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Contrary to public belief, some stress is good.
It’s a natural response in your body that’s designed to give a boost of energy and motivation. It can help you study for exams or meet difficult work deadlines.
Back when humans were hunters and gatherers, the stress response was an essential part of survival.
For example, let’s say you were foraging for berries and a tiger jumped out in front of you. Your body would immediately release a cocktail of chemicals to speed up your thinking, raise your heart rate, and even signal your liver to release glucose for extra energy.
You may know this as the fight or flight response—it’s the same thing (1).
The point of the stress response is to help us survive and perform our best.
Now we’re equipped with the same exact stress mechanism as we did thousands of years ago, but our lives are drastically different.
And that’s where the problem lies. Our bodies don’t know the difference between the stress from sitting in traffic and the stress from being confronted by a saber-toothed tiger.
Our body can cope with short-term or acute stress. But the demands of today’s world makes stress chronic, and sometimes extreme.
This kind of stress is what causes widespread damage to our bodies. It weakens our immune system, causes insomnia, depression, and increases the risk of heart disease. It also completely depletes our motivation and energy.
So how can you decrease your stress levels?
How to Fight Stress in a World of Stressors
As you can see, it’s critical to learn how to successfully manage your stress if you avoid these nasty side effects.
So here are the top 15 best ways to keep your stress levels at bay, all backed by science.
I put meditation as number 1 because it is, hands-down, the best way to fight stress—no to mention it has tons of additional benefits.
There are countless studies that show meditation can obliterate stress and improve your ability to cope with stressful things in life. (2, 3).
Studies also have even found that meditation can physically alter your brain. Specifically, it increases the amount of gray matter which is associated with memory and decision-making (4).
Believe me, I know getting into meditation can be tough. But forget all the stereotypes you’ve heard about chanting and mantras.
Instead, just sit down for 10 minutes a day and focus on your breathing. That’s it!
Eventually, you will be able to meditate for longer and even crave it.
I notice a significant difference in my ability to cope with stress when I can’t meditate for a few days.Meditation is a powerful way to reduce your stress and help you cope with any stress in the future.Click To Tweet
2. Drink Tea
There’s something about drinking tea that’s deeply relaxing.
In fact, studies show that drinking one cup of black tea every day can regulate your cortisol levels—the hormone that’s released when you get stressed.
The study also found that black tea can help you recover more quickly from stressful things in life (5). In other words, black tea makes you more resilient to stress.
You can also try passion flower tea. It contains a natural compound called chrysin that can combat stress and anxiety (6).
There are also several other herbal teas that people swear by for controlling stress. Some of the most common teas are peppermint, chamomile, lemon balm, and rose tea. But there’s limited evidence of the effectiveness of these herbal teas, so the best way to find out is to try them yourself.Studies show that drinking black tea can regulate your cortisol levels, helping you cope with stress more efficiently.Click To Tweet
Exercise, while easily overlooked, is another exceptionally effective method to reduce stress.
It never ceases to amaze me how a good workout can completely melt the day’s stresses away.
When you exercise, your body releases chemicals called endorphins. This endorphin rush is what most people call a “runner’s high.” That’s because endorphins elevate your mood and reduce stress (7).
But there’s a catch.
High-intensity workouts are shown to actually raise your cortisol levels—meaning it puts stress on the body (8). So if you want to exercise for the sole purpose of relieving stress, you may want to stick to low-medium intensity workouts like yoga.
Plus, with any form of exercise, you should really do your research. That means finding a physical trainer, or at the very least following a reputable fitness website such as Fitness Savvy to guide you.A good workout releases endorphins, feel-good chemicals which can help melt away stress.Click To Tweet
4. Laugh it Off
Sometimes a good laugh is all you need.
Several studies have found that laughter can reduce the physical effects of stress on the body (9, 10).
So if you want to unwind at the end of your day, watching a comedy or hanging out with a funny friend might be an effective way to do it.Studies show that laughter can reduce the negative effects of stress on the body.Click To Tweet
5. Conserve Your Willpower
Your willpower is a limited resource.
Every time you resist those doughnuts in the breakroom or resist looking at your phone after a notification goes off, you use up some of your willpower.
If you use up too much of your willpower, the region of your brain that is responsible for self-control gets fatigued (11).
When the prefrontal cortex gets fatigued, it’s near impossible to resist temptations and control your emotions. It makes you completely vulnerable to getting stressed out to the max.
And to make matters worse, stress can decrease the activity of your prefrontal cortex. It’s a vicious cycle.
A classic example of this when people tend to binge eat unhealthy foods when they get stressed or finish up a long week. Both are the result of a fatigued prefrontal cortex.
My point is, you need to conserve your willpower whenever possible. So here are some tips to prevent willpower burnout:
- Don’t take on too much at once
- Avoid willpower-depleting situations—instead of staring at those doughnuts during your lunch break, eat somewhere else.
- Remind yourself that nobody is perfect. Don’t be too hard on yourself when you make mistakes. It will only make things worse.
6. Adaptogenic Herbs
Adaptogens are medicinal herbs that help your body cope or adapt to stressors.
They normalize your body so stress has less of a negative effect.
Holy basil, for example, is an adaptogen that can significantly lower your body’s cortisol levels (12). Another adaptogen, called ashwagandha, was found to reduces stress biomarkers by over 55% (15).
But holy basil and ashwagandha aren’t the only adaptogens out there. Ginseng, astragalus root, licorice root, rhodiola rosea, and cordyceps are also effective adaptogens for controlling stress.
If adaptogens are up your alley, consider a super green juice powder—it contains several adaptogens and a long list of superfoods. So it may be the perfect addition to your anti-stress regimen.Adaptogens are a powerful way to help your body deal with chronic stress.Click To Tweet
7. Listen to Music
Listening to relaxing music can also effectively reduce your stress levels.
In fact, music is so effective for treating stress and a number of other mental conditions that a whole field of study is dedicated to it (13). It’s called music therapy.
It’s important to note that not any music will help you de-stress.
You need to find a genre of relaxing music that you prefer the most. Listen to it on your lunch break, during work, or at the end of the day to control your stress levels.Listen to relaxing music during work or on your lunch break to combat stress.Click To Tweet
8. Go For a Quick Walk
When I get brain fog or stressed out, I often resort to taking a short walk around the block.
Not only does this get me some vitamin D (if it’s sunny outside), it also does wonders for clearing the mind.
Current research even indicates that taking a brisk walk can reduce both mental and emotional stress (14).Going for a brisk walk in the middle of the day is an effective way to de-stress and clear your mind.Click To Tweet
9. Try Gratitude Journaling
Gratitude journaling has become immensely popular over the past 2-3 years.
And for good reason. There’s a tremendous amount of evidence that’s erupting from the scientific community.
Research strongly indicates that consistent gratitude journaling can reduce stress, and even play a major role in overcoming trauma (15).
It can also boost your self-esteem, help you sleep better, and improve the quality of your relationships.
Best of all, the practice is simple. All you do is write down 3-5 things you’re grateful for every morning and night.
If you want to give this method a try, I highly suggest the Best Self Journal–it has made a tremendous difference in my life in so many ways.Gratitude journaling can reduce stress, help you sleep better, and boost your self-esteem.Click To Tweet
Try Not to Stress Over The Effects of Stress
When the demands of life exceed our ability to cope, it can quickly snowball into overwhelm and stress.
If you live a busy life and have a stressful job, it’s easy to have extreme stress become a chronic issue—that is to say, feeling stressed on a regular basis.
Unlike when we were hunters and gatherers, the socioeconomic design of our world presents us with constant stressors.
We get stressed in traffic, about our finances, our jobs, and so on. None of these stressors existed in the past.
The point is, we are faced with more stressors than ever and it wreaks havoc on your health.
To give you a better idea of how bad it can be, here are some of the negative effects of chronic stress:
- Weakens the immune system
- Increases risk of heart attack
- Increases blood sugar levels—which is bad in the case of chronic stress
- Induces headaches
- Results in insomnia
- Promotes depression
- Tenses up muscles which can cause a wide range of issues
There’s so much more, but you get the point.When stress becomes chronic, it can cause significant damage to your body.Click To Tweet
The Bottom Line
A little bit of stress is perfectly fine. It’s actually helpful for meeting deadlines and perform your best.
The problem is, most of us don’t have a little stress. Most of us are chronically stressed thanks to the demands of modern living.
This chronic stress can cause a massive amount of damage to your body.
So it’s really important to manage it as best you can. The best way to start is by trying some of these stress reduction techniques.
But please note, everyone is different. You will have to experiment to see which method(s) work the best for you.