This post may contain affiliate links. Please read our disclaimer for more info.
We all feel tense, stressed, or anxious sometimes. Stress can affect our ability to focus, sleep, or otherwise carry on with daily life. It can also result in physical or mental health problems. This article shares natural relaxation techniques to help calm your mind and to hopefully prevent further complications from stress.
The year 2020 in particular caused an unprecedented number of people to experience stress in the United States, and, undoubtedly, across the globe. Thus, even if you were previously unstressed before, recent events may have edged their way into your psyche.
I’m certainly no stranger to feeling stressed. To make matters worse (perhaps due to being a female Scorpio), I also tend to stew over negative thoughts and events for a while. I know from past experience that if I don’t do anything to counter stress, it can easily worsen and impact my mental and even physical health (e.g. stress eating).
Yet I haven’t experienced that level of escalation in a while, because I routinely take measures to try to calm my brain. As you will learn below, natural relaxation techniques can improve your resiliency to facing stressful situations.
If you are suffering from tremendous stress, just understand that your starting point will be quite elevated, so feeling substantially more relaxed could take time and effort. Just be patient and consistent in your attempts to relax. Integrate more than one of the natural relaxation techniques listed to see what works best for you – either in isolation or in conjunction.
If you’re not feeling stressed currently, then you should still regularly engage in some natural relaxation techniques to prevent you from ever reaching a critical level of stress if circumstances arise.
Health Consequences of Not Combatting Stress
Research clearly shows that chronic stress negatively impacts your health. For instance, chronic stress can alter your brain structure to eventually manifest in cognitive, emotional, and behavioral dysfunctions. Regularly engaging in natural relaxation techniques can help prevent these ill effects.
Additionally, certain diseases have been linked to chronic stress, including cardiovascular (heart) diseases, diabetes, cancer, mental illness, and autoimmune diseases. For those of you who also love findings or statistics, I’ll include a little for each type of disease below.
The link between psychological stress and negative effects on the heart is well-established. One study even distinguished the effects of acute (i.e. sudden) versus chronic stress on the heart, and determined that brooding on a stressor (i.e. still thinking about the stressor after it happened) can especially harm your heart health.
With respect to diabetes, research has revealed a link between emotional stress and the risk of developing of type 2 diabetes. The study found that the following different forms of emotional stess increased the risk for type 2 diabetes: depression, general emotional stress, anxiety, anger/hostility, and sleeping problems.
Certainly, people experiencing high levels of stress often experience poor sleep health, which causes its own health problems.
Thus far, although no study has definitively concluded chronic stress can cause cancer, one study found a correlation between certain cancers and people who lead stressful lifestyles prior to developing cancer.
Also, although studies haven’t shown stress to cause cancer, studies have shown stress’s ability to worsen cancer. This study revealed a link between stress and cancer metastasis (i.e. cancer cells spreading to other parts of the body). Chronic stress can increase signaling pathways in cancer cells, resulting in tumor growth and progression.
Chronic stress can cause mental health issues. One study found that participants in a stressful profession (in this case, healthcare workers) were notably more prone to experiencing mood disorders, anxiety disorders, sleep disorders, and any psychiatric disorder than their less stressed counterparts. These findings may coincide with the notable rates of suicide among physicians.
Autoimmune diseases trigger the body’s immune system to attack otherwise healthy cells in the body. Dozens of autoimmune diseases exist, including rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, Crohn’s disease, celiac disease, Lupus, and Multiple Sclerosis.
Stress has been linked to the development of autoimmune diseases, where chronic stress can cause your immune system to malfunction, which can then culminate in an autoimmune disease.
In fact, one study showed that people with stress-related disorders (e.g. PTSD, acute stress reaction) were 36% more likely to develop an autoimmune disease, illustrating the link between stress and autoimmune diseases.
Why You Should Try Natural Relaxation Techniques
As you can see from the prior section, stress can be chronic or cause ill-effects for a while after you experience a stressor. Even if you think you’re managing just fine and don’t have any ill health effects now, your stress may compound and eventually lead to negative health effects later.
Practicing natural relaxation techniques with some frequency can not only allay any stress you have, but soften the impact of any future stressors.
Unfortunately, some people wait too long to combat stress until they experience noticeable ill effects, and resort to seeing a doctor who may prescribe medication. Medication can help, but is always a risk. Antidepressants and anxiety medications all risk negative side effects.
Even if you are currently on anxiety medications, trying natural relaxation techniques can only compliment the effects of your medication so that hopefully, you’ll need less.
10 Bona Fide Natural Relaxation Techniques
Below is a list of ten natural relaxation techniques that you can try to destress. Feel free to try them individually, though combining more than one technique certainly can’t hurt.
1. Relaxing Teas or Beverages
Some studies show that chamomile can actually reduce anxiety and depression in individuals by binding to brain receptors in the same manner as sedatives. Thus, you can regularly drink chamomile tea to try to destress.
Also, if you’ve read our article, An Honest Review of Bone Broth Benefits: 4+ Health Claims Reviewed, you may remember me mentioning how bone broth seems to improve my sleep quality after drinking it. Thus, you can also try bone broth if stress or anxiety is keeping you up at night.
2. Relaxing Scents
Essential oils are gaining popularity in recent history, and with reason. One study showed that inhaling essential oils reduced depressive symptoms in people, particularly when used in conjunction with a massage.
One of the effective oils from the above study was lavender, which is popularly touted for relaxation. Another study confirmed lavender’s ability to calm individuals with anxiety and depressive disorder. Thus, the study recommended lavender essential oil as an alternative treatment for patients with anxiety disorders.
Yuzu, a Japanese citrus fruit, is another popular scent for stress-relief. One study showed inhaling yuzu scents reduced people’s tension, anxiety, depression, anger, and other emotions. Inhaling yuzu also significantly decreased people’s level of Chromogranin A (CgA), a salivary protein that your body normally secretes from nervous system activity.
If you want to try essential oils, you can use a diffuser to diffuse the oil into the air. Otherwise, you can stick to the traditional route of topical application or direct inhalation.
3. Aromatherapy Massage
Naturally, following the above-mentioned technique, the next natural relaxation technique I’m going to mention is an aromatherapy massage!
Research shows that getting a massage can reduce anxiety and depression, and generally increase feelings of positive well-being and vitality.
Just keep in mind that certain benefits may only be short-term. Research found that relaxation may only last during and immediately after a massage. However, the study does acknowledge that individuals showed a reduced heartrate and blood pressure reading after the massage, so massages are still beneficial overall.
4. Yoga / Meditation
One study showed a dramatic reduction in stress, anxiety, and depression levels in women who took twelve sessions of hatha style yoga. Hatha yoga is a generic, popular style that can include Vinyasa and Ashtanga. (Side note: some of our favorite yoga videos are by Rodney Yee, who has some weekly collections, if you are interested.)
Another study also concluded that yoga significantly reduced stress and anxiety in participants, and generally improved psychological health and well-being.
Meditation is often integrated into yoga by frequently focusing on the breath during practice, or practicing affirmations. A lot of research has documented the positive effects of meditation on anxiety, depression, and insomnia, along with other health benefits.
Thus, overall, you should practice yoga and/or meditation whenever possible. Whether you go to classes, buy videos, or do free YouTube routines, any practice is better than nothing! (Also, check out our article, Top 3 Recommended Minimalist Back Yoga Routines, for therapeutic routines if you’re shorter on time.)
Exercise helps to reduce stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol in your body, while increasing the production of endorphins (chemicals that quell pain and elevate your mood).
One study concluded that regular exercise can increase your “emotional resilience.” That is, to protect your psyche against negative emotional effects of acute stress.
If you’re like me, you may not be super social. However, despite being an introvert, I still enjoy good company so try to see friends on a somewhat regular basis.
One study showed that having good-quality social support (i.e. family, friends, neighbors, community members) increases a person’s resilience to stress. The study noted that the quality of your social support matters more than the quantity, meaning you don’t need to have a ton of friends or family to reap benefits, so long as they provide quality support.
One psychologist opined that face-to-face interaction with people is particularly beneficial in releasing anti-stress neurotransmitters like oxytocin and dopamine in your body. Thus, try to see friends and family in person if you can, versus just over the phone or video.
7. Spend Time in Nature
Too many people spend time indoors nowadays that we forget about the marvels of nature and how therapeutic and restoring greenspace is to our minds and bodies.
You should read our article entitled, “Remarkable Benefits of Nature: 10+ Reasons You Must Go Outside,” to get the full scoop on the amazing benefits of spending time outside in a green setting. You will be amazed by how therapeutic spending as little as 17 minutes outside can be.
If you have kids or know anyone with kids, you can also read our article, Children Outside – 4 Undeniable Benefits + Awesome Activity Ideas, to learn about more children-specific physical and mental health benefits.
Unfortunately, most of us are glued to cell phones or tablets nowadays. Whenever I go anywhere, even to the park, I almost certainly spot at least one person (usually more than one, though) staring at a cell phone.
Studies like this one have linked high mobile phone use with stress, sleep disturbances, and depression. One publication culled dozens of studies supporting this conclusion, including one that likened internet addiction to alcohol addiction and its potential for similar symptoms.
Clearly, being on your cell phone or the Internet too much can harm your mental health. Although it may be difficult at first, cutting down on the time you spend on mobile devices will benefit you. Ideally, you should avoid any use outside of work. The activities or socializing that replace your screen time may end up pleasantly surprising you!
One study showed that even a short (i.e. four-night) vacation can improve a person’s perceived stress, recovery, strain, and well-being. The study acknowledged the longstanding research that a seven-day vacation confers positive effects, but served to show that a shorter vacation can confer benefits as well.
10. Get a Furry Friend
Okay, this one admittedly requires more commitment and effort than the others, but I wanted to include it for anyone open to the idea.
Studies like this one have shown that pets (particularly dogs), can notably reduce your stress. Interacting with dogs reduces cortisol and other stress hormones in your body, and increases oxytocin, a hormone that induces feelings of tranquility and positivity.
The study also determined that interacting with pets, particularly dogs, qualifies as a form of social behavior. So, you can derive some of the benefits that you normally derive from interacting with other people from interacting with dogs.
Thus, if you’re open to getting a pet and find one to your liking (or train it to be so), then your furry friend should improve your mood and decrease your stress.
If you have any other natural relaxation techniques that you practice and work for you, please feel free to comment below. We’d love to hear your ideas!