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Last Updated on January 12, 2021

How to Relieve Stress: 9 Quick Relaxation Techniques

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How to Relieve Stress: 9 Quick Relaxation Techniques

According to The American Institute of Stress, finding one single definition of stress is difficult, since everyone experiences it in their own way.

We can reference the age-old Epictetus quote that says, “people are disturbed not by a thing, but by their perception of a thing.” If we subscribe to this ideology, we can see how the statistics for stress are on the rise, with the latest numbers averaging 70% of the United States population experiencing symptoms of stress. Not only that, but these symptoms have turned to physical manifestations in the body in the form of disease, as well as mental health disorders, such as depression and anxiety.[1]

In our fast-paced world, finding stress is easy. With too much going on, and too many tasks to handle, stress is the simple by-product of having too much on our plate, with not enough hours in the day.

The leading causes of stress have become work/career, money, and the future of the world (whether politically or socially within local communities). Stress at work has become the unfortunate driving force, with an estimated 80% of workers reporting a stressful work environment.[2]

When we’re feeling stressed, there are a number of physiological changes that our body undergoes: headaches, fatigue, aches, pains, digestion problems, insomnia, increased blood pressure, clenching of jaw, tightness in the muscles, and many more. Likewise, we develop emotional and mental symptoms, as well, such as agitation, low energy, racing thoughts, anxiety, depression, and panic attacks.[3]

Thankfully, with a plethora of external research on the subject, stress management has become a priority in balancing work, life, and anything in-between. Major global economies, corporations, and organizations have shifted their approach to how we view stress, therefore creating more holistic work-life environments that aid in stress relief.

So how can you relieve stress with a few simple techniques?

1. Find Time to Exercise During Your Day

Exercising doesn’t have to take up hours of your time. We may not all be able to make it out to the gym or to a class for a couple of hours every day, but finding moments in your day in which to prioritize movement is a great way to begin the habit.

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Write in a time on your calendar to take a cardio class at your local gym at least once per week, and commit to that time. Drive straight from work if you have to, therefore eliminating the temptation to stay home.

Take a walk during your lunch hour, instead of just working through lunch. Set up alarms and reminders on your phone to keep you accountable.

Here’re more ways to help you: 5 Ways to Find Time for Exercise

2. Stay Hydrated with Healthy Fluids

We may need a couple of cups of coffee to get us started in the morning, but that addiction has its ups and downs. Did you know that large amounts of coffee during the day elevate your cortisol levels, much in the same way that stress does?[4]

Choosing to cut your day’s fluids with water, herbal tea, or sugar-free smoothies or juices is a good way of balancing the energy you get from food.

3. Leave Your Work at Work

So often, we take our projects and tasks home with us after a long day’s work. When those to-do lists cross the threshold of our home, we begin to lose the boundaries between being an employee and being a human being with a family, friends, and a social life.

Keeping those boundaries clear, and leaving work at work is a key technique in being able to enjoy the rest of your day, every day, to do the things that bring you joy, thereby reducing stress and leaving it at the door.

4. Make Time for Fun

Whether it’s going out with friends to a movie once per month, or catching a game or a concert, having fun is something we often put off on the back burner.

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How many times have you run into an old friend and suggested you meet up, and then never follow through? We’re all guilty of it.

Life gets in the way; but just like we can plan our entire work day, we can also plan time for unwinding and enjoying the simpler things.

5. Meditate

Meditation is a fast-growing practice, and for right reason. Not only does it lower cortisol levels, which feed stress; it also promotes deep relaxation and rest.

You can meditate in the morning before your day begins, to set the tone for how you’d like to approach your day’s tasks; or you can meditate at night before bed, to ease your way into a restful sleep and detach from the day’s events.

No matter when you decide to practice, initiating it is the first step. If finding and going to a local meditation class isn’t accessible for you, tune into the many free guided meditation apps on your phone, such as Insight Timer, Headspace, or Calm.[5]

You can also take a look at this guide: Meditation for Beginners: How to Meditate Deeply and Quickly

6. Carve out Time for Self-Care

This could be your perfect time to treat yourself. Self-care doesn’t have to be expensive nor complex. It could be something as simple as taking a nice bubble bath at the end of a long day, or treating yourself to a picnic during the weekend. As long as it’s making time for yourself, it’s self-care!

Self-care not only alleviates stress, but also puts you back into the present moment, where you can enjoy the day and yourself without chasing future thoughts.

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Try one of these 30 Self-Care Habits for a Strong and Healthy Mind, Body and Spirit.

7. Consider Supplements

Even though most of our vitamins and minerals are derived from food, sometimes we need additional supplements to fill in the gaps.

Vitamin C and D are high in increasing our energy, especially in the colder months where the sunshine is low and citrus fruit is not always readily available.

Likewise, Omega-3 fatty acids that you would get from seafood and avocado have been proven to reduce anxiety by up to 20%, and they’re very healthy for your immune system and digestion. [6]

8. Diffuse Essential Oils

Our olfactory system – our sense of smell – plays a key role in how we can relieve stress. Think back on your favorite smell and how you feel when you notice it. There’s often a sense of immediate relaxation, as if tension is simply falling away.

Essential oils have long been used in aromatherapy to do just that, and these days, purchasing essential oils and diffusing them at home, in your office, or even in the car has never been easier.

Some popular scents that have proven to relieve stress and anxiety are lavender, sandalwood, jasmine, lemongrass, and rose, among others.

Aside from diffusing, consider topical applications on the inside of your wrists, temples, and soles of the feet, for a long-lasting, all-day effect.[7]

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9. Keep a Journal

Another proven tactic for eliminating stress is to begin a journaling practice. Begin each morning by opening up your journal and doing a Thought Dump. This involves writing down anything that may be on your mind, whether it’s from the night before, or a thought that you woke up with. It’s also helpful to write down any dreams that you may remember.

The idea behind this practice is that once you dump out any thoughts that you may have, you’re clearer to prioritize your day. It’s almost as if you’re creating a new blank slate.

Additionally, writing down your thoughts allows you to process and analyze them from a detached perspective, without them festering and turning into stressful recollections later.

Learn more about journal writing: How to Use a 5 Minute Journal to Invest in Your Happiness

Final Thoughts

With as much as we’re juggling in our everyday routines, stress is the unfortunate stalker lurking in close shadows.

We can give in to the stressful habits and patterns that keep us locked in physical and mental pain; or we can redirect our habits into something more productive, therapeutic, and healing.

Thankfully, with the resources and techniques at our disposal, those habits are much easier to implement than we think.

More to Calm Yourself

Featured photo credit: Nathan Dumlao via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Daily Life: What is Stress?
[2] Global Organization for Stress: Stress Facts
[3] WebMD: Stress Symptoms
[4] VeryWellMind: Caffeine, Stress, and your Health
[5] Huffpost: The Power of Meditation
[6] Healthline: 16 Simple Ways to Relieve Stress and Anxiety
[7] VeryWellMind: Essential Oils for Stress Relief

More by this author

Aleksandra Slijepcevic

Accredited and Certified Vinyasa Yoga Teacher writing for Health & Fitness

How to Clear Your Mind and Be More Present Instantly How To Do Focused Meditation Any Time How To Get Rid Of Your Social Media Addiction 5 Powerful Self-Care Ideas for When Life Is Stressful How Adding Flow Yoga to Your Workout Routine Boosts Your Gains

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Published on October 15, 2021

Does Anxiety Make You Tired And Why?

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Does Anxiety Make You Tired And Why?

When you think of anxiety, several scenarios may come to mind: the endless tossing and turning of a restless night, dread over potential future events, pandemic-related overwhelm, or full-blown panic attacks. Even if you’re not diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, you’ve likely experienced anxiety symptoms at some point in your life. In these situations, you might feel a queasiness in your stomach, racing heartbeat, excessive sweating, chest tightness, some tension in your jaw/neck/shoulders, or worrisome thoughts as you prepare for the worst possible scenario. But does anxiety also make you tired?

After experiencing these symptoms, you may indeed feel fatigued. The sensation could fall anywhere on the exhaustion spectrum, from feeling like you just ran a marathon and need to sleep for two days, to just a little worn down and wanting a quick nap to recover.

Below are 7 ways anxiety zaps your energy and how to restore it.

1. Stress Hormone Overload

Anxiety can make you tired via overloading your body with stress hormones. The “fight or flight” response is a key connection between anxiety and fatigue. In fact, this process is made up of three stages: Alarm, Resistance, and Exhaustion. Anxiety triggers our body systems to go into high alert. This is a natural, involuntary reaction that developed in the human brain for survival.

When humans lived with the real, imminent threat of being attacked by a predator, it made sense for our bodies to spring into action without much preparatory thought. Such dangers are rare in modern times, but our brains continue to respond in the same way they did thousands of years ago.

The hormones and chemicals that flood our bodies to prepare us for safety can both affect and be affected by several body systems, and this interaction itself contributes to exhaustion. Adrenaline and cortisol are the two most notable hormones to address here. First, adrenaline is sent out, tensing the muscles and increasing heart rate and blood pressure in preparation to run. Later in the stress response, cortisol is released, enhancing the brain’s use of glucose. This is one of our main fuel sources, so it’s no wonder this contributes to fatigue (see #2).

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You can regulate baseline levels of these stress hormones by regularly practicing yoga, breathwork, meditation, and/or engaging in aerobic exercise.[1] It’s easier to lean into these routines for relief during stress when you’ve already mastered using them during times when you feel calm.

2. Elevated Blood Sugar Levels

Fatigue is one of the most common symptoms of hyperglycemia (high blood sugar), which is shown to be associated with anxiety in diabetic patients.[2] Many people who experience hyperglycemia report feeling tired all the time regardless of their quantity or quality of sleep, nutrition, or exercise.

Although this connection has shown more prevalent and prolonged effects in diabetics, it also occurs with nondiabetics exposed to psychiatric stress.[3] In fact, for all people, the natural stress response elevates blood pressure and heart rate as well as cortisol levels, all of which increase blood sugar levels.[4] This means that anxiety causes a double-hit of exhaustion related to blood sugar fluctuations.

Instead of reaching for comfort foods like chocolate during times of stress, take a calming walk around the block. Gentle movement alone is a great stress reliever that incidentally also helps to regulate blood sugars.[5]

3. Negative Mindset

Anxiety can also make you tired because of repetitive negative thinking (RNT), which is a common symptom of anxiety. RNT involves continuous thoughts via rumination (dwelling on sad or dark thoughts focused on the past) and worry (angst regarding the future). Some researchers argue that having a longtime habit of RNT can harm the brain’s capacity to think, reason, and form memories.[6] While the brain is busy using its energy stores to fuel negative thought patterns, the energy available for these other more productive endeavors is thereby reduced.

Negative thoughts can also disrupt or prevent healthy sleep patterns, keeping our minds racing at night and effectively wreaking havoc on daytime energy. (See #7)

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Reduce these patterns by reframing your feelings over anxious thoughts. Instead of staying stuck on “what if,” focus on what you can do in the here and now. What activity can you engage in for five minutes (or more) that brings you joy? What are you grateful for, no matter what’s going on around you?

4. Digestive Issues

It’s common for people to experience both intestinal and mental issues simultaneously. This suggests a strong connection between the central nervous system and the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, which is known as the gut-brain axis.[7] Simply put, what happens in our digestive tract (and as a result of what we eat) affects the brain and vice versa.

The gut microbiota is a complex population of GI tract microorganisms. When its balance is altered, the body can develop conditions that affect the gut-brain-endocrine relationship. The endocrine system produces and manages adrenaline, for starters. And the gut bacteria’s production of feel-good hormones (serotonin and dopamine—see #5) ties into this relationship as well.

GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) receptors are also found in gut bacteria. GABA is a natural brain relaxant that makes us feel good by helping the body to unwind after a stress-induced neurotransmitter release (e.g., cortisol and adrenaline). When GABA activity is low, it leads to anxiety, depression, insomnia, and mood disorders. These are just a few of the manifestations that demonstrate how gut bacteria influences behavior. All of these contribute to feeling both physically and mentally tired.

You can minimize the symptoms of depression and anxiety by keeping your gut microbiota balanced with probiotic-rich fermented foods. Yogurt with live cultures, sauerkraut, kombucha, kefir, kimchi, miso soup, and tempeh are great foods to include in your diet.[8]

5. Depression

Anxiety and depression often go hand in hand. Research continues to indicate a complex relationship between depression and decreased serotonin—a key neurotransmitter for regulating mood and feelings of wellbeing and happiness. Anxiety is also a direct symptom of serotonin deficiency. Serotonin helps with healthy sleep, mood, and digestion.

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Serotonin is produced in the gut, almost exclusively, at an estimated 90 percent. However, a small quantity is also produced in the hypothalamus, an area of the brain that is pivotal for transmitting energy balance signals. This small cone-shaped structure receives and relays signals transmitted via the vagus nerve from the gastrointestinal tract. It has a central role in mediating stress responses, regulating sleep, and establishing circadian rhythms. It senses and responds to a myriad of circulating hormones and nutrients, directly affecting our mood and energy.[9]

Dopamine is another mood-boosting neurochemical that is depleted in depression. It creates feelings of alertness and wakefulness and, when the body is operating normally, is released in higher amounts in the morning (allowing for daytime energy) and lower at night (preparing for healthy sleep). Stress is one factor that can deplete dopamine, thereby leading to depression, sleep disorders, and fatigue.

Studies show that dopamine levels in the brain can be elevated by increasing dietary intake of tyrosine and phenylalanine.[10] Both of these amino acids are naturally found in protein-rich foods like turkey, beef, eggs, dairy, soy, peas, lentils, and beans.

6. Breathing Problems

Breathlessness and anxiety are closely linked, and this is one of the ways anxiety can make you feel tired. Anxiety can lead to shallow breathing, which can cause shortness of breath while feeling breathless can exacerbate anxiety.[11] It’s a vicious cycle that often leads people to take rapid and shallow breaths, breathing into their upper chest and shoulders.

This type of breathing minimizes oxygen intake and usability. Despite comprising only two percent of the body, our brains consume 20 percent of the body’s oxygen supply. Oxygen is fuel for both mental and physical tasks. When breathing patterns compromise healthy oxygen levels, this can cause considerable fatigue.[12]

End the anxiety-fatigue cycle with focused breathing exercises. It’s important to practice this regularly while you’re not experiencing anxiety or stress, as this will help you to be prepared should a moment of breathless anxiety hit unexpectedly.

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There are several different styles of breathing exercises. There’s an easy one to try, called “Resonant Breathing.” Simply breathe in slowly through your nose as you count to five, then exhale for a count of five. Repeat this for a few minutes. It’s helpful to bring your awareness to any tension, deliberately relaxing your neck, shoulders, and jaw in particular.

7. Sleep Issues

Most of the elements we’ve already discussed inherently tie into sleep issues, which is often the reason why anxiety can make you feel tired. But it’s important to note that this is not always a directly linear cause-and-effect process. Much of it is cyclic. If we don’t get enough quality sleep, we increase our risk of excessive cortisol production, elevated blood pressure and blood sugar levels, depressed mood and mindset disorders, and dysregulation of appetite/craving hormones that affect our digestive health.

Sleep is obviously the number one antidote to feeling tired as a result of anxiety. But at the same time, many of these elements—including anxiety itself—lead to less-than-restorative sleep. We can improve our energy levels by addressing each element discussed here, as well as taking a proactive approach to our sleep health.

One simple habit to help recalibrate your circadian rhythm for healthy sleep patterns is to get outside in the morning. Sunlight exposure in the early hours of the day regulates melatonin production, helping us to feel sleepy at night.

You Don’t Have to Live Your Life Anxious and Exhausted

Times of extreme stress, like driving in heavy traffic or nerve-wracking situations like public speaking, can easily induce an anxiety response. Even “normal” everyday stressors, like feeling overwhelmed with work and home responsibilities, can build up to anxious feelings over time.

Our bodies’ response to stress and anxiety affects many of its functions in complex ways. When we unravel the interconnections of these processes, we can see how each part plays an intrinsic role in contributing to fatigue. By addressing each element individually, we can make simple lifestyle changes that resolve anxiety and diminish the ways it makes us tired as a result.

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More Tips on Coping With Anxiety

Featured photo credit: Joice Kelly via unsplash.com

Reference

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