10 Ways to Reduce Stress Naturally

Have trouble sleeping?  Find yourself stressing out during the day, holding tension in your neck or grinding your teeth?  Do you have belly fat, and feel fatigued?  Stress may be the culprit you need to find and banish.

I have worked to manage stress ever since I was a child.  I think that I knew on a gut level that I had an anxiety disorder, and that living through abuse was triggering me into a “fight or flight” state more often than was healthy.

In college, I took a Stress Management class, and we did guided meditations, had field trips to the biofeedback lab on campus, and kept journals of negative self-talk.  In short, it was therapeutic.  I learned some excellent tools, such as deep, cleansing breaths.

But what I didn’t get was just how important stress is to our bodies.  Stress affects our metabolic activity, our well-being, our digestion, and is just as important as the foods that we choose to eat.  I think that bears repeating: real food is not more important than stress management.

We can get caught up in the minutia of real food sometimes as fellow Nourishing Traditions lovers.  Yes it’s important to soak grains overnight, but it is just as important to get enough sleep so that your stress levels will not go up.  Case in point: Staying up late to finish getting food ready would be counter-productive.  Make sense?

  1. Amino Acids:  I make sure I have True Calm on hand at all times.  It’s a really good fit for me, since I find that it can be the difference between yelling at my kids, and not 🙂  At first, I took it several times a day, as outlined in the book The Mood Cure by Julia Ross.
    True Calm is an amino acid blend mostly made of GABA, as well as B vitamins and magnesium.  GABA is an amino acid credited with having a calming effect on the body, by encouraging the parasympathetic system of the body (responsible for “rest and digest”) to take over.  GABA also may be the missing amino acid that causes or contributes to high cortisol levels and belly fat.
  2. Mindfulness in Reading:  I love the book by Thich Nhat Hanh called Peace Is Every Step.  You can open it to any page a read a little bit or a lot, depending on what you need.  I always find something in the book that I can meditate on, ponder, or use to reduce stress.  It’s amazing how you can pick a book up, open to a random page, and find just the right words to hear at that moment.
    In fact, it has one of my favorite poems in it: “I have lost my smile. But don’t worry. The dandelion has it.”
  3. Aromatherapy:  As part of my bedtime routine, I use lavender essential oil in some way.  You can find very high quality essential oils here, from a company that I have used for years and completely trust.
    You can simply smell the lavender oil by opening the jar and wafting it under your nose for a few minutes.  Alternately, you may also want to use an essential oil diffuser.  I like the soapstone kind that use a small tea light candle to heat the oil gently.
    My favorite diffuser, however, is the terracotta drop pendant diffuser (pictured).  I hang it from my bedside lamp, and put a drop or two on it every few days.  It smells heavenly, and helps me settle down and relax at night as I read or Sudoku myself to sleep!
  4. Yoga or simply stretching:  Stretching for just a few minutes every night can do wonders for your peace of mind, stress, and flexibility.  Yoga, in my opinion, is even better!  And even if you don’t want to become a yogi, yoga can at least provide you with ideas for stretches.  A side benefit may be that it piques your interest with it’s thousands of asanas, or poses.  A great starting place for yoga is to check out this book called Light on Yoga by B. K. S. Iyengar.
    Most importantly, don’t get hung up on how long you stretch or do yoga.  Use whatever amount of time you have.  5 minutes?  Great.  One hour?  Great.  I think those yogis are serious when they say not to judge. Don’t judge a long yoga session as “good” and a short one as “bad”. That’s a lie.  It will keep you from achieving true happiness and enjoyment in your body and what it can do.
  5. Drinking a glass of wine while playing Sudoku. I don’t know what it is about this combo, but I love it.  Sometimes I take True Calm, and sometime I get myself a lovely glass of Pinot noir or Sauvignon Blanc to sip as I play a game or puzzle.  I find it to be incredibly relaxing, and perfect for soothing myself to sleep.
    I also like to sip a glass of Maker’s Mark bourbon neat, as it is very smooth and pleasantly spicy.  Life is fully lived when you can enjoy every moment, and sipping Maker’s is one of mine!
    (Lest we judge whether or not drinking is good for you or bad for you, let me just say this: we have been making and drinking wine and spirits for thousands of years.  Alcoholism is real, yes.  But drinking one or two drinks a few times a week is perfectly normal.  Buy the best quality alcohol you can, such as organic wine.)
  6. Stop Dieting and EAT THE FOOD!:  In general, starchy foods with a low moisture content will encourage the parasympathetic system in your body, which is the other side of your nervous system from the sympathetic system (the stress-based “fight or flight” side).
    Foods like salty pizza, cheese and crackers, pasta, or breads will provide a nice relaxation response.  Your hands and feet will be warm, your body will be relaxed, and you will find sleep easier to come by.  To read more about how to manage stress and just EAT THE FOOD!, give the Diet Recovery e-book a read.  It’s my favorite diet book ever.
  7. Cleansing Breaths: breathe in for about 4-5 seconds, then exhale for 8-10 seconds.  However many seconds you breathe in, double the amount on the exhale.  Do this 10 times, and notice how your body has responded to the stress physiologically.
    This is a simple trick is yet another way to access your parasympathetic system: If you exhale longer than you inhale, then your body goes into a lower-stress state. This approach is explored in yoga, along with many other kinds of breaths and breathing.
  8. Mantra:  Mantra to say when your negative self-talk gets out of control. I have two mantras right now: “I forgive myself” and “I’m not going to beat myself up about it.” Whatever pulls me out of the  vortex, I find useful.
  9. Declaration:  I volunteer at Phoenix Youth at Risk (PYAR) as a workshop leader, and have been a part of the organization for over two years.  In PYAR we make personalized declarations, or “what we declare ourselves to be”.
    As a result, I have a declaration I say every morning or whenever I need it.  My previous declaration was “I am interconnected with the Earth and with humanity”, but I recently changed it to “I make a difference in the world”.  You can change it whenever you want.
    It can be as simple as “I, Kendahl, declare myself to be loving, open, and full of energy”. Change this to match whatever you’re feeling that day.  You declare yourself to be whatever you want.
  10. Chakra Stones:  I like to imagine my chakras aligning, visualizing them spinning, and allowing my body to be in harmony.  The book Wheel of Life by Judith Anodea is an excellent starter book for chakra work.
    You can also find chakra stone sets online, or even at a local shop.  You’ll want to get a stone for each color of the rainbow: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, and white.  You can even find chakra sets that are made to be used as necklaces, so you can carry a certain stone with you more easily.  But how do you start with chakra stones?
    For example, I have phases in my life where I feel silenced.  So sometimes I will get my blue chakra stone out of my bag, which is associated with the throat chakra.  Then I will carry my throat chakra stone with me to remind me that I have a voice.  I find it useful to have a physical reminder in my hand or in my pocket.
    I also might couple my use of a chakra stone with the use of a mantra that day.  I can carry my throat chakra stone, and then repeat the mantra “I can speak clearly” or even a declaration that “I am alive, valuable, and vocal.” or something.

photo credit: bottled_void

This post is a part of Fat Tuesday, Slightly Indulgent Tuesday, Real Food Wednesday, The Mommy Club, Allergy Free Wednesday, Full Plate Thursday, Pennywise Platter, Simple Lives Thursday, Fight Back Friday, Fresh Bites Friday, Friday Food Flicks, GAPS-Friendly Fridays, Monday Mania, Weekend Gourmet.

PAID ENDORSEMENT DISCLOSURE: In order for me to support my blogging activities, I may receive monetary compensation or other types of remuneration for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog.


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  1. i enjoyed this post, thanks for sharing your methods for stress release! i have a few meditations on my MP3 player that i listen to when i get really stressed, but mainly i find that deep breathing and going for a walk really help when my anxiety gets high.

  2. I drink my whisky neat, too.

    I like Scottish Speyside malts.

    • Sherry M says:

      rub some magnesium gel on your belly while doing deep cleansing breaths, a few minutes of stretches, an ounce or two of Navan, which is a vanilla liqueur from Grand Marnier, sipped in a beautiful antique or hand painted cordial glass, while reading whatever floats your boat, after everyone else in the house is asleep….ahhh….now that’s relaxing!

  3. Thanks for a great post! I really enjoyed all of the aspects that you covered. My favorite wine sipping activity is sitting on the porch watching the rain. Most people around here hate the rain, but since I grew up in Arizona I seem to never tire of a good storm. I am totally relaxed after that. Walking also helps me de-stress.

    • I completely agree. I was telling a friend today that my favorite time of year is monsoon season. My husband and I will sit on the back porch sipping wine and listening to the thunder and watching the rain pour down in sheets. Nature is powerful and amazing, and I find that that relaxes me as well 🙂

  4. Great post! Hope you are having a great week and thank you so much for sharing with Full Plate Thursday.
    Come Back Soon!
    Miz Helen

  5. Thanks for sharing with GAPS Friendly Fridays – I agree stress reduction is a very important part of a real-food, GAPS lifestyle. I even agree with the “eat the food” idea and making sure not to miss out on carbs. But a reminder for GAPSters out there – grain based breads are not GAPS legal!

  6. Before I retire to bed, I make sure that I read several pages of my favorite book to unwind and relax especially after a long day. A good massage will also help relieve stress and a nice workout at the gym too.

  7. Thanks so much for the tips, I also find working out and watching TV can reduce my stress 🙂


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