In some capacity, we all deal with stress. When life becomes too busy, chaotic, or fast-paced, problems can engulf us and make it hard to find the figurative light at the end of the tunnel. In most cases, periods of stress pass on their own. For some, however, chronic stress can negatively impact overall physical and mental wellness.
The higher someone’s stress level, the higher the risk of developing serious conditions, such as trouble sleeping, bouts of panic, acne, gastrointestinal issues, anxiety disorders, headaches, hair loss, weight gain, high blood pressure, heart disease, and more. They’re also more prone to catch illnesses like the common cold or flu. For people in high-demand jobs or with overtaxing home lives, this makes stressing over workloads a counterproductive endeavor. Thankfully, dozens of techniques exist to help ease stress and anxiety. Let’s take a closer look at 10 ways to naturally combat stress!
Due to the new Department of Transportation (DOT) policy, Emotional Support Animals are NO longer allowed to fly in airplane cabins for free. However, Psychiatric Service Dogs are eligible.
Considered a holistic approach to health and wellness, aromatherapy purports to benefit a number of substantial health concerns. By using a variety of plant extracted oils – either topically or aromatically, depending on the type – a person can naturally target (and hopefully alleviate) problem areas within their mind, body, and soul. Anxiety, stress, and depression all make the list of conditions that are slated to improve. Ways to use the oils are lengthy and fully immersive, and should only be used after thoroughly researching things like intended usage and a list of plant ingredients. If compatible with your body’s chemistry and needs, new research studies have shown very positive relationships between certain scents and the decrease of a person’s stress hormones.
For example: Lavender and chamomile are often used for relaxation. Sandalwood is said to improve bouts of anxiety, and clary sage is said to do the same for stress. Lemon and orange are both known as mood-lifting oils, and jasmine is believed to help relieve depression. For a more extensive look at aromatherapy techniques, proper oil usage, benefits, and safety tips, there are many online oil databases for consumers to read through/utilize.
Many past studies have shown a direct correlation between a person’s increased physical activity and increases in both their serotonin and (natural) tryptophan levels. Otherwise known as the happiness chemical, serotonin helps to regulate mood and sleep cycles. Tryptophan – the same amino acid found in abundance in turkeys – works hand in hand with one’s mood regulation, as it helps the brain produce (and increase) serotonin naturally. In contrast, more inactive lifestyles have been linked to increases in stress, sleep disruptions, depression, and negative emotions.
If you’re not the type of person with a lot of physical endurance, have limited mobility, or simply aren’t a fan of strenuous workouts or exercise plans, great news: the activities don’t need to be overly taxing/grueling. Aerobic exercise can range from low to high intensity and benefits the average person if done for just two days a week. Walking, jogging, dancing, hiking, biking, and swimming all classify as sufficient forms of stress-reducing forms of physical exertion.
Who says that grown-ups can’t have fun with art? American artist and author Lisa Congdon summed it up best when she stated, “Every single human being is creative and has creative potential. It’s like a muscle that needs to be worked.” No matter your interest or passion, finding a creative outlet to explore those interests can help reduce your stress.
In fact, prior studies have shown that anxiety levels can decrease in young adults who utilize some form of creative expression. Not only are the options boundless, but fully customizable. You don’t need to be a professional, or even have any experience. The primary goal is to utilize artistic exploration as a form of self-expression. Think outside the box and get those imaginative juices flowing! You might surprise yourself with how much enjoyment you reap.
To restore the body’s harmony and naturally lower our stress levels, most health food experts suggest eating a well-balanced diet. This includes incorporating all six taste types (bitter, pungent, salty, sour, spicy, sweet) into your dietary planning, choosing your foods by comparing each one’s vibrational energy, eating mindfully, and skipping pre-packaged or heavily processed foods as much as possible.
Most are familiar with being so busy, they feel like there’s no time to breathe, let alone relax. It’s extremely beneficial to remember to unplug, and I don’t necessarily mean from technology. People need “power down” intervals in order to recharge and rest. Anxiety and stress both tend to increase when a person’s routine is jam-packed.
While it’s often unavoidable, limiting the number of day-to-day commitments, or spreading them out so they don’t all occur simultaneously, can drastically lower our stress levels. Likewise, honing time management skills may prove beneficial. Consider the popular phrase, “One step at a time, one foot in front of the other.” Breaking down our larger tasks into more manageable steps often helps to make them feel less overwhelming.
When we reach our threshold for dealing with everyday stressors, we may feel at a loss about how best to recharge or reset. We don’t always have time or money to practice self-care in a way that makes sense, or fits into our day. But self-care is just as important as getting through to-do lists. Rest and relaxation are essential stress reducers. Whatever a person’s preferred source of bliss, routinely making time for it is strongly recommended. Examples of self-care include but aren’t limited to: listening to music, watching favorite sitcoms or comedic videos, indulging in a beauty treatment, journaling, going to therapy, getting a massage, and spending some time in the sun (soaking up vitamin D).
Practicing mindfulness daily for just 10-15 minutes can help us refocus our thoughts and re-center our emotions. It challenges us to stay grounded in the present moment, as well as practice self-compassion. It also helps slow down our breathing, which in turn lowers our cortisol levels. Positive self-talk, repetitive mantras, and guided meditation are all forms of mindfulness work.
According to the Department of Health and Human Services, over 14% of U.S. adults have tried some form of meditation at least once in their lives. Considered an effective, short-term stress reliever, it uses techniques that not only refocus our attention but fine-tune our range of awareness. For those predisposed to anxiety, it’s often hard to slow our thoughts. We think about negative times that have passed, as well as obsess over fears for the future; fears that may never materialize. Directing all of our attention (and or our awareness) only toward the present moment eliminates anxiety about past indiscretions, regrets, or traumatic events. Meditation also cancels out stress and anxiety about moments that have yet to come, and may never be.
Humans inherently crave interaction. Companionship generally helps us to thrive, but it isn’t all created equal. Strong social interactions can increase our confidence and offer a level of comfort that virtual connections lack. In fact, physical contact with others releases feel-good hormones that can lower stress and cause feelings of joy. It can also help to lower our levels of stress, anxiety, depression, and similar mental health struggles.
Adversely, isolation or weak human connections can increase our negative feelings and pose substantial risks to our mental health and wellness. Covid-19 has compounded this problem. Even though we still have ways to chat with friends safely online, it’s far from an equal replacement. While virtual communication offers many benefits, when overly used it has been shown to exacerbate feelings of loneliness, panic, and more. Part of the reason may be that online, many conduct themselves differently than they would if face to face.
A way to minimize the blows to our mental health and wellness and still enjoy the internet? Make sure to distribute your time spent online and your time in the physical presence of loved ones as evenly as possible, providing that it’s safe to do so. If not, and you find yourself struggling, seeking a therapist may be of use. Nothing beats the benefits of physical support.
Convening with nature has proven to improve our overall health, both physically and mentally. It not only induces feelings of tranquility, but promotes healthy lifestyle habits. After all, before the world had industrialization, nature was a human’s innate and primary habitat. Getting back to our roots, so to speak, gives us a break from the humdrum of fast-paced, city living. It also allows for connection with our rural heritage; cities and corporate America weren’t always around!
Spending time outside has also been known to expand our brain power and increase our attention spans. Take time to intentionally listen to the sounds of the earth. Feel the ground beneath your feet, breathe fresh air deep into your lungs, whisper a few notes of gratitude into the wind, and soak up the warmth of the sun on your skin. Your body and mind will thank you.
Studies have shown major benefits between interacting with animals and improving mental health. Contact with a friendly, domesticated animal not only lowers blood pressure but raises endorphins and lowers cortisol levels. These advantages can aid in lessening symptoms of loneliness, anxiety, stress, and depression. In addition, petting and cuddling animals helps put us in a state of automatic relaxation. If the animal belongs to you, the positive effects are even greater!
As outlined in our article, Cuddling A Pet Reduces Stress!, one of the reasons that cuddling animals has a restorative impact on a person’s health is that it meets our basic human need for touch. Studies have proven that positive, long-term behavioral changes can be achieved by consistent time spent with furry companions. Similar to a human hug, hugging your dog is relaxing; not just for the mind, but also for the body. During a hug, heartbeats slow, and a sense of calm takes over. Sometimes, animals are used for deeper emotional support. They provide their owners with therapeutic ways to combat their stress and anxiety, as well as decrease other negative feelings. Additionally, their interactions can help with diminishing physical pain, strengthening socialization and communication skills, and reducing boredom. They’ve even been said to help children overcome some speech disorders. These animals are known as Emotional Support Animals.
Mental health and wellness benefits aren’t exclusive to owning or taking care of dogs and cats, either. There has been plenty of research supporting mental health advantages for people with rabbits, mice, hamsters, guinea pigs, and more. Even watching fish swim is a proven stress reducer. However, it’s crucial to note that only dogs currently qualify when it comes to using public transport or for public access in areas such as grocery stores. To learn about which type of pet may fit your current needs, check out this HelpGuide article.
If you suffer from a severe or debilitating mental health disorder, a Psychiatric Service Dog may be a wonderful option for you as well. PSDs are specifically trained to perform tasks that assist with everyday functions. They offer practical help, along with a sense of safety and security for those in need. Click below to see if you meet the ESA or PSD qualifications and begin your journey to experiencing less stress and more freedom today.
While animals can be assets for those with both mental and physical day-to-day challenges, it’s important to note that their ownership is a big responsibility and may not be for everyone. Those not in a place where they can care or provide for a pet should consider alternative options, such as volunteering with or visiting animals outside their home.
The benefits of an Emotional Support Animal certification and a Psychiatric Service Dog certification are drastically different. Fortunately for you, American Service Pets’ network of active board certified doctors can help you find the right path to certification. To find out whether you need an ESA or PSD letter, take our easy, three-step Pet Owner Survey!
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