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How To Naturally Reduce Stress and Anxiety in 3 Simple Steps

The phenomenon at the heart of stress and anxiety is referred to as the “fight or flight response.”

When we feel threatened, our sympathetic nervous system is activated. We get a rush of stress hormones like cortisol and epinephrine along with quickened breathing and a rise in blood pressure.

The fight or flight response is a good thing if it is activated only during physically threatening events. If something like a large animal is about to attack us, this response gives us seemingly superhuman strength to run away quickly or to forge a heroic attack.

But in our modern world, the fight or flight response is activated too often by figments of our imagination. We ruminate about things like bills, relationships, and our perceptions of things that aren’t perfect in our lives. Most things people “stress out” about are not immediate dangers to them.

For many, stress hormones are chronically activated because of non-life-threatening circumstances such as having a job they don’t like. In situations like these, the fight or flight response is not being used for what nature intended. You are not staring down an angry bear about to attack; instead, you are thinking about how much you hate your workplace.

The Physical Effects of Chronic Stress/Anxiety

Chronic stress has many damaging effects on the body. Along with the rise of stress hormones comes increased oxidative stress and increased blood sugar levels, both of which can damage the tissues of your body[1].

Even though you are not staring down an angry bear, the same bodily events are triggered as if you were. There is the spike in stress hormones and everything that follows them.

Chronic stress has many damaging effects on the body. Along with the rise of stress hormones comes increased oxidative stress and increased blood sugar levels, both of which can damage the tissues of your body

Increased blood pressure, which can damage blood vessels and set the stage for plaque buildup, is another bad effect of chronic stress. Researchers have also noted that stress lowers the immune system’s effectiveness in fighting threats [1]. So you will be more susceptible to colds, flu, and cancer if you are continuously stressed.

Is it any wonder why stress is considered a “causal agent” or one thing that can cause degenerative diseases like cardiovascular disease, diabetes mellitus, arthritis, and Alzheimer's [2]?

Is it any wonder why stress is considered a “causal agent” or one thing that can cause degenerative diseases like cardiovascular disease, diabetes mellitus, arthritis, and Alzheimer's [2]?

Chronic stress will also have numerous bad effects on brain health. Stress causes the destruction of neurons, which can lead to depression as well as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s-like symptoms and decline in memory [3].

Calming Stress and Anxiety

Mainstream medicine treats anxiety with a class of medications called benzodiazepines. These are heavy-duty drugs and have a litany of side effects.

Side effects include poor balance or coordination, slurred speech, memory problems, trouble concentrating, stomach upset, confusion, etc.

Benzodiazepines like Valium, Xanax, and others can also produce dependence and tolerance, meaning that with chronic use, increasingly larger doses are needed to achieve the same stress-relieving effects.

If you choose to stop using them, the withdrawal effects can be nasty as well.

The Natural, Safer Ways to Relieve Stress

Now that we’ve established that chronic stress and anxiety are bad and that medications have a slew of side effects, let’s look at the healthy and realistic ways that can actually help conquer the stress response.

Healthy lifestyle and diet choices along with healthy natural compounds can switch stress off.

Step 1 - Make Lifestyle Changes

    1. Exercise

    Exercise is a well-known weapon in the fight against stress and anxiety. Regular exercise of your choice alleviates stress, lets off steam, and leaves you feeling more relaxed and balanced after.

    Let’s look at why exercise is so helpful. Exercise causes the release of feel-good neurotransmitters that are often found at low levels in those suffering from stress [4]. Also, more sedentary lifestyles lead to higher average cortisol levels and lower stress hormone levels later in the day. So it’s almost as if exercise expunges extra stress hormones that you don’t need [5][6].

    2. Meditation

    Meditation helps you realize that you are responsible for creating most of the stress you experience. We are in control of the reactions that we have to daily events, and we generate stressful responses in our bodies when we could choose not to.

    Try closing your eyes and simply focusing your attention on your breathing. You will feel your nervous system calm down after a few minutes. Research testifies that cortisol levels are lower after meditation [7]. Meditation is thought to balance out hormones and “reverses effects of chronic stress” [8].

    3. Yoga

    Numerous studies have shown impressive anti-stress effects of practicing yoga. Incredibly, brain scans have shown increases in the calming neurotransmitter GABA after yoga, and heart rate and anxiety decrease significantly after just a 20-minute session [9][10].

    Yoga is a great way to get a workout and powerfully de-stress.

    4. Limit Caffeine

    Don’t overdo caffeine since it can make you feel wired. If you easily get anxious, opt for a nice cup of green tea instead of coffee since green tea has about one-third the caffeine. Green tea also has the calming amino acid, L-theanine, which puts your brain into a relaxed state.

    5. Make Time for Your Hobbies

    Research has confirmed that practicing one’s hobbies decreases stress [11]. Lower cortisol, good blood pressure, and improved health will be the result [11].

    Step 2 - Eat Foods That Help Lower Stress & Anxiety

    1. Fish

    The fats you find in seafood (EPA and DHA) are critical for the proper structure of neurons in your brain. Your brain is largely made of fat, and you want the right fats to make up the membranes of your neurons. Neurotransmitters that make you feel good can better communicate with your neurons if you have the right fats in your brain.

    Many studies have demonstrated that fish fats reduce anxiety and stress. Fish oil blunts a litany of bodily signs of stress and stops the adrenals from being over-activated by stress [12]. Fish oil also appears to lower anxiety in stressed medical students [13].

    Be sure to choose smaller and cleaner fish over larger fish that can accumulate toxins like heavy metals. Sardines, anchovies, and wild Alaskan salmon are safer bets than halibut, swordfish, king mackerel, and others.

    2. Increase Fruit and Veggie Consumption

    There is plenty of convincing data that shows a correlation between higher fruit and veggie consumption and good mood/lower stress [14]. There could be many, many reasons for this correlation. Many compounds in plants improve brain health and reduce inflammation that can lead to you feeling down and stressed.

    3. Fermented Food

    Fermented foods like yogurt, kim chi, sauerkraut, and kombucha contain lots of probiotics, the good bacteria that are supposed to flourish in your gut. These bacteria have many functions such as metabolizing nutrients, minimizing inflammation that could exacerbate anxiety and even synthesizing neurotransmitters that affect your brain.

    Probiotics can have anti-anxiety effects in humans and animals as evidenced by research [15].

    4. Eat Some Beans

    There’s some evidence that bean consumption is linked with less feelings of anxiety [16]. For sure, beans help to stabilize blood sugar, feed the good bacteria in your gut, and fight mood-lowering inflammation in your body.

    5. Cut Out Sweets

    No one needs the dramatic climbs and dives of high and low blood sugar caused by processed foods like candy, desserts, and soft drinks. Your mood will suffer, and you’ll be more likely to get stressed if your blood sugar isn’t staying stable.

    And indeed, sweets have been correlated with anxiety [16].

    Step 3 - Take Natural Anti-Anxiety and Stress Reducing Compounds

    1. Ashwagandha

    Ashwagandha has been used for thousands of years in Indian ayurvedic medicine. Because of its long usage and modern research that verifies its therapeutic value, it is a superstar herb.

    Ashwagandha is an adaptogenic herb that is known for, and evidenced to, balance out hormones in the body.

    In numerous studies on humans, ashwagandha significantly reduced stress hormones [17][18]. Importantly, ashwagandha also has anti-anxiety effects on our brains, as it can mimic the calming neurotransmitter GABA, which is similar to how some anti-anxiety medications work [19]

    And when you are anxious or stressed, your stress hormones are out of whack.

    In numerous studies on humans, ashwagandha significantly reduced stress hormones [17][18]. Importantly, ashwagandha also has anti-anxiety effects on our brains, as it can mimic the calming neurotransmitter GABA, which is similar to how some anti-anxiety medications work [19].

    2. GABA

    You can also take the calming neurotransmitter GABA directly. Although ashwagandha may be more effective at increasing GABA effects in the brain, it's unclear if GABA supplements can be absorbed into the brain. Yet GABA supplements are evidenced to calm the rest of the nervous system [20]

    3. Magnesium

    You need enough magnesium to feel calm.

    Researchers have found that the body’s stress response system can become dysregulated due to magnesium deficiency [21]. Magnesium deficiency is associated with anxiety, and magnesium supplementation has been evidenced to calm people [22]. Magnesium also tends to lower cortisol [23].

    4. Folic Acid

    Researchers have correlated anxiety with deficiency in this B vitamin [24]. Folic acid is involved  in the synthesis of neurotransmitters, and obsessive-compulsive disorder is associated with deficiency as well [24].

    All indications are that you need folic acid to feel centered and not neurotic!

    5. Vitamin B12

    Vitamin B12 is needed for the synthesis of the calming serotonin neurotransmitter and other feel-good neurotransmitters [24]. B12 deficiency is associated with anxiety and depression.

    6. Chamomile

    Chamomile is a calming herb that you have probably seen in herbal mixtures and teas that are supposed to ease you into sleep at night. This herb has long been used as a “mild sedative to calm nerves and reduce anxiety, to treat hysteria” [25].

    7. 5-HTP

    This compound is in your body naturally and is a direct precursor of the calming neurotransmitter serotonin. People who are frazzled, uneasy, anxious, stressed, and depressed often have low levels of serotonin, and 5-HTP will help boost this feel good neurotransmitter.

    Researchers demonstrated 5-HTP’s anti-stress effects on young people who were suffering from romance stress [26].

    8. Vitamin B6

      Stress depletes this vitamin in the body [27]. And supplementation with vitamin B6 has also been shown to reduce stress [27]. B6 is involved in the health maintenance of the nervous system and in the synthesis of anti-anxiety neurotransmitters.

      Conclusion

      There’s no need to subject yourself to harsh anti-stress and anxiety drugs like benzodiazepines. Nature has provided us with an army of safe but effective tools to de-stress our bodies.

      Your lifestyle practices can improve mood, lower stress hormones, and help you feel at ease. And a healthy diet is critical for your body because it needs the tools to stay balanced and happy.

      The natural ingredients listed in this ebook are powerful therapies against stress. Herbs can act like sedatives, and many other ingredients can soothe your nervous system. Considering all this knowledge and all these stress-busting options, there’s no need to feel powerless in the face of anxiety and no reason to let stress ruin your well-being and long-term health!