As an Integrative Wellness Practitioner & Registered Yoga Teacher who owns a brick & mortar holistic wellness center, I tend to pick up on collective themes & patterns that people share that they are experiencing in their lives. An increasingly predominant topic of conversation that continues to be shared in classes, sessions, & the retail shop is stress.
Stress. This word has been quite common for years but has almost taken on a whole new meaning these days. Even though it gets tossed around pretty casually, it can wreak serious havoc on the major systems of the body. Chronic, or long term stress can cause structural changes in the brain that can lead to memory, cognitive, & learning difficulties, plus additional neurological complications.
How stress affects the body and mind differs from person to person and some individuals may be more sensitive to the effects of stress, therefore be more susceptible to complications. Cultivating an awareness within yourself to help identify your own personal stressors, how to recognize your body’s response to stress, and exploring different stress reducing approaches can help you manage your stress levels and minimize its detrimental effects on the body, mind, & spirit.
Some of the systems in the body that stress can affect are the central nervous system, immune system, digestive system, reproductive system, cardiovascular system, musculoskeletal system, endocrine system, and respiratory system. This can present in a wide range of symptoms, including headaches, depression, insomnia, leaky gut syndrome, irritable bowel syndrome, heartburn, ulcers, libido, sperm production and maturation issues, infertility, menstrual irregularities, back pain, high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, insulin resistance, obesity, and breathing difficulties.
If you’re suffering from stress, anxiety, or overwhelmed by life’s challenges and/or the current state of the world, there are more natural and holistic approaches available than ever before that can help you restore your equilibrium on all levels so that you can navigate your life path with more clarity and peace.
Practicing Yoga and meditation, mindfully eating and balanced nutrition, receiving energy healing, such as Reiki (or learning how to do it yourself), taking a supplement like CBD, and working with crystals are just a handful of options to explore that can empower you to take an active role in managing your stress levels and your overall health, wellness, and healing journey.
Yoga is considered by many to be the oldest defined practice of self-development, dating back 5,000 years. Many of the popular techniques found to reduce stress derive from yoga, including controlled breathing, meditation, physical movement, mental imagery, and stretching. Virtually everyone can see physical benefits from yoga, and its practice can also offer psychological benefits, such as stress reduction and a sense of well-being. Yoga is a science and has many systems. The most commonly known practice of yoga involves stretching the body and forming different poses while keeping breathing slow and controlled. The body becomes relaxed and energized at the same time. There are various styles of yoga, some moving through the poses more quickly, almost like an aerobic workout, and other styles relaxing deeply into each pose that are more restorative. Some have a more spiritual angle and if the physical practice isn't possible or enjoyable, there are other options such as meditation, bhakti, and self study. There are multiple ways that yoga can minimize your stress levels. Studies show that the most effective ways in which yoga targets stress are by lifting your mood (or positive affect), by allowing for increased mindfulness, and by increasing self-compassion. By simultaneously getting us into better moods, enabling us to be more focused on the present moment, and by encouraging us to give ourselves a break, yoga is a very effective stress reliever.
Balanced nutrition can support a healthy immune system and the repair of damaged cells. It actually provides the extra energy needed to cope with stressful events. Some research suggests that certain foods like polyunsaturated fats, including omega-3 fats and vegetables, may help to regulate cortisol levels. If you frequently rely on fast food because you are tired or too busy to prepare meals at home, consider meal planning, a practice that can help save time in the long run, ensure more balanced healthful meals, and prevent weight gain. Mindful eating practices counteract stress by encouraging deep breaths, making thoughtful food choices, focusing attention on the meal, and chewing food slowly and thoroughly. This increases enjoyment of the meal and improves digestion. Mindful eating can also help us realize when we are eating not because of physiological hunger but because of psychological turbulence, which may lead us to eat more as a coping mechanism.
Cannabidiol, widely known as CBD, seems to be the talk of the town no matter where you go these days but there’s a lot of information to sift through if you’re considering giving it a try. This can get a bit confusing and not all CBD products are created equal. CBD is a cannabinoid derived from the hemp plant that contains either very little to no tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive compound of cannabis, meaning that it’s unlikely you’ll feel “high” when taking CBD. An important distinction to make is between CBD Isolate: its purest form, with all other cannabis plant compounds removed, Full Spectrum CBD: containing a full range of cannabis hemp constituents, including terpenes, flavonoids, alkaloids, and all of the beneficial cannabinoids from the whole plant, such as CBD, CBG, CBDa, CBGa, CBDv, CBC, THC and more. However, THC levels are less than 0.3 percent. Broad spectrum CBD: contains all the cannabis plant’s compounds, but it removes THC completely or only contains very trace amounts. Along with a diverse range of other benefits, CBD may help instill a sense of calm when used as a supplement, which may lower stress levels. While the research on CBD is still emerging, current research suggests that CBD may help with symptoms of anxiety, depression, panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). By dampening the stress response and protecting against chronic stress, CBD may help prevent or treat certain mental health conditions related to stress. Reiki is an energy healing technique that originated in Japan in the early 20th century. The word Reiki can be translated to “Universal Life Force Energy.” Reiki therapy is a way of guiding or channeling this energy through the body of the practitioner and transferring it to the body and energy field of the recipient to promote its self-healing abilities. During a session, a Reiki practitioner will move through a series of hand placements using gentle touch or hovering above or close to the body not directly touching. Distant Reiki can also be sent across time & space using advanced techniques. A primary benefit of Reiki, which leads to a lot of other benefits, is reducing stress. Our bodies cannot heal when they’re in a constant state of stress. Reiki gives your body a break from the stresses of daily life, helping your body return to a state of relaxation. Once in this state, your body is able to heal any damage brought on by stress, injury, or disease. By helping a person experience deep relaxation, Reiki enhances and accelerates our own natural healing process, because the body can stop being stressed and focus on healing itself. Research shows that a single Reiki session may help your autonomic nervous system move from a sympathetic-dominant, or “fight-or-flight” state, to a parasympathetic-dominant, or “rest-and-digest” state. The parasympathetic-dominant state is the state we are meant to live in and Reiki helps keep your autonomic nervous system in that state. The crystal industry has seen massive growth in recent years because of the interest in tapping into their powerful healing potential, but how do they work? The theory behind working with stones can be explained through Einstein’s theory of energy: E=MC2. Everything has a vibration and frequency, including crystals and human beings as well. Each body part actually vibrates at a different frequency just like each gemstone vibrates at its own specific frequency. When we come into contact with something that has a similar vibration to us but a higher frequency, it helps raise our frequency higher – we realign with the frequency of the stone; and when we are at a higher frequency, we feel in better health, we have more energy, and we experience more flow. It’s like a chemical reaction – our frequency rises to align with the frequency of the stone. Considering that one common wellness belief is that stress & anxiety can be rooted in being ungrounded, working with crystals can ground our energy, creating a sense of balance to calm the mind. Many people would debate that there is no science or proof that crystal healing actually works and that it is just a placebo effect however, the placebo effect is a real phenomenon, where scientists have proven physiological and chemical responses and reactions to certain stimuli that cause bodily change and healing. If you’re curious about what all the crystal healing hype is about, perhaps it’s time to explore working with these gems and decide for yourself if it’s an effective stress reducing method that works for you. See, here’s the thing. There are just as many paths as there are people on the planet. Each and every one of us arrives here on this Earth as a one of a kind gift with a unique guidance system that helps us navigate our individual life path that is unlike anyone else’s. It’s up to us to trust this guidance as we explore so many different choices over the course of the journey and decide what resonates with our highest healing good and what does not. This applies to the way of life that we choose and how we find balance, health, peace, joy, and healing. Despite how unique our lives are, encountering stress seems like one of the inevitable common threads that connects us all. The ways that we choose to manage stress and minimize its damaging effects is one of our exploratory missions and there are an infinite number of routes to continue to find our way back to our natural state of presence and peace. These are only a few suggestions that have supported me during stressful times and by sharing this information, I hope to inspire you on your lifelong quest to live a life where you feel confident and supported in riding the stressful waves with compassion, grace, ease, and gratitude.