It’s official. Americans are among the most stressed people in the world. Between health scares and worries about our future, the American Psychological Association reports that we’re facing a major mental health crisis with serious health and social consequences for years to come.
Did those sentences stress you out? That’s the whole point–like millions of others, you’re under a lot of stress these days, and finding your peace is now an essential act of self-care. And while it can be difficult to carve out time for rest and relaxation, keep in mind that the way you treat yourself, even in small moments between tasks, has a dramatic effect on the way you live the rest of your life.
Here are a few ways that you can relieve stress and anxiety every day, both big and small.
Want to shake off your anxiety? Turns out, you’ll have a better rest and relaxation session if you get moving beforehand.
A single bout of moderate to vigorous physical activity can immediately reduce your blood pressure and reduce feelings of anxiety and depression. That’s because raising your heart rate (in a healthy way) alters your brain chemistry to deliver a dose of serotonin, gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA), and endocannabinoids (a.k.a. the happy neurotransmitters).
Research has also shown that regular exercise leads to a positive cycle between physical exertion and cognitive control. In other words, the more you take care of your body, the better your brain performs. And when it’s time to rest, exercise helps you there too–moderate aerobic exercise has been shown to increase the amount of slow-wave sleep (or deep sleep) you get each night.
How much exercise do you need, and what kind should you get? Anything that gets your heart rate up counts, and something is better than nothing. That said, the CDC recommends 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity (like 30 minutes a day of brisk walking) along with at least two days of muscle-strengthening activities per week.
Get Some Rest
Once you’ve put in your hard work for the day, it’s time to slip in some rest and relaxation. Emphasis on rest.
Americans have been notoriously sleep-deprived since the mid-80s, but those with psychiatric conditions (including anxiety) are far more likely to be groggy. In fact, 50% to 80% of patients in a typical psychiatric practice report chronic sleep issues compared to 10% to 18% of adults in the general population.
Unfortunately, the consequences of sleep deprivation run much deeper than just jaw-cracking yawns. Sleep-deprived people are 48% more likely to develop heart disease, 33% more likely to develop dementia, three times more likely to catch a cold, and almost three times more likely to develop Type 2 diabetes.
Not sure how to sleep better? Start by going to bed and getting up in the morning at the same time every single day (yes, even on weekends). Once you’re in bed, you should get rid of all distractions, especially screens (phones, TV, tablet, e-reader, the works), and make sure that your bedroom is dark, relaxing, and quiet.
You know the old adage, “You are what you eat”? That’s especially true when it comes to rest and relaxation.
Think of your brain like a car engine. You have the option to give it cheap, low-quality fuel, or you can spend a bit extra on better fuel. Your car can run on the low-quality stuff, but it will do a better job (and last a lot longer) when it has high-quality fuel to work with. So if you give your brain bad fuel, you’re essentially running on your own fumes.
The best place to start is to find overall balance in your diet. For adults, that means a healthy balance of fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains, and legumes (i.e. beans). Aim for less than 30% of your total energy intake from fats, and opt for unsaturated fats (fish, avocado, nuts) over saturated fats (butter, oil, cheese) and avoid trans fats of all kinds (fried food, pre-packaged snacks). As for sugar of any kind, you should aim for less than 10% of your total energy intake, or about 12 level teaspoons.
Okay, that last one isn’t popular advice, but here’s the thing: your anxiety loves sugar. While sugar gives you a brief boost, the eventual sugar crash drives your mood further down than where you started, and if you consistently reach for sugar when stressed, you’re teaching your brain to rely on sugar to cope with stress hormones and reducing your long-term ability to manage stress.
For those who don’t get enough mileage from their diet, an anti-anxiety supplement may be just what the doctor ordered. And while there is no magic pill to make your anxiety go away, there are certain supplements that can make it more manageable.
Some ingredients associated with anti-anxiety effects include:
- Fish oil
- Lemon balm
For a well-rounded anti-anxiety supplement, we recommend our AgelessSERENITY supplement, which contains a variety of stress-reducing ingredients like Valerian root, chamomile, passionflower, and magnesium. That said, consult with your doctor before beginning any dietary supplement, especially if you take other medications.
Finally, don’t forget about the relaxation component of rest and relaxation. But when it’s time to unwind (or let go of your stress) reach for a bit of concentrated relaxation instead of turning on the TV.
Think of what happens when you’re anxious: your breathing gets shallow and your heart rate speeds up as if you’re being chased by a lion. The easiest way to counter that is to slow down your breathing. Simple breathing techniques like deep breathing force you to take more oxygen into the lungs and slow down your heart rate, effectively tricking the brain into slowing down.
And if you’re not much for meditation videos, no worries. At the simplest, all you really need for meditation is to sit still, close your eyes, and count your breaths. If you need a moment to press pause, just sit up, close your eyes, and count out ten slow inhales and exhales. You’ll be amazed by the difference.
Your Guide to Rest and Relaxation
Hey, we get it. The world’s a tough place to be in right now. But that doesn’t mean that you have to be overwhelmed by it. Whether you’re carving out just five minutes of rest and relaxation or a whole night to appreciate your own beautiful self, our job is to help you get there, one day at a time.
We’re FDA-registered experts who bring you products at the meeting place of science and nature, made with all-natural ingredients right here in the U.S. Make sure to check out our supplements today to find your own little corner of peace and tranquility, whatever that means to you.