Science-Backed Techniques to Manage Stress and Achieve Optimal Health

November 30, 2017

In this day and age, stress has become an inherent part of life. According to the World Health

Organisation, stress, and particularly when related to work, is the second most common health
issue. Studies investigating stress have revealed a strong connection to hypertension, metabolic
Despite these findings, there are many ways that we can manage our stress to ensure that it does
not impact our mental or physical well-being or prevent us from experiencing the pleasure and joy
that this life offers us.
 
Below are a few of the many different techniques that have been scientifically proven to reduce
stress effectively.

 

Breathe easily

 

When you are very relaxed, how do you breathe? This is a good question to ask yourself when you
want to transition from a stressed state to a calm one. Consciously taking deep inhales and
exhales will send a message to your brain and body to relax. The results of stress in the body,
including a rapid heart rate, disturbed breathing, and high blood pressure are all dramatically
decreased with deep breathing.
 
There have been many studies supporting the use of this technique for stress and anxiety
management. One study took 60 pregnant women and taught them a breathing technique which
they practiced 3 times per day for 3 days. The results found that those taking part experienced
significantly less emotional stress.
 
To begin a basic technique that you can use put your hand just below your navel. Inhale through
your nose, hold the breath for a few seconds then exhale slowly and repeat until you feel relaxed.

 

Visualise calm

 

Another technique which has been found to be highly effective in reducing stress is visualizing a
calm state. This can take many different forms depending on what offers relaxation to us on a
personal level. Begin this exercise by closing your eyes, and taking a moment to picture a relaxing
scene, such as lying on a beach in the sun or taking a walk in a beautiful rainforest. Accompanying
these visualizations with music or atmospheric soundtracks can make them even more effective.
Focus on the details - the smell of the ocean or the feeling of the wind against your skin.
 
The results and benefits of this exercise have been proven by many different studies, including one
that found that it assisted people struggling with stress by ‘increasing, their general feeling of
wellbeing, increasing positive thoughts, improving their ability to cope with stressful situations,
decreasing the incidence of insomnia, and in feelings of anger and negative thinking’.
 

Do some self-massage

 

Massage relaxes the body, improves circulation and releases tension. Giving yourself a massage
will bring you back into a feeling state and the present moment. A 2010 review concluded that
massage may help older people relax by letting them enter a parasympathetic state. There are
many extra benefits associated with this technique including but not limited to:
 
- Stimulation of energy pathways
- Increased flexibility
- Alleviation of headaches
- Lessening of depression and anxiety
- Stimulation of endorphins for natural pain relief
- Boosted immune system

 

Say cheese

 

Sometimes it’s not easy to keep a smile during stressful situations, but studies show that it has
direct health benefits. A 2015 study published in Psychological Science found that smiling can
result in a lower heart rate during stressful tasks. Another study found that smiling helps to
manage anxiety by releasing endorphins and essentially making us feel happier.The next time
you’re feeling overly stressed, try to muster up a smile, even if it feels fake at first. You may be
surprised at how that changes!

 

Choose a mantra

In the early 1970’s Dr, Herbert Benson, the founder of the Mind/Body Medical Institute at Harvard

Medical School, experimented using Sanskrit mantras. He guided his subjects to sit quietly and
repeat the phrase either mentally or verbally for twenty minutes. The study found that those who
repeated the mantras for as little as ten minutes a day experienced physiological changes
including ‘reduced heart rate, lower stress levels, and slower metabolism.’
 
In this way, choosing a short, optimistic statement that focuses on your strength can drastically
improve your stress levels. For example, “Everything is well in my world.” or “I can handle this,
everything will be okay”.

 

 Do some Yoga or stretch it out

 
Yoga reduces stress levels in several ways by lifting your mood, allowing for increased
mindfulness and increasing self-compassion. Multiple studies have shown that yoga can decrease
 
By improving our state of mind, bringing us into presence and encouraging us to be kinder to
ourselves during these stressful periods in our lives, yoga is a very effective stress reliever. If
practicing yoga does not resonate, simply stretching reaps very similar benefits.

 

Journal

 

This technique has been proven time and time again to be an effective means of stress reduction.
By helping us to prioritize our concerns, track symptoms from day-to-day and engage in positive
and encouraging self-talk, journaling helps us to identify the cause of the stress or anxiety we are
experiencing. Once you have clarity on what is triggering the stressed state, you can make a
plan to resolve or accept the issue.
 
If you are new to journaling it is encouraged to write every day, even if it’s just a small amount.
Write whatever you want to express, letting the words flow freely in a place that feels relaxing -
maybe all cozied up with a cup of tea. It can become a very enjoyable activity when you realize
that you’re doing something very beneficial for your mind and body. Pennebaker believes that
journalling helps us come to terms with the stress in our lives, thus reducing the impact of these
stressors on our physical health.

 

Switch to decaf or tea

 

Caffeine is not recommended for those struggling with stress. A 2004 study revealed that
drinking coffee stimulates the cascade of hormones and increases levels of cortisol, one of the
body’s stress hormones, intensifying the physical stress response.
 
Switching to decaf or tea are two great options. Chamomile has several calming properties and
health benefits which reduce stress levels rather than intensifying them.

 

Boost your vitamin intake

 

Several herbal supplements and vitamins have been shown to help alleviate stress and it's
symptoms.
 
This 2014 Study revealed that dietary supplementation with B group vitamins is an effective
intervention against occupational stress.
 
B vitamins are known for improving energy levels and cognitive performance. Clinical trials have
also shown that supplementing your diet with a vitamin B complex can help reduce symptoms of
depression and anxiety.

 

Take a walk

 

Walking has many stress-relieving benefits. Whether it’s a stroll out in nature or a power-walk
home from work, introducing more walking into our daily routine will improve our health on several
levels. According to this UK-based study, walking through greenery contributes to a meditative state
which is sure to reduce stress and provide more mental clarity. Getting some exercise will also
boost stress-busting endorphins, alleviating stress hormones and mild depression. For the best
results, take a walk with a loved one for some uplifting social interaction.

 

 

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