can also be symptoms of high stress levels.
One study measured heart rate reactivity in response to stressful and non-stressful events, finding that heart rate was significantly higher during stressful conditions (
A rapid heartbeat may also be caused by high blood pressure, certain heart conditions, thyroid disease, and by drinking large amounts of caffeinated or alcoholic beverages.
Heartburn and stress are related, but which condition causes the other?
Many people with acid reflux admit they often feel stressed and anxious, but the pain and discomfort of reflux can be extremely stressful.
During stress, your body produces hormones that slow down digestion. Food stays in your stomach longer. That means stomach acids have more time to move up into your esophagus.
Studies have shown that stress does not increase the acidity of your stomach juices. But, when these juices back up into your esophagus, you may be more sensitive to them. You may sense pain more easily when you're stressed.
Stress can be a part of causing irregular or missed periods.
Stress can affect the part of the brain that is responsible for producing hormones. It can throw hormonal levels into a tizzy, which can lead to the duration and frequency of your menstrual flow and period.
Weak Immune System
It is not some weird coincidence that we tend to get sick after a big work project or any other stressful life situations.
The American Psychological Association created a study that says that long-term stress weakens the responses of your immune system. (Source)
Essentially stress decreases the body's lymphocytes. These are the white blood cells that help fight off infection. The lower the lymphocyte levels, the more at risk you are for virus like the common cold.
Stress can hurt? Yep - a sudden onset or even prolonged periods of stress can cause pain and muscle tension. You may even get some tension headaches because of the muscle tension in the shoulders, neck, and head.
When stress levels are high, the body sends a signal to the nerves to go into "protection mode." Basically, our muscles tighten and increase tone when that happens.
Because of this muscle tightening, it can cause a build up of lactic acid in the muscles.
Here's What You Can Do About It
Finding a solution can be difficult. We'd recommend speaking to a health care professional to help guide you for the best solution for you. Here are some easy at home remedies that you can do to combat stress.
Let's Get Physical
Exercise can relieve mental stress. It's one of the most important things to do to get rid of stress.
Regular exercise has been shown to reduce anxiety as compared to people who don't (Source).
It might seem contradictory, but putting physical stress on your body through exercise can relieve mental stress.
How it works? There's a few reasons:
- Sleep: Exercise has improve the quality of sleep. Sleep qualities can be negatively affected by stress and anxiety as mentioned above.
- Stress Hormones: Exercise can lower the body's cortisol - aka the stress hormone. It also releases :::cue jazz hands::: endorphins, which are natural mood boosters and pain killers.
- Mental Wellbeing: Confidence is a side effect of exercising regularly. It helps create competency and confidence within your own body.
Try walking, jogging, dancing, yoga, really anything that gets you up and moving!
Pop a Chill Pill
I don't know why but I've always wanted to say that. "Hey, take a chill pill!"
What I mean by this is, try an all natural supplement like Stress Away. When the body undergoes physical or emotional stress, B-vitamins are depleted quickly.
Stress is a natural part of our lives, but it doesn’t have to overwhelm you and affect your body’s wellness. Stress Away –Vitamin for Stress is a natural solution to the everyday stresses that can drain you of energy, overwork your immune system, and leave you feeling exhausted and overwhelmed.
It's blend of vitamin B for anxiety, vitamin C for stress, as well as a mix of essential vitamins and minerals make this supplement for anxiety and stress the perfect, all-natural way to help your body relieve.
Some supplements can interact with medications or have side effects, so you may want to consult with a doctor if you have a medical condition.
Say hello to essential oils, scented candles, or anything with a scent that helps reduce the feelings of stress and anxiety.
Here's our picks for the scents that we believe calm the most:
- Ylang Ylang
- Orange Blossom
If you want to take it to the next level, here is a recipe for a DIY room spray that can help calm your surroundings:
- 1/4 chamomile essential oil
- 1/4 lavender essential oil
- 1/4 cedar wood essential oil
- 1/4 distilled water
Consume Less or No Caffeine
Caffeine has been proven to increase anxiety (
People have different levels of how much caffein they can consume. If you notice that caffeine is making you anxious, or jittery, just cut back.
Coffee can be healthy in moderation, but it's not for everyone. If you're a coffee addict, try to consume 5 or less cups a day.
Writing things down is a great way to handle stress.
Try some writing activities like jotting down what you're grateful for.
Gratitude is a great way to refocus the mind on what's positive in your life instead of the triggers that cause anxiety or stress.
There's a few reasons why this works. One explanation is that chewing gum causes brain waves similar to those of relaxed people. Anything is that it can help promote blood flow to the brain.
Chewing gum is a quick and efficient way to help alleviate a bit of small stress.
Social support is huge. As someone who personally has social anxiety, it can actually cause a bit more stress as well.
So if you're the type of person who enjoys face to face interaction, you should do that.
If you're the type of person, like me, who finds that draining but also could use it - try social networking online. Even if it's something small like asking a question on your own social media and commenting back and forth with a friend. Or, join a Facebook group that has like minded individuals in it.
There are plenty of opportunities to create a conversation that do not involve face to face communication.
Social support from friends and family can help you get through stressful times.
There was a study done that found that for women in particular, spending time with friends and children helps release oxytocin. Oxytocin is a natural stress reliever. This effect was titled the "tend and befriend," and creates an opposite brain effect that a fight or flight response does (
Keep in mind that both men and women benefit from friendship.
Another study found that women and men with the fewest social connections were more likely to suffer from depression and anxiety (
Have a Laugh
There's that old saying again, "laughter is the best medicine."
It's hard to feel the weight of anxiety when you are laughing.
Laughing can help to relieve tension by relaxing the muscles. Not to mention, it's a great time. It helps to alleviate that feeling of anxiousness.
Laughter is a wonderful tool to help relieve any stress response you have.
Personally, I carry a lot of stress in my jaw and end up having muscle tension there. I put on a podcast or a comedy special to help me relax my face and it's an over all win.
There are a plethora of studies that have been done to prove this but this one is my favorite. A study was done among cancer patients that found that laughter intervention provided more stress relief than a distraction technique did (
Just Say "No"
Adopt a just say no policy when there are things in your life that are causing you stress.
This is called setting a boundary. Prioritize the good and positive moments, say no to the negative triggers that cause anxiety.
If you start to feel your muscles tightening up at the idea of something, this is a great time to say no.
Solve things in the moment
By staying on top of priorities and not procrastinating, it leads to more control over stress and anxiety triggers.
Procrastination has been studied and proven to cause stress that affects health and sleep quality. It's the "scrambling to catch up" that causes the stress (Source).
Try making a to-do list and organize your tasks by priority. By setting realistic deadlines and goal planning, you'll find it easy to work down the list and less stress in doing so.
Work on the things that are must do's for the day and give yourself solid, uninterrupted time. Try to avoid switching between tasks as that can add to the stress.
Strike a Yoga Pose
Yoga is an insanely popular way to alleviate stress and get amazing exercise amongst all ages.
There are a lot of different types of yoga styles but most have the end game of syncing the mind and the body.
Breathwork and body awareness are the key ways it does this.
Some studies have examined yoga’s effect on mental health. Overall, it's been a huge win. Research has shown that yoga can enhance mood and may even be as effective as antidepressant drugs at treating depression and anxiety (Source).
In general, the benefit of yoga for stress and anxiety seems to be related to its effect on your nervous system and stress response.
It may help lower cortisol levels, blood pressure and heart rate and increase gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), a neurotransmitter that is lowered in mood disorders.
Be Present and Mindful
What is mindfulness? Well, it's that the mind is fully attending to what’s happening, to what you’re doing, to the space you’re moving through.
Our mind takes flight, we lose touch with our body, and pretty soon we’re engrossed in obsessive thoughts about something that just happened or fretting about the future.
That's where anxiety can settle in.
Mindfulness describes practices that anchor you to the present moment.
It is the basic human ability to be fully present. To be aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.
It can help combat the anxiety-inducing effects of negative thinking.
Try working on meditation and mindfulness-based cognitive therapy and stress reduction.
A recent study in college students suggested that mindfulness may help increase self-esteem, which in turn lessens symptoms of anxiety and depression (Source).
When we're learning about the powers of physical touch, the keywords oxytocin and cortisol levels stand out. When our bodies release oxytocin and lower our cortisol levels, it helps lower blood pressure and heart rate.
Both of those are symptoms of stress.
Shuffle A Good Playlist
Okay, so we all know there are songs that can really hype us up. There are songs that can put us in the mood. Songs for every emotion.
What we're talking about right now are slow-paced instrumental music. It can help lower blood pressure, heart rate, and have a reduction in stress hormones.
Try classical, indie, calming music. Or just enjoy your own thing.
Even having some nature sounds as background noise is effective in calming.
Deep Calming Breaths
Feeling a mild anxiety attack coming on? That's because your stress has activated your sympathetic nervous system which has signaled to your body to go into it's "fight or flight" mode.
While this is happening, stress hormones are sent out and you show physical signs of being stressed like quick breathing, faster heartbeat, and constricted blood vessels.
In these moments where triggers come quickly and tensions arise, try deep breathing exercises.
They can help to activate your parasympathetic nervous system and help engage your body's natural relaxation response.
Focus your awareness on your breath and really try to make them slower and deeper. Breath in through your nose.
Your heart rate will slow quickly and you'll feel at peace soon.
Get a pet / Play with one!
Interacting with pets may help release oxytocin, a brain chemical that promotes a positive mood (
Animals also provide companionship, promote more activity in your life (hello walks!), and make great cuddlers. All things that can help reduce stress.
We're only human. Take stress and anxiety day by day. If these natural solutions don't work for you, speak to your doctor.
Do your best at reducing the stress you have in your life.
Focus on exercise, physical touch, music, and mindfulness and you'll notice improvement soon enough.