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5 Ways to Reduce Stress and Keep Calm

September 13, 2019

"Nearly 50% of Americans say that stress has a negative impact on their personal and/or professional life."

Stress is at an all-time high today — in fact, more than 70% of people feel they regularly experience physical and psychological effects caused by stress. Pent up stress can lead to very serious health conditions like stroke, heart disease or diabetes if not addressed. No need to worry though, because on today’s live show Dr. Nancy will share her top tips to follow to help maintain calm and productivity throughout the day. 

Video Highlights

  • 06:40: Definition and Symptoms of Stress
  • 11:33: 5 Ways to Find Calm
  • 12:20: Calming Tea
  • 17:51: Increase Magnesium
  • 21:52: Medicinal Mushrooms
  • 25:55: Just Breathe
  • 36:56: Daily Probiotics
  • 38:33: Anger Management Tips
  • 41:10: Wrap-Up

According to the American Psychological Association, in 2017, the 3 most common stressors for most people are: money, work, and the future of our country. That last one’s pretty interesting, isn’t it? Especially since it ranked #1, stressing out 63% of those polled

Did you also know that the number of people who feel they regularly experience physical and psychological effects caused by stress is over 72%? That’s an astounding number!

Definition and Symptoms of Stress

Before we talk about ways to bring about calm, and get that percentage down, let’s define exactly what stress is. 

The psychology definition of stress is, “any uncomfortable emotional experience accompanied by predictable biochemical, physiological, and behavioral changes.” 

Think about yourself for a moment. What happens to you when you experience stress? What physically happens to your body? Does your heart begin to race? What happens to your behavior? Do you lash out or isolate yourself socially?

Stress can manifest itself in many ways. Physically, it can present itself as:

Stress can also present itself psychologically:

  • Irritability
  • Anger
  • Anxiety
  • Nervousness
  • Low to no energy
  • Constant feeling that you’re about to cry

Both these physical and psychological symptoms, if allowed to continue, can lead to more severe health issues like:

Excessive stress can also lead to chronic inflammation, which can, in turn, lead to the conditions we just mentioned, as well as lead to issues like osteoporosis, arthritis, eczema, and psoriasis

If you’re someone who experiences a lot of stress, we need to get it under control! And we’re here to help you do it. Here are 5 things you can do, eat, or take to help keep you calm. 

5 Ways to Find Calm

Drink a Big Ol’ Mug Of Tea

The ritual of sitting down and enjoying a steaming mug of hot tea can be very calming, but did you know that there are also a number of teas on the market proven to reduce anxiety and help keep you calm? Chamomile, peppermint, and green tea are probably the most familiar stress-reducing teas. In fact,chamomile targets the same nervous system receptors in the brain as the anxiety medication Xanax. Other teas like lavender, passionflower, lemon balm, rose, and valerian root also work to combat stress. 

Valerian root derives from a flowering plant with very sweet, very pretty, white flowers. It is especially good as a tea to help promote a good night’s sleep, which we always encourage you to do in order to reduce inflammation and lower stress levels. Getting 7 to 9 hours of sleep every night is one of the quickest ways to help keep you calm during your day, and a mug of valerian root, plus a good melatonin supplement daily, can help get you there. As a bonus, the root also has muscle relaxant properties that can help ease muscle tension. 

Rose tea is another great option for keeping you calm because it contains flavonoids that target the hormone cortisol, which is aptly known as the stress hormone because the adrenals release it as soon as your body recognizes the presence of stress. 

Lemon balm has an invigorating flavor, but it can calm you down quickly too. Studies show that within 1 to 3 hours of drinking lemon balm tea, levels of anxiety and fatigue decrease. 

Passionflower binds with GABA receptors in the brain, which induce relaxation, while lavender increases the production of dopamine, the hormone that makes you feel joy and happiness. 

Increase your Magnesium

Three essential minerals you should be getting sufficient quantities of each and every day are calcium, potassium, and magnesium. Magnesium, especially, is good for nerve and muscle function, bone health, and regulating blood pressure and blood sugar

But did you also know that magnesium is excellent for regulating stress and helping promote calm? 

Magnesium plays an important role in the way messages are communicated between the brain and body. The mineral works to improve brain function by regulating neurotransmitters, these little messengers, which then work to reduce stress and keep you calm. Magnesium’s focus is concentrated on neurotransmitters and the hypothalamus, the part of the brain that regulates the adrenals and the pituitary, two glands responsible for how you respond to stress. 

Natural ways to get more magnesium into your diet include: 

  • Almonds
  • Cashews
  • Peanuts
  • Spinach
  • Black beans
  • Brown rice
  • Avocado

You should also take magnesium in supplement form top ensure you are getting enough each day. Smarter Nutrition’s Smarter Multi has a formula tailored specifically for men and one specifically tailored for women. By taking Smarter’s Multi and making sure to include some of those magnesium-rich foods when you can, you should be in really good shape toward better regulating your anxiety levels.

Try Some Medicinal Mushrooms

Medicinal mushrooms are mushrooms ground into a powder and then consumed either in tea form or added to your favorite recipes or even added to your coffee. Primarily used in eastern medicine, they’re making their way west, especially since they have an extensively long laundry list of health benefits including their purported ability to help fight cancers, inflammation, high cholesterol and memory loss, just to name a scant few. 

The reishi mushroom, in particular, has been called “nature’s Xanax.” This brand of mushroom contains a compound called triterpene, a mood-boosting compound that can alleviate symptoms associated with anxiety, depression, and insomnia. Additionally, reishi helps improve mental focus, too. 

And we have to mention that many people who use powdered reishi swear by its pairing with chocolate, often putting it in desserts like Raw Reishi Chocolate Brownies made from dates, cacao powder and topped with an avocado-based chocolate frosting. 

Just Breathe 

Breathwork needs to be your go-to weapon when you’re hit with a stressful situation. Breathwork techniques can be done any time, anywhere. Learning how to perform mindful, conscious breathing helps your body shift from the sympathetic nervous system into the parasympathetic nervous system, which then allows you to lower your stress, think more clearly, and even give your energy a boost. 

Deep, conscious breathing also stimulates the vagus nerve, a nerve that runs from the brain, down the neck and then touches virtually every major organ on its way to the stomach. The vagus nerve is involved in emotional intuition, digestion, heart rate, circulation, and your ability to regulate your breathing. Breathwork stimulates the diaphragm which then stimulates your vagus nerve. 

Being able to integrate more breath into the body can be wonderfully healing physically, but it can also strengthen the connection between your mind and your body, and by becoming more present and aware within your own body, you can catch negative thoughts or stop stress before it has a chance to blossom into something more severe like an anxiety attack. 

One form of breathwork to practice is called the Wim Hof Method. Wim Hof created and teaches this technique all over the world and it has been found to have amazing self-healing benefits like a decrease in inflammation, an increase in immune health, a reduction in oxidative stress, and supposedly helps the body reach a balanced, alkaline state. Not to mention it strengthens that mind-body connection we were just talking about, which helps keep you calm, cool, and collected in stressful situations. 

The Wim Hof Method

The Wim Hof Method does involve some breath retention, which we don’t recommend you do if you’re pregnant or if you have high blood pressure

To start, find a comfortable position. You can be sitting cross-legged on the floor or up on a cushion, or you can even do this laying in bed or sitting in a chair or on the couch. 

Close your eyes or allow your gaze to soften. 

Take 30 to 40 slow, deep, and even inhales and exhales. 

After your 30th or 40th breath, breathe in and hold the breath for as long as you can without forcing it — don’t push it to the point where you think you’re going to pass out. 

Slowly exhale, and on your next inhale, again hold the breath, this time for only about 10 seconds or so. Let the breath go in a slow, controlled exhale. 

Do this for 3 rounds every day. You can even do it for 3 rounds multiple times a day if you’d like. 

Take a Daily Probiotic 

Your ability to manage stress starts in your gut. That’s right, your gut bacteria influences how you respond to stress. Probiotics can also alleviate symptoms of anxiety and depression. This all has something to do with serotonin in the brain and the brain-gut axis, located in your GI tract. The brain-gut axis travels from you brain to your gut and back again and affects the production of serotonin, which helps promote calm. It is, therefore, important that you maintain optimal gut health, and one way to do that is to take a probiotic supplement. Doing so will make sure you have a proper balance of good bacteria in your gut which will then help produce adequate levels of serotonin in the brain and help reduce anxiety, stress, and depression. A healthy probiotic like Smarter Gut Health can help restore the balance of good and bad bacteria in the gut.

Anger Management Tools

We also want to provide some anger management tools you can use to help prevent stress from building up and bubbling over. We already talked about strengthening the connection between mind and body through breathwork and how it can help cultivate awareness around stress, but it can also help bring awareness to how you react when you become overly angry due to stress. 

If your breath is coming in short, shallow bursts and your finding it too difficult to get a deep breath in, start by counting to 10. This will give you time to calm yourself down a bit before you can start to take some deeper, calming breaths. 

Sometimes, anger masks itself as aggression, which stems from anxiety and fear. Implementing some of the tools we listed today will help with these types of issues. Some additional things to try include exercising regularly and finding a creative outlet like painting, writing, or learning a musical instrument. 

Wrap-Up

Today we gave you some of Dr. Nancy’s top tips for staying calm. They include:

  • Implement breathwork or deep breathing into your daily routine. 
  • Drink a tea with calming effects, like chamomile, lavender, lemon balm, rose, or valerian root. Try some medicinal mushrooms like reishi, which work like “nature’s Xanax” toward reducing anxiety
  • Get more magnesium in your diet, by eating more magnesium-rich foods and taking a multivitamin with magnesium.
  • Take a probiotic supplement to improve gut health, which will help regulate serotonin levels in the brain. 

Stress affects everyone at some point or another, and it affects a lot of people on a daily basis. In fact, nearly 50% of Americans say that stress has a negative impact on their personal and/or professional life. It is so important to be proactive about managing stress through diet, exercise, and the other methods we talked about today, in order to maintain calm and reduce your risk of getting a serious disease or condition like stroke, heart disease, or diabetes

So take some deep breaths and go for a walk!

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