Let’s face it. Life is hectic. How can you keep yourself healthy and keep your sanity in the process? A little self care and proper nutrition goes a long way toward managing daily stress. We’ve compiled the most helpful research-backed tips for reducing your stress and improving your mood.
The Risks of Stress
We may not think of daily stresses as a serious health concern, but high stress can put a lot of wear and tear on our body’s systems. Excessive weight gain, unhealthy blood pressure levels and fundamental changes in the brain’s structure have been linked to frequent stress.*
For Stress Relief Just Add Water
If you don’t like drinking water, here’s a little incentive to reach for a glass. Being mildly dehydrated can affect your level of stress. Research shows having the concentration of your body’s cortisol levels increase when you are just half a liter dehydrated. Cortisol is our stress hormone and is important for fight-or-flight response. Having high cortisol levels may create an imbalance leading to excessive inflammation in the body.
Who doesn’t like the soothing sounds of waves crashing or the trickle of a fountain? It turns out there’s scientific evidence that the sound of water affects the hypothalamus portion of the brain and lowers cortisol levels.* For even more relaxation, immerse yourself in water to lower your stress a notch. Being submerged in a bath or taking a dip in the pool increases circulation. Warm water provides even more circulation benefits to the peripheral areas of the body, increasing the sensation of physical refreshment according to one study.* Water is simply one of the most effective and economical stress relief tools available.
Exercise & Stress Relief
When we are stressed out, fitting in time to workout is probably the last thing on our minds. Working up a sweat with exercise produces feel-good chemicals in the body, such as endorphins, that may help relieve tension. If your schedule has few free time slots, research shows that as little as 6 minutes of exercise can exert a positive influence on mood. If you can only fit in a short walk or jog, any exercise is better than no exercise when it comes to stress relief.
How Light Impacts Stress
Our eyes are closely connected to our brain function, so that certain types of light can directly impact our physiology. We know that when our eyes are not exposed to enough natural light, serotonin levels can dip below normal.* If you are feeling overwhelmed, take a short break outside. Just a few minutes of sunlight may improve stress by triggering your body’s production of serotonin.* Similarly, exposure to bright blue-tinted light near bedtime could aggravate our stress indirectly. The light from devices dampens our production of melatonin and may make it even more difficult to doze off. Overstimulation from electronic devices can amp up your stress levels and disrupt sleep, so be sure to set aside device-free time.
The Power of Touch for Stress Relief
In one study, researchers wanted to find actual physical proof that massage lessened stress. By measuring heart rate variability they were able to see if our body’s stress control center, the parasympathetic nervous system, was affected. The study found that massage did help participants to relax, but it produced similar results to simple physical touch. This dovetails with corresponding research on how touch, even brief hugs can positively affect mood and increase oxytocin, a hormone associated with bonding. You can use touch to reduce stress by scheduling a massage session to ease tense muscles or use a therapy gun or wood therapy (maderoterapia) tool to massage your muscles on your own. Of course, don’t forget to linger when hugging your loved ones.
Supplements to Support Healthy Stress Levels
Stress eating can create a negative cycle of relying on sugar and carbohydrates for a short-lived mood boost and quickly repeating the process again to get the same feeling. Sugar creates an environment of inflammation within the body and can lead to gaining excess weight. Taking in balanced, nutritionally dense food will help your body respond to stress.* Certain nutrients may support your stress response. The synthesis of serotonin and other mood regulating hormones is influenced by nutrients like B vitamins and amino acids. Tryptophan and 5-HTP are precursors of serotonin that may enhance its production. L-theanine is another amino acid that may increase dopamine and other mood regulators according to recent research. L-theanine is most often found in tea leaves and is one reason why sipping a cup of tea imparts a relaxing feeling.
The latest scientific research is focused on adaptogenic substances that adjust your body’s response to external stress. Ashwagandha is an adaptogenic herb that helps the body respond to external stressors and promotes a feeling of relaxation.* There are many clinical studies showing that this herb supports lowering stress levels. One study demonstrated an improvement in other stress markers including quality of sleep, blood sugar and cholesterol levels. You can find supplements to help your stress levels here at Nature’ Lab. Our Nature's Lab 5-HTP Plus 200 mg contains not only 5-HTP but L-tryptophan, vitamin B6 and SAM-e to support your mood.* Nature's Lab Ashwagandha Root Powder promotes relaxation, enhanced immune system functioning and offers antioxidant benefits.* Nature's Lab L-Theanine, 200 mg is a great supplement for stress support.* Studies suggest L-theanine shows promise for increasing brain alpha waves which contribute to mental focus and a sense of calm. No matter how you choose to cope with stress, remember that doing so is a vital part of a healthy lifestyle.
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