Today I’m hearing from multiple clients that they are very stressed about the presidential election.
I too am feeling a bit stressed and nervous. I’m trying to avoid getting caught up in the media hype but I still feel an underlying tension and heaviness in my chest. And last night it was hard to fall asleep!
I thought I would share with you all what I am doing to deal with the stress.
These are my top 6 stress-busting strategies.
Listen to good sounds
It has been shown through research that soothing nature sounds reduce the effects of stress.(1) So if that feels right to you I would go for that first.
A quick search on youtube will give you some nice tinkling sounds of water, birds chirping, rolling waves, etc.
If you are feeling super stressed I would go with this type of “music” first.
For me, I like listening to R&B or deep house. But do what makes YOU feel good.
Just know that listening to nature sounds has been proven to reduce the effects of stress and music has many benefits as well.
This morning at the river I did what I do every day. I looked out at the beautiful water and starting taking some deep breaths.
They start out shallow but progressively get deeper. I focus on inhaling for about 5 counts, hold for about 1 count, and then exhale for about 10 counts.
The focus on the exhale tends to increase para-sympathetic activity, which is the “rest and digest” part of our nervous system.
I also recommend inhaling and exhaling through your nose for a more calming effect. And if you make vocal sounds (it should sound almost like snoring) when you breathe in and out this will also engage your para-sympathetic system even more.
Breathing is one of the most powerful and accessible ways to deal with stress!
Today is a day to get up and move! Take a walk. If you can do it in nature that is even better.
20-30 minutes in nature has been shown to reduce stress biomarkers.(2)
So, if you can get into a park or some woods that would be ideal.
But just do what you can. Even if just means dancing all-out to your favorite song or doing 10 jumping jacks. Get that stress out of your system!
Avoid social media
I have noticed that when I stay off of social media feeds I feel so much better.
Let me know if you have noticed the same thing. I have heard this from many people.
We all know these apps are designed to be addictive. The dopamine rush we get comes from the “not knowing” what is going to come up next in our feed. And so we scroll and scroll, getting hits from dopamine. This makes it very addictive.
To avoid this takes quite a high amount of willpower.
But do your best. During these tumultuous times we do not need to add any fuel to the fire.
If you are feeling stressed and still scrolling, STOP. Now!
If you need help getting motivated to stay off social media just remind yourself about how much better you feel when you stay off.
I’ll preface this part by saying you should always consult with a qualified healthcare provider before taking any new supplements and this information is purely for education purposes and should not be taken as medical advice.
The supplements I’ve found to be most effective for reducing the feelings of stress are: magnesium, L-theanine, ashwagandha, and CBD.
Magnesium has a muscle-relaxing effect and can help with sleep. This morning I took 100 mg. Avoid taking magnesium in doses much higher than that at one time because we do not absorb much more than that at once. If you want to take more spread it out throughout the day. The US RDA for magnesium is 310-320 mg for adult women and 400-420 mg for adult men.
L-Theanine is an extract from green tea that helps the body make GABA, which is an inhibitory neurotransmitter (i.e.: calming). Today I am taking a total of 1,000 mg of L-Theanine (spread out in 200 mg doses 5 times). I already feel its calming effects. L-theanine has been shown in studies to reduce the stress response.(3,4)
Be careful to start out with small doses of 200 mg at a time (most studies use this dose). It can make you sleepy if you take too much at once!
Ashwagandha has been shown in multiple studies to reduce stress(5,6). It is known as an adaptogen meaning it helps the body cope with stress and can improve mood and energy.
And as a side note, ashwagandha has been shown in one study to aid with weight loss in people with high stress!(7)
CBD stands for cannabidiol and it is a group of phytonutrients that are present in hemp and marijuana plants.
I’ve hesitated to speak about CBD because it hasn’t been used in any mass quantities until recently. Also, there is the stigma around marijuana. And I wanted to learn about the best practices and safety around the different products available out there. Also there are synthetic CBD products out there, which can be dangerous.
So….my disclaimer is that you should speak with your healthcare provider before trying CBD oil. Also, it is contraindicated with certain medications such as clobazam. So, doubly so, do not try CBD without consulting with your medical doctor.
I have recently started learning more and personally trying out various hemp-based products so I feel more comfortable openly discussing CBD.
My experience is that it is very calming and it has improved my sleep quite significantly. I am not sure I would recommend it during the day but how one person reacts to CBD will differ from others based on their genetic profile and their experience with cannabinoids.
CBD also seems to be a significant appetite suppressant for me, which is a nice benefit!
So, that is what I have to say about CBD for more. There may be more info coming soon.
Focus on feeling good
Your thoughts about stress can actually increase its damaging effects.
One study found that people who have chronic stress and BELIEVE THAT STRESS IS BAD had a 43% higher mortality rate than those who were under stress but did not perceive it as being bad!!(8)
So if you are feeling stressed today, try to get your mind on to other things.
Find things to appreciate right now in your life.
It’s a beautiful day here in New York. Focus on all that is good, even if it’s a simple thing like your dog or a song you love.
You CAN control your thoughts.
Try to have a little “thought discipline” over the next few days.
Rather than focusing on the negative, find something that makes you feel good.
If you find yourself going for your phone to look at your feed, listening to scary news, or getting into negative conversations about politics, try to take a step back.
How does this serve you? If all you are getting out of these activities in more stress and depressing thoughts, catch yourself and just ask, “What do I want right now?”
Do you want to feel bad? Do you want to feel frustrated or helpless?
I doubt it.
We all want to feel good. That is our default.
We just have to work a little harder at it by finding things we feel good about.
I know it’s not easy. But it’s worth it!
Take care of yourself first!
Remember that by being in a place of love we can effect greater change than from a place of hate or fear.
- Gould van Praag, C.D., Garfinkel, S.N., Sparasci, O., Mees, A., Philippides, A.O., Ware, M., Ottaviani, C., & Critchley, H.D. (2017) Mind-wandering and alterations to default 9 mode network connectivity when listening to naturalistic versus artificial sounds. Scientific Reports, 7, 45273 DOI: 10.1038/srep45273
- Hunter, M., Gillespie, B., & Chen, S. (2019). Urban Nature Experiences Reduce Stress in the Context of Daily Life Based on Salivary Biomarkers. Frontiers in Psychology, 10, 722. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2019.00722
- Unno K, et al. Anti-stress effect of theanine on students during pharmacy practice: positive correlation among salivary a-amylase activity, trait anxiety and subjective stress. Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 2013;111:128-135.
- Yoto A, Motoki M, Murao S, Yokogoshi H. Effects of L-theanine or caffeine intake on changes in blood pressure under physical and psychological stresses. J Physiol Anthropol. 2012;31:28.
- Chandrasekhar K, Kapoor J, Anishetty S. A prospective, randomized double-blind, placebo-controlled study of safety and efficacy of a high-concentration full-spectrum extract of ashwagandha root in reducing stress and anxiety in adults. Indian J Psychol Med. 2012;34(3):255-62.
- Sud Khyati S, Thaker B. A randomized double blind placebo controlled study of ashwagandha on generalized anxiety disorder. Int Ayurvedic Med J 2013;1(5):1-7.
- Choudhary D, Bhattacharyya S, Joshi K. Body weight management in adults under chronic stress through treatment with ashwagandha root extract: a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial. J Evid Based Complementary Altern Med. 2017 Jan;22(1):96-106
- Keller, A., Litzelman, K., Wisk, L.E., Maddox, T., Cheng, E.R., Creswell, P.D., & Witt, W. P. (2012). Does the Perception that Stress Affects Health Matter? The Association with Health and Mortality. Health Psychology, 31, 677.