Managing Anxiety and Stress Naturally: Tips and Techniques

#anxiety #brainhealth #mentalhealth #stress Mar 01, 2024

Did you know that stress triggers 70% of visits to doctors and 85% of serious illnesses? Employers pay over $300 billion in stress related health care and missed work annually. But, please don’t stress about this stress! We have good news. There are research-based solutions that can give you immediate and cumulative relief and we’ve outlined our 3 favs below!



Before we begin, a short bio lesson. The physiology of stress is rooted in the wiring of our Autonomic Nervous System (ANS). Our ANS is responsible for all those automatic bodily functions that we don’t have to think about—our heartbeat, breathing, digestion, etc. It’s also responsible for keeping us safe. 

A deeper look at our ANS reveals why stress has so much power over our physical and emotional health. First, the great news: your body has an innate ability to heal! Secondly, the bad news: stress turns off this healing ability. It does this by triggering the “Fight, Flight or Freeze Response” stimulated by our sympathetic branch of our ANS. When triggered by a stressful event, our body goes into protective mode. The problem is that this mode was meant for isolated occasions, like when our ancestors had to encounter the proverbial saber-toothed tiger. The fight/flight/freeze response was only meant to last for about 2 minutes, but in today’s society, so much looks like a saber-toothed tiger and our physiology doesn’t know how to differentiate. Consequently, we are in a constant state of “stress response”. Our bodily systems, like digestion, immunity and the rational parts of our brain, literally shut down. This is perfectly okay if it only lasts for TWO minutes. But as an everyday, all day occurrence, our system suffers. This is why we get sick, experience digestive difficulties, can’t sleep, fly off the handle and actually age faster. 

Moving up into the brain itself, the amygdala is a part of the brain found in the limbic system, which is responsible for emotional and behavioral responses. When the amygdala senses dangers, it signals our body to release stress hormones, diverts blood away from our organs and sends it to our large limbs to prepare us for battle. Ultimately, it shuts down our thinking part of the brain, the frontal lobe. With the frontal lobe shut off, we can’t talk ourselves off the stress cliff and differentiate between minor stresses and larger traumas. When we are under a constant state of stress, our amygdala gets hijacked and over time hardwired to actually expect stress. All this can happen even when it doesn’t need to. It’s a looping negative brain habit.

 Okay, now to the really good news! There are proven, research-based solutions to turn this stress train around. And, the best part, they are easy to do and don’t take a lot of time. When we engage in these types of exercises consistently, we have the power, through neuroplasticity, to rewire and calm our amygdala (yes we can change our own brain!) and to bring our frontal lobe back online. We can almost immediately lower stress hormones and even change our brain waves. Most of us take a multi-vitamin to give our body a daily dose of the good stuff it needs. We must give our ANS a similar daily dose if we expect to stay happy and healthy on all levels!

The bottom line is that stress doesn’t happen to us; it happens in us, and it’s not about managing the stress; it’s about managing the stress response!

The below stress solutions have been shown to lower anxiety, lower blood pressure, decrease cortisol (the stress hormone), and retrain our neurology to actually rewire the stress centers of our brain (amygdala) and strengthen the rational, rationale feel-good frontal lobe.

1) Slow down on purpose - When the body is in a state of stress, we are primed for urgency and overwhelm- on alert and ready to take on the chaos or collapsed at the “too much-ness” of it all. When we slow down on purpose, we can help remind the body we’re ok and it can release some of the held tension that comes with being in a mobilized/stressed state.

Here is a simple exercise or meditation for anxiety:

Resourcing using your environment. Simply look around and take in your surroundings. Look all the way around you. (Subconsciously, you are making sure there are no threats and everything is safe.) Notice your body and breathing as you do so. Now find something you really enjoy. Take it in. Notice what you like about it. Does it take you to a fond memory, remind you of someone? Go to the joy of it and imagine bringing that into your heart space. Maybe even lift the corners of your mouth. Notice how that feels.

2) You’ve heard it from us before, but BREATH. It’s free, you take it with you everywhere you go, it doesn't take much time or effort. But we want to focus on the EXHALE - a full deep belly exhale. The exhale turns on your parasympathetic response. When we are stressed or panicked, we tend to hold our breath without realizing. A regular breathwork, yoga, meditation, or tai chi practice will help support your body preventively as well as in the moment by improving vagal tone.


A breath I’ve been using to stimulate the vagus nerve through vibration, release jaw/neck tension as well as emotions is the “Voo” Breath, popularized by Dr. Peter Levine. It’s ok if it feels silly or even makes you laugh! 

Simply focus on making the sound “Voo” until you run out of breath. Picture the sound coming from your belly. Let the inhale come in naturally and again exhale making a prolonged voo sound. Try this for a few rounds and see how it feels.

3) Prioritize Self Care and Social Engagement. When we are overwhelmed, taking care of ourselves and spending time with loved ones might be the last thing on our minds. However, eating whole foods (nutrient-dense, minimally processed), and moving our bodies (endorphins!) can boost mood and support overall brain/body function. Being with trusted loved ones, also helps us regulate and tune into safety through co-regulation.

If it’s tough to make those steps, remind yourself of the POSITIVE consequences. (i.e. “If I do this workout, I know how energetic I will feel afterwards.”; “When I make time with my friend, I feel supported.”).  And when we are really in the thick of it and the above is too much, focus on getting consistent, restful sleep (7-9 hours).

And, of course, if you are overwhelmed or would rather not do this work alone, please reach out to us! Peyton is available for new individual therapy clients and Heather currently has some limited space. We provide a nonjudgmental, compassionate space to be in it with you, as well as provide tools to help you integrate and move forward. 

In addition, we have these mood-boosting supplements and Alpha Stim rentals (limited supply) on special this month at Heights of Health. The Alpha-Stim is a non-invasive device that immediately and cumulatively reduces overall stress, anxiety, depression, insomnia, PTSD and much more. Please consult with your practitioner to see if these supplements or the Alpha-Stim are right for you.


Upcoming Anxiety Management Workshop for Kids and Caregivers! 



Finally for your support, Heather and Peyton will be facilitating a workshop for kids (ages 7-12) and their caregivers on ways to mitigate anxiety in children on the evening of May 6th, 2024. Sign up now to reserve your spot! Early bird pricing, available through March. Learn more here.