When we are stressed, our flight and fight response kicks in to help us run away from danger. Adrenaline kicks in and energy is directed to our limbs, eyes and blood vessels to pump oxygen around the body.
However, the organs not involved in flight & fight are switched off. Over time, this can cause digestion issues, low blood sugar, low immunity, asthma, chronic pain, as well as skin disorders, weight fluctuation, hormonal imbalances and menstrual problems.
Mental problems also develop, ranging from insomnia to anxiety and depression, mood swings and even psychosis. 
Tips to overcome stress
- Yoga, meditation & breathing techniques
It is amazing at releasing tension in the body and mind and also increases GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid), a major inhibitory neurotransmitter that calms the mind and stops the overwhelm and anxiety, known as nature’s ‘valium’. One study found that just a one-hour session of yoga increased GABA levels by 27%. 
Exercise in general is vital to increase a feeling of well-being, gets you outside in nature and releases feel-good endorphins to help disperse any stress. Yoga, Tai Chi, Qi Gong, walking, aerobic fitness all help with activating our vagus nerve.
Simple breathing techniques
Deep breathing that lengthens the exhalation can also amplify the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) response and vagus nerve tone, reducing stress and inflammation and gut issues, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).[1b]
Taking some deep breaths when you are feeling a little overwhelmed is amazing. Alternate nostril breathing (Nadi Sodhana) where you breathe in through one nostril at a time is amazing for balancing our nervous system as is the Brahmari humming breath. Left nostril breathing increases PNS stimulation, relaxing the body.[1b]
Meditation is amazing even if for 5 minutes a day to start. iPhone applications like Headspace are a great way to start with guided meditations for 15 minutes every day.
You can even do it while still lying in bed and taking time to reflect on the things you are grateful for in life as you wake up. If I feel a little anxious I try to sit with the feeling and try to let it disperse before going into my day. [1b]
Om chanting and mantra also slow down the breath and deactivate the areas of brain controlling stress, fear and anger. [1b,c]
- Do something nice for yourself everyday
It might simply be a pampering massage after a busy week, or getting your nails done, or taking a morning off to stay in bed and read a book.
Acupuncture and massage can stimulate the vagus nerve, especially foot massage, decreasing blood pressure and reduces stress, anxiety and chronic pain as well as improving immunity. [1d]
Run a lovely bath with some Epsom salts and your favourite essences and rest up and let your mind and body go. Tomorrow is another day!
- Walk barefoot
Spending time in nature is crucial, helping us feel connected and alive, reducing anxiety and letting our stresses melt away, while watching the trees, insects and birds and smelling the flowers around you.[1b]
- Dance & laugh!
Most importantly laugh, and shake your booty!! In fact, I found myself feeling a little lost in self-pity and self-doubt the other day. I was frustrated at my lack of motivation and energy, and thus lack of time and energy to do the things I love. I therefore took myself off for a dance! I felt my lethargy and negative thinking just shake out of every cell!Laughter also increases our exhalation breath and thus activates the vagus nerve and the PNS reducing stress, as does any positive feeling like love, gratitude, contentment, and tranquility.
What are you going to do that you love this week?!
- Improve your nutrition
Diet is very important as a poor diet can lead to a lack of essential nutrients key to good mental health and stress management.
Poor diet choices lead to inflammation, poor immunity, hormonal imbalances that can all lead to higher levels of stress as you are not feeling 100% and less able to manage stress, leading to mental health disorders.
Inflammatory sugar, gluten, preservatives, excess dairy, artificial sweeteners, excess meat and caffeine, alcohol, smoking.
- Vitamin B rich foods
- Great for stress management & low mood, anxiety, depression
- as increase acetylcholine and GABA, relaxing the nervous system and helping with insomnia (1)
- B6 increases serotonin and is especially required in alcohol users and women on the pill (2)
- B12 helps in mood disorders and B8 is great for brain function and depression
i.e. green leafy veg, legumes, brewer’s yeast, nuts, seeds, good fat avocado and eggs, fermented foods, sprouted grains
- Omega 3 rich foods great for brain health and inflammation and critical for proper functioning of neurotransmitters i.e. fish and chia seeds, comforting root vegetables, soups, bone broths for essential minerals and vitamins
- Potassium rich foods
- When stressed, potassium is depleted causing neurotransmitter imbalance and depression (2)
- Great to keep mineral balance optimal i.e. bananas, oranges and potatoes
- Supplement where required
- Zinc is essential for
- the nervous system as it increases GABA
- reducing excess dopamine and adrenaline or serotonin, thus reducing stress, anxiety, aggression (1)
- gut health when stressed, causing irritable bowel (IBS)
- Magnesium is amazing to help relax the mind and muscles
- Glutamine is a precursor for GABA helping calmness and relaxation in anxiety (1)
- Taurine & L-theanine
- amino acids that increases GABA, serotonin and dopamine to relieve stress http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17182482
- Adrenal herbal support to counter effects of excess cortisol
- Licorice, Rhodiola, Rehmannia, Withania and Panax and Siberian ginseng are all beautiful herbs for stress relief and adrenal fatigue
- Probiotics help gut micro biome and thus vagal tone, reducing anxiety and depression [1b]
There are many other supplements that would help in stress relief that are individual to each client. Ideally, see a practitioner to discuss this further or feel free to pop in the Health Emporium for a further chat.
Surfing is amazing for relieving stress and any anxiety/depression.
I surf as part of a group called OneWave, whereby Grant manages his stress, depression and his ‘funks’ by getting out for that ‘one wave’ that makes his day a whole lot better.
Studies show how being in salt water can actually increase your serotonin levels within 30 seconds decreasing stress instantly! 🙂
- Write a journal
Writing can really help to bring awareness to any negative thoughts that stress is creating. It helps to process unconscious thoughts and allows them to come up so they are not suppressed, causing more stress and anxiety unconsciously.
Including gratitude and creative and affirmative visualizations can also be very helpful to keep a positive outlook and reduce anxiety and stress. Any kind of positive feeling like love, gratitude, contentment, and tranquility can arouse the vagus nerve.[1b]
- Be around animals
Animals are amazing to cuddle and bring so much unconditional love. There is research that proves that having a pet can really help reduce the incidence of stress and even depression as stroking or cuddling an animal actually increases our levels of feel good hormones.
- Be kind to yourself!
We all can go through some really tough times and when these happen, be kind to yourself.
If you just want to lie in bed, do so, watch a funny movie and just let the feelings come up and feel them and be ok with them! Have a cry, but try to not judge yourself for feeling this way.Tomorrow is yet another day!
And, most importantly, it’s ok not to be ok and ask for help if things get out of control and you need to talk to someone. 🙂
1a Theresa Vernon
1b Moksha Mantra ‘Natural ways of stimulating Vagus “Buddha” Nerve’
1c Study in International Journal of Yoga 2011
1d Journal of Clinical Neuroscience 2014
1e Alternative therapies in Health and Medicine 2011
2 Gary Null ‘A Natural Approach to Overcoming Depression
3 Hechtman L, ‘Clinical Approach to Nutrition’