Ever since I was little I’ve struggled with managing my stress. I was that kid with headaches and belly aches and that teen with anxious tendencies and chronic symptoms related to stress.
The truth is, I never learned how to manage my stress naturally, or in a healthy way. And as someone who has experienced a lot of extreme stressors and a lot of consistent stressors, this led me to develop very unhealthy coping mechanisms.
And more times than not, I was recommended anxiety pills or antidepressants to cope with my stress. For some, these are most definitely needed, but in my case, it was an easy way out for the doctors and I’m grateful my mom fought for more natural ways to find answers.
Just a few years ago, I came to a breaking point. My stress had taken over my life. And instead of proactively managing it, I was caught in a cycle of reacting to stressors, leading my body towards chronic health symptoms and anxiety.
Stress management and self-care is a hot topic today. So many of us struggle to manage stress in healthy ways, right?
I mean we see people (including myself) turning to Netflix, medications, drugs or alcohol and unhealthy relationships. And this leads to more stress which then leads us to antidepressants and anti-anxiety meds and the cycle continues.
If you are struggling to cope with stress in a healthy way, I want to encourage you in the natural ways that I have found hope.
Because whether you need medication or just need a lifestyle change, the way you manage your stress will affect the outcome and prognosis of your health and mental health.
So let’s take a look at how you can manage your stress in natural and healthy ways.
3 Simple Ways to Manage Stress Naturally
1.) Take Control of Your Mind
It took me years to finally recognize how my thoughts were the root cause of so much of my stress and anxiety. When I learned that this could be the case, I started tracking my moments of extreme stress.
I would write down what the stressor was and then what I was doing or thinking about before I got so stressed or anxious.
I started to realize that these high-stress moments were often triggered by a thought that grew wildly (and quietly) out of control.
I would let my thoughts wander in quiet moments and that wandering, even if it wasn’t a bad thought, led me to anxiety!
So my first step was to stop letting my thoughts wander. I had to begin to recognize when I was doing this and how to stop it.
This will look different for everyone, but understanding what your triggers are, when your weak moments may be and how to respond is essential.
When you get hit with a stressor, you can have a response plan to keep your mind and your body in a healthy and even place.
One of the best ways to do this is to focus on what is good. Gratitude can often diminish stress in powerful ways.
2.) Treat Your Body Well
Another major part of learning to manage stress in a natural way is to learn to treat your body well. I realized that I was pushing my body in ways that were unhealthy. So naturally, my mind wasn’t in a healthy place either!
Some of the best ways to care for yourself so that you can manage your stress are:
- Exercise: Spend time every day getting active. Try to get outside. Exercising releases hormones that help your body feel happier and they also decrease stress.
- Eat well: Your diet affects your mental health & stress level. When I started focusing on eating a natural foods diet and cutting out processed foods, I noticed a major change in my mood. Eating real food helps your body to function and your brain to cope.
- Healthy sleep: Sleep is so important to your mental health and managing stress. Not only do you need enough sleep, but how you sleep will affect your stress levels. Cut out phone time before bed. And make sure you don’t grab it and start scrolling first thing in the morning. Try to be consistent with your bedtime and keep your bedroom as a place of calm. You might also want to try this DIY LoTion to Fall Asleep Quick.
Taking care of your body is essential to learning to manage stress. This was hard for me because the effects aren’t immediate. But after only a few short weeks, I recognized a major difference in my mood and my stress level when I started treating my body well!
3.) Relaxation – When You Don’t Want to Relax!
When you are caught in a cycle of unhealthy stress, you probably aren’t going to feel comfortable sitting and going through relaxation techniques.
I hated being told to just take deep breaths or do yoga or try muscle relaxation because when my mind slowed, my stress seemed to amp up. I couldn’t be alone with my thoughts and this led to even more stress.
So I avoided relaxation at all costs. I kept busy, I found things that made me happy, but I never once slowed down and taught my mind how to manage stress in a healthy and relaxed way.
Instead, my fast-paced mind had control over my stress and kept me from slowing down and finding peace.
So how do you relax when you struggle to slow down?
The biggest thing to remember here is that it will be a learning process. Almost like you’re training yourself.
Start small, try and slow your mind for just a few minutes each day. And as you do this, slowly add more and more time.
And remember, it won’t help your stress levels right away. It takes time to learn to slow down, but the practice of stillness will change your life and your stress forever!
Have you ever struggled to manage stress? I’d love to hear what has helped you in the comments below!
Nicole Kauffman, founder of Real Living Made Simple and Courage. Hope. Love., writes to inspire and encourage you to find natural wellness and healing. She struggled with chronic health symptoms, anxiety and the constant need to meet others’ expectations. But that has all since changed! Read more on the blog & you can join her on Instagram and Pinterest!