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Stress management: 4 strategies & 40 effective ways to combat everyday stress

Stress management: 4 strategies & 40 effective ways to combat everyday stress

This article has been automatically translated from German. While our little team is working hard to provide you the best quality and resources, our multilingual capacity is still limited. Don't judge us by the Google translation please and head over to the original version in German instead.     

Everyone knows the feeling: You are rushed, irritated, unfocused or simply overwhelmed. Stress is the name of the game. In the following, I outline three situations. Can you recognize yourself in one? If so, try these 4 strategies and 40 ways to reduce stress.

Situation 1: What's a fight without a conflict?

The body prepares to press its turbo button. Adrenaline and cortisol rush in the bloodstream, "tons" of glucose is mobilized in the muscles - the body is ready to start with explosive power - and then ... nothing happens. We don't have to fight gladiators or lions. We sit at our desk and listen to the voice of our manager complaining on the other end of the line.

Situation 2: If stress was wine, how many glasses would be optimal?

Wine revives and stuns at the same time. A glass of Barolo with its complex, characteristic, strong and long-lasting taste can be an excellent food companion. Its high content of polyphenols and resveratrol makes it healthy. Yet its numbing, harmful effects on the liver and brain make it unhealthy. The amount, but also the preparation is crucial. This is the cocktail of stress hormones: adrenaline and cortisol. Stress can be beneficial, stress can make you sick.

Situation 3: What is healthy stress?

While constant stress makes you sick, short, intense and controlled stress, like high intensity training, is considered healthy. Important physical and mental adjustments take place and the body and mind become stronger. When the strength training which the body understands as a "threat" or as an "emergency" is over, the body has to recover from the overstimulation. Resilience is increased. If it cannot do this, it is constantly under stress and the susceptibility to diseases increases. Whereas positive stress mobilizes and motivates reserves of energy, permanent negative stress makes us ill and blocks / paralyzes us.

The amount, duration and origin of the stress are crucial.

Understand stress

Would you like to read concrete strategies and solutions for lowering and inhibiting stress hormones? Then scroll down directly to 2. Overcome stressors: 4 strategies, 40 ways. However, it is worthwhile to understand more precisely what stress is. Because the more we deal with our own biology and psychology, the more we can respond to our own needs and body warnings, the more meaningful and fulfilling we can make everyday (and life in general).

What is stress

Stress is a reaction from the body that enables us to deal with physical and psychological stress. For example, the body adapts to increased physical activity by making an adjustment. This is beneficial to health if the adjustment phase can be completed before the next stressor.

What happens when stress increases

A stress symptom only becomes dangerous if the body is not given the a sign that there is no danger and so it can calm down. The stress hormones cannot be broken down. This is how the body thinks it is constantly in an emergency situation. If a situation or a person is perceived as stressful, then adrenaline and cortisol, the well-known stress hormones, are released. If more adrenaline is released, the energy is provided by releasing blood sugar from the glycogen storages in the liver and fat by lipolysis from the body's fat storage. The body's “turbo battery” is discharged.

Chronic stress

If cortisol is continuously released beyond the normal daily level and remains at a constantly high level, it can lead to chronic stress diseases. The biological half-life of the cortisol is usually around 90 minutes. This means that after an hour and a half, half of the free cortisol in the blood has already been excreted by the kidney. Cortisol is also excreted through tears - that's why we cry and feel a relief afterwards.

But cortisol is not just bad - it is vital. A lack of cortisol can lead to fatigue, weakness and daytime tiredness. If we get up in the morning and feel ready to “conquer the world” without drinking an espresso, it is thanks to cortisol.

That is why it is worth keeping your body and mind at an optimal stress level. You can read here in detail what an optimal stress level is.

Why stress at all?

In order to manage stress and make it work for you, you have to understand why you experience it at all.

This knowledge also helps deal with your stress and with other stressed people with a little more empathy and in situation when one easily "overreacts."

Two drivers of the machine "body"

Two systems regulate our bodily functions: the parasympathetic nervous system, which orchestrates growth, reproduction, digestion, etc., and the sympathetic nervous system, which takes over when an emergency occurs (fight or flight). If stress is triggered by an external threat, we must first deal with the emergency. So low priority systems are switched off from the parasympathetic nervous system. This includes growth, reproduction and immunity. That's why we get sick more often, even though there seemed to be no reason to get sick. It is difficult for us to lose weight or even get pregnant.

The "Turbo" button

Adrenaline and noradrenaline have a “turbo power” function in the body. When released, adrenaline provides an energy boost, sharper senses, a better information recall from memory, a better mood and relief from pain. Noradrenaline or norepinephrine helps to see the problem at hand as a challenge and activates the creative ability to solve problems. This is the moment when we come up with the craziest ideas as brilliant solutions in a stressful situation. When it comes to a relationship, it is worth waiting 24 hours until you react wildly to something - in a few hours it can all look very different, almost irrelevant!

Once the threat is over, the normal functions of the nervous system are restored. But with chronic stress, they are so affected that it can lead to chronic diseases, sexual dysfunction, skin problems, etc. Because when we are faced with longer periods of stress, we start to release excessive cortisol. Too much cortisol affects the hippocampus, the center of emotional expression such as anger, fear and joy. If this "Turbo" button is not switched off, accident can occur. Like a car that runs at full speed in first gear all the time.

Stress just like pain is an alarm signal from the body that sends a message: “Danger!” This alarm is activated by the amygdala, the so-called almond kernel in the brain, which plays the main role in assessing life situations and orchestrating suitable reactions.

When the power button is on not only during the race but also long after

If we take the upcoming debate with our life partner or manager as a potential threat (maybe because of a sensitive topic), the amygdala sends signals to other parts of the brain to trigger the most appropriate response. This leads to a series of physiological reactions: We lack the words, clear thinking is “hidden,” the heart beats faster, blood pressure rises, the muscles become tense and the breath is accelerated. A typical physiological condition for fight or flight. But neither fight nor flight takes place. The life partner is not a lion, the boss is not a wolf.

Same trigger, same reaction

However, the amygdala signals the prefrontal cortex - where rational thinking takes place - not to analyze the situation excessively, but to act immediately! The responsible hippocampus is signaled to save memories so that the next time the information about the hazard and the respective reaction can be processed much faster. Thus, a reaction is "programmed", which is why we often always react to triggers in the same way or "automatically". The amygdala commands the hypothalamus to produce the appropriate hormones. And so the available resources in the body are mobilized to respond to the perceived threat with survival strategies that have served the hunter and berry gatherer is us: fight, flight or freeze?

Stress: the body's three natural reactions

These survival strategies live on in today's homo sapiens' stress reactions and you would almost like to describe them as "outdated" or as "not contemporary". The amygdala is activated when our life is not in danger but when we are confronted with a perceived danger. Oh man! We're the only species that is worried about something that doesn't exist. I read somewhere that about 70% of all our fears never materialize. But unlike animals, we humans rationalize the imagined dangers, which often leads to rethinking, despair and fear. At the same time, these physiological and psychological reactions are typical:

  1. Escape, or avoiding the danger, manifests itself in tension in the legs. The voice becomes unstable, palpitations become more intense, you become unable to think clearly and become confused. Sleep is disturbed.
  2. Fight, or the readiness for a conflict or the intimidation of the other: A feeling of superiority is strengthened, strength / tension is built up, tension with a special focus on neck, arms and jaw, voice becomes louder, movements stronger, no patience, sharp and focused eyes, aggressive behaviour.
  3. Freezing, wanting to protect yourself and not being able to act is characterized by the attitude of helplessness, need for help, feeling of vulnerability, slowing down of the body, low voice, slow speaking with few words, crying, low energy, feeling tired or depressed, difficulty breathing.

Nowadays, however, we live in an extremely fast paced and overwhelming environment. Our brain scans this it with all the situations and people in it with a suspicion: Is it a danger or not? At the same time we are looking for a reward, for a physical and emotional closeness, for a sense of achievement. This increases our readiness to risk. We crave to do great things and to connect to others. If we succeed, the happiness hormones are released. If we lack the happiness hormones such as dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin, we are even more susceptible to stress.

Less stress thanks to targeted relaxation

Recognize stress as a warning of the body. And don't ignore it: If a friend calls in an emergency, would you just hang up? ;) Whether and how we experience stress essentially depends on the three factors of stress:

  • external stressors
  • our inner evaluations
  • individual physical reactions

1. Recognize stress

So the first step is to find out what is negative, how to evaluate it and react to it constructively. Frequent triggers for stress can be, for example: deadline and performance pressure, socially stressful work situation, coping with many activities / requirements at the same time. When actions are not aligned with one's value system, for example, reactions such as disappointment, uncertainty or fear can be triggered.

The signs and consequences of stress are varied:

  • Physical: Head, back, joint pain, heart, circulatory, digestive problems and allergies to heart attack, gastrointestinal diseases, sleep disorders, chronic fatigue, fatigue, skin reactions.
  • Spiritual: Lack of concentration, forgetfulness, decreasing willingness to learn, increasing inattentiveness. Errors and wrong decisions creep in.
  • Mental: Waning tolerance, feeling overwhelmed, dissatisfaction and fears, up to being completely burned out, the burnout, and / or a severe depression.
  • Habits & addictions: Excessive alcohol consumption and drug abuse are more common in stressful people.

2. Overcome stressors

The more precisely you know your individual stressful situations and your own reactions, the better you can develop your own techniques to rewire the stressful situation for yourself - as far as possible - in a positive way.

This can mean: you change the entire stressful situation or prevent it. Or you try to deal with the stress differently and change the way you react to it. All experts agree that negative stress can be best countered if you can relax anytime, anywhere and react calmly and positively. How: read on.

Goal: Reduce stress hormones and eliminate stressors

... And to expel our body efficiently and without medication to avoid chronic diseases. How?

4 simple strategies and 40 ways to manage stress.

These suggestions seem super simple (they should be!). Numerous studies have proven them to be effective because they address the following brain processes:

  1. Physical relaxation: moving to relieve pressure in the body, but also
  2. Cognitive / mental relaxation : To interrupt the negative train of thought
  3. Sensory relief: Pampering yourself to protect the limbic system and to offer a balance to the body and mind through the sensory organs
  4. Emotional relaxation: give & take, do good but also receive help, in whatever form & form, to neutralize the negative effects of stress

The golden rule applies to everything

Do it wholeheartedly, 100% what type / tactic works best for you; find your flow and do it 100%. Usually the simplest strategies work best.

AURUM + stress + reduce + without + medication.jpg
Relaxation categories

Physical relaxation strategies

If you have too much stress in everyday life, exercise is often considered the best medicine. In other words: when the water boils and it steams - take the kettle off the stove. When the stress comes - move, break a sweat. The sweat (and tears) breaks down adrenaline. This reduces the stress in the body and prepares it better for future stress situations:

  1. Sport: Alone, in a group or on YouTube - do a series of high-intensity exercises, for example our Nitric Oxide Dump
  2. Jogging or power walking
  3. Fitness studio: HIT is the optimal training to use stress positively and helps to increase physical and mental resilience in the long term
  4. Dance / music: engagement of the body and the mind at the same time
  5. climb stairs
  6. Boxing
  7. Sit-ups or pushups at home
  8. Sitting: stretching and breathing techniques to quickly put the body into another state
  9. To play with kids
  10. Sex :)

But in general one should also adhere to the following physiological principles:

  • Sleep well enough
  • When it comes to nutrition, make sure that you eat enough micro and macronutrients, eat enough healthy fats and are not primarily dependent on carbohydrates
  • But skillfully use high carbs in particularly stressful phases, for example after the AURUM training, treat yourself to sushi without a guilty conscience or risotto or baked sweet potatoes
  • Avoid foods that trigger your individual sensitivities, intolerance and allergy
  • Exercise physically in different ways
  • Optimize mitochondrial, adrenal and thyroid functions - when hormones are out of control, it's also our stress management capacity
  • Breathe deeply. Yes, rapid shallow breathing leads to the heart, brain and muscles receiving too little oxygen over time.

Cognitive relaxation strategies

  1. Meditation: increased concentration and deep relaxation
  2. Yoga, Ti-chi
  3. Take a break: Let yourself be absorbed by something completely different (shift)
  4. Call positive thoughts, happy memories: but only one (heart meditation)
  5. Hypnotherapy: relaxation and reduction of anxiety
  6. Visualization technology: Imagine a place of peace and harmony
  7. Avoid news / internet - stop the constant attraction
  8. Turn problems into opportunities - look at the current situation from a height of 10,000 meters, imagine whether it will be relevant in 10, 20 years, or what someone you trust would say
  9. Repeat your own mantra and don't forget: "This will also pass”
  10. Brain games like chess: games that put us in a stressful situation and force us to think. Rationality is not part of the amygdala and if you force yourself to focus on what lies ahead - like a chessboard - the amygdala is forced to shut down so that rationality can work. The amygdala struggles to give up control - but as soon as you cross the threshold, it works. This is a healthy training of the brain to keep a cool head in a stressful situation.

Sensory relaxation strategies

It's about the "me" time and finding the right balance between pleasure and pain. A balance that pampers the limbic system. eg sound / noise increases the stress level, so we need an environment that is comfortable to promote the tension in the muscles and to relax the mind.

  1. Breathing: Inhale for 3s - Hold for 4s - Exhale for 7s: a lot of oxygen gets into the brain and HRV increases
  2. Sauna: hot air and cold water help to release tension, relax muscles and break down cortisol (by sweating)
  3. Aromatherapy: Smelling is directly related to our limbic system. Lavender essential oil has a calming effect.
  4. Warm bath: Use medicinal salts or oils.
  5. Soothing music
  6. Power napping : Today's human being sleeps 2 hours less than 50 years ago. Deprivation of sleep equals reduced resilience. Read here how you can sleep well and enough.
  7. Multi-sensory exercises such as meditation: perceiving the sounds, the surroundings and then the body (feet, breath, fingertips, chest)
  8. Massage: Movement without moving, stimulates the muscles, increases serotonin, dopamine and lowers the cortisol level. You can also roll back and forth under your feet with a golf or tennis ball, which also has a relaxing effect.
  9. Chocolate (oh yes!): Black chocolate probably protects against the physical reaction to stress due to the flavonoids it contains at the level of the adrenal glands by reducing the stress hormone release. A study showed that 42g / day helps relieve stress for 2 weeks. Whether the dose in it is really sufficient to reduce stress and to have happiness effects in us is not proven, but could be an explanation for the satisfaction that we feel when snacking ;-) Warning! Too much chocolate triggers stress, not least because of the possible feeling of guilt and the weight gain.
  10. Immerse yourself in nature: lie down, observe, listen, touch, feel, smell.

Emotional relaxation

These emotional relaxation strategies build on the use of oxytocin, the binding hormone that drives social attachment, trust and support. It predominates in the female body, which is why women tend to flee and men tend to fight. In the male body, the hormone testosterone reduces the effects of oxytocin, while the typical female hormones such as estrogen increase the effects of oxytocin.

So aggression has established itself as male and the willingness to help and share rather female. Example: lost on the road. Men try to find their way using the map or the phone, women go and ask. The response to stress through caring and sharing neutralizes the classic effects of stress: oxytocin lowers cortisol levels and relieves blood pressure. Therefore:

Generate oxytocin through caring & sharing (positive psychology and physiology):

  1. Get together with people who are important to you: call, talk, be together
  2. Hug, especially people you care about
  3. Ask for help: To create a new perspective, strengthen the bond
  4. Help others
  5. Laugh (you can learn)
  6. Practice gratitude
  7. Crying: Tears contain cortisol, so crying helps to get rid of excess stress hormone
  8. Sex: also because of the bond
  9. Music: listening and singing - perfect breathing exercise, increasing oxygen in the blood and brain, training for the upper body muscles, endorphins and oxytocin is released in the blood, which in turn lowers the cortisol level
  10. Animals: petting. Take dogs from the shelter for a walk

3. Regulate hormones / messengers

Happiness and well-being arise when the chemistry is right. The right hormone cocktail increases our happiness. Ingredients include: serotonin, dopamine, noradrenaline, endorphin, phenethylamine and oxitocin. Their effects affect our psychological and physical well-being and they are therefore often referred to as the body's own drugs.

If enough is produced, we not only feel happy, but also have the mental resources to reflect and to consider the life situations with a little serenity. If these are insufficient, the amygdala has a chance to signal an alarm to the entire body.

The easiest way to prepare this happiness cocktail is: You already know: a HIT training . Going to the limit and allowing the body to reward the effort with a shot of happiness hormones. Did you know that every AURUM workout is automatically a progressive muscle relaxation according to Jacobsen? See you soon!

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