Stress and anxiety are actual pandemic diseases we’re facing today. They are omnipresent and triggered by a variety of factors. Unlike diseases that are caused by a specific virus or bacteria, stress and anxiety can be a result of myriad different events, lifestyle choices, and even foods.
Stress and anxiety contribute to inflammation and with it, negatively affect both your physical and mental health. It’s crucial to find ways to reduce and manage stress and anxiety in order to prevent serious diseases and promote longevity.
The Difference Between Stress and Anxiety
Stress is a normal human reaction to a certain trigger that occurs in moments of immediate danger, fear, surprise, or even excitement. It’s a healthy and natural reaction to an event but it’s also supposed to naturally die down after the situation has passed. Unfortunately, in today’s world, we’re faced with a different type of stress: chronic stress.
Chronic stress keeps your stress levels high regardless of the situation and with it, increases inflammation in your body. Stress relief is something we need to actively focus on instead of expecting it to naturally happen, and it’s becoming harder and harder to successfully manage it on a daily basis.
When your stress hormones are constantly elevated, that creates chaos in all of your systems, causing high blood pressure, high blood sugar levels, high cholesterol, and an impaired immune system that can’t protect you from diseases, toxins, and damaging free radicals.
Anxiety, on the other hand, is your body’s natural response to stress. Similar to stress, it’s a reaction that is natural in small doses, but it’s due to its chronic occurrence that people start noticing debilitating symptoms that can be extremely harmful to their physical and mental health. When anxiety transitions from a rare reaction to an often and sometimes even expected one, that’s when we begin talking about an anxiety disorder.
Anxiety disorders are unfortunately the most common mental health disorders in the United States and the Anxiety & Depression Association of America (ADAA), over 40 million people worldwide suffer from its symptoms each year. Anxiety disorders exist in a plethora of different types and subtypes and since they’re closely connected to stress, the vicious cycle is extremely hard to break.
Symptoms and Treatments of Stress and Anxiety
Some of the most common symptoms of chronic stress and anxiety include:
- Nervousness and constant worry
- Fear and panic
- Mood swings
- Brain fog
- Inability to focus
- Troubles with sleep
When these symptoms become hard to manage or handle, that’s when you know it’s taken a step too far and it’s time to find ways to cope and reduce stress and anxiety. These symptoms can often be neglected in the very beginning and as you learn how to live with them, they might easily become hard to even acknowledge. Usually, it’s not until they’re severely interfering with the quality of your life that you start looking for help and support.
There are many medical and alternative therapies and treatments out there that help relieve stress and symptoms of anxiety, but it’s what you can do at any given moment that truly counts. That’s why you should actively be focusing on everyday stress reduction and management and prevent anxiety from even becoming a reaction, let alone a disorder.
15 Steps to Reduce Anxiety and Stress
Hardcore and complex anxiety disorders definitely need medical assistance and these steps are in no way meant to replace them, but implementing them won’t do you any harm. It can only make you better.
In all other cases, these 15 steps can truly help, so make it your mission to include them in your lifestyle and help improve your physical and mental health.
1. Eat Healthy
Stress and ultra-processed foods go hand in hand, and there’s a plethora of studies that support it, showcasing its strong and detrimental impact on your body. With the busy, fast-paced lives we all live, it’s sometimes hard to even find the time to do your research on which foods are good for you and which aren’t, but it’s one of the life pillars we should never compromise on.
We are what we eat and instead of harming your body with sugars and artificial ingredients, focus on whole foods and their nutritious values, feed your body with healthy building blocks and energy it needs to function optimally.
2. Focus on Micronutrients
Diving a bit deeper into nutrition, it’s important to eat your fruits and veggies, but with the problems our soil faces worldwide, it’s almost necessary to supplement with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and other powerful plant compounds that will help protect you from free radicals, toxins, and other pathogens, keeping you healthy and managing stress hormones along the way.
Some of the most micronutrient-rich foods today are Peruvian superfoods. Grown in the high altitudes of Peru, they are filled with health-boosting properties. Include them in your diet and support your overall health from all angles.
3. Move Your Body
It’s unsurprising to state that exercise helps relieve stress and anxiety. Next to keeping a healthy and balanced diet, it’s the most common tip one should follow for lowering inflammation, stress relief, and reducing symptoms of anxiety. Find a physical activity you enjoy doing and stay consistent with it. Not only will you notice physical improvement, but also lower blood pressure readings, balanced blood sugar levels, and changes in your mood and behavior.
4. Implement Breathing Techniques
Without breathing, we cannot live, and yet, we rarely know how to utilize its stress-reducing power. Deep breathing helps reduce your stress response and protects you from inflammation overload. And it’s the easiest, cheapest, and most natural remedy we should all be able to do.
Simply sit in a comfortable position and place one palm on your heart and the other on your belly. Focus on filling up your belly with your inhales and completely emptying it out on your exhales. Not only will you feel an immediate sense of relief, but you’ll often notice how the thing you worried so much about five minutes ago isn’t that bad after all.
5. Practice Mindfulness
Being mindful can mean a lot of things to a lot of people, but in principle, it all comes down to being present. Being in the present moment means you do things with intention and thought, focusing on the task at hand and not trying to multitask a bunch of things at once or absentmindedly do your actions as a robot.
Start with the smallest of things like waking up and opening your curtains. Really look through your window and notice what you see. Try to focus on every little detail. Over time, practice mindfulness in more areas of your life and soon you’ll see how it will change your behavior, mood, and train of thought, reducing mental stress along the way.
6. Find a Way to Relax
Everyone relaxes in a different way but it all has the same end result: lower stress and relaxation. Some people meditate and others use breathing exercises, others read a book or listen to music. What’s relaxing to one person might not be right for you, but it’s important to find what works for you and transitions you from a fight-or-flight nervous system to rest-and-digest.
When your nervous system relaxes, it’s able to regenerate, repair, and perform all the necessary actions to lower inflammation, manage stress, and support your immune system so that it can function in the best way to keep you healthy.
7. Improve Your Sleep
Easier said than done, but sleep is crucial for stress management and anxiety relief. Sleep deprivation is one of the main contributors to many diseases of today, from obesity and diabetes to cardiovascular health and anxiety.
It’s therefore one of the main areas you should focus on improving, implementing every possible technique until you find the one that works for you. During sleep is when we rest and it’s when your body is finally able to focus on repairing itself from the inside, absorb all the nutrients you’ve given it throughout the day, and support the optimal function of all of your body systems.
Socialization is so important for stress relief and it comes as no surprise that one of the main things the healthiest areas of the world (also known as Blue Zones) have in common is socializing with friends and family. Spending time with the people we love, laughing, playing, and simply enjoying each other’s company keeps your happiness hormones elevated and prevents stress from wreaking havoc.
9. Implement Self-Care Routines
Self-care is extremely important and it can be closely connected to relaxation, but it can also be something that genuinely makes you happy and doesn’t need to be relaxing. Some people love to exercise, others thrive when they’re in the kitchen, and then there are those who are the happiest when they sit in a warm bath and close their eyes, feeling the stress leave their bodies.
Find those routines that work for you and bring joy into your life. Stress and happiness can rarely co-exist and it’s up to you to combat your stress hormones with endorphins and serotonin.
10. Spend Time in Nature
Spending time in nature has a tendency of lowering our stress levels and anxiety. Even 20 minutes a day can do wonders for your mental health and stress management. If you’re unable to go to a park or walk on the beach, simply keeping your windows open lets in the fresh air and allows the sun to penetrate your skin.
Even just a few minutes every hour count towards overall lower stress levels and relief in anxious emotions.
11. Take Some Time Off
Everyone needs time off, that’s why vacations are invented. You can’t expect to run around, constantly on high alert, and be able to support your health and well-being. In order to really bring your stress levels down and manage your anxious symptoms, sometimes you need to do more than just implement relaxation techniques and keep a healthy diet. Take a day, a week, or even a month off in crucial moments of your life, and come back to yourself. Find yourself first.
12. Quit or Limit Toxic Habits
Everyone has some toxic habits that they need to manage to improve their life. Whether it’s caffeine, alcohol, smoking, or binging Netflix shows when you should be sleeping, everyone has something they can improve and work on. Some of these habits are more damaging than others and while watching the fourth episode of a TV series won’t necessarily make you sick, smoking cigarettes will.
Identify your toxic habits and manage them as best as possible. Sometimes the solution isn’t to quit cold turkey and just stop doing them altogether as chances are, you’ll go back to doing them a bit further down the road. It’s more about staying consistent with your actions and managing to stick to your decisions long-term. This will help manage your stress and anxiety and prevent nervousness from disrupting your daily actions.
13. Set Boundaries
Just like toxic habits can damage your physical health, so can toxic people and situations. When you’re dealing with a toxic person, your stress hormones and anxiety go through the roof, creating inflammation in your body and making you uneasy, nervous, and uncomfortable. Sometimes it’s hard to completely distance from these kinds of people, events, and situations, and that’s where learning how to set boundaries and limit the impact they have on you becomes important.
Learn how to say no, stand up for yourself, and ask for others to respect your decisions and beliefs just like you’re respecting theirs. This will help you with stress management, energy conservation, and even self-esteem.
14. Think Positive
Even though it might be the hardest step of all, thinking positive has a very strong and powerful effect on reducing stress and anxiety. It’s not about believing that all is good and no harm can even come your way, it’s about managing your reaction when something bad happens.
It’s about not allowing anxious thoughts and stress to creep into your everyday life situations and cloud your judgment, elevate your heart rate, put you in a bad mood, and ruin your day. It’s about learning how to find the positive in all the negatives and believe that it all has to balance out in the end.
15. Find a Sense of Purpose
For some people it’s prayer, for others it’s something else, but finding a sense of purpose has incredible healing powers. Not only for stress and anxiety, but for a large variety of different diseases and even cancers. Whether you’re a believer or someone who simply feels the energy of the Universe and believes that everything happens for a reason, tune into that and feed your mental and physical health with its healing properties.
Managing anxiety and stress is something you need to work on every single day of your life and make it your goal to keep them as low as possible. Whether it’s through finding an outlet to release them or learning how to say no, it doesn’t matter. Every little action matters.