Most people experience stress from time to time. Stress is the automatic response of the body to any demand for change that is perceived as harmful. When a person encounters a threatening situation, the body instinctively reacts by unleashing a cascade of hormones which increase your heartbeat, blood pressure, and raise energy levels. This pressure is a natural response by the body to cope with the situation (1).
Many demands in life can cause stress, especially work, relationships, and money problems. Traumatic life events also lead to stress. At times, your body’s natural alarm system that operates on a “fight or flight” response can get jammed and can continuously be in the ‘on’ position (2). This strain can have a far-reaching consequence on your health and can lead to chronic stress.
Stress can have both physical and emotional symptoms. Some of them are headaches, muscle tension or pain, chest pain, fatigue, frequent urination, upset stomach, irritable bowel syndrome, frequent colds and infections, loss of sexual desire, dry mouth, clenched jaw and grinding, and difficulty in sleeping.
It also has a direct effect on your mood and behavior, leading to symptoms like anxiety, restlessness, forgetfulness, inability to focus, lack of motivation, irritability, unnecessary anger, sadness, depression, and social withdrawal. Behavioral symptoms include changes in appetite, procrastination, avoiding responsibilities, increased use of alcohol, accident proneness, more neurological behaviors like nail biting, fidgeting, etc.
Too much stress can contribute to conditions like high blood pressure, gastroesophageal reflux disease, menstrual problems, sexual dysfunction, skin and hair problems, gastritis, cancer, obesity, heart disease, anxiety, and depression, among other issues. It can even reduce one’s enjoyment of life in general.
Stress is an unavoidable part of life, but there are many easy ways to deal with it. By keeping a positive outlook, making some lifestyle changes, eating a healthy diet, and using some simple home remedies, you can effectively manage stress.
Here are the top 10 home remedies for stress.
1. Slow and Deep Breathing
Slow and deep breathing can help you cool off in a stressful situation. By deep breathing, you send a message to the brain to calm down and relax, and then the brain communicates this to the rest of the body.
With deep breathing, more oxygen enters the body, which has a calming effect on your mind and body. In fact, 15 to 30 minutes of slow, deep breathing daily can help prevent stress.
A study published in 2009 in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine demonstrated that slow and fast breathing exercises benefit patients with hypertension, with slow breathing technique being more effectual than fast breathing exercises. The improvement in sympathetic and parasympathetic reactivity might be the possible mechanism by which this happens (3). It can even help you think more clearly so that you can deal with stress more efficiently.
- When you are under stress, sit or lie down in a quiet, comfortable place.
- Close your eyes and take a deep breath through your nose to the count of five.
- Hold your breath for 5 counts, then exhale for 5 counts.
- Repeat 5 or 6 more times or until you calm down and feel relaxed.
Another method is to merely exhale and hold the breath at the bottom of the exhale for a count of five. Then allow the body to inhale. This method enhances the parasympathetic nervous system and discharges the sympathetic nervous system (fight/flight). You can practice this method anywhere.
2. Epsom Salt
Epsom salt is another useful and effective remedy to help you calm down when you are under stress.
Stress causes low magnesium levels in the body and increases adrenaline levels. Epsom salt is high in magnesium, which helps enhance the mood-elevating serotonin chemical in the brain and detoxes adrenaline.
When used in warm baths, it relieves the muscle pain and soreness. The magnesium sulfate is absorbed by your body when you soak yourself in a warm Epsom salt bath (4).
This, in turn, helps reduce stress, promotes relaxation and ease anxiety, irritability, insomnia, and abnormal heart rhythms.
- Add 1 cup of Epsom salt and a few drops of aromatic essential oil of your choice to warm bathwater.
- Stir thoroughly, until the salt granules dissolve in the water.
- Soak in this soothing water for 20 minutes.
- You can enjoy this soothing bath 2 or 3 times a week.
3. Chamomile Tea
Chamomile is a useful herb for reducing stress. Its calming and soothing nature has a sedative effect on the central nervous system. It helps relax the muscles, ease anxiety, and promotes better sleep.
A study done in 2007 showed that individuals who were given warm chamomile jelly had higher relaxed feeling scores, improved sleep consciousness in comparison to those persons who were given chamomile-free jelly (5).
- You can drink up to 4 cups of chamomile tea a day to fight stress. To make the tea, add two teaspoons of dried chamomile to a cup of hot water. Cover and steep for 10 minutes. Strain, add raw honey as per taste and drink it.
- You can also add fresh chamomile flowers or a few drops of chamomile essential oil to warm bathwater for a nerve-soothing soak.
- You can even take this herb in supplement form. Consult your doctor for proper dosage.
Body massage also works as a stress reliever for many. According to traditional Chinese medicine, massage helps open blocked energy channels to reduce stress and improve overall health.
Massage is known to enhance skeletal muscle relaxation, increase blood and lymph circulation and reduce anxiety (6). A warm oil massage of the feet, hands, back, and head helps relax tense muscles, improve circulation and fight anxiety.
For a relaxing massage, you can use sesame, olive or coconut oil.
- Slightly warm the oil of your choice.
- Use the warm oil to massage your forehead, neck, shoulders, back, and bottom of your feet.
- Then, take a warm bath.
- Massage your body daily or as needed to reduce stress.
Ashwagandha, also known as Indian ginseng or Withania somnifera, is a beneficial herb for stress. It is very popular for its ability to help combat stress and disease. It also increases physical endurance and metabolism without many side-effects (7).
A 2012 study published in the Indian Journal of Psychological Medicine found that ashwagandha root is effective in reducing stress and anxiety in adults by lowering levels of cortisol, the stress hormone. It also improves resistance to stress, which in turn improves the quality of life (8).
Also, ashwagandha strengthens the nervous system, boosts energy, fights fatigue and boosts the quality of sleep.
This herb is readily available in the market as fresh root, dried root, powdered or supplements. The recommended dose is 1 to 2 grams of the fresh or dried root boiled in 1 cup of milk or water, three times daily. If taking a supplement, consult your doctor first.
Note: Pregnant women, diabetics, those with hypertension, and young children should not take this herb.
6. Holy Basil
Holy basil is another cherished Ayurvedic herb that is widely known for promoting overall health and works as a natural anti-stress agent.
The main phytochemicals present in tulsi are oleanolic acid, ursolic acid, rosmarinic acid, eugenol, carvacrol, linalool, elemene, and germacrene. These chemicals are responsible for its potent antioxidant, antibacterial, and antiviral activity.
It also bolsters the immunity. Tulsi is one of the most effective adaptogens known (9). Being an adaptogenic herb, it enhances the body’s natural response to physical and emotional stress. Plus, it helps the body function properly during times of stress.
According to a 2006 study published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology, holy basil protects against chronic restraint stress-induced changes, through its central effect (10).
- Chew 10 to 12 fresh holy basil leaves twice daily.
- You can even drink a cup of basil tea to reduce stress. To make the tea, put 1 tablespoon of fresh basil leaves in a cup of boiling water. Cover and steep for 5 minutes.
- Strain, add some raw honey and sip the tea slowly.
7. Green Tea
Green tea contains L-Theanine, an amino acid that promotes the production of alpha brain waves, which in turn reduces stress, encourages relaxation, and improves focus and mental alertness (12).
Besides, this amino acid plays an essential role in the development of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), a neurotransmitter that promotes relaxation.
- Add 2 teaspoons of green tea leaves to a cup of hot water.
- Cover and steep for 5 minutes.
- Strain and add some fresh lemon juice and raw honey.
- You can drink 2 to 3 cups of green tea a day to reduce stress.
Another effective folk remedy for stress is passionflower. The extracts of this beautiful flower contain flavonoids like apigenin, luteolin, and alkaloids like harmane, harmaline, and harmine. Some of these compounds like harmane have anti-depressant properties (13).
Passionflower can increase GABA levels in the brain, which helps reduce stress as well as anxiety and panic attacks.
- Drink a cup of passionflower tea to reduce stress. To make the tea, add 1 tablespoon of the dried herb to 1 cup of hot water. Cover and steep for about 10 minutes. Strain and drink this tea while it is still warm.
- Passionflower is also available in liquid extract, tincture, and tablet forms. Always consult your doctor before taking a supplement as it may interact with certain medications.
Note: Small children and women who are pregnant or nursing must not take this herb.
Exercise works as a great stress reliever, be it aerobic, moderate- or high-intensity exercise. A 30-minute brisk walk or work out in the gym can help reduce the stress hormones and increase the “feel good” factor hormones in your body. Also, it improves your mood and distracts you from daily worries.
Try to make time to do different exercises when you are under stress. You can just take a short walk, swim, dance, or play some sports.
You can also practice yoga to fight stress. Yoga works as a meditation, which helps calm both your mind and body. It also improves your focus and helps you remain calm and unambiguous in everything you do.
10. Vitamin B
To prevent stress and improve your mood, start taking vitamin B. This group includes all the eight B vitamins — B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B7, B9 and B12 that promote proper functioning of the brain and nervous system, improve relaxation, fight stress, and fatigue.
Stress creates greater physiological demand on the body. Extended periods of stress lead to increased metabolic activity. Unhealthy eating can make things worse if you are stressed (14).
In fact, vitamin B deficiency in the body can cause irritability, depression, and apathy. So, when you are under stress, eat more foods rich in vitamins B.
- Foods high in vitamins B include whole grains, beans, peas, peanuts, spinach, kale, blackstrap molasses, avocados, potatoes, bananas, legumes, eggs, and dairy products.
- You can also take vitamin B supplements. Consult a doctor first to find out what type of vitamin B your body needs.
- Try to keep things organized to enjoy peace of mind and a sense of control over your life.
- Limit your Internet and phone use so that you can spend more time with your family and friends.
- Get proper sleep. Sleep is a natural stress buster.
- Enjoy a walk for 30 minutes, 5 times a week.
- Limit your consumption of alcohol, caffeine, and sugar.
- Eat healthy foods like whole grains and protein to improve your mood and fight stress.
- Include more vitamin C foods in your diet. Vitamin C helps bring stress hormone levels back to normal.
- If you smoke, quit smoking.
- Listen to soothing music when you are under stress. Music can be soothing to your mind.
- Aromatherapy can also provide relief from stress by improving your mood, reducing anxiety and aiding focus and concentration.
- Take up a calming hobby like knitting, working on puzzles, reading or singing to keep your life stress-free.
- Take a break once in a while. A care-free vacation or a long relaxing weekend without many items on your agenda can refresh you.
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