One need only look around to see that despite all our advances in technology and other areas of life, people today are as stressed out as ever, if not even more so. Because stress and anxiety are seemingly everywhere, there is a tendency to become eerily desensitized to them. Stress and anxiety have, in a way, become the new normal and one may never even pose the question of just how harmful these phenomena actually are. But the fact of the matter is that stress and anxiety take a physical toll on the body.
Physical expressions and symptoms of stress and anxiety often include:
- Upset stomach / digestive issues
- High blood pressure
- Chest pain
- Sleeping problems
What’s worse is that many people feel that the only way to deal with stress is to make massive personal changes, or to seek out pharmaceuticals with tons of side effects. In this article we’ll be exploring natural herbal alternatives to minimizing stress and anxiety, as well as simple lifestyle changes that anyone can start using today.
5 Simple Strategies for Combating Stress and Anxiety
1. Daily Walks
For a bang-for-your-buck, simple way to deal with stress, it may surprise you that few things are more effective than walking. Walking has been shown to reduce tension and anxiety, while providing a myriad of other health benefits. Studies have shown that simply “walking through green spaces” can help put your brain into a meditative state. The magic of walking is that it allows for something called “involuntary attention,” which is holding your attention while also allowing for reflection.
Walks boost energy, reduce fatigue, and cause a release of endorphins that can reduce stress-hormones and depression while also boosting mood and self-esteem. The simple act of spending time outdoors has been shown to reduce stress. For even more benefits, take a walk with friends or family. The additional social support and interaction is another potent way to alleviate stress.
2. Hot Baths - With Salt
Many ancient cultures valued the healing power of water. Submerging yourself in a hot bath can be rejuvenating and relaxing because it allows for increased blood flow to the skin and circulation through the body. A warm bath can also improve your breathing, with the temperature of the water and the pressure on your chest increasing your lung capacity and oxygen intake. Warm water also makes your heart beat slightly faster, giving it a relaxing sort of mini workout. This results in anti-inflammatory and blood sugar responses which can further protect against illness and infection.
For even more benefits, add epsom salts to your next hot bath. The salts ease muscle tension and joint pain, relaxing the body even further, and they come in a variety of soothing aromas. Be sure to use 1-2 entire bags to achieve the desired effect. Many people use epsom salts but do not use enough to actually create an effect.
3. Healthy Sleep
I mentioned above that stress can cause sleeping difficulties, but it’s also the case that unhealthy sleep plays a big role in worsening any pre-existing stress, leading to a negative cycle in which your stress and sleep continue to worsen. This is why it’s so important to get a good night’s sleep. Sleep is key for setting your body’s circadian rhythm, and ensuring you feel calm, balanced, and rested for your next day.
If you have trouble falling asleep, try the hoth baths mentioned earlier shortly before you go to bed. You can also try burning Agarwood or Sandalwood Incense or diffusing essential oils, as well as minimizing your use of electronics and exposure to blue light. Try to sleep for at least 7 or 8 hours and try your best to go to sleep and wake up around the same time each day.
4. Minimizing Electronics and Over-Stimulation
I just mentioned how using electronics shortly before bed can interfere with your sleep, causing feelings of stress and anxiety the next day. But electronics and screen time can also increase your feelings of stress in general. Growing bodies of evidence continue to link electronic screen media to physical stress markers. More hours of screen time are also associated with lower feelings of well-being.
Rather than the “involuntary attention” that walking induces, screen time tends to induce an over-stimulated, divided attention, and this fragmented mental state lends itself to stress and anxiety. Try eliminating screen time for an hour at a time to start, replacing it with books, walks, or baths, or listening to music or podcasts without simultaneously looking at a screen.
5. Tonic Herbs
After making use of the strategies detailed above, your best bet to further eliminate stress and anxiety is to use certain tonic herbs. When taken regularly for long periods of time, tonic herbs help to balance and support the body, and to minimize your stress response. This not only means less anxiety, but a host of other benefits, such as better immune defense, more energy, better digestion, improvements in cognition, and much more, all without the sketchy side effects of pharmaceutical drugs. My favorite tonic herbs for naturally minimizing stress and anxiety are the following:
My number one herbal recommendation for anxiety and stress is easily Reishi Mushroom. Reishi is famous for nourishing and supporting the heart, and thus can help to calm any heart palpitations or cardiovascular issues resulting from stress levels. It is a very centering herb and has a noticeably calming effect on the mind and body.
Additionally, if you talk to anyone who has used Reishi Mushroom for a long period of time, they will likely tell you that it has an incredible ability to slow things down… slowing down everything from time, to one’s breath, to one’s thoughts, making it a famous herb among meditators and spiritual practitioners. Breathing deeper, calming the heart rate, and having less of a racing mind are all key factors that will aid immensely in minimizing stress and anxiety.
Other benefits of Reishi include:
- high concentration of beta glucans
- high concentration of polysaccharides
- very strong immuno-modulatory effect due to the compounds listed above
- ability to protect and heal the liver
- relieves stress and fatigue
- improves circulation
- protects against free radicals, radiation, environmental stressors/toxins
- anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory properties
- quintessential Shen tonic
He Shou Wu
He Shou Wu is the supreme nervous system tonic. Not only that, He Shou Wu is one of the best blood building herbs. By calming the nervous system and building healthy, nourishing blood, He Shou Wu can be extremely valuable in producing a calm, stable sense of mind free from anxiety and stress. It can also help to facilitate deeper sleep and calm the mind before bed.
Other benefits of He Shou Wu include:
- Anti-aging and longevity properties
- Famous for elimination or reduction of gray hair and restoration of natural color
- Yin jing tonic
- Blood building benefits
- Increased fertility and drive
- Assistance in producing SOD
- Calms the nervous system
- Tonifies the kidney and liver functions
- Mood enhancement effects
Hyperion’s He Shou Wu has a delicious, sweet taste and is available as a powdered extract and in capsules.
Gynostemma / Jiaogulan
Gynostemma is a stress-fighting adaptogenic herb most often consumed as a tea. It was traditionally nicknamed “miracle grass” because of the seemingly endless benefits it enables through regular use. It is an adaptogen in the true sense of the word: it can provide energy if you need it, but if consumed at night or before bed it is calming and soothing. It is also a great digestive aid to enjoy after a meal. Gynostemma is very economic and each serving can be reused at least 3 times.
Other benefits of Gynostemma include:
- 82-88 different adaptogenic chemicals/saponins
- supreme tonic on the same level as ginseng
- Anti-stress, anti-aging, anti-inflammatory
- Respiratory tonic
- Digestive aid
- delicious, pairs well with my Chrysanthemum and Rose Buds
- each serving can be reused 3-5 times, making it very economical
- Protects and supports normal functioning of liver and cardiovascular systems
- Counteracts effects of Nuclear Factor Kappa B
- Stimulates production of the body’s most powerful endogenous antioxidant: SOD (Super Oxide Dismutase)
Some of the most effective ways of combating stress are simple habits that most people can start implementing today. If you struggle with stress or anxiety, try taking daily walks, taking hot epsom salt baths, establishing healthy and sufficient sleep patterns, and minimizing screen time (especially before bed). Lastly, try incorporating some of the top tonic herbs for relieving anxiety and stress.