Incredibly, 75 - 90% of all doctor office visits are related to conditions that are the result of stress. Unchecked stress can wreak havoc on the body and in chronic cases, it can lead to heart disease, diabetes, weight gain, mental disorders, digestive disorders, and even cancer. This is possible because chronic stress changes our hormones, which can cause an increase in inflammation, which is the root of many medical problems.
We can’t always control the amount of stress that enters into our lives, but we can change how we react to them. The human body is designed to respond to stress, but it's how we handle the stress that causes the problem. With practice, we can learn how to release some of our stress through many productive measures. Here’s are some ways:
Exercise and Yoga
Exercise is one of the best stress relieving activities because it releases endorphins, the chemical in the brain that acts as the body’s natural pain-killer. Exercise also helps to improve sleep, which in turn helps to relieve stress.
Meditation is proven to decrease stress, worry, and anxiety through a mindful practice of centered relaxation and breathing (breathing exercises below).
A diet rich in essential vitamins, minerals, healthy fats, electrolytes, amino acids, and antioxidants works to help your brain handle stress, which has the same effect on the entire body.
Time in Nature
Spending time outside in nature has a calming effect on the mind and body, and it helps to create a sense of wellbeing.
Breathing exercises have long been used for stress relief. Whether you are in the car, in a tense situation, or seated in a relaxed position in a quiet space, breathing exercises have an immediate effect. Give these exercises a try:
Pursed Lip Breathing
Take a breath for about 2 counts. Then pucker your lips and exhale for 4 counts. Do this for a few rounds.
Put one hand on your chest and the other on your belly. As you breathe in deeply for about 2 seconds, your belly should stick out a bit. Feel the air expanding your stomach and then breathe out slowly through the lips.
Place your right thumb over your right nostril as you breathe in through the left nostril. Then take your right ring finger and place it over your left nostril as you exhale from the right one. Then switch sides.
Inhale for a count of 4. Hold the breath in for 7 counts, then release it in 8 counts, repeat this at least three times.
Take a few deep breaths, then settle into a pattern of “normal” breathing. When you exhale, count “one.” The next time, count “two.” Do this until you have exhaled (and counted to) five, then start the pattern over.