Looking for simple ways to reduce stress naturally?
Our modern, always connected lives have us feeling stressed out and burned out. We are not robots, but increasingly technology wants to treat us as if we were.
And the resulting stress is so much more than a mental discomfort.
Stress makes us feel crappy emotionally (contributing to anxiety and depression), but it affects us physically as well–heart disease, obesity, autoimmune diseases, high blood pressure, stomach issues, even dental issues from grinding or clenching our teeth can come from stress.
Everyday life as a stay-at-home mom has its own ways of being overwhelming. In fact, studies show that stress affects women more than men.
I’m writing this after dealing with a crazy toddler this morning, a baby who didn’t want to take a nap, and a very messy living room (including a broken refrigerator that our landlord is supposed to be replacing).
Here are 15 habits I’m incorporating in my daily life to help reduce stress and keep me feeling calm in the midst of the crazy.
1. Get Outside
Quite possibly the most important and most effective way to reduce stress naturally is just to get outside.
It seems like such a simple thing, but our modern world is set up to keep us indoors. We have climate control. We work in offices. Our electronic devices keep us distracted and occupied.
We can order groceries, furniture, books, everything we could possibly need and have it delivered to us. So why would we go outside?
I read an article recently about an app that tracked the author’s activities over the course of a year. It would periodically ping her and ask her what she was doing and how she was feeling.
The data gathered from the app showed some pretty clear correlations.
Most people are unhappy at work. And people are most happy when they are outdoors enjoying nature.
Getting outside makes us happier.
Want to reduce stress? Kids driving you up a wall?
Kids activities today are more structured than they used to be. They end up spending time indoors instead of exploring outside like in past generations.
Get outside and take the kids outside with you. If your kids are happier that’s going to make you happier too, right? So I think we can call this one a double win.
Your brain on the outdoors
Neuroscientists researching how people’s brains respond to different environments have found that when you’re outside your frontal lobe disengages a bit.
The frontal lobe is the part of your brain that is most active when you’re in high-energy, busy, stressful situations. But when you’re outside, your brain’s alpha waves increase.
Alpha waves are the same brain waves that increase when you meditate–they indicate a relaxed, alert state of mind.
When you’re outside, your body will also produce good old Vitamin D (which is actually a hormone). Low vitamin D has been linked to anxiety and depression. When I can’t get outside as much, I take a vitamin D supplement. This one has coconut oil to make it easier for your body to absorb.
Really can’t get outside?
Try bringing some of nature inside. These 7 plants are supposed to help relieve stress and anxiety.
2. Get Some Exercise
I know a lot of people (especially moms of young children) struggle with getting enough exercise. I used to love running and went for a run almost daily. Now, as a stay-at-home mom of two kids under 4, it’s hard to find time to exercise.
But exercise is so crucial to so many parts of your health. Your mental health, sleep, immune system, hormone balance–basically everything about your entire existence can be affected by how much exercise you get.
Exercise reduces stress hormone cortisol. All of your hormones are interconnected and affect each other, so you’ll want to make sure your cortisol is at appropriate levels.
As a specific example, progesterone and cortisol share a precursor hormone pregnenolone. When you’re stressed, your body decides to make cortisol instead of progesterone, contributing to low progesterone.
What else can exercise do?
- Releases endorphins–your brain’s “happy chemicals”
- Improves sleep
- Increases confidence as your body becomes healthier
So how can you get enough exercise when life is crazy?
Part of the solution is to rework your definition of exercise. In past generations exercise wasn’t as structured a thing as it is now. It used to be that our daily work involved physical labor–working in the fields, hand-wringing laundry, pulling water in buckets from the well.
Now we have modern conveniences, which are amazing. But it means that physical activity is less a part of our everyday lives.
I’m learning to define exercise as “any kind of movement that gets my heart rate up.” I don’t go for set times or set intensity. I just move.
Some easy ways to get in your daily exercise:
- Jump on an indoor trampoline (I got this one for Christmas)
- Play tag with the kids
- Walk to the park
- Push a stroller around the park
- Walk to the library
- Park by the cart return farthest from the store
- Ride bikes with the kids (we have this bike trailer and this bike seat so we can easily take the kids with us)
You’ll see there’s lots of walking in these suggestions. But it’s honestly one of the easiest ways to get yourself moving.
If you have a newborn, Anna at Abrazo and Coze has a great list of exercises to do with your baby.
Need more ideas for fitting fitness into your day with kids? Take a look at Elizabeth’s list at Worth Writing For.
3. Use Essential Oils
Essential oils can be extremely effective for reducing stress. When you inhale essential oils, they affect the limbic system of your brain.
The limbic system is connected to (among other things)
- hormone balance
Smells have a huge effect on our wellbeing.
There are several essential oils that can help reduce feelings of stress. Here are a few of my favorites.
- Lavender: uplifting, calming, and soothing
- Chamomile: calming and relaxing
- Blue Tansy: relaxing
- Cedarwood: calming
- Marjoram: historically known as the “herb of happiness”; relaxing
- Rose: calming and emotionally balancing
- Sandalwood: encourages restful sleep, grounding and stabilizing
- Frankincense: grounding and emotionally balancing; helps with mental focus
- Valerian: tranquilizing, calming, emotionally grounding and balancing
- Stress Away: a blend that is relaxing and stress relieving
Several of these oils will also help you sleep–so use them for stress only if you’re ready to snooze too!
Stress Away is a blend from the line of essential oils that my family uses. Their products are high quality and pure, and the vast product line makes it easy to use natural products in your entire home.
Still trying to figure out essential oils? Check out the Intro to Essential Oils course and more in my free Pioneerish Micro Homestead Toolkit.
4. Embrace Gratitude
I believe a lot in the power of mindset and reframing the way you look at things.
One of the best ways to reframe your thinking is to embrace gratitude. About a year ago I started practicing a morning gratitude routine. I would diffuse my Gratitude essential oil blend and then write down three things I was grateful for.
Taking just a few minutes first thing in the morning to write down the things you’re thankful for can make a huge difference in how you approach the day.
When you’re stressed it can be helpful to write things out or to talk someone you trust. But try not to focus just on the situation that’s stressing you out.
If you’re focusing on the positive things in your life you’re less likely to feel stressed out about the not-so-positive. Try to find something to be grateful about even in the stressful situations that you’re in… even if you have to get really creative.
For example, when I’ve had a rough night because a child was sick, I may write down that I’m grateful for the remedies available to me to help them feel better.
5. Feed Your Mind Well
When I was a new mom struggling with mom guilt and a loss of confidence, I had to stop reading stories about terrible things happening to children.
The world is full of horrible things, and sometimes we just have to choose not to dwell on them. What we think about shapes our reality.
Maybe for you it’s choosing to stay away from that person who’s always negative. Or taking a break from the politics for a time.
6. Find a Reason to Laugh
It’s true–laughter really is (one of) the best medicines. You might not want to laugh when you’re stressed out, but it can have a huge impact on how stressed out you feel.
Here are some ways to make sure you’re incorporating laughter into your day.
Spend time with a friend who makes you laugh
Being with friends in general can help to improve your attitude and your outlook, but spending time with those friends who make you laugh is even better.
If you’re stressed about taking the time to spend with a friend, just remember that taking a little time to destress can make you much more effective in the time that you do have.
Watch a funny video
Do you have a favorite comedy that can always make you laugh? Or maybe you just need to find a short YouTube video.
Make sure you don’t get sucked in to wasting hours decompressing, but a brief period of self-care can make all the difference when you get back into the things that need to be done.
Find humor in your situation
Similar to embracing gratitude, sometimes the best way to deal with a stressful situation is to reframe it in a way that makes you laugh. When I get stressed out about the everyday challenges of mom life, I try to frame them in a way that will make other people laugh.
Then when we’re laughing about it it’s not quite so stressful. I feel like there’s some solidarity because other moms are there with me.
Yesterday I went grocery shopping with my two young children and came back a little bit too close to lunchtime. In all of the hurry of getting lunch on the table so that my 3 year old had time to nap, nursing the baby to get her down for her nap, and putting the groceries away I really had to use the bathroom.
There was always something else that was calling for my attention, so I couldn’t stop to do it. It was rather stressful, but rather than dwell on the negative, I decided to turn it around.
I made this comment in a mom’s group I’m in on Facebook: “You know, one of the harder parts of being a mom is having to hold your poop.” After we were all laughing at it together, it became much less stressful and just funny.
7. Just Say “No”
Warren Buffet, the second richest man in the world, says that saying “no” to nearly everything is the number one key to success.
Do you tend to take on more things than you can handle? I love interesting new adventures and learning new things. In high school and college it was not unusual for me to hold down two or three jobs at a time while taking too many interesting classes.
And it hasn’t stopped since becoming a mom. There are so many things to learn and do, and so many people we could be committed to that it can be hard to know where to draw the line.
Trying to do too much is a recipe for overwhelm, so it’s important to know yourself and how much you can handle. Don’t be afraid to say “no” when you know it’s necessary for your own sanity.
8. Eat Healthy
Take care of your body–when you feel good, you’ll reduce stress levels. Everything is connected, so when you support your entire body, you’ll find you’re less stressed overall.
Make sure you’re eating enough fruits and vegetables. Eat clean animal products (organic and pasture raised are best, if you can afford them). Avoid large amounts of sugar and excessive grains.
Here are 10 foods to help ease anxiety and stress.
Your body and mind will thank you.
9. Tidy as You Go
Ever get to the end of the day and feel stressed by the amount of work that’s left to be done?
The kids are in bed and you just want to crash on the couch. But there are still dishes to do, laundry to fold, and toys to put away.
If you take whatever time you can to pick up throughout the day, there will be less calling for your attention at the end of the day. Then you really can just rest and decompress after the kids have gone to bed.
Enlisting the kids can help a lot. This is something we are still working on, but I try to make a point of having the kids pick up their toys before we move on to something else.
My 3 year old knows to take his dishes to the sink after meals, and he always puts his toys away before he gets ready for bed. When we come in from being outside, we put our shoes on the shoe rack instead of just throwing them on the floor.
The little things add up.
We’re just surrounded with too. much. stuff. Physical clutter causes mental clutter because even if you’re not consciously thinking about it, it’s taking up space in your brain.
And mental clutter is stressful. So take some time to get rid of the things that are no longer serving you.
Donate, sell, throw away. If you take a little time throughout the day to get rid of what you no longer need, you’ll feel your stress load dropping.
I love Allie Casazza’s book Declutter Like a Mother for walking you through the decluttering process.
11. Breathe Deeply
Stop and take a minute for 5 deep breaths when you feel your stress levels starting to rise. It’s amazing what a little oxygen to the brain can do for you!
Plus you’ll be taking a pause to think about your breathing instead of what’s stressing you out. Sometimes that brief break is all you need to get some clarity about your situtation.
12. Don’t Sleep With Your Phone
Your phone shouldn’t be your lover… so don’t treat it like one.
Sleeping with easy access to notifications and news can reduce your sleep quality and quantity (huge factors in your stress levels).
And being “always on” means your body never has a chance to rest. You’re in a state of constant alertness, which tells your body you’re in danger.
13. Stick to a Reasonable Bedtime
Deep sleep produces hormones that tell your body to ease up on the stress hormones. If you’re not getting to bed on time, you’re not going to get enough sleep.
And if you’re not getting enough sleep, your body is just going to keep pumping out the stress hormones.
Try going to bed just half an hour earlier and see what happens.
14. Find a Hobby that Brings You Joy
Sometimes we’re stressed because we’re doing too many of the things that don’t make us feel happy but we feel obligated to do. Try taking a few minutes every day to do something you enjoy, just because you want to.
Productive activities are best so that you can still feel like you’re accomplishing something. Some things you might try:
- learning an instrument
How do you make time for a hobby?
When I started blogging, I made a decision to get up early every day so that I can write in peace while the kids are still sleeping.
It was not an easy decision, and sometimes it’s easier to roll over and sleep a little longer.
But I’ve been doing it for long enough now that I know the joy that comes with accomplishing something before the rest of the house is awake. And that’s a feeling that I don’t want to miss out on.
Keeping up with my blog definitely helps reduce stress.
15. Drink Enough Water
Dehydration increases your cortisol levels. Try drinking a glass of water first thing in the morning–even before you’ve had your morning coffee!
Continue to stay hydrated throughout the day–studies suggest that the right amount of water is half your body weight in ounces daily. You’ll feel better physically and mentally too.
Stress may seem like it’s a normal part of life, but there are simple habits you can start implementing now to reduce stress naturally. Take care of your body, take care of your mind, and take preventive steps to stop the stress before it comes.
What are your favorite ways to reduce stress?
Remember to pin these tips so you’ll have them when you need them!