Sip, Stretch, and Smile: Easy Natural Ways to Beat Stress Without the Snooze

It is no secret that most people can say they experience stress on a regular basis. And when it comes to stress relief, most of us need a little help. The problem is, many stress and anxiety-reducing treatments, both conventional and alternative, can also leave you feeling drowsy or fatigued — especially the prescription kind. But the drugstore or doctor’s office isn’t your only option. There are numerous natural therapies that can keep you focused and sustain your energy throughout the day — while at the same time helping to reduce the anxiety and stress that can damage mental, physical and emotional health. These natural solutions can also provide numerous additional benefits for improving overall health and wellness.

Natural stress relief

B vitamins. Most people know how important B vitamins are for metabolic and immune health but in addition to this general knowledge, research shows that healthy levels of B vitamins — especially B6, B9 and B12 — may also contribute to the reduction of anxiety and depression, and help to boost energy.

Whether you supplement your diet with these essential B vitamins or obtain them through foods such as dairy products, lean meats, fish, poultry, nuts, and eggs, they can have a direct impact on your brain’s serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine levels.

Evidence shows that B vitamins help to balance and metabolize neuro-toxic chemicals that are associated with certain psychological conditions such as anxiety and depression. There are a number of B vitamins that effectively benefit your mental health, including vitamin B1 (thiamine), which may improve mood and memory, and increase energy levels. Additionally, studies have shown that vitamin B6 (pyridoxine HCL) — combined with other B-complex vitamins — can reduce levels of the toxic amino acid, homocysteine, and has a direct effect on GABA and serotonin neurotransmitters.

Green tea (EGCG). Researchers have found that people who drink four or more cups of green tea daily are 44 percent less likely to have symptoms of depression than those who drink only one cup per day or less.

Studies show that the component responsible for green tea’s potential antidepressant effects is L-theanine — a calming amino acid known to reduce mental and physical stress and enhance critical neurotransmitter activity. Green tea is also abundant in a class of phytochemicals called polyphenols, including the potent antioxidant epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), which contributes to an increase in brain alpha wave activity. Alpha waves are associated with a state of being awake but relaxed, so the EGCG combined with the L-theanine works together to promote an enhanced state of “alert relaxation.”

High levels of caffeine can have the opposite effect, so it is important to choose decaffeinated green tea in order to avoid over-stimulation and anxiogenic (anxiety-promoting) effects.

Yoga and Tai Chi. Natural herbs and supplements can make a difference in helping to reduce stress, but for many, these remedies are only half of the equation. A number of people also rely on physical activity to relieve stress and lower their anxiety.

Some of the most well-researched stress-relieving exercises include yoga and Tai Chi, which are shown to dramatically reduce stress levels and provide empowerment for those practicing these ancient art forms.

Meditation. Another well-researched method (and my personal favorite!) for relieving stress and improving energy and focus is mindful meditation. A simple 10-minute daily meditation session can offer significant improvements in your mood and energy levels. More and more peer-reviewed research confirms that meditation is a viable method of improving health, energy and emotional wellbeing — reducing anxiety, depression, mental imbalances, and risk of chronic disease. Published studies show that daily meditation is more effective than antidepressants in improving mental clarity and emotional balance.

More natural options

Ashwagandha is a plant that has been used traditionally throughout the world as an herbal remedy to treat inflammation, fight infection, enhance immunity, improve memory, and promote overall wellbeing.

Ashwagandha is one of the most highly regarded and commonly used adaptogens by Ayurvedic healers. Adaptogens are a special class of botanicals that help to balance your system for optimal energy during stressful periods. Ashwagandha helps the body to resist stress and maintain mental and physical energy throughout the day while promoting restful sleep at night. Its ability to reduce anxiety, ease restlessness and stabilize moods is highly valued by many herbalists.

Holy basil (Tulsi) is an herb native to India (where it is known as Tulsi) and has been shown to decrease the stress hormone cortisol. Studies have shown that chronically elevated levels of cortisol contribute to numerous degenerative conditions including heart disease, type 2 diabetes and cancer. Holy basil also operates as an adaptogen, naturally improving the body’s response to physical and emotional stress during periods of high anxiety and physical exhaustion. Taking a holy basil herbal supplement or drinking Tulsi tea can help stabilize the brain’s serotonin and dopamine levels to calm and relax you without making you feel drowsy. Holy Basil also helps to balance blood sugar and cholesterol, and also provides a rich source of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds.

Your overall health is important. Most people don’t take the time to put their health (and mental health) at the top of their priority list. But this needs to change. It doesn’t have to take a whole lot of effort to take care of yourself; even small changes can make a huge difference in the long run.

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