Stress is challenging, to say the least.
Over time, it can not only take a toll on your health but can also negatively affect your relationships.
Some people chose to self-medicate to relieve stress.
Drugs and alcohol are often abused.
However, while these may provide temporary relief, they only lead to more chaos in the long-run.
This begs the question: how to reduce stress without drugs?
Here are 12 tested ideas.
The first and perhaps the most effective way you can reduce stress is meditation. This ancient technique has been practiced by people for thousands of years. Only recently though, science has shown us a clear picture of what meditation does to your brain. It turns out, 8 weeks of daily meditation is enough to change the shape of your brain. (1, 2) Areas of the brain tied to cognition, reason, and emotional intelligence increase as a result of meditation. On the other hand, meditation reduces amygdala, our brain’s flight-or-fight center.
#2 Attack the Root Cause of Your Stress
In order to effectively combat stress, sometimes we need to find what’s causing it. Do you have an important project coming up? Is your friend stressing you? Perhaps finances have been troubling you lately? We often forget to sit down and actually write down or analyze what’s stressing us. Instead, we sweep the problem under the rug and never give it any attention. While this may sound obvious, it’s good to remind yourself that finding the root cause of your stress is the first step to resolving it.
#3 Do Sprints
Sprints are one of the toughest exercises out there. Not just physically but also mentally. By doing sprints, you strengthen your resilience to stress. Research shows how short but intense exercises boost feel-good brain chemicals. (3) At the same time, they help reduce cortisol, one of the main stress hormones.
#4 Make Time For Something You Enjoy
Do you spend a lot of your time working? Do you feel mentally drained from all the chores and obligations? Perhaps it’s time to give yourself permission to do your favorite activity. Something that you haven’t done in a while. Whether that’s playing your favorite sport, going to your favorite restaurant with your family, or simply reading a good book with a glass of Pinot Noir.
#5 Get Some Sunlight
Getting enough sun is incredibly important for our health. See, sunlight helps you produce vitamin D. Vitamin D is also known as the sunshine hormone. It’s found in virtually every cell in your body and plays a critical role in mood. (4) Ever heard of seasonal depression? Well, one of the known causes for this is the lack of sunlight, and consequently, vitamin D. (5) What’s more, when our skin and eyes are exposed to sunlight, our brains produce more serotonin, the ‘happiness’ molecule. (6)
#6 Laugh More Often
Watching something that makes you laugh is certainly an effective way to relieve stress. When we laugh, our brain relieves tension, deactivates the stress response, and stimulates the release of feel-good chemicals. Watching your favorite stand-up show, looking at internet memes, or simply cracking jokes with your friend could be a good starting point.
#7 Do Deep Breathing Exercises
When you’re stressed, your body tends to have shallow and quick breaths. Research suggests that by consciously taking deep and slow breaths, your body gets out of the ‘flight-or-fight’ mode and stress levels diminish. (7)
#8 Change Your Diet
Research has shown us that the gut is like our second brain. It influences our thinking, mood, and other cognitive functions. What you eat doesn’t just affect your waist size. It also has a massive impact on your mood, as the food is absorbed in the gut which communicates with your brain via the vagus nerve. (8) When you eat a lot of sugars and fast food, your friendly bacteria can become outnumbered by pathogens, candida, and other harmful microorganisms. This, in turn, can lead to a stressed state. Try replacing processed foods with lots of green vegetables, lean protein, good fats, and fermented foods with friendly probiotics.
#9 Sleep For 7-9 Hours Every Night
Sleep is incredibly important for reducing stress. When your sleep isn’t adequate, your cortisol levels will stay elevated throughout the day and night, which can wreak havoc on your health. (9) Everyone needs a different amount of sleep. For some, 7 hours is more than enough. For others, 9 is the minimum. Find your sweet spot and try to maintain the same sleep schedule every night.
#10 Take a Long Walk
Unlike sprints, long walks probably won’t leave you exhausted when you’re done with them. But they are extremely beneficial for reducing stress. Science shows that long walks help oxygenize cells in your brain, along with reducing stress hormones. (10)
#11 Spend Time With Friends
Having social support around you is important in times of stress. When you have someone to share your difficult times with, it takes off a burden off your shoulders. And studies prove this. It’s shown that people who have social support can deal with stress better. (11)
#12 Take Nootropics
One of the fastest and most effective ways you can reduce stress today is to take a nootropic. What is a nootropic, you ask? It’s a natural brain-boosting supplement that helps improve your mood, cognition, and memory while reducing stress, anxiety, and depression. There are tons of nootropics to choose from. Currently, experts suggest that Mind Lab Pro or Performance Lab Mind are the two most effective nootropic formulas on the market. They’ve been clinically tested for efficacy and safety, along with using ingredients that are proven to diminish stress.
The truth is, stress is everywhere.
However, it’s up to us to choose how we’ll respond to it.
Some people opt for drugs in order to deal with stress. But this doesn’t address the root issue – it only makes things worse in the long run.
Luckily, there are much healthier ways to deal with stress.
These include doing meditation, exercising, and taking natural nootropics.
Taking the time to deal with stress in a skillful way can have many benefits for our health. So why not start today with some of the techniques we’ve listed in this article.
Eight Weeks to a Better Brain. (source)
Meditation: Process and Effects. (source)
Exercise Benefits Brain Function: The Monoamine Connection. (source)
Effect of Vitamin D Supplement on Mood Status and Inflammation in Vitamin D Deficient Type 2 Diabetic Women with Anxiety: A Randomized Clinical Trial. (source)
Vitamin D and Depression: Where is all the Sunshine? (source)
Sunshine, Serotonin, and Skin: A Partial Explanation for Seasonal Patterns in Psychopathology? (source)
The role of deep breathing on stress. (source)
The brain-gut-microbiome Axis. (source)
Association between Sleep Duration and Perceived Stress: Salaried Worker in Circumstances of High Workload. (source)
Experimental effects of brief, single bouts of walking and meditation on mood profile in young adults. (source)
Social support and resilience to stress. (source)