In today’s world, stress has globally become a critical problem for health. Continued nervous tension leads to premature aging and increases the risk of various health problems, such as fatigue, headaches, and allergies to strokes, heart attacks, and even cancers.
And let’s not forget that drug and alcohol addiction, violence, and many crimes, smoking, and overeating are all connected to stress.
To live a healthy lifestyle, it is imperative to learn how to reduce stress.
Short-term stress itself is not always bad for you. It is part of the body’s natural chemical response to a “fight or flight” stimulus that triggers various hormones – adrenaline, dopamine, dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), norepinephrine, and cortisol.
Yet, no matter how natural the response is, all these hormones can become explosive if the stress is ongoing, and the body is always on the defense.
Since chronic stress is not yet clearly understood, therapists have difficulty offering a universal remedy.
Ordinarily, therapists prescribe antidepressants Prozac and Valium for people suffering from chronic stress.
But many times, the sufferer is advised to either change a situation that is causing the ongoing stressful reaction or changing how or he or she responds to it.
These suggestions frequently help. Is your job stressing you out? Then it would help if you found another job. Is your wife or husband cheating on you? Then you must leave. These actions change the situation, and often the chronic stress will dissipate.
There is another kind of stress that can also cause an unhealthy lifestyle. It is called “cumulative stress.”
This type of stress is triggered by many everyday hassles (For example, being stuck in traffic, you lose your credit card, you received an order with the wrong article, etc.) Scientists discovered that it affects your immune system by lowering T cells (white blood cells) and NK cells (natural killer cells) in blood.
These everyday stressful situations slowly build-up, causing what is known as cumulative stress.
Unbeknownst to the person, he or she begins to live in a constant state of “fight or flight.”
A stressful reaction can even happen when there is no immediate threat. For example, by merely remembering a negative experience. But this can be controlled and changed.
How To Reduce Stress With Allostasis
There is a form of stress control called “allostasis.” It was coined “to clarify ambiguities associated with the word stress.” In other words, to help better understand what the word stress means.
Homeostasis “is the ability to maintain a relatively stable internal state that persists despite changes in the world outside.” In other words, a person confronted by outside stressors will maintain his/her composure and not allow any external element to affect them psychologically.
Allostasis is the method of “achieving stability through change.” This is how you may react to a stressor and the ability to change your feelings and attitude so the stressors do not cause you harm.
It appears that scientists embrace allostasis over homeostasis in the way it relates to health and disease.
As this scientific study explains:
- “Primary mediators of allostasis include, but are not confined to, hormones of the HPA axis, catecholamines and cytokines…” And “An allostatic state results in an imbalance of the primary mediators, reflecting excessive production of some and inadequate production of others. Some examples of allostatic states are chronic hypertension; a flattened cortisol rhythm in major depression…”
This means that the stress stimulates the HPA axis, which is the communication channel between the hypothalamus, pituitary gland, and adrenal glands. The HPA axis reacts by releasing two potent stress hormones called epinephrine and norepinephrine into your blood.
Stress also affects cytokines, which are proteins that help regulate immunity and inflammation.
So, let’s suppose you cannot change your attitude towards stress and allow it to take a foothold over you.
In this case, the primary mediators mentioned earlier get overstimulated, causing what is called an “allostatic overload.”
This overload predisposes you to excessive inflammation, lowered immunity, and a host of other diseases.
The good news is that there are numerous techniques and methods that can help achieve allostasis, mainly by changing our attitudes towards stressful events or problems.
Below are some proven techniques to help on how to reduce stress and adapt to it before causing possible harm.
Stress is directly related to our experiences in life and how we perceive and react to them.
7 Techniques On How To Reduce Stress
Become A Minimalist
Minimalism is basically “living a simple life.”
The Minimalist urges people to eliminate unnecessary items and hold on to only what they need to live comfortably.
It’s a way to prioritize the things that matter, bringing joy, comfort, and genuine value.
It goes against the materialistic world of today. When the world tempts you to join the new fad, buy the new iPhone, and party up during the weekends, minimalism guides you in the opposite direction.
It teaches you to buy or obtain only the things you need and to manage them in moderation. Minimalism encourages you to be organized and clutter-free.
And this applies to both the mind and their environment. Decluttering (organizing and cleaning up) the inner and outer world will reduce your stress level.
How To Reduce Stress With Laughter
A great way to reduce stress is to make it a habit of laughing during the day and do it loudly.
A review on stress published by the Mayo Clinic 20019 stated the following: “A good sense of humor can’t cure all ailments, but data is mounting about the positive things laughter can do.“
Then it listed some of the effects of laughter on your body:
- Stimulates many organs
- Activates and relieves your stress response
- Soothes tension
- Improves your immune system
- Relieve pain
- Increase personal satisfaction
- Improve your mood
A more straightforward way of putting this is that the way we feel affects our bodily functions and health.
Do you remember the last time you laughed out loud? Do you remember that great feeling in your body after the laugh?
Those positive emotions are what triggers the chemical changes in your body to help relieve stress. We don’t feel this process going on but rest assured, it is happeníng.
At times, it is best to treat things that bother you with a generous amount of humor. Watch a good comedy or listen to some funny jokes. Many times, the spirit of laughter is enough to offset the damage stress hormones can cause.
Invigorate Your Soul With Music
Another great way to reduce stress is to listen to music. Engage yourself in whatever genre of music lifts your spirit.
As mentioned earlier, cortisol is the primary stress hormone elevated when you experience a stressful situation. On the other hand, when listening to music, it has been proven to decrease the elevated cortisol level. (Source, on page 89)
Stress significantly affects the immune system. Studies showed that particular types of music could change and regulate the level of the antibody “immunoglobulin A” (IgA) and NK cells. Both are extremely valuable at keeping you healthy.
You may wonder what kind of music to listen to on how to reduce stress. The research paper on “Music And Stress” states the following on page 91:
- “Preferred music, as opposed to prescribed music, is a critical factor in music’s effectiveness to relieve stress.“
What this means is that it is a cultural thing. Different people enjoy and lose themselves in various types of music. The studies state this works best to help reduce stress.
Not everyone responds the same to sedative music. The way people react to music when they are stressed is based on ” factors such as familiarity, preference, current mood and music training.” (page 90)
Some people get inspired and uplifted by rap music, others by rock music, and so forth. It all depends on the person.
The bottom line is that music can help you reduce stress. Science has proven this.
In the 1940s, adaptogens were researched in Russia. They experimented with them on their athletes, chess players, military personnel, pilots, and politicians to increase stamina and adapt to stressful situations.
Adaptogens can help you to resist stress and the damage it can cause. They work by balancing and regulating the hypothalamic-pituitary endocrine axis (HPA Axis mentioned earlier).
When taken consistently, adaptogens assist your stress response system in helping your body to produce fewer stress hormones. Here are four that are proven to fight stress:
Schisandra (Schisandra Chinensis)
Schisandra was classified as an adaptogen in the 1950s.
Siberian Ginseng (Eleutherococcus)
Siberian Ginseng is one of the essential adaptogens used in Traditional Chinese Medicine.
This adaptogen has been used to:
- “…increase body resistance to such stressful exposures as heat, cold, physical exhaustion, viruses, bacteria, chemicals, extreme working conditions, noise, pollution.”
Science suggests that Siberian Ginseng can boost immunity, treat colds and a host of other diseases, and increase daily stress resistance.
Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera)
Ashwagandha is used as a tonic in India and has been part of Ayurvedic medicine for over 2,000 years.
One study conducted on people suffering from a history of chronic stress clearly showed exceptional stress-reducing capabilities regarding stress and anxiety.
The study concluded that Ashwagandha effectively improves stress resistance and can help you achieve a healthy lifestyle.
Ashwagandha is so useful that it is considered an alternative to Xanax, a well-known prescription medication given to people that suffer from depression and anxiety. It works by modulating the stress hormones serotonin and cortisol.
Rhodiola Rosea (Golden Root/ or Artic Root)
This herb is a potent adaptogen. One study explained that Rhodiola is anti-stress and can “enhance the natural resistance of the body to both physical and behavior stresses for fighting fatigue and depression.“
There is a multitude of studies showing the powerful effects of Rhodiola on disease and stress.
It is excellent for:
- mental disorders
- cognitive impairments
- and much more
Rhodiola rosea is the primary adaptogen approved by the Committee on Herbal Medicinal Products (HMPC)/ European Medicines Agency (EMA) to fight stress. This is a committee that is responsible for investigating scientific data on herbal substances.
Rhodiola regulates the release of stress hormones and can treat and prevent stress-related problems.
How To Reduce Stress With Meditation
Practicing meditation can help control how you respond to events that generally induce stress.
A beneficial meditation for stress is kundalini yoga. A small study of 26 people discovered that practicing Kundalini Yoga produced an immediate and long-term (longitudinal) effect against perceived stress.
They tested the participants’ saliva during and after the study and determined that the stress hormone cortisol was reduced with Kundalini yoga practice.
Mindfulness meditation has shown that it can reduce stress and anxiety.
There are three different variations of Mindfulness:
- Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR)
- Mindfulness-based cognitive behavioral therapy (MBCT)
- Zen meditation
Out of the three, MBSR is best for stress management. The other two are more geared for managing pain.
Many studies have shown the positive effects of MBSR on:
- Stress levels
- Psychological distress
- Occupational self-compassion
- Quality Of Sleep
- And much more
Biofeedback is a fantastic technique for reducing stress. It uses muscle relaxation training. It works on the physiological symptoms of stress by normalizing the pulse, reducing high blood pressure, and relieving muscle tension.
The more you practice this method, the better you will get at managing stress. You learn to “voluntarily control what were once thought to be involuntary body processes.” For example, your breathing.
One study conducted on 60 graduate students proved that biofeedback training significantly reduced stress, anxiety, and depression.
How To Reduce Stress With “Touch”
A study was done with 404 healthy adults to determine if hugs could lessen the chance of someone getting sick due to high levels of stress. Participants were infected with the common cold and placed on quarantine.
The study discovered that hugging the participants resulted in them showing fewer and less-severe signs of cold symptoms.
Massage is a great stress reliever. Arguably, the best massage for stress is called “Deep Tissue Massage.”
Deep Tissue Massage
A deep tissue massage concentrates on the deeper layers within soft tissues such as the muscles, ligaments, and tendons.
Stress is often caused by a build-up of tension deep in the muscles and tissues that limits movement and amplifies pain.
A deep tissue massage is used to relieve this tension by stretching and parting the fibers deep in the muscle and tissues.
The result is that muscles and tissues will loosen up, increase their movement, relieve pain, and ultimately reduce stress.
Even if you do not try a deep tissue massage, you can still get stress relief from a self-massage.
For example, it has been shown that if you massage your feet, you can reduce stress.
One study conducted on 46 middle-aged women who did a self-foot reflexology massage on themselves for six weeks showed an effective way to reduce depression and stress and strengthen the immune system.
The foot massage also positively affected their Natural Killer cells and Immunoglobulin G (The most abundant antibody found in your body), two significant components of your immune system.
In another study, scalp massage was used two times per week for ten weeks to reduce stress in office workers.
The study’s results showed that the scalp massage significantly lowered cortisol, norepinephrine, heart rate, and blood pressure.
Anyone can give themselves a scalp massage. That’s the great thing about this technique.
How To Reduce Stress With Yoga
When it comes to exercise or physical activity for reducing stress, yoga is at the top of the list.
What’s good about yoga is that it can be done at home. There is no need to join a gym. All you need is a mat and a couple of lessons to get you started. Here is an article I wrote on yoga if you are interested in getting into it.
A study was conducted to determine if yoga is a better exercise than walking when it comes to combating stress.
Thirty-four participants were divided into two groups: 19 did yoga, and the other 15 did the walking. Both groups did their respective exercise for 60 minutes, three times a week, for a total of twelve weeks.
The researchers were investigating the level of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) – a neurotransmitter that induces relaxation and better sleep.
The result of this 12-week experiment showed that the yoga group had a more significant improvement in mood and anxiety than the walking group.
It also showed that the yoga group increased the GABA neurotransmitter, which was linked to improved mood and decreased anxiety.
Some studies suggest that yoga stimulates the vagus nerve. The vagus nerve decreases the stress hormone cortisol, and this is one way stress is reduced by yoga. (Source on page 3).
Yoga also down-regulates the HPA axis and the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) (The SNS’s job is to help the body make quick involuntary responses to stressful situations).
Both the HPA axis and SNS can prevent high levels of stress hormones from being released into the blood. This is another way yoga works against stress. (Source on page 3)
Another way yoga works against stress is by reducing inflammation and increasing interferon (interferons are protein with potent antiviral activities), both of which are linked to chronic stress. (Source on page 4)
Although short-term stress can boost immunity, it should not be taken lightly, particularly chronic stress. It is a silent killer and is linked to the top causes of death worldwide and a host of other diseases.
Learning how to reduce stress is of utmost importance for you to live a healthy life.
Sometimes life throws a curveball at you. Someone close to you unexpectedly dies, or your spouse suddenly leaves you, etc. It would help if you were ready to deal with the stress that comes with the unexpected.
No one is made of steel. Some people may think that stress does not affect them until it is too late.
Be mindful of what annoys you. Don’t let daily hassles linger in your head. In the end, it’s just not worth it.
Learn how to reduce stress with the techniques provide here, or use your own if you have other methods.
Thank you for reading this article, and I hope that I provided you with some pertinent information on how to reduce stress.