Stress doesn’t stem exclusively from the mind, and stress reduction doesn’t start and finish there either.
Here’s your thoughts-feelings-meditation-and-therapy-free guide to lowering stress levels and calming your body and mind.
1. Deep belly breathing
Breathing. A fairly important thing to do to stay alive, yes - but also a whole lot more powerful than we often give it credit for.
We cannot access our parasympathetic (rest and digest) nervous system through our conscious minds alone, i.e. as you may have found yourself, we cannot simply tell our bodies to relax. All we can do is show our nervous systems that they are safe, and nurture them towards R&R.
The easiest way to do this is through our breath. Breathing long, slow and deep into the belly communicates that we are safe and brings the nervous system back down. Stress = less.
2. Legs up the wall
Technically a yoga pose, this one really is as simple (yet effective) as it sounds. Lying on your back with your legs elevated up the wall is incredibly calming on the nervous system. You will likely find that in this position, you automatically drop into a slower and deeper pattern of breathing, and feel relaxed very quickly. This is why it’s one of the go-to practices for the Eve team when we need to chill during the day. You can often find one or two of our team with their legs up the office wall doing some belly breathing!
When utilised before bedtime, this position can help you to fall into a deep restorative sleep more quickly. 5-10 minutes is all it takes.
3. Restorative movement
Ever noticed how zen you feel at the end of a yoga class?
Stringing movements and breath together has a very meditative and calming effect on the nervous system. Bringing present moment awareness to your mind and body has been shown to be incredibly calming, and yoga is perfect for this.
When your teacher cues your inhales and exhales as they guide you though a sequence of poses, this takes your attention out of your head where stressful thoughts often live, and into your body.
Other forms of gentle movement such as tai chi, pilates and walks in nature can have the same effect - releasing tension, prompting mindfulness and stimulating the lymphatic system.
4. Human touch
Oxytocin is commonly known as our ‘bonding hormone’, and is renowned for lowering cortisol, reducing stress and increasing a sense of trust and security. Sign. Us. Up.
How do we get a healthy boost of this love hormone? Oxytocin surges during hugs, sex and child birth. In the context of stress reduction, we’d probably recommend you opt for one of the first two.
A wee note: If you find yourself needing some human touch and there’s no one around to get cosy with, there’s a lovely yoga pose that can help you. Sit comfortably and wrap your left arm closely around your right side ribs and back. Take your left hand and place your hand on your forehead. Curl your neck down as if it were resting on the shoulder of a loved one and relax into your own loving touch. (Hint: we also love to do this one during our periods when we’re feeling in need of gentleness and love).
Oh magnesium. One of our favourite nutrients for hormone health and for good reason.
Magnesium is an essential mineral that helps our muscles and nervous system to relax. In times of stress, our bodies actually dump magnesium to rev up our nervous system and help us cope with the stress.
So to remind your body to chill, load up on magnesium rich foods such as cacao, leafy greens and avocados; or to really feel the benefits, take a quality magnesium supplement such as BePure Magnesium Restore. The bisglycinate form of magnesium in this supplement is super supportive of relaxing the muscles.
6. Vitamin C
The highest concentration of vitamin C in the body is actually found in the adrenal glands, which makes sense, as vitamin C is used to produce stress hormones, adrenaline, cortisol and norepinephrine.
Research suggests that vitamin C supports stress response and cortisol recovery - meaning we respond better to and recover faster from surges of stress hormones.
Vitamin C isn’t too hard to get from food; a diet with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables will do the trick. But for a quick hit of high dose vitamin C in times of stress, a quality supplement such as BePure SuperBoost C can be incredibly beneficial in calming the adrenals. If you struggle to sleep at night time due to a racing mind or feelings of stress, taking some vitamin C before bed can help your body to let go of the stress and ease into deep sleep.
7. Balance your blood sugar levels
In the extremes, high blood sugar can affect your nervous system and organ function, whereas low blood sugar can put you in a coma. As clearly neither of these extremes are particularly compatible with good health, our bodies will literally ‘panic’ and induce a ‘fight or flight’ response whenever blood sugar spikes above or dips below its optimal range.
This is why eating right for you and stabilising your blood sugar is so important beyond hunger, satiety, and energy production.
Looking for more information? Head over to our FAQs page where you can find out about Eve, what the Eve Hormone Balance Test measures, when the best time to test your hormones is, and more.
Don’t forget to check out our blog 5 Common Signs of Hormone Imbalances to see if those physical sensations you’re experiencing could be hormone related.