If you’re wilting under the weight of stress, it’s time for a natural strategy that lets you thrive.
Tired of being told to stress less, relax, and find balance? We’ve all heard this once or twice, but what’s the solution? Stress can dominate our thoughts, keep us awake at night, distract us from what we love, and stop us from blooming into our full potential. We can’t just turn it off.
Even though we can’t eliminate all stress, we can reduce it—and we must. Some stress is normal, but persistent stress can raise cortisol levels (the hormone connected with stress) and contribute to illnesses ranging from anxiety and depression to cardiovascular, respiratory, and digestive problems.
Elevated stress may also be hard on our adrenal glands: two small glands that sit on top of each kidney and produce cortisol (among other hormones). Although the existence of adrenal fatigue is not recognized by the medical community, many natural and holistic health practitioners say it is an authentic health concern and therefore offer treatments to support adrenal health.
According to registered holistic nutritionist Paula Blanchet, adrenal fatigue resulting from constant stress is not always addressed accurately, because the symptoms aren’t always connected. She cautions that “adrenal fatigue can cause elevated cortisol levels, thyroid imbalance, digestion issues, weight gain, chronic fatigue, and other serious health concerns.” Often, when stress is dealt with, so is adrenal fatigue.
Are you stressed … or depressed?
Sometimes symptoms that seem like simple responses to stress—such as trouble concentrating, feelings of anger, or changes in eating and sleeping patterns—can be signs of something more serious: depression.
Depression is not just about feeling “sad” or “down.” Other symptoms may include:
- feelings of guilt, worthlessness, helplessness, or hopelessness
- a loss of interest or pleasure in activities usually enjoyed
- thoughts of death
- trouble making decisions
If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, discuss them with a mental health professional.
7 symptoms of adrenal fatigue
These are common symptoms of adrenal fatigue, according to holistic nutritionist Paula Blanchet:
- excessive sweating
- neck/shoulder tension
- tightness in throat when under pressure
- frequent headaches
- high blood pressure
- dramatic drop in blood pressure when standing
Lowering stress naturally with supplements and botanicals that compliment our bodies and lifestyles is a smart place to start. Consult your health care practitioner to learn more about these stress-reducing supplements and see if any may be a good fit for you.
A celebrated adaptogen (a medicinal plant that combats stress), ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) has been shown to lower cortisol levels and help fight symptoms of stress, according to published research. It’s even thought to help increase our overall resistance to stress.
Used for centuries to calm nerves and elevate mood, passion flower is widely recognized for stress and anxiety relief. Available in many forms, passion flower is considered a safe and effective supplement for stress relief.
Another common adaptogen, rhodiola is thought to help reduce stress and adrenal fatigue. This rose-scented herb may also help enhance mood and increase mental performance.
Used for centuries to decrease anxiety, lemon balm may lower cortisol and ease stress while promoting cognitive performance and memory. The whole herb is a wonderful addition to food and tea with its sweet, lemony flavor.
St. John’s wort
St. John’s wort is most commonly suggested to ease symptoms of mild depression. Although more research is required, it may also soothe mild anxiety and insomnia.
Supplements are a powerful start, but when paired with incremental lifestyle changes, the combination can reduce stress and strengthen the mind-body connection even more. Try some of these techniques to ramp up relaxation.
Sleep, diet, and exercise
These three are crucial to stress management. Getting enough sleep and exercise helps you naturally decompress, and a high intake of fruits and vegetables is the root of a diet that supports optimal mental balance. Be sure to also eat plenty of foods that are high in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon and walnuts.
Blanchet advises that “by reducing stress through diet, exercise, and adequate sleep, we can ensure healthy cortisol levels, better weight management, and balanced hormones.”
Soothe yourself with this calming practice, known as diaphragmatic breathing, by inhaling deeply and slowly from your diaphragm (a dome-shaped muscle located just below your lungs) while expanding your belly with focused intention. This often comes intuitively, so you can easily enjoy the feelings of well-being and relief this technique provides.
Progressive muscle relaxation
Help reduce your stress by alternately tensing and relaxing various muscle groups sequentially throughout your body. Tense each set of muscles with concentration for 10 seconds, and then relax them for 20. With practice, progressive muscle relaxation can provide enjoyable feelings of calm.
Invest in yourself with this simple yet effective tradition. Transcendental meditation allows you to shift your awareness to a deeply restful state as you repeat a mantra and sit still with your eyes closed. Research shows this practice can provide increased resistance to stress and lower blood pressure. Aim for 20 minutes, twice daily.
Blanchet reminds us that the benefits of finding natural and effective ways to cope with our stress are well worth the effort: “By naturally supporting our systems with supplements and stress reduction techniques, our resistance to stress increases and coping mechanisms become ingrained.” We’re no longer stuck in a cycle of stress; instead, we flourish.
5 fun ways to relieve stress
Helping others lowers stress and promotes feelings of well-being.
Lower stress instantly by laughing with a friend or enjoying something fun.
Connect with nature to soothe your soul and help alleviate stress.
Move your body, feel great, and naturally unwind.
No phone, no screens, no stress! Take a break and enjoy.