Stress isn't just an annoyance. It's dangerous. It handicaps our immune system, wrecks our blood sugar metabolism and shrinks our brains.
Unfortunately, many of us compound the ill effects of stress with how we œcope with stress. We overeat. We spend money we don't have on vacations or lavish treats. We turn to drugs and alcohol.
And instead of stress relief, we get even bigger problems and more stress down the road.
That's why I turned to 5 of my natural health colleagues and put this roundtable article together. I knew we could all use some smart, simple, natural and safe stress relief techniques.
Ready to decompress? Here are some great recommendations . . .
From holistic veterinarian Dr. William Farber, DVM
Simple Stress Relief Technique #1: Spend time with an animal friend
When we interact with animals, it transforms our chemistry and emotional state. I've seen this first hand with children who have a history of trauma. After spending time with our animal friends at The Gentle Barn, they learn to trust and relax. I've seen their tense faces melt into smiles.
Studies have shown that simply by petting a dog or snuggling with a cat, you can dramatically lower your blood pressure. In one workplace study, people who brought their pets to work with them experienced an 11% drop in stress levels as the day progressed. This is in stark contrast to the 70% increase in stress levels in people who didn't have their pets with them.
So if you're feeling tense, spend some time with an animal friend. The simple exchange of affection: a scratch behind the ear for an unconditional look of love is hard to beat.
From sports performance nutrition expert, Dr. David Nelson, Ph D
Simple Stress Relief Tip #2: Exercise
Usually when we're under the gun, our workout is the first thing to go. We feel we don't have the time or energy to do it.
But that's the worst thing to do . . .
People who exercise tend to have
If finding an hour to work out just adds to your stress, relax. Even taking a
From hormone health expert, Dr. Shera Raisen, MD
Simple Stress Relief Tip #3: Take a warm bath
Before I learned how to manage stress and my health better, I experienced serious sleep problems. Shifting my nutrition and trying to manage my schedule better made a huge difference.
But as an expert in hormones, there is one technique I particularly love . . . taking a warm bath in the evening.Japanese researchers have shown that simply by sitting in the tub for 40 minutes, you can lower your body's stress hormones dramatically.
 Better yet, making this a before bedtime ritual helps you get a good night's sleep â€“ another essential for keeping your stress hormones in check.
From anti-aging expert, Dr. Mark Drucker, MD
Simple Stress Relief Technique #4: Play with your kids
As a doctor and anti-aging expert, I could give you a list of medicines and supplements that will change your stress response.
But when it comes down to it, nothing works as well for your body and mind as playing with your kids.
When I'm feeling anxious about a difficult challenge at the office, I'm tempted to crank up the research time and stay late. However, if I protect some time to play with my kids, I handle the whole crunch time better.Just by playing together, I gain perspective. Kids have a great way of helping you find the wonder and humor in life. And spending time with them reminds me of what's important.
From nutrition expert and chiropractor, Dr. Matthias Maas, DC
Simple Stress Relief Technique #5: Ditch the caffeine and try eleuthero
When you're tired and feeling overwhelmed, you probably reach for a cup of coffee, right?
Caffeine may give you a temporary boost. But in the long
It deceives your body into thinking you're not tired, just when you're body's screaming for rest. This just stresses your body more.Instead of caffeine, I'm a huge fan of eleuthero, a plant that grows wild on the northern Asian plains. Like caffeine, eleuthero can increase your mental alertness and help you feel energized. But unlike
Finally, it's safe and non-habit forming.When stressful times hit, eleuthero - not caffeine - is what I reach for and recommend to all my patients.
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 Vormbrock JK et al. Cardiovascular effects of human-pet dog interactions. J Behav Med. 1988 Oct;11(5):509-17.
 Swan, R. More companies, citing benefits, allow pets at work. Indianapolis
 Dishman R et al. Exercise Fuels The Brain's Stress Buffers. American Psychological Association website.
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Tidball, J. The power of playtime: Study finds that single mothers can reduce stress by playing, engaging with children. Kansas State University press release. June 19, 2012. Farnsworth, N. R., Kinghorn, A. D., Soejarto, D. and Waller, D. P. (1985) Siberian ginseng (