Stress can be a part of everyday struggle when not dealt with well - thus, affecting your day to day life with decreased productivity and happiness levels. The way you respond to stress makes a big difference to your overall well-being. Thus, knowing how to manage your stress is key to leading a happy and healthy life. In this article, we will look at 6 easy ways to reduce stress. 

Stress: Triggers, Symptoms and Types

Stress is a feeling of emotional or physical tension. It can come from any event or thought that makes you feel frustrated, angry, or nervous. It is your body's reaction to a challenge or demand. Sometimes, stress can be positive, such as when it helps you avoid danger or meet a deadline.

Stress is usually triggered by a variety of stressors present in your immediate or day-to-day surroundings. It can be caused by:

  • Some form of illness or prolonged health issues

  • Surviving a life-threatening accident or illness

  • Being the victim of any form of harassment (a wide range of offensive behaviours)

  • Having an unhappy marriage or an abusive relationship

  • Dealing with financial issues such as salary cuts, loss of a job, unable to clear bills, etc.

  • Having little or no work-life balance

The first signs that show when you are stressed are usually physical signs such as having tiredness, headaches, or an upset stomach. This can lead to poor sleep, body pain, lack of appetite, loss of sexual drive, difficulty in concentrating, not taking the right decisions, and in turn, starts affecting your mental health (emotional, psychological, and social well-being that affects how you act, feel or react). You feel sad, lonely, anxious, or depressed at most times.

Stress can be of various forms and types. The most common ones include:

  • Acute stress: Stress that occurs in daily life and does not cause any harm. It produces a feeling of nervousness along with excitement. Acute stress is short-lived and is mostly positive.

  • Episodic acute stress: It is a frequent episode of acute stress. If the frequency increases, it can affect your mental and physical health.

  • Chronic stress: High-levels of stress for an extended period of time is chronic stress. Chronic stress can lead to depression and heart diseases.

If stress is left untreated and allowed to build-up, it can spoil your relationships at home, work, and in social circles. It can result in a never-ending vicious cycle and can deteriorate your quality of life to a great extent. 

Before we look at some simple ways to manage every day stress, let us quickly understand what exactly happens in your body when you are stressed.

Stress Hormones

When you encounter sudden stress, your brain releases certain chemicals and hormones (your body’s chemical messenger that helps perform various functions) such as adrenaline and cortisol. 

  • Adrenaline is a hormone released by your body when you are experiencing extreme emotions, which in turn, causes you to have more energy. Overproduction of adrenaline can cause symptoms such as rapid heartbeat, high blood pressure, anxiety, weight loss, excessive sweating, and palpitations.

  • Cortisol is a hormone released by your body to help you deal with stressful situations. It is also known as the ‘flight-or-fight’ hormone. It will either help you deal (fight) with the current situation or guide you to move away (flight) from the situation. Too much cortisol can lead to skin and hair damage, muscle pains, diabetes (excess blood sugar levels), and other health issues.

Management of Stress

Identifying the triggers and avoiding them is the first step towards managing stress. Next, find ways to cope with those negative stressors that can’t be avoided.

Here are 6 simple things to remember and practice to help you reduce stress:

1. Exercise daily. Physical exercises release the ‘feel-good hormones’ known as endorphins and serotonin, and minimize the production of stress hormones.

  • Endorphins are a type of neurotransmitter, or chemical messenger that helps relieve pain and stress. 

  • Serotonin stabilizes your mood and promotes feelings of well-being and happiness. 

Ensure to engage in 30 minutes of physical exercise every day to beat and manage stress.

2. Meditation for a peaceful mind. Meditation is the practice of focusing your attention on an object, thought or activity, to eliminate all jumbled and negative thoughts that might be causing stress. Meditation is considered to be a great tool to increase mindfulness (being fully aware of your thoughts, feelings, and sensations) and must be performed regularly in order to help reduce mental stress levels. 

  • Meditation can produce a sense of deep relaxation that relieves stress, controls anxiety, and promotes happiness or emotional well-being.

You can start with a five-minute meditation session daily if you are a beginner. During your meditation session, you can choose to either focus on a mantra (a sacred chant) or a repeated word or series of words. 

3. Ayurvedic formulations to lower your stress. Ayurveda is the science of life and longevity. For ages, ayurveda has considered your mental health to be an important aspect of overall health. 

Certain formulations (drinks or syrups), prepared with particular ayurvedic herbs are considered a boon for reducing stress and keeping your mind calm. A few such herbs include:

  • Brahmi, also known as Bacopa is a succulent herb that is known to decrease the levels of your stress hormone and promote concentration. Tea made from brahmi leaves can help you calm down and relieve stress.

  • Bhringraj, known as “false daisy”, helps in detoxifying your body and supplies the brain with increased amounts of oxygen to relieve stress. You can consume this herb along with your tea or use bhringraj oil to massage your scalp and reduce tension.

  • Jatamasi is particularly an anti-stress and anti-fatigue herb from the plant Nardostachys jatamansi. The roots of this herb keep your mind free of toxins and blockages. Take this herb in the form of a powder mixed in water.

  • Ashwagandha also known as Indian ginseng or Indian Winter Cherry, corrects energy imbalances, promotes sleep, and increases stamina, and thus, helps in reducing overall stress. 

4. Massage therapy to relax your stressed nerves. Ayurvedic herbal massage therapies are recommended in ancient scriptures to help your body relax by releasing tension from specific pressure points in your body. A massage increases your blood flow and promotes the release of positive hormones such as endorphins and serotonin. The positive hormones give a sense of well-being, increase relaxation and reduce stress. 

Popular ayurvedic massages include:

  • Shirodhara means “shiro” (head) and “dhara” (flow). In this healing technique, a liquid such as oil, milk, buttermilk, or water is poured onto your forehead and massaged. A body massage may also be given.

  • Abhyanga massage is done with warm oil. The oil is applied to your entire body, from the scalp to the soles of your feet.

5. Music therapy to help calm your mind. Listening to calm and composed music can help the mental stressors be in check as music is known to trigger certain points in your brain that further relaxes the same. 

It is often recommended to listen to soothing music without lyrics to maximize the brain’s productivity, while doing work and during your power nap hours. Listening to music elevates your mood and releases endorphins.

6. Consulting a therapist for your mental health. When you’re battling something as severe and sensitive as mental health problems (such as anxiety, depression), it is important for you to consult or take help from a professional. A therapist (licensed mental health professionals who specialize in helping clients develop better cognitive and emotional skills) or a psychiatrist (a medical doctor who specializes in mental health) is always a good idea if the above tips do not help you combat stress.

Remember, growing stress can wreak havoc with your daily help. Apart from these remedies, remember that stress has a lot to do with your lifestyle. So, eat healthy, sleep well, and get some fresh air daily.

Disclaimer: This article is written by the Practitioner for informational and educational purposes only. The content presented on this page should not be considered as a substitute for medical expertise. Please "DO NOT SELF-MEDICATE" and seek professional help regarding any health conditions or concerns. Practo will not be responsible for any act or omission arising from the interpretation of the content present on this page.