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Last Updated on January 12, 2021

How to Reduce Mental Stress Quickly (And Naturally)

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How to Reduce Mental Stress Quickly (And Naturally)

Mental stress has become pandemic, and for many it is a default state in everyday life.[1] Learning how to reduce stress, then, is becoming more and more important.

Mental stress can be defined as:

An inward tension or pressure caused by the inability to manage the incoming information of outside stimuli.

In one of my recent (active) meditation sessions on how to reduce stress, a participant said they often got stressed quickly for no apparent reason and asked for a quick way to reduce stress. I said there is a way to learn how to reduce stress, but to be able to do it, you need to understand how and why stress builds up so quickly.

If we get stressed often and quickly, it means that we are harboring many internal conflicts and are not conscious of them. This makes it impossible to get rid of stress quickly. First, we must learn what causes mental stress.

What Causes Mental Stress?

Its origin is triggered by a signal from outside stimuli — a piece of information of an objective or subjective nature, or both at once. The mental stress develops very slowly at the beginning. We cannot observe its development because of our lack of understanding of mental energy.

The information we receive from the outside (which we dislike), creates a feeling that evolves into a negative emotion (negative mental energy). For example, the inability to understand or accept other people’s point of view can cause mental stress.

My Personal Experience with Mental Stress

In my late twenties, I struggled consistently with mental stress. I was happy to work in a global corporation and also excited to be responsible for many projects at once. Despite the work load I had, I was a victim of mobbing because of my keen engagement towards my tasks. I was physically and mentally exhausted because of the many complex purchase orders I had to place for the projects assigned to me. On top of that, there were certain people in the organization giving me hard time because of my desire to strive to improve.

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There was an immediate disharmony between me and these people that generated a feeling of intolerance and non-acceptance. This grew into feelings of disappointment and frustration, which ended up creating emotion of anger and anxiety over not performing well or losing my job.

Day in, and day out, I was stressed. I understood that the people and the circumstances causing my mental stress wouldn’t change, so I had to understand that, accept it, and find a way to approach my stress and conflicts efficiently. I saw it as a challenge and was grateful for it. I not only reduced my mental stress but found a way to never let it develop again.

How to Reduce Stress

There is many techniques you can use when learning how to reduce stress quickly and naturally. The sooner you can make it your own, the quicker you’ll be able to reduce your mental stress.

A technique is applied successfully when its essence is really understood and absorbed. If a technique is to be applied quickly, there must be extensive knowledge of the situation in which the technique is required.

In the context of mental stress, for example, we get scared and anxious in (sometimes normal) situations because we don’t know what is happening or what is going to happen. The uncertainty of the result causes tension and mental stress. The longer we move in that uncertainty, the greater and heavier our mental stress becomes.

The accomplishment of being able to deal with challenges and stressful life situations boosts our self-confidence and makes life meaningful and successful. However, this requires a certain expertise, and that expertise starts with self-inquiry and the development of a technique. To own a technique, we must develop activities into tools and apply them.

Activities + Tools + Practice = Technique.

Stress Relieving Activities

Starting with some stress relieving activities is a good way to get moving on your journey to learning how to reduce mental stress. Below are some examples of stress relieving activities:

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  1. Observing and enjoying nature
  2. Taking long walks in the park
  3. Talking with those we are close to
  4. Doing sports
  5. Listening to music
  6. Singing
  7. Dancing

All of the above are great stress relieving activities. However, they are not techniques that can teach you to understand the nature of mental stress, reduce it successfully, and even eliminate it entirely.

Being busy complying with daily duties, we have almost no time to devote to these stress relieving activities. We use them out of necessity as tools to reduce stress, and after the activity is finished, the mental stress crawls back and overtakes us again.

Then, most of us find simple activities like eating, entertaining, shopping, gambling, drugs, etc. as a shortcut to temporarily relieve stress. These generally end up creating negative long-term consequences like obesity, fatigue, boredom, depression, and so on.

As a result, mental stress clouds our mental clarity, withdrawing our creativity, not letting our intelligence to expand, and leaving us without motivation to deal with the root-cause of it all.

The technique I am about to describe here uses the activities mentioned above to create tools, the main elements of your own technique. As mentioned before:

Activity + Tools + Practice = Technique

Simple Tools for Creating a Technique to Reduce Mental Stress

Apply one of the greatest mental energies as tools to any of the above stress relieving activities to create your own individual technique:

Gratitude

When you evoke the emotion of gratitude to any of your activities, you switch your mental state from stressful to peaceful (grateful). When you consciously acknowledge gratitude toward the present, you send information to your brain that immediately soothes your central nervous system, producing positive hormones like serotonin and dopamine. These hormones reduce your mental stress and create a good feeling, a feeling of reward for having reached a goal.[2]

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Also, try to be grateful for the stressors that challenge your efficiency and signal an opportunity to improve.

Conscious Breathing

Support this activity though rhythmic, conscious breathing and intensify your gratefulness and the feeling of that reward. Use your conscious breathing to create a breathing pattern that will identify the moment as one in which you’ve created safety, peace, and self-respect within yourself.

Use these two tools to approach the seven activities listed above or any other activities you find as stress relieving, and practice integrating them in ways that work for you.

Once you merge the tools with the activities, you’ll be able to create your personal technique to reduce your mental stress quickly and naturally and apply it in literally any activity.

A Comprehensive Stress Management Technique

Apart from calming a busy mind, where you apply the techniques physiologically to reduce thoughts and calm the mind, here we need deeper expertise and the application of subtle energies to create specific thoughts to reduce and eliminate mental stress.

For fast results, one thing is to keep the mind calm and reduce stress, but more importantly you need to train the mind to stay busy and efficient. We will work with a two-in-one technique here.

Step 1

Identify the stressor (the root-cause of your stress). You can discover this by being aware of your surroundings and of your reactions to it; is it the person and her/his actions/behavior that are causing my stress? Is it the idea I have about how things are happening around me (at work or at home)?

Be realistic with yourself in identifying the root-cause of your stress. No one can do it more quickly.

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After you have identified the stressor, generate specific thoughts, such as, “I am grateful for this challenge, and I will find a way to accept it as is and work on changing my approach and reaction to it.” Once you achieve this, the stressor has no longer the same level of influence on you.

Step 2

Develop/apply the stress relieving activity together with the tool, and approach the stressor when you’re ready (don’t forget the specific thoughts from Step 1).

For example, your boss, your husband, your wife, or your teenage children are giving you a hard time. It takes only minutes to understand and accept that they can’t do better than that. Be grateful for this realization. They are a part of your life. You have paved your way, step by step, and you are partially responsible for being in this situation with them. If this situation is not life threatening, then it is nothing but a challenge, an opportunity for growth and development.

Apply gratitude and practice breathing exactly when the stressful situation is happening and not only when walking in the park or when you know that you are safe from the mental stress.

Step 3

Practice these tools and this approach consciously in stress reliving activities, but most importantly in stressful situations, and do it continuously. This way you will develop your own individual technique and become an expert in dealing with your personal stressors.

You will begin to notice a change, and you’ll see how your approach is characterized by gratitude, patience, and tolerance. Communicate these qualities to your challenger and let him/her see your approach and good intentions as they are the main elements of your technique.

Final Thoughts

In a matter of days, by simply applying your own technique, you can reduce mental stress quickly and naturally. The technique that you create will make you the expert of your own actions and eventually of your own life.

The technician always owns the technique that is to be performed. Be the technician of your stress and of your life. I salute the spirit in you!

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More Tips on Reducing Stress

Featured photo credit: Haley Phelps via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Science Direct: Mental Stress
[2] Healthline: Serotonin

More by this author

Marcin Gil

Marcin is a spiritual being just like anyone challenging to uncover what we already have โ€“ spiritual freedom.

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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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