If you experience stress and anxiety, know you are not alone. Stress and anxiety management is something I am persistently working on for myself, as it’s not as simple as I wish it were. It feels like each year, more and more stressors are weaved throughout society, so it feels almost impossible to escape the worry. However, I’m thankful that conversations surrounding stress awareness are evolving. I am constantly reminding myself, my loved ones, and my clients that a healthy amount of stress is a normal element of life, but allowing it to consume us is detrimental to our well-being.
Well, there is nothing like a new year to reinspire me to make improvements in my life, and I’m sure you feel the same way. One of my primary goals for 2023 is to reduce stress holistically for both my physiological and mental health. If this is also one of your goals, consider implementing these eight practices I will be prioritizing this year to help find the calm in the chaos.
Self-care is paramount in my life. I can quickly become over-involved in various tasks and projects, so I am always reminding myself to take a step back and focus on my needs first and foremost. While self-care means something different to everyone, the aspects of self-care that I find most important to me are exercise, sleep, meditation, and nutrition.
There are endless studies measuring exercise’s stress-reducing impact on the body and mind. When you exercise, the body naturally releases endorphins, also known as happy hormones. So, the common theme is that if your body feels good, so does your mind. I can personally attest to this, so I emphasize regularly incorporating mind-body workouts. These include lower-impact exercises such as walking and yoga as well as higher-intensity activities like swimming. I especially love a good sweat session in nature to help me clear my mind when life feels busy.
Sufficient high-quality sleep makes a world of difference regarding memory, judgment, and mood, which can further affect stress. Sleep deprivation tends to correlate with an increase in cortisol, the body’s natural stress hormone. So, striving for seven to eight hours of sleep each night is optimal for managing stress levels. I recommend setting an alarm an hour or so before you intend to go to bed, so you can begin to unwind and put away any screens that can disrupt a quality night’s sleep.
Meditation has been an incredibly healing practice that has kept me grounded for over a decade. Meditation can take many forms, such as breathing techniques, journaling, or mindfulness. Whatever method you choose, you are sure to experience clarity of mind that greatly reduces feelings of stress. Start by setting aside just five minutes of quiet time, and from there, continue experimenting with what works best for you.
There isn’t a singular superfood that cures all stress and anxiety, but the foods we eat do play a significant role in our overall well-being. Certain foods have the power to impact our stress levels. Foods that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids (e.g., flax seeds) and vitamin C (e.g., oranges) have been linked to reduced stress hormone levels in the body. I always feel much better when I consume plenty of whole foods that contain these powerful nutrients. On the other hand, highly caffeinated products and ultra-processed foods have the ability to make us experience more unease.
2. Enjoy mealtimes
My next tip for reducing stress is related to nutrition, and it entails being intentional with mealtimes! When the busyness of life starts to take over, we may find ourselves working during or through our meals, and eating starts to feel like a chore. But meals should serve as a break from the chaos. Try using your next meal to wind down for a moment and show gratitude for your food and its sustenance. Go a step further and sit down to eat with those you love. I truly believe that the positive energy helps with digestion.
3. Take a break from the media
A lot is going on in the world right now. I’m an advocate for staying informed, but picking up our phones for every notification or constantly scrolling through news feed after news feed creates unnecessary overstimulation that isn’t good for our mental health. I love taking media breaks throughout the day to keep my stress levels low and my self-focus high.
4. Turn stress into an asset
While we can reduce and manage stress, we can’t eliminate it. So if stress is inevitable, we might as well make the most of it! Short-term stress can energize us to complete time-sensitive tasks and improve goal-achieving performance. I acknowledge my stress and then reframe it as motivation and excitement for anything coming my way. The key here is making sure not to get carried away. I allowed stress to control my life for many years, and it ended up contributing to my cancer diagnosis. So harness it for bouts of productivity in the short term but be sure not to let it control you long term!
5. Indulge in hobbies
Discovering your passions and honing your talents does wonders for feeling inwardly connected and self-assured. I feel at peace when I indulge in what I love, whether spending time with my daughters or creating new recipes with my team. I forget all my worries in those spaces and can revel in the moment. Go inward to discover your true passions and commit to them every day as part of your stress-reduction protocol.
6. Acknowledge the little things
Often, we pay so much attention to the difficulties and hardships in our lives that we forget how lucky we are in many other aspects. As silly as it may feel, thanking your body for waking up in the morning or acknowledging your mind’s ability to learn new skills can relieve you from external stress.
7. Romanticize your life
Think about the main character in your favorite feel-good movie. Whatever obstacles they face throughout their arc, they always learn to reflect on and appreciate the journey. They romanticize their life by zooming in on the smaller moments and letting them fuel their love for their life. By romanticizing your life, you’re practicing a form of mindfulness. This can look like sitting on the beach and watching the sunset, taking yourself on a solo date to a restaurant you’ve been wanting to try, or even simply lighting candles in your room to set the perfect atmosphere. Romanticizing your life allows you to express more excitement, gratitude, and celebration for everything—big and small—that makes life beautiful and less stressful.
8. Embrace supplements
Different supplements work best for different kinds of stress. But in general, I love using the following anti-stress supplements:
L-theanine supports a healthy stress response, relaxation, focus, and memory. It helps increase alpha-wave production in the brain, enhancing neurotransmitters involved in stress management.
This combination of B vitamins (with extra vitamin B5 to help downregulate cortisol) supports healthy adrenal and immune function for natural stress relief.
Holy Basil, also known as tulsi, is a potent adaptogen that has been known to relieve stress, uplift mood, and support immune function for thousands of years. My favorites are Organic India‘s Tulsi Tea, which provides 1.8 grams of tulsi per day, and Gaia‘s liquid extract, which provides about 1.3 grams of tulsi per day!
This supplement is perfect for anyone dealing with stress. It contains a mix of ingredients such as ashwagandha, L-theanine, and licorice root extract to keep you calm and healthy.
I believe that you are your own health expert. However, we all can feel lost and overly stressed at times, so I’d love to help you get back on track and aligned with your personal holistic health goals. Schedule a one-on-one session with me for individualized supplement and lifestyle guidance to help you take control in the new year.