How to Handle Stress (Science Says)
Stressed? Who isn’t?
Everyone faces stress. Certain amounts of it are even a good thing, helping you focus, grow, and become resilient. But constant stress can put a serious damper on your health.
Too much stress can result in negative effects mentally, physically, and emotionally. Symptoms of stress include being more worried and irritable than usual, depression, headaches and stomach problems, muscle tension, weight fluctuation, and more.
HOW TO RELIEVE
If summer activities or back-to-school prep (not to mention a culture of constant availability, performance pressure, and information overload) have you stressed, there’s good news:
Stress-relieving activities and supplements work.
There’s no magic bullet to take away stress, but combining supplements and stress-relieving activities can bring back some calm. And that brings with it a whole bunch of benefits.
BENEFITS OF REDUCING STRESS:
- Improved sleep — When your stress is down, your mind and body relax, helping you fall asleep faster and doze more peacefully.
- Weight management — On one hand, too much stress hormone can actually help your body hold onto fat. On the other hand, being stressed can reduce appetite. Keeping stress at manageable levels lets your body’s hormones and appetite even out, helping you keep a healthy weight.
- Better mood and mental well-being — Stress can put your nervous system and emotions on edge, making you feel touchy and irritable. Reducing stress can help you feel more even-keeled and clear-minded.
- Immune system support — Stress is a known contributor to illness and disease, weakening your natural immunity. Getting rid of stress lets your body focus better on preventing illness and keeping you well.
- Relief of muscle tension — Tight shoulders and neck, eye twitches, and muscle spasms are all related to holding stress in your body. Taking down your stress levels will help un-knot that tension and take your shoulders down from around your ears.
Some stress relief tools, like vigorous physical activity, or drinking a cup of lemon balm tea, can provide some effects almost immediately. Others, like meditation practices and supplementation with CBD or ashwagandha, work very well over time but won’t give you an instant hit of relief. These are best used as a long-term lifestyle addition.
Stress relief tools you can use now
We’ve talked about ashwagandha in another post — it’s a top pick when it comes to stress-relieving adaptogens. And scientific study shows that high-concentration, full-spectrum ashwagandha root improves resistance toward stress and boosts quality of life.
In fact, one study showed that, by the end of a 60-day treatment, the group who took ashwagandha had nearly 30% lower cortisol (stress hormone) levels from baseline.
Cannabidiol, or CBD, is a non-psychotropic (won’t cause a high) chemical from the cannabis or hemp plant. There’s a lot of conversation around the many potential uses for CBD, but it’s most often to help manage stress.
The majority of people who use CBD are confident in its ability to help treat their stress and anxiety. You can learn more about CBD here.
Lemon balm is an herb in the mint family that’s known for soothing stress, promoting relaxation, and boosting mood. People use lemon balm for immediate stress relief as well as for long-term anxiety reduction and well-being.
If you’re ready to try these and other supplements with the potential to help you reduce stress, shop our stress support collection here.
Building exercise into your daily routine is a great way to burn off stress as well as fat. But it’s not just for the long-term: A quick activity that gets your heart rate up, like jumping jacks or a short run — even dancing — will activate neurotransmitters that enhance your mood and reduce your fight-or-flight response.
If there’s something on your mind you just can’t shake, distracting yourself with a tactile hobby that requires concentration can help. Baking, knitting, solving a puzzle, anything that gets your mind off the stressors and gives your hands something to do can help give your brain and body a little distance from stress.
Mindfulness and yoga
Mindfulness meditation is a scientifically proven stress therapy that encompasses many forms of calm-inducing awareness, including deep breathing, visualization, guided meditation, and more. Yoga takes mindfulness a step further and adds physical motion to the practice, helping guide you to a state of relaxed focus.
Nature is medicine. Just 10 minutes in a natural setting can help you feel happier and reduce the physical and mental effects of stress. If you add in some light exercise like a walk, and you have a recipe for feeling better. Plus, being outdoors and mobile is one of the best ways to think through a problem and see your stressors in a new light.
If you’re not loving any of these ideas, you can try some of the other science-backed suggestions offered here.
Finding relief from chronic stress
It’s also worth noting that long term, chronic stress has serious health implications. If you’ve been feeling too stressed for too long, a walk won’t cut it. It might be a good time to talk to your doctor about taking steps not just to reduce stress but prevent stress-related health conditions.
HOW MUCH STRESS IS ENOUGH TO IMPACT YOUR HEALTH?
The Holmes-Rahe Life Stress Inventory is helpful for knowing how much stress is too much stress and your level of stress-related health risk. Calculate your score and start taking control of your stress with these tips and professional help, if needed.
Chandrasekhar K, Kapoor J, Anishetty S. A prospective, randomized double-blind, placebo-controlled study of safety and efficacy of a high-concentration full-spectrum extract of ashwagandha root in reducing stress and anxiety in adults. Indian J Psychol Med. 2012;34(3):255-262. doi:10.4103/0253-7176.106022
Hoge, Elizabeth A et al. Randomized controlled trial of mindfulness meditation for generalized anxiety disorder: effects on anxiety and stress reactivity. The Journal of clinical psychiatry vol. 74,8 (2013): 786-92. doi:10.4088/JCP.12m08083
Moltke, J., Hindocha, C. Reasons for cannabidiol use: a cross-sectional study of CBD users, focusing on self-perceived stress, anxiety, and sleep problems. J Cannabis Res 3, 5 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1186/s42238-021-00061-5