10 Tips For Managing Stress Naturally
Updated: Jul 10
Is stress something that is just always there, lurking in the background?
Stress is something that we deal with every day. In small amounts, it can actually be beneficial. But when you’re constantly busy and under pressure, the chronic stress can have serious health implications.
If you’re looking for ways to manage your stress naturally, there are some evidence-based options to consider.
Reminder: stress is not just in your head!
People often forget that stress is not something that just occurs in your mind. It is a very real and physical experience.
Stress is anything that causes a response from the body’s stress response system. This system can trigger changes across the body – from the brain to the adrenals and even through to the gut and reproductive organs.
When we’re stressed, hormones are produced that temporarily boost energy levels by increasing blood sugar levels. The heart starts to race and the brain becomes hyper-aware to protect us from potential danger.
Unfortunately, these very real physical impacts can add up to serious health issues over time. Chronic stress can lead to poor immunity, premature ageing, high inflammation and oxidative stress and a higher risk of countless chronic health conditions including heart disease, cancer and autoimmune disease.
Stress is not just caused by psychological factors. Other stressors include:
Allergies and intolerances
Nutritional deficiencies including B vitamins, zinc, magnesium and vitamin C
Overweight and obesity
Heavy metal toxicity
Drugs (both recreational and medicinal)
This is why we can't keep 'pushing through' stress without managing it properly.
How to manage your stress levels naturally
Now that you know why it’s critical to manage your stress – how exactly do you do it?
There’s no one perfect plan for managing stress because people respond differently to different methods. But to get you thinking, here are 10 steps you can take to manage stress naturally.
Give meditation a go
A meditation or mindfulness practice is one of my favourite tools for coping with stress - and for good reason.
Mindfulness and meditation can be incredibly effective for relieving stress. Research has found that mindfulness meditation can significantly reduce cortisol levels.
The good news is that any form of mindfulness can help stress levels. If you're new to meditation, you can download an app with guided meditations or join a local meditation group.
If sitting still makes you feel more anxious, you can try practices such as mindful eating or mindful walks. You can even practice mindfulness while chopping vegetables for dinner or washing the dishes!
Move your body gently
Physical activity is a great way to relieve stress. It boosts up feel-good endorphin levels and can help you to 'work out' any frustration or anger you might be feeling.
The key here is to focus on gentle to moderate forms of movement. Although intense physical activity might feel great for you, it can add to the stress burden. Instead, try adding in:
A walk around the block
For best results, incorporate at least some form of movement each day.
Incorporate some physical touch
Something that a lot of people have been deprived of recently is physical touch. This is unfortunate, as physical touch is one of the best ways to relieve stress naturally.
Touch releases feel-good chemicals such as serotonin and dopamine to ease stress and calm the nervous system.
How you add physical touch does depend on whether you're under any restrictions right now. But some options could include:
Cuddling your partner
Snuggling up with the whole family for movie night on the couch
Patting a dog, cat or any other pet
Booking in for a massage
Giving yourself a self-massage by rubbing moisturiser into your skin
Cuddle a soft toy such as a teddy (yes. research backs this option up!)
Eat a nutrient-dense diet
This might seem less likely to help than more calming measures – but it is just as important in the long run.
Eating plenty of nutrient-rich foods can:
Help to balance blood sugar levels
Prevent or manage any nutrient deficiencies that might be acting as a stressor on the body
Supply nutrients that are used up when you’re experiencing stress
My rule of thumb when it comes to food? Eat mostly wholefoods – think meat, poultry, fish, nuts, seeds, fruits, vegetables, legumes and wholegrains. Then include a few of your favourite foods (assuming you’re not intolerant to them!)
Watch your caffeine and alcohol intake
When life gets tough, many people reach for a coffee, a glass of wine, or sometimes both in the same day! Unfortunately, this can sometimes make the stress burden even greater.
Both alcohol and caffeine add to the liver’s burden, as they need to be processed and detoxified. This can slow down the detoxification of other compounds such as hormones, environmental toxins and medications. All of these compounds are added stressors for the body.
On top of that, caffeine also stimulates the adrenals – the same glands that are overworked during chronic stress. So even if you’re not feeling stressed, caffeine can spike up symptoms of worry and anxiety.
This doesn’t mean you need to quit them forever. But you may want to reduce or even take a few days off from caffeine and alcohol if you’re feeling overwhelmed or under pressure.
Been a few days since you've seen a friend or extended family member? It might be time to ditch the Netflix for a catch-up.
Socialising is a powerhouse when it comes to relieving stress. It triggers the nervous system to release feel-good brain chemicals that regulate the response to stress and anxiety. If you have an opportunity to discuss your stress, it can also help to relieve the mental burden of stress.
Can't see your friends and family in person? Even jumping on a Zoom call or giving them a ring can still be a good way to socialise.
Spend some time in nature
An easy way to feel calmer and less stressed? Get yourself out of the house and into nature.
Research has shown that even 20 minutes spent walking or sitting somewhere in the great outdoors can significantly reduce your stress hormone levels.
Can’t get out to the national park or head down to the beach? Even just some time spent in your backyard is a great start.
When was the last time you stopped and felt truly grateful for what you have in life? It could be the key to relieving your stress.
The best part about gratitude? You don’t need anything to practice it! You can choose from:
Writing down what you’re grateful for
Keeping track of gratitude via an app on your phone
Speaking it out loud each day
Spending a few minutes thinking about what you’re grateful for
The key is to be consistent with it – most of the research shows benefits with repeated practice, rather than a one-off.
Say no sometimes
Everyone only has so much time in each day. But at least some of that time needs to be put aside for looking after yourself.
Unfortunately, a lot of people struggle with committing all of their time to others – particularly mums! That’s why it’s important to learn how to say no sometimes.
This might be an outright no, as in refusing to take on a task or turning down an invitation. But it can also be an indirect no.
For example, you might be saying no to being the only person who keeps the house tidy or cooks the meals. This could mean paying someone to help with the cleaning once a month, or picking one night of the week where it’s someone else’s turn to cook.
Remember – every time you say yes to someone else, you’re saying no to yourself and your wellbeing. Find the balance between the two that works for you.
Seek professional support
Humans aren't designed to do everything alone. If you are finding your stress levels difficult to cope with, it's time to reach out and seek some support.
This might mean seeking advice from a mental health professional such as a psychologist or counsellor. But it might also be getting some help with some of the contributing factors to stress such as your health concerns. If it's time to alleviate that stress and prioritise your health, I'm here to help. Click here to book an appointment.