Key Practices for Stress Management

Key Practices for Stress Management
Photo by Shelly Collins / Unsplash

Stress is defined as the body’s reaction to any change that requires an adjustment or response; and is an underlying problem in most chronic health conditions. The acute stress response is the body’s natural survival mechanism whenever it is presented with a threat. The human body is designed to experience and handle stress, which is why it reacts to it so strongly. Financial worry, health-related concerns, kids, anxiety, depression, loneliness, and stress related to social media and technology use are some of the top reasons why people are stressed out today. It is important to be aware of this as individuals of all ages and backgrounds experience stress. The problem arises when stress becomes chronic and impacts the ability to function in everyday life.

Chronic stress is a type of stress that interferes with the ability to function normally for six months or more. People aged 15-49 are most likely to deal with debilitating chronic stress. Millennials report the highest rates of anxiety and depression, while Generation Z is the most stressed out age group. When the acute stress response becomes chronically activated, the adrenal glands become overactive and constantly secrete stress hormones, which negatively impacts bodily functions. Uncontrolled stress alters hormones, impacts the immune system, and leads to chronic low-grade inflammation. Chronic stress increases the risk for insulin resistance, cardiovascular disease, weight gain, obesity, mental health disorders, digestion issues, and cancer. It is vital to take an individualized approach while identifying stressors and different mechanisms to control them.

Ways to Manage Stress

Stressors of modern day life consist of work, poor sleep, kids, loss, burnout, financial strain, being unhappy at a job, caring for a chronically ill family member, or simply feeling lost in life. It is crucial to identify personal stressors and perform stress management practices. Natural ways to manage everyday stress include exercise, yoga, listening to music, eating a nutrient-dense diet, getting outside or in nature, and keeping a journal. Other ways to reduce stress include painting, dancing, singing, deep breathing, running, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, petting an animal, and mindfulness meditation. Research has shown that listening to uplifting music positively impacts the psycho-biological stress response, helps activate the parasympathetic nervous system, promotes hormonal balance, and boosts brain function. Key practices to manage stress include eating a nutrient-dense diet, exercising, forest bathing, and journaling.

Consume A Nutrient-Dense Diet

Eating a nutrient-dense diet is essential in stress management and prevention. An adequate supply of essential nutrients, vitamins, minerals, healthy fats, proteins, antioxidants, and amino acids is the absolute key to success and optimal health. Skipping meals and not eating regularly activates the stress response which causes hormones like cortisol, norepinephrine, and epinephrine to flood the bloodstream creating this constant state of stress. Too much refined vegetable oils, caffeine, ultra-processed foods, alcohol, and sugary foods are detrimental to the stress response and linked to metabolic dysfunction, inflammation, and brain fog; therefore, it is better to consume a nutrient-dense diet. Foods that naturally relieve stress include grass-fed beef, eggs, wild-caught fish, beans, legumes, organic yogurt, cruciferous vegetables, avocados, berries, and nuts. These foods are rich in vitamin B, magnesium, calcium, omega-3 fatty acids, amino acids, and protein. An easy way to ensure optimal nutrient intake is to take a high-quality daily multivitamin. It is absolutely imperative to nourish the human body with high quality protein, healthy fats, minerals, electrolytes, and nutrients for an optimal functioning stress response.

Exercise and Yoga

Exercise is a natural remedy for anxiety and one of best "prescriptions" on the market for stress management and prevention. Exercise regulates metabolism, hormones, circadian rhythm, psychological processes, blood sugar, mood, and sleep-wake cycles. Daily exercise resets the stress response and promotes deeper sleep and insulin sensitivity. There is an abundance of workouts and different styles of exercise to choose from. Again, it is important to take an individualized approach when developing an exercise routine. A great way to reduce stress, build strength, and boost cardiovascular fitness is through the practice of yoga. Yoga reinforces the mind-body connection and the stillness of the present moment. Not only does yoga increase flexibility and core stability, it promotes good sleep and tremendously helps with anxiety control and stress management. Movement and yoga are are two of the top ways to manage stress and when combined with a nutrient-dense diet can make life truly enjoyable and fulfilling.

Forest Bathing

Shinrin-yoku, the Japanese term for the practice of forest bathing, has numerous health benefits for the stress response. Spending time in nature significantly boosts immune function through the activation of natural killer cells, white blood cells, and anti-cancer proteins as well as lowers cortisol, which reduces stress and inflammation. Moreover, regular walking in forest-like environments also helps lower blood pressure and heart rate by maintaining a healthy balance between the sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight response) and the parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest). Immersing in nature greatly boosts mental health, creativity, problem solving, and brain function along with combats cognitive fatigue, depression, and anxiety. Going for a 90 minute hike in nature, or for a nice 2-3 hour forest bath, provides a gentle reminder that humans are specs on this Earth and are part of a much larger universe; thus, reinforcing that stressors of everyday life are not as big as they seem.

Keep A Journal

Research has shown that benefits of journaling can include reducing stress and anxiety, facilitating learning from past experiences, finding purpose, and improving self-esteem and relationships. Writing in a journal is a simple and effective way to keep track of positive and negative emotions and triggers that cause stress. Journaling provides a space to assess thoughts and get unstuck from racing thoughts and negative thought patterns by replacing them with more realistic, affirming ones. Writing out thoughts proves that some are unrealistic and not true, which helps manage depression and post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Furthermore, a journal promotes organization and mental clarity of goals, intentions, household responsibilities, and other daily tasks. A considerable way to tackle life's everyday stressors is to take some time each morning to visualize and journal about the day ahead. Overall, journaling is an excellent tool for managing stress, gaining clarity, and facing problems head on.

Final Thoughts

Acute stress and challenges of everyday life are expected; however, the problem arises when stress is not managed in a healthy way and it becomes this constant uncontrolled part of life. Chronic stress is at the forefront of almost all disease and can affect people of all ages. Being intentional about your actions outside of work (or when no one is watching), and what you put into your body for fuel has a major impact on your overall stress levels. Key ways to manage stress include consuming a nutrient-dense diet, exercising, forest bathing, and keeping a journal. Other effective, natural coping mechanisms can involve going for a run, stretching, meditation, getting outside, deep breathing, and cold plunging. Stress management requires self-awareness and a personalized approach. Choose which stress relief practices you will actually do and perform them consistently. One last thing, if you are practicing healthy coping mechanisms and still not finding relief, seek a board-certified mental health professional who can guide you in the right direction.

Thank you for reading this article.


This content is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended to provide medical advice or to take the place of such advice or treatment from a personal physician. All readers/viewers of this content are advised to consult their doctors or qualified health professionals regarding specific health questions. All viewers of this content, especially those taking prescription or over-the-counter medications, should consult their physicians before beginning any nutrition, supplement or lifestyle program.