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In an earlier post, we discussed the physiological effects on the body that can occur with long-term stress, anxiety, and depression symptoms. To get you started on the road to recovery, we have six tips to conquer stress and anxiety.
Tip #1: Evaluate your adrenal gland function.
In reality, there may actually be a biological or chemical reason behind the inability to conquer stress—to effectively cope with daily struggles, stressors, and hardships in life. One such reason could be poor adrenal function or adrenal fatigue.
Your adrenal glands are your body’s stress fighters. They produce the primary stress hormone cortisol, which prepares your body to deal with that extra demanding stressful event, and the next one, and the next one. So it’s obvious that if your adrenal glands are not working properly, your body will not have the ability to deal with stress in an effective way. And “adrenal fatigue“—suboptimal adrenal function—is quite common in people who suffer from depression.
The good news is that your adrenal function can be restored with some natural healing actions. So, the first step to overcoming chronic stress is to have your adrenal gland function tested. Armed with the lab info, you will know how necessary (or not) it will be for you to begin implementing adrenal restoration steps.
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Tip #2: Get your neurotransmitters in balance.
Chronic stress, anxiety, and depression can be caused by a neurotransmitter (chemical) imbalance in your brain. Consistently high levels of excitatory neurotransmitters (adrenaline/epinephrine and noradrenaline/norepinephrine) and correspondingly low levels of the calming, inhibitory neurotransmitters (serotonin and gamma-aminobutyric acid [GABA]) can actually alter the brain’s circuitry.
Fortunately, neurotransmitter imbalances can be reversed by using vitamins and other natural therapies that can be purchased at any health food store.
Tip #3: Evaluate your sex hormone levels.
When trying to dig down to the underlying root causes of chronic stress, anxiety, and depression, abnormalities in the level of sex hormones certainly is a major consideration both for women and men. Sex hormones act on the brain to directly affect mood and cognition.
In women, for example, estrogen promotes the production of neurotransmitters, especially serotonin, making it a wonderful antidepressant and a great sleep aid. So when estrogen levels take a dip (during menopause, for example), mood can take a hit and insomnia can become a problem. Deficient estrogen levels therefore can combine with other biochemical imbalances with the end result being anxiety and depression in women.
Men experience the same effects involving their primary reproductive hormone, testosterone. So, the goal for men is to get the right balance of testosterone—not too much, not too little. Talk with a doctor about hormone testing, which can help you determine whether you would benefit from an individualized hormone therapy program.
Tip #4: Learn to say “No.”
Always accommodating others by volunteering to help is a wonderful trait; however, we can easily become overwhelmed and fatigued if we do it too much. We need a good balance in order to conquer stress.
In fact, volunteer work can actually help depressive symptoms by getting your mind off yourself and pouring it into children or those who are less fortunate than you. But, just volunteering to serve on one more committee because you are good at it may become counterproductive if it adds stress to your already stressful life. So don’t be afraid to say “no” when your plate is already full.
Tip #5: Exercise regularly.
This “silver bullet” of good health appears as a great remedy for stress overload. Exercise releases pent-up frustrations, relaxes your muscles, releases the feel-good endorphin hormones, decreases stress hormones, and helps you sleep better. Exercise is an essential ingredient in any stress reduction program. Make it a part of your everyday routine. If you’ve been sedentary for a while, walking is a perfect way to restart regular exercise—get out for a half-hour a day to get into a routine. Yoga is another simple pursuit for getting into an exercise route. (Please see our posts “The Benefits of Walking” and “Yoga for Beginners.”)
Tip #6: Decrease caffeine intake.
For many, the way to deal with stress is with a cup of java or a diet soda. But caffeine (coffee, tea, chocolate, cola, energy drinks) is a drug, a strong stimulant that actually generates a stress reaction in the body. It’s easy to develop a caffeine addiction, as many of us know.
Try going for three weeks without caffeine. Most people feel more relaxed and less jittery or nervous, and they tend to sleep better, have more energy, less heartburn, and fewer muscle aches. (Coffee, of course, also provides some benefits, as discussed in this post: “Is Coffee Bad for You?“)
What’s a good alternative drink? Green tea may be the best as it contains a substance (L-theanine) that’s instantly calming. This is why you should be sipping on green tea (either hot or iced) throughout the day. Stress, lack of energy, and focus are issues all of us deal with in our busy day-to-day lives. In facing these particular issues, green tea is even more beneficial than water—and it sure is tasty!
Originally published in 2015, this post is regularly updated.