We all know that too much stress is a bad thing. It can cause breakouts, low energy, anxiety, muscle tension, insomnia, irritability, depression, make it challenging to lose weight and make you more susceptible to catching a cold. And we want none of that crap! So let’s chat. What are 5 easy practices that can be implemented into our daily lives to help us manage our stress levels?
1. Meditation. Meditation has been shown to improve anxiety, stress and mood[i],[ii]. Over the years, I have found that there isn't a right or wrong way to meditate. Make it what you want it! There are so many different ways to do it. Make it a time of positive self-talk, a time to be prayerful, or a time to just be still and focus on breathing. Go two minutes, five minutes, twenty or more! Use a meditation app like Headspace or Calm to help get you started if you want assistance.
2. Use Lavender Essential Oils. Essential oils are popular for a reason. Lavender is commonly known for its relaxing effect when inhaled[iii]. It has been shown to reduce anxiety levels, improve sleep and reduce stress levels[iv],[v].
You can use a lavender EO with a diffuser📷 (best to place it in the room you spend the most time in or by your bed if you struggle with insomnia). Put a couple drops of EO in your bath or make Lavender Linen Spray to spritz on your pillow case and sheets before bed. Lavender is usually safe to apply to the skin, such as rubbing a drop or two on the bottoms of your feet at night for quick absorption, but stop usage if you experience irritation[vi].
3. Drink some tea. Specifically chamomile and green tea. Chamomile has been shown to help reduce high blood pressure, is used to treat insomnia, and induces sleep because of its calming effect[vii]. Green tea📷 has also been shown to help reduce anxiety as well[viii], but since it does contain caffeine, it is better to drink it earlier in the day and limit consumption.
Loose leaf tea is the best way to go. Leaves used in tea bags are often considered “dust and fannings” because they are usually from broken tea leaves. Whole leaf teas provide you with more flavor, aroma, and antioxidants. You can find cheap tea infusers for around $6 on amazon or at your local tea stores.
4. Breathe. Our breath is significantly connected to our state of mind. When you are stressed, do you ever feel like you can’t get a deep enough breath? I know sometimes I do. Luckily, deep breathing practices can help us with anxiety and stress[ix]. Stanford scientists have discovered a cluster of neurons in the brain stem that link respiration to “relaxation, attention, excitement and anxiety.[x]”
Just as with meditation, there are many different types of deep breathing exercises. Find what works best for you by experimenting! It doesn’t have to be a long period of time either. A study of over 20,000 subjects showed that even after six rounds of deep breathing for 30 seconds, blood pressure could be reduced[xi].
Here is an example breathing exercise you can try:
Lie on the ground or come to a sitting position.Put one hand on your chest and one hand on your belly.Breathe in through your nose for 4 seconds. Hold the breath in for 7 seconds. Breathe out through pursed lips for 8 seconds.Try to feel the breath down in your belly. The hand on your chest should stay fairly still while the hand on your belly rises as you breathe in. This takes some practice so don’t worry if you don’t get it the first time!
5. Start a gratitude journal. A study on gratitude journaling had a group journal each day about what they were grateful for and another group journal about what was irritating them. They found that the gratitude group experienced more optimism and felt better about their lives, and even had fewer visits to the doctor[xii].
Practicing gratitude with others can also make you feel more positive towards other people and can increase happiness[xiii]. Gratitude journals help put things in perspective. It helps us to see the blessings in everyday life that make the stresses and worries easier to deal with.
Try to dedicate 10 to 15 minutes a day to writing in a gratitude journal. It can be helpful to do it each evening so you can reflect back on your day and write about it. The recurring theme here is do what works best for you! Focus on one thing you are grateful for or write a list of ten things! Write in a physical book or type it up.
As William Arthur Ward said, “Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgivings, turn routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings.”
None of these practices need to take more than 5-10 minutes. Try one or multiple out and comment below to let us know how it worked for you! What are some other ways you help manage your stress?
[i] MPH, Madhav Goyal MD. “Meditation for Psychological Stress and Well-Being.” JAMA Internal Medicine, American Medical Association, 1 Mar. 2014, jamanetwork.com/journals/jamainternalmedicine/fullarticle/1809754.
[ii] Lane, James D, et al. “BRIEF MEDITATION TRAINING CAN IMPROVE PERCEIVED STRESS AND NEGATIVE MOOD.” Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine, vol. 13, no. 1, pp. 38–44., search.proquest.com/openview/989313b1b342276cb3bf32a1e58c2902/1?pq-origsite=gscholar&cbl=32528.
[iii] Sayorwan, W, et al. “The Effects of Lavender Oil Inhalation on Emotional States, Autonomic Nervous System, and Brain Electrical Activity.” Journal of the Medical Association of Thailand = Chotmaihet Thangphaet., U.S. National Library of Medicine, Apr. 2012, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22612017.
[iv] Conrad, P, and C Adams. “The Effects of Clinical Aromatherapy for Anxiety and Depression in the High Risk Postpartum Woman - a Pilot Study.” Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice., U.S. National Library of Medicine, Aug. 2012, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22789792/.
[v] Lehrner, J, et al. “Ambient Odors of Orange and Lavender Reduce Anxiety and Improve Mood in a Dental Office.” Physiology & Behavior., U.S. National Library of Medicine, 15 Sept. 2005, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16095639.
[vi] “LAVENDER: Uses, Side Effects, Interactions and Warnings.” WebMD, WebMD, www.webmd.com/vitamins-supplements/ingredientmono-838-lavender.aspx?activeingredientid=838.
[vii] Srivastava, Janmejai K, et al. “Chamomile: A Herbal Medicine of the Past with Bright Future.” Molecular Medicine Reports, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 1 Nov. 2010, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2995283/.
[viii] Yoto, Ai, et al. “Effects of L-Theanine or Caffeine Intake on Changes in Blood Pressure under Physical and Psychological Stresses.” Journal of Physiological Anthropology, BioMed Central, 2012, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3518171/.
[ix] Cho, Hyunju, et al. “The Effectiveness of Daily Mindful Breathing Practices on Test Anxiety of Students.” PLOS ONE, Public Library of Science, journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0164822.
[x] Goldman, Bruce. “Study Shows How Slow Breathing Induces Tranquility.” News Center, med.stanford.edu/news/all-news/2017/03/study-discovers-how-slow-breathing-induces-tranquility.html.
[xi] Mori, H, et al. “How Does Deep Breathing Affect Office Blood Pressure and Pulse Rate?” Hypertension Research : Official Journal of the Japanese Society of Hypertension., U.S. National Library of Medicine, June 2005, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16231755.
[xii] Emmons, R A, and M E McCullough. “Counting Blessings versus Burdens: an Experimental Investigation of Gratitude and Subjective Well-Being in Daily Life.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology., U.S. National Library of Medicine, Feb. 2003, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12585811.
[xiii] Publishing, Harvard Health. “In Praise of Gratitude.” Harvard Health, www.health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/in-praise-of-gratitude.