I don’t know about you, but the past few weeks have been pretty stressful for me. Not only does the world seem to be falling apart, but I had a sudden family emergency that caught me completely unaware and unprepared. If you’ve experienced heightened stress levels recently (honestly it seems like we all have!), I wrote this blog post for you. My hope is that it provides you with holistic stress management techniques that help you rediscover some semblance of normalcy, even in the midst of chaos.
Whether you’re experiencing grief, sorrow, anger, frustration, or anxiety, implementing just one of these holistic practices will help you lower your stress levels. Try adding a few together, and you’ll see your stress levels dramatically improve.
The fact is that life sometimes throws unexpected hurdles at us that are out of our control. But we can use holistic stress management practices like these to create some calm in our bodies and minds, even if the stressful situation doesn’t change on the outside.
And if you’re one of the lucky few who are currently living a stress-free life, use these practices as a prevention technique to fortify your sense of peace and calm, improve your mental clarity, and ignite your physical health.
Holistic Stress Management Technique #1: Remove yourself from the situation
This is first on this list for a reason. Before trying anything else, when a super stressful event comes up in your life, try removing yourself from the situation.
As soon as possible, physically remove yourself from the location where the stressful event is occurring. If it’s a family emergency, this might be your own home. Wherever it is, get outside and drive, ride, or walk away. Put physical distance between you and the location of the stressful event.
Then, give yourself mental distance as well by turning off or silencing your phone. Spending a few hours physically and mentally distanced from the stressful event can help you gain perspective on the situation. You’ll have a renewed sense of internal calm when the time comes to return.
This holistic stress management technique is especially helpful when the situation involves people who are contributing to your stress. Whether they’re constantly crying, yelling, or simply sitting around dejectedly, other people’s behavior is probably negatively affecting your own mental state. You may not even realize how much until you remove yourself from their presence.
So next time a stressful situation pops up, try this technique first.
Holistic Stress Management Technique #2: Take a few calming deep breaths
Spend 5-10 minutes doing a guided meditation to reduce stress and increase positive thinking. There are so many benefits to meditation! One thing I’ve gained most from regular meditations is a sense of mental calm that I haven’t experienced from any other activity.
If dedicating five minutes to meditating feels like an obstacle for you, try a simple 1 minute breathing exercise. You can do this from anywhere, no need to get on a yoga mat or sit cross-legged.
This holistic practice is so simple that anyone can do it, no meditation experience required. And despite it being just one minute, those 60 seconds can dramatically lower the stress blossoming in your chest.
Holistic Stress Management Technique #3: Get out in nature
This holistic practice can go hand in hand with moving your body, but it doesn’t have to.
When we’re stressed, it’s super easy to sink into ourselves. Observe people going through stressful life events. You’ll notice they’re often hugging themselves around the middle, clasping their own hands together, or curling into themselves. These movements are all ways our body and mind attempt to protect us subconsciously. These subconscious movements aren’t harmful initially, but over a period of days or weeks, they may encourage depression and hopelessness.
A natural remedy to this is to get out into nature and feel the sunlight on your skin. Try this technique next time you’re feeling any negative emotions. It’s really hard to curl into a ball with the warm sunshine on your skin.
This simple action saved me when I was dealing with a difficult family emergency recently. Getting out of the house and taking a walk around the block, or sitting at a park in the sunlight reminded me that there was a whole world going on outside apart from the stressful situation I was going through. Knowing that and experiencing it for even brief moments every day kept me sane when everything else felt out of my control.
Holistic Stress Management Technique #4: Stick to simple routines
Consider your everyday routines. Your skincare, your morning or evening routines, the complexity of food you cook, or any other routine you follow regularly. Maintaining familiar routines in the midst of stressful days or weeks can feel like a safe haven for your mind and body. So pick one or two routines and follow them every day. They may end up being the thing that saves you during this stressful time. And if your usual routines feel overwhelming because they’re so complex, don’t hesitate to go back to the basics.
During this very stressful past month dealing with a family emergency, I completely simplified my skincare routine. Instead of my usual 5 or 6 products, I packed a simple 3 step routine. This simple and quick routine helped maintain my skin, which I’m constantly working so hard to improve, without feeling like the routine itself was adding extra stress to my already stressful days.
Whatever routine helps you feel like the world makes some amount of sense, hold onto it for dear life. It may be the thing that keeps you sane.
Holistic Stress Management Technique #5: Move your body
Move your body in some way every day during super stressful periods. Even if it’s a simple 10 minute walk or gentle yoga session, movement will help boost your feel good hormones (like dopamine and serotonin) and lower your stress levels. When moving your body, don’t forget to also listen to your body. If you feel like breaking a sweat, go do a cardio workout. If you feel tired and want to take it easy, honor that.
Although moving your body has so many benefits, pushing yourself to workout in a way that doesn’t align with how you feel in that moment can increase stress levels instead of decreasing them!
Holistic Stress Management Technique #6: Eat simple, comforting meals focused on whole plant foods
When we’re stressed, we tend to reach for processed junk food for the easy convenience and the comfort associated with these foods. If you notice a craving for these foods, know that it has nothing to do with you being “weak” or lacking self control. When we experience heightened levels of stress, our body is flooded with the stress hormone cortisol and our fight-or-flight response switches on. This causes us to crave ultra processed foods loaded with salt, sugar, refined carbs, and excess oils because our bodies view them as a quick source of energy. Unless you need to physically run away from something though, the craving for junk food when we’re stressed is not actually very helpful.
Although junk may be our first instinct, instead try to reach for simple meals that focus on whole plant foods. These foods will help you manage your stress levels by making you feel physically healthy. Ultra processed foods, on the other hand, only taste good, but will actually increase your stress levels by putting additional strain on your body, particularly on your digestive system. Stress and dysfunction in the gut in turn lead to mental stress thanks to the gut-brain connection.
And don’t think that meals focusing on whole plant foods has to mean you’re eating salads and smoothies. If mac and cheese is comforting to you, a salad, no matter how tasty, is just not going to do it.
Instead, try making healthier swaps in your mac and cheese.
- Use whole grain or bean pasta instead of white pasta,
- make a delicious flavorful cashew cheese sauce instead of the standard buttery, dairy-laden version,
- and throw in a few handfuls of veggies. Baby spinach, fresh herbs, roasted cherry tomatoes, and sautéed garlicky mushrooms are all delicious stirred into mac and cheese.
By honoring your comfort food impulses while at the same time making those foods healthier, you’ll be giving yourself both that mental boost that comes from eating your favorite comfort foods, and a physical boost from the nutrition loaded into your meal.
If you’re in need of some ultra-comforting foods, try this ultimate loaded mac and cheese or this super simple yet ultra indulgent parfait with chocolate mousse, coconut whipped cream, frozen raspberries, and chocolate cookie crumbles.
Holistic Stress Management Technique #7: Don’t skip meals
Sometimes when we’re dealing with really stressful situations, sitting down for a meal may be the last thing on our minds. It’s easy to feel like there’s no time to eat when everything is up in chaos around you. And especially when dealing with stress in the form of grief and loss, you simply may not have much of an appetite.
It’s important not to skip meals during this trying time though, or go too long between meals. Skipped meals will add an extra layer of stress on top of what you’re already experiencing. Everything always seems 10x worse through a haze of hunger! So don’t let it get that far.
If your appetite isn’t what it usually is, eat small, nourishing meals or snacks. And if you’re craving certain foods like sweets or crunchy snacks, instead of ignoring those cravings, try reaching for healthier options that are still satisfying.
Holistic Stress Management Technique #8: Use supplements to your benefit
During particularly stressful periods in life, no matter our best attempts, we may fall far short of maintaining a healthy diet. I get it! Despite knowing this, and knowing exactly what kind of foods I should be eating, I’ve experienced periods of very poor nutrition where taking care of my health simply felt out of my control. So if you feel similarly, know that you’re not alone.
Although I recommend a food-first approach, supplements can sometimes be very helpful to fill in any gaps in our diets and act as an extra insurance policy. On top of the supplements you regularly take, consider adding a plant-based multivitamin to cover your bases. I also love adding a powdered greens mix to smoothies so I don’t have to worry about getting my greens in. I also always add a magnesium supplement to my diet during stressful periods, like this one from Natural Vitality. Magnesium can dramatically help improve sleep quality and digestion, two key areas that are often negatively impacted by stress.
Holistic Stress Management Technique #9: Add fermented foods or probiotics into your diet
As mentioned in technique six, it’s so important to give extra support to your digestive system during super stressful periods. This is because our gut health plays a major role in most other body systems. In particular, our mental health and immune health both have roots in the gut, so adding extra support for your gut will help support your full physical and mental health.
An easy way to do this is by adding fermented foods or a probiotic supplement into your day. Easy fermented foods to add include yogurt (I love this cashew-based yogurt from Forager), kefir, sauerkraut, pickles and other pickled vegetables, kimchi, and kombucha. You can also try tempeh and miso, which are both delicious fermented soy products. When purchasing fermented foods, make sure the product you’re buying is refrigerated. Shelf stable products including any sauerkraut and pickles you find on room temperature grocery store shelves no longer contain the beneficial probiotics you’re looking for.
Adding just one serving of probiotic-rich foods into your day can give your health a much needed boost of nutritional support.
Holistic Stress Management Technique #10: Journal your feelings out
Don’t internalize stressful situations! And don’t keep your stress-filled thoughts inside your head. Internalizing stressful events without having an outlet for them amplifies stress in the body. Keep this up for a while and resolving the stressful situation becomes nearly impossible.
Instead, try writing down your feelings in a journal. What you record doesn’t need to be coherent, or even legible. It’s the act of getting it down on paper and out of your body and mind that is so helpful. The words themselves don’t really matter after that.
This technique always helps me when I’m feeling extra angry, frustrated, anxious, or stressed. Particularly in delicate situations involving family, where perhaps you have a bunch of angry thoughts that you don’t actually want to say aloud. Try journaling these angry thoughts out to help bring back some sense of calm and perspective.
If journaling isn’t your thing though, this practice can still work for you. Instead of journaling, find another outlet to let your feelings out. A really helpful alternative to journaling, that I’ve often found goes hand in hand, is talking to someone. Don’t talk to just anyone though. The person you confide should be a good listener who lets you rant all your anger, frustration, sadness, and worry out. Make sure this person can hold space for your stress. At times like these, I often don’t need advice or suggestions on how to resolve my stressful situation. I just need someone to hold space for me. Maybe this is also the case for you. If so, try talking to someone, and choose your confidante with care.
So there you have it, ten holistic practices to help you manage stress.
Although not all of these practices may work for you and your specific stressful experience, I’m confident you’ll find one or two that do make a positive impact!
We all experience stressful periods in our lives. Unfortunately, stress is just as much a part of life as joy and beauty are. But the good news is that we aren’t helpless. We don’t have to endure stressful situations numbly. Putting into action these holistic practices can change an unmanageable and all-encompassing situation to one that you deal with and move past. These stress management techniques worked for me when I was thrust into an emotionally and physically draining family emergency. I know they’ll work for you too!