Three Methods for Natural Stress Relief

By Casey-Lee Flood, RN, HWNC-BC

In life, we all have periods that are more stressful than others. They can be caused by a perceived positive event/stressor like planning a wedding, graduating from college, or starting a new job. On the other hand, you may experience a perceived negative stressor like losing a loved one, becoming a full-time caregiver for another person, or having to transition to a new job suddenly. 

The interesting thing is, no matter whether the stressor is positive or negative, the way we respond to that stress may determine how well we manage it. The impact of a stressor on your body can depend not only on your genetics, environment, and history, over which you  have little control, but also upon your coping strategies, sometimes called self-care.

Our bodies are built to handle acute stress that lasts for a few minutes or a few days. But long-term stress (chronic stress) can take a real toll, setting into motion low mood, stomach issues, sleep problems, fatigue, and many other physical and mental health struggles. If you know of an upcoming stressor in your life, you can potentially get ahead of the effects of chronic stress by planning to support your physical and emotional well-being. 

I want to put forth three simple yet effective ways to mitigate the effects of stress on your well-being that should not take you more than 10 minutes at a time. We are going to discuss holistic self-care (and how it is not just bubble baths), the power of scheduling breaks, and two different relaxation techniques. All can easily be done at home without costing you any money. 

How Your Body Experiences Stress

Before I get into the simple three ways to help plan for and manage stress in our lives, I want to take a step back and define the natural reaction our bodies have in place to help protect us. The definition of stress can vary widely across the medical community and across cultures as well. How I define stress as a registered nurse when educating individuals is: A physiological (full body and mind) response to a specific situation, perceived threat, and/or a big event in a person’s life.

Even when you encounter a stressful event, your brain sends a message to your hormonal system, which then sends out increased levels of cortisol, triggering a cascade of events that can affect every organ system. This is why you might get an upset stomach right before a work presentation. Or why your heart rate can increase when you start to think about all the planning you have to do for that event coming up in your life. These effects are felt both short- and long-term in your body. If you don’t manage these acute stressors and support yourself, they can trigger more chronic stress in your body. 

Holistic Self-Care: Helping Your Body Handle Stress

Over the past several decades, self-care has been, culturally here in the US, turned into a never-ending series of trends, products, and retreat seminars while simultaneously shrinking it down into social media-worthy pictures that are shared every day, all day. These images only show snapshots of a person’s life and do not truly represent who they are or how well they take care of themselves. Yet we often compare our self-care to another person’s social media, which can increase our stress even more. 

Holistic self-care is a way to stop basing your worthiness or ability to care for yourself on external influences. Focus instead on your basic physical and mental needs and finding accessible ways to meet them. This can seem like a big job, especially when you’re planning for or actively navigating a big life change. So, I have simplified it by breaking it down into specific focus areas to support your body through stressful events.

Nutrition: Eating Healthy on the Go During Stressful Times

Ensuring you consume enough calories and nutrients is essential during stressful periods. You wouldn’t expect a car to drive for hundreds of miles with no gas or no oil, would you? I don’t think you would get very far. The same analogy applies to your body, with calories as the “gas” and “nutrients” as the oil.

How can you ensure you can meet this basic need for good nutrition when you are so stressed you might not even feel hungry? Have easy grab-and-go foods around you! Hard-boiled eggs, nuts, fruit, protein bars, or even packaged meal replacement shakes can be found at most grocery stores. You can also schedule a time to meal prep; remember, these meals do not need to be gourmet, at all. In fact, you can barely even turn your stove on and make meals for several days: protein-rich mason jar salads, overnight oats, sandwiches, and pre-made salads that you can add protein with ready-to-eat packaged chicken strips are all great options.

Water: Prioritizing Hydration as a Stress Reliever

Hydration hydration hydration! I said it three times because of its importance. Keep in mind that the fountain of youth did not contain coffee! If you try to live off of caffeinated drinks, it will only exacerbate stress. Caffeinated drinks may also lead to higher blood pressure in some people. I am not suggesting you give up caffeine entirely if you already drink it and enjoy it. I am a realist and know that most people do not like drinking water. You can either flavor your water, get sparkling water, or mix in a juice of your choice. It doesn’t matter so much what you drink as long as it can hydrate and nourish your body. 

Probiotics: Building Stress Resilience Through Your Gut 

Giving your body some extra support while under stress can also include your gut microbiome. I will not give you a science lecture here – just know that your gut has beneficial bacterial cells, and some of these appear to be able to influence serotonin and dopamine in the brain via the gut-brain axis. You might have heard of these brain chemicals before – they are our "happy hormones." One easy way to help your gut microbiome support your mood and stress response is to supplement with Neuralli Mood, which is made with a mixture of two stress-reducing strains: one probiotic and one postbiotic.*

Not all supplements are created equal, and certain commercial probiotic products do not survive our stomach acid. Neuralli Mood has a special acid-resistant capsule that gets the live cells inside it to your intestines where they can actually help support a healthy stress response.*

In one pilot study, trial participants had significant improvements in self-perceived stress, job stress, and overall general and physical health after taking the probiotic strain in Neuralli Mood for eight weeks. A randomized controlled trial of the postbiotic strain in Neuralli Mood helped stressed people reduce cortisol. This is why prevention and support for yourself leading up to a stressful event is so important – it really can make a difference to both your body and mind!* 

Additional Ways to De-stress

Sleep, physical movement, and time outside can all lower your stress level. It’s also important to check in with your body daily. Do you have pain, is your stomach in knots, have you had a headache today, are you hungry? Ask yourself all the basic questions you would ask a child in your care. Parenting ourselves within our holistic self-care is often necessary. 

Now that we have addressed ways for you to support your body during this stressful time, we will look at the other two simple ways to decrease your stress: breaks and relaxation techniques. 

Scheduling Breaks to Manage Stress

Breaks are not just moments for you to catch up on emails, schedule your kids’ playdates, or plan your spouse’s big birthday celebration. These are scheduled intentional times to give your brain and body the rest it needs. 

Stress can directly affect sleep quality, making it harder to sleep at night and potentially making you feel more tired during the day. Giving yourself time to rest and rejuvenate, even if it is for only 10 minutes at a time, can profoundly affect your ability to manage stress. 

If you consider yourself a high achiever, healer, parent, caregiver, girl boss, etc., you might not even know how to take a break! Let me walk you through it. 

First, look for at least two spots in the next week to schedule breaks, and make an appointment with yourself at both of those times. These time slots can be as short as 10 minutes or as long as you want them to be. Then, when you open your calendar on the day your break is scheduled,  actually take it. These times are non-negotiable and crucial for you to thrive through this stressful event. 

Even if you just sit and breathe, that is valid. Or you plan a little outing to the local cafe and get a drink and a snack to reward yourself for taking the break – even better. (I know I said to limit your caffeine earlier, so get a decaf coffee drink for bonus stress-reducing points!) You can people watch, read a book or magazine, or just enjoy your drink. Pay attention to your senses. I do not recommend that anyone uses this break time to scroll on their phone or check emails. Engaging in one of the other activities gives your brain something to focus on. 

You could also do one of the following relaxation techniques on your break: 

Relaxation Techniques

First up is one of my personal favorites and go-to in times of stress: Progressive muscle relaxation. This is when you sit or lie down and focus on individual muscle groups, tensing then releasing them. Often it is guided to start at your toes scrunching toes/feet on an inhale and then relaxing them on the exhale, then moving up to calves, thighs, butt muscles, stomach, arms, shoulders, ending with the muscles in your face. There are a lot of guided meditations and  offerings around this on YouTube and in mediation apps such as Calm. 

I want to point out that this exercise should not cause you to feel pain, shortness of breath, or dizziness. Don’t force your muscles to tense super hard; more effort does not equal more benefits in this situation. This should be easy, peaceful, and relaxing. 

Another relaxation and stress reducing tool is to leave all your electronic devices untouched for a specific amount of time. This gives your brain room for two things: To be busy and rebel initially and eventually, to take time to reflect, to process, and to let go. A good way to process is to journal. Just let your thoughts out onto the paper, no judgment, no corrections, just a complete tangent. It gives you a safe place to “say” all the things you need to say, acknowledge, and maybe let go of. 

Putting Your New Stress Relievers to Use

When you know stress is waiting for you around the corner within any big life change, it is so important to be ready. Reflect and gather your resources, community, and tools to support you through this stress. 

I want to impress upon you that stress is natural – it is not your fault or your bosses’ fault or anyone’s fault for that matter. It is a protective measure your body has that can go a little overboard. 

All the tools we went over in this blog can all help keep your stress at more manageable levels. The goal is not to eliminate stress completely; such an unrealistic goal could just cause more stress. Rather, the goal is to remain healthy in body and mind during life changes, and I hope the information provided here helps you do just that. 

Continuing doing any of these stress-relieving activities even after your stress decreases/returns to normal levels, or the event has passed, will help build resiliency for the next stressful event in your life. Because, let’s face it: in this modern world, stress is a given. Your power lies in how you respond to and manage your stress. 

About the author:

Casey-Lee Flood blends her experiences as a registered nurse and a late diagnosed neurodivergent human into her life and work as an author, board certified Health and Wellness Nurse Coach, and artist. Casey-Lee founded the Art-Full Apothecary to increase accessibility of holistic healthcare to all who need it.


Recommended reading:

What to Know about Neuralli Mood

Neuralli MP or Neuralli Mood: Which Should You Choose?

What are Postbiotics?



Posted by Dee on

I really enjoyed this article. So full of easily accessible and practical methods to maintain healthy perspectives. For me, when my mind is “good”, everything else falls into place and bodily care becomes more natural. Thanks for these insights!

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