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How to Handle Stress and Lower Anxiety

How can you not feel stressed and panicked? The news is showing 24-hour coverage of the coronavirus outbreak. Your kids and significant other are home from school and work. The simple chore of going to the grocery store feels like it requires a battle plan. The coronavirus is a small bump in the road. Like all bad times, this will pass, but right now, it can feel overwhelming.

Don’t let your stress and anxiety get out of control. Let’s take a look at the complications that stress and anxiety can cause. We’ll also discuss the best ways to lower stress.

What Does Stress Do to the Body?

Despite the bad publicity it gets, stress is essential. It’s what kept our ancestors alert and alive. When our bodies get stressed, they enter a fight-or-flight mode. Certain hormones such as adrenaline spike, increasing our awareness of our surrounding to make the best choices for survival.

This is a pretty handy skill when you’re running from wild animals. But in the modern day, the stress response is happening all the time without a real threat to run from, and this can cause harm to your health.

Increases Catabolic Hormones: Stress increases levels of a hormone called cortisol. A natural part of optimal health in small doses, cortisol can become catabolic when it’s produced in excess. This means that it will break down muscle tissue and disrupt proper insulin production. Learning how to lower cortisol levels begins with how you respond to stress. More on that below. [1]

Weakens Immunity: While short-term stress doesn’t hurt your immunity, chronic or long-term stress can cause a number of health complications. Strain on hormone production, digestion, and cardiovascular health are a few examples. All of these systems play an essential role in your immune response. [2][3]

Learn more about how to increase your immunity.

Sleep Disruption: Stress hormones like adrenaline make you alert and focused. They are not ideal for sleep. If you’re suffering from chronic stress, you might find it difficult to get to sleep or stay sleep through the night. Long term, this could lead to insomnia and all of the side effects related to it. [4]

How to Handle Stress and Lower Anxiety

How do you deal with stress? There are proper ways to cope with stress and then there are destructive ways that seem like a good idea but only make things worse. Let’s take a look at the healthiest ways to lower stress, according to science.

Avoid Stimulants and Depressants

The easiest way to lower stress levels is by cutting back or eliminating stimulants such as caffeine and depressants such as alcohol. Caffeine, in particular, will lengthen and worsen the stress response by elevating blood pressure and ramping up stress hormone production. [5]

Change Your Diet

What you eat is the key to altering your physical fitness and appearance, but it also influences what happens behind the scenes. Unhealthy diets, such as those with high levels of sugar, processed foods, and trans-fat, can weaken your immune response. Choose natural and whole food options with a big focus on vegetables and fruits while avoiding sugar and limiting your intake of processed foods. [6]

Exercise

Studies show individuals who exercise report lower levels of stress and anxiety in their daily life. What’s more, exercise also improves sleep quality and duration, or the ability to fall asleep and stay asleep. This can help if your stress keeps you awake at a night. The Center for Disease Control recommends either 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise, 75 minutes of high-intensity exercise, or a combination of both. [7][8]

Meditation and Yoga

The mindful breathing that takes place during meditation and yoga has been shown time and time again to reduce levels of stress.  [9]

Consider Herbal Supplements

There are several herbal-based ingredients that have been shown to decrease stress including the following:

Kava: Shown to act as a natural anti-anxiety remedy. You can drink it as a tea or in supplement form. [10]

Ashwagandha: An adaptogen that improves your body’s response to stress while minimizing antioxidative damage. [11]

Lemon Balm: A member of the mint family, lemon balm is used in aromatherapy and as a supplement to promote calmness.[12]

Bigger Picture

Whether you’re watching television or scrolling your feed on Facebook, talk of the coronavirus is everywhere! It’s so easy to fall into the trap of only focusing on the negative events happening right now. With that said, it’s essential that you develop and practice the skill of looking at the bigger picture.

Take a few deep breaths, step back, and remember that this is one event in a long timeline. You have dealt with worse things. Those events passed and this will too.

Positivity and Laughter

It can seem difficult to laugh at a time like this, but positivity and laughter have never been more important for your health. Here are a few ways to embrace positive interactions:

  • Surround yourself with positive people (even if it’s only over the phone or FaceTime)
  • Turn off the news (stay informed as much as you need to) and turn on a funny movie or comedy special
  • Take a long break from social media
  • Repeat affirmations to start your day – For example: “Today is going to be great.”
  • Take time to laugh, especially with your friends and family

Have Your Own Tricks for Coping with Stress?

What do you do to deal with stress? Do you have a healthy routine or suggestion for other readers? Share it with us in the comments below.