Mental Wellness

How to Relieve Stress

How do we control, reduce, cope with, and relieve stress? Here are some tips.

Stressful experiences activate the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. We may feel energized at first. The HPA axis stimulates the production of cortisol and other energizing hormones. It gives us the energy we need to get away from the stressor (which used to be things like predators). But if we experience stress too frequently, our HPA axis can get dysfunctional, leading us to feel “wired but tired.”

In our modern world, we often experience more ongoing stress than our body handles. As a result, we can end up mentally and physically ill. We may even need to detox our stress to get our bodies working properly again.

Ways to relieve stress

Given just how harmful stress can be on the body, relieving stress is essential. In this article, we’ll talk about some of the science-based stress relief strategies you can try.

Stress relief techniques

Get restful sleep.

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Not getting enough sleep contributes to greater HPA axis activation. To relieve stress, it can be really helpful to get more (and better) sleep. Be sure to block out blue light (from TVs, phones, and computers) 30 minutes before bed. You may also want to consider getting a red light bulb (which research suggests may improve sleep) for your bedside lamp.

Exercise lightly.

We all know that exercise is good for us. But exercise also increases the demand for energy and cortisol. If we desire to relieve stress, we may benefit more from lower-intensity exercises, like walking, swimming, or yoga.

Try meditation.

Young blonde woman meditating in the park

Studies show that meditation can decrease cortisol in stressful situations. Plus, meditation studies have shown to help reduce depression and anxiety. So it may be helpful to try meditation for stress relief and see if it’s a good fit for you.

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Develop a challenge mindset.

When we view situations as threatening, it can make us feel more stressed. If we instead view our difficult situations as a challenge, we can feel less stressed. More capable of handling the situation. Try to shift your mindset and think about how you have the skills to handle the stressors that come your way.

Shot of a young woman using headphones while relaxing on the sofa at home

Use breathing exercises.

One good way to activate the parasympathetic nervous system, our “rest and digest” calming system, is by regularly using deep breathing. For example, taking a breath in for a count of four. Holding for a count of four. Releasing for a count of four. Then holding again for a count of four is a simple technique to slow your breathing down. Check out the video below to be guided through this breathing exercise:

Take a cold shower.

My absolute favorite way to activate the parasympathetic nervous system is by taking a cold shower. Especially, after getting warm with an exercise or a sauna. Both exercise and a sauna may be self-soothing, but submerging the body in cold water also activates the calming parasympathetic nervous system. So, consider trying a cold shower or swim to relieve stress.

Reconsider your diet.

The foods we eat often contribute to stress. For example, sugar increases inflammation, which stresses the body, so it can exacerbate stress in the longer term. Trans fats also contribute to inflammation, which can put pressure on the HPA axis. Eating a diet of high-quality protein and vegetables seems to be the best bet to relieve stress.

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Avoid caffeine.

Caffeine actually activates our HPA axis, making us feel more anxious. So ditch the coffee, caffeinated tea (like green and black teas), and energy drinks to relieve stress. Try some teas that promote relaxation and calmness like Chamomile, Lavender and Passion Flower.

Consider taking adaptogen’s.

Adaptogen’s are plants that are thought to help relieve stress. Some adaptogen’s that have been studied and shown to work include Ashwagandha, Holy Basil, Eleuthero, Jiaogulan, Rhodiola, and Ginseng.

​Any health-related information given by (or created by) The Berkeley Well-Being Institute, LLC or Tchiki Davis is not meant to replace the advice of your doctor. The information is intended for general use, and not intended to diagnose, treat or prevent any disease/condition.  Please discuss any health problem or concern you may have with your doctor and call 9-1-1 or proceed to the nearest emergency department if you believe you may be experiencing a medical or mental health emergency. 

The Berkeley Well-Being Institute, LLC makes no guarantee or other promise as to any results that may be obtained from using the information provided. You are solely responsible for the use of any content and hold Tchiki Davis and all members and affiliates harmless in any event or claim. Read more about our terms and privacy here.

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