Are you feeling a little stressed out? If so, you're not alone. About a third of Australians feel under chronic time stress – and women generally feel more rushed for time than men. Since 2001, the annual Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) Survey of more than 17,000 people has collected information on Australians’ perceptions of time stress or time pressure (this is defined as feeling that there is not enough time to do all the tasks one has to do).
Perceived lack of time, and hence greater time stress or time pressure, is often associated with greater stress and adverse physical and mental health outcomes including headaches, anxiety, and depression.
There are many natural remedies for stress relief that can help you reduce your stress levels and you are probably already aware of many of them - time in nature, sleep, yoga, acupuncture, massage therapy, exercise, and meditation. And while these remedies are effective they require us to stop doing what we are currently doing for a period of time and for some even change location.
As noted time or the lack thereof is a stressor in itself, so a remedy that takes time away from us isn’t always manageable in the moment we are feeling very stressed.
So what can we do?
Luckily there are still some very powerful natural remedies for stress relief that you can use in the moment that take very little time and can have a positive effect on reducing how stressed you feel.
The Physiological Sigh
The Physiological Sigh is a specific breathing pattern that we often do involuntarily during our sleep for example or when we are recovering from a crying episode. The pattern is two inhales, then followed by a long exhale. The Physiological Sigh can help you regain control quickly from feelings of stress and anxiety.
To understand how it works, we need to know a little more about what happens we breathe. The diaphragm is a muscle that helps us breathe. When we inhale, the diaphragm moves down, which creates more space in the heart cavity and increases the heart volume. Blood moves slower through a larger space, and this is detected by a receptor called the sinoatrial node (SAN). The SAN sends a signal to the brain to say that blood pressure is lower in the heart, which in turn sends signals back causing the heart rate to speed up. The opposite is true when we exhale or breathe out—the diaphragm moves up, which leads to less volume, and the pressure increases. The brain then sends signals to slow the heart rate down.
When we are stressed, some of the 500 million balloon-like air sacs in the lungs become collapsed due to the increased breathing rate - take a moment to focus on your breath when you are stressed and you will find your inhales are very shallow. This limits gas exchange and increases the CO2 levels in the blood, which contributes to that agitated feeling you have when you are stressed.
When we take deep breaths in, it makes the sacs in our lungs fill up with air. This makes it so there is more space in our lungs, and it also takes the carbon dioxide out of our bodies. When we take a long exhale, it sends signals to the brain to slow down the heart rate. This makes the body feel more relaxed.
Next time you are feeling stressed at work or the kids are stressing you out try the Physiological Sigh:
- Two short inhales through the nose
- One long exhale through the mouth
- Repeat one to three times
Stress triggers a combination of signals from both hormones and nerves. These signals cause your adrenal glands to release hormones, including adrenaline and cortisol. The result is an increase in heart rate and energy as part of the stress response.
Adaptogens can help reduce stress as they have been shown to influence the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis — which plays a central role in the stress response. Taking adaptogens can help decrease cortisol levels and bring the body back to homeostasis and have you feeling better.
Adapt Drinks Relax contains two adaptogens, panax ginseng and schisandra berry, so if you are feeling a little stressed, crack open a can and ease the tension.
This 5-minute activity is a simple but effective stress-relief strategy. When stress starts to build at either work or home, grab out your notebook and write down three things you are currently grateful for and you will notice a difference in the way you feel.
McCraty and colleagues (cited in McCraty & Childre, 2004), in one of their studies on gratitude and appreciation, found that participants who felt grateful showed a marked reduction in the level of cortisol. Robert A. Emmons, a professor of psychology at UC Davis and a leading scientific expert on the science of gratitude says that gratitude works because:
Gratitude blocks toxic emotions, such as envy, resentment, regret and depression, which can destroy our happiness.
What natural remedies work for you to provide stress relief?