top of page

Stress Reduction

The Stress Response and Importance of Stress Reduction

I personally experienced my own stress related health issues and recovered. I saw firsthand how the accumulation of stress has a negitive impact on the mind, body, and spirit. Trying to learn stress reducing techniques during a crisis was not the best time to learn new skills. I was in the situation of sink or swim. I had children, so I was not going to let myself sink. I wish I had the skills in place and had been better prepared. I am grateful for the skills I have learned and can now share them with you. Being better prepared I can now minimize the effects of stress. Take time to become familiar with several techniques so you will be better prepared.

Since life is emotionally, mentally, and physically demanding, it is difficult to avoid stress. Stress can be a positive or a negative factor in our lives. With the right tools we can survive and become much stronger.

The Everyday Health Study regarding stress in the United States reports “Prolonged or unremitting stress exacts a stunningly toxic toll on the body, brain, mind, and soul.” We need to restore balance in our lives. When we balance stress with recovery we can bring more positive emotions of joy, peace, positivity, and passion back into our lives. This helps us to have a better perspective on our situation and find the best solutions.

There are three stages to the stress response:

1. The Alarm Stage:

The nervous system goes into alert causing fight, flight, or freeze. The sympathetic nervous system kicks in giving us the                  energy needed to either fight or flight. Our bodies secrete many stress-related hormones and chemicals. Chronic stress, over time, can be damaging to our bodies.

2. The Resistance Stage:

This is the recovery stage when the threat or situation is gone. The parasympathetic nervous system acts as a brake and decreases the stress response. In times of chronic stress, if measures are not taken, it delays recovery.

 3. The Exhaustion Stage:

If we get stuck in the alarm stage and do not get to recover, the body starts to wear down. At this point it is important to take action to give your body what it needs to recover and heal.

Stress, even chronic low-level stress, can have the following affects:

  • difficulty sleeping
  • weight gain
  • exacerbates flare-ups and recurrences in existing health issues
  • depressed immune system
  • mood changes, depression, irritability
  • short term memory issues
  • difficulty concentrating
  • strained relationships
  • stressed vital organs such as the heart, liver, and kidneys
  • decreased productivity
  • interferes with the ability to get pregnant

Since it is impossible to avoid people or situations that create stress in our lives, it is important for us to develop several strategies to deal with life. It requires awareness of our bodies, educating ourselves with non-pharmaceutical modalities, and developing a habit of daily stress reduction.

There are many strategies to make us more resilient when it comes reducing our stress response. What is important is to become familiar and practice them as often as possible. When we improve our body’s ability to recover from stress, we are minimizing the negative side effects that result from excessive stress. If your stress is overwhelming and you are having difficulty functioning, consult a licensed medical professional. A good physical and lab work can help rule out any physical reason for feeling nervous and stressed.

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is the best guide to make sure you are providing self-care. To decrease your internal stress, it is important to meet both the physiological and psychological needs. The basic physiological needs must be satisfied for a person to move into the next phase then move into self-actualization. If the basic needs are not met it increases stress in all areas of your life, making it difficult to meet your psychological needs. 


  • SELF-ACTUALIATION: Need for personal fulfillment, striving to achieving ones fullest potential
  • ESTEEM: Need to feel worthy, status, self-esteem, dignity, recognition, strength, freedom, mastery, independence, desire for reputation and respect from others, prestige and feeling of accomplishment
  • LOVE AND BELONGING: sense of connection, family, friendship, intimacy, being part of a group
  • SAFTETY NEEDS: feeling safe and secure, employment, resources, health, personal security, property
  • PHYSIOLOGICAL NEEDS: The most basic biological requirements. These needs are the foundation to grow and thrive. (Food, water, air, shelter, sleep, warmth, rest, clothing, reproduction)

Life is cyclic and what is most important is to balance stress with recovery. It is important to understand different types of recovery needed to balance the various types of physical, emotional, and mental stress. Breaking the stress cycle requires active (movement) or passive (non-active) rest.

Activities that involve movement benefit people who tend to be more sedentary and have more emotional and mental stress. Examples of more active recovery are walking, jogging, noncompetitive sports, yoga, tai-chi, qigong, fishing, dancing, or biking.

When a person is active and has more physical stress, they benefit from more passive activities such as: meditation, watching comedies, massage, jacuzzi, naps, visualizing a safe place, prayer, or music.

One of my favorite books on building resilience for stressful times is Toughness Training for Life by James Loehr. In his book he outlines four key components that are needed to become more resistant to stress. He also explains how to build each area so you can navigate the difficult times.

  • Emotional Flexibility: Allows you to be non-defensive, can access positive emotions such as humor and motivation to retaining the ability to be creative in problem solving.
  • Emotional Responsiveness: Allows you to be present and focused on the stressful situation and to maintain their true self
  • Emotional Strength: Allows a person to remain passionate and optimistic even under pressure. They do not break down by the negativity of their situation
  • Emotional Resiliency: The ability to get back up after a setback or an emotional upset.

James Loeher Ed.D. states, “The urge to eat, drink, sleep, relax, and exercise is the special language of recovery; it represents a window into the physiology of your body. Learning to hear and understand this language is hearing the rhythms and pulsations of life itself. Our bodies are constantly talking, constantly reaching our conscious minds-or failing to make the connection because the way is blocked by alcohol, drugs, emotion, or a fixed decision to ignore the messages. When the volume of stress in our lives threatens to overwhelm us, we often fail to heed, or even hear, our body’s cries for recovery. We also often fail to recognize that opportunities for recovery are everywhere. To be stronger and tougher we must train to understand and utilize our opportunities for recovery…

Tending to our body’s need for psychological recovery should always be our first priority. Unfortunately, as we become increasingly more stressed, we neglect the body’s basic needs for food, sleep, exercise, and relaxation. The cost of these many vital neglects is often very high in terms of health, happiness, and productivity. The cost for all too many of us is our most precious possession- the years of healthy life that remain.”

It is vital that we find the time to recover daily from our stress. Daily practices minimize the accumulation of inflammatory stress hormones along with the wear and tear on our body and mind. In doing this, we become emotionally, mentally, physically, and spiritually stronger. As we condition ourselves daily to handle stress, we are preparing ourselves for more challenging times. Better conditioning can decrease the ill effects of stress. In decreasing the effects we can increase the possibility of a happier and healthier life for us and our future generations.

                                                                                Energy Psychology

Energy Psychology (EP) is the umbrella term that encompasses different methods that work with subtle energies of the body. The most well-known and most researched of these involve the activation of meridians used in acupuncture. Employing “tapping” with your fingertips on acupressure points helps release emotional distress caused by thoughts and emotions that are held in the body. I have found these stress reduction techniques to be fast and effective. These modalities have several different names: Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), Thought Field Therapy (TFT), Touch and Breath, Tapas Acupressure Technique, Advanced Integrative Therapy, Heart Assisted Therapy, Emotional First Aid, and there are new ones emerging as this field matures. These techniques can be thought of as "acupuncture without needles."

The early form of Thought Field Therapy called the Callahan Technique was introduced by Roger Callahan in 1980. He discovered by using Applied Kinesiology (muscle testing) that when he tapped on certain acupressure points, emotional distress would quickly resolve. He also found certain sequences were consistent with reducing a variety of emotions. The Emotional Freedom Technique, even though considered a new and growing field, is an evidence-based practice and the research and studies continue to support its efficacy.

To read more information on their research Click Here 

Think of your body functioning the same way as a circuit breaker then you can understand the importance of lowering the emotional charge you have attached to situations in your life. Like a circuit breaker, the more items you have plugged in and the more energy they use, the higher the chance is to blow a circuit. When that happens, things do not work as they should. Only when we unplugged, do we lower the load, reset, and risk any potential danger. The same is true for our bodies. When we are stressed about finances, health, family, and many other problems, we are overloading our minds and body by putting added stress on our nervous system. Memories of the past, current situations, and worries about the future rob us of our happiness, peace of mind, and the ability to enjoy the present. Our thoughts create emotions, and those emotions can vary in intensity from mild agitation to paralyzing fear. Using tapping to eliminate or decrease the emotional charge allows us to feel calmer, in more control, and more peaceful. By lowering the emotional strain on our bodies we are more resourceful in finding solutions because we can see and react to our circumstances differently.

There are trained professionals available that help those experiencing excessive stress that is interfering with the ability to cope or are in a crisis. The Association for Comprehensive Energy Psychology (ACEP) is an international nonprofit professional organization. Their mission is to research, educate, and promote energy psychology and other energy modalities along health professionals and the public. More about ACEP, their research, training, and their humanitarian outreach programs. I am a Certified Energy Health Practitioner and an active member of ACEP since 2007. I have witnessed many remarkable transformations with this technique and am always in awe at how effective Energy Psychology modalities can be. Clinical trials and research are evidencing the effectiveness, and safety and expanding the range of applications of EP modalities.

EP often involves tapping on certain acupressure points while thinking about your stressor. At times, you may recite short phrases and affirmations. Energy Tapping Techniques are simple to learn, offers noticeable results in a short time, can be self-administered, and requires no special tools or equipment. Even though some techniques can be learned and used by most people, there are some experiences and situations that would require trained professional assistance.

This is my favorite stress reduction modality to educate people on how to reduce stress. I find when used daily, it can help one feel more grounded and be more resistant to others’ negativity.



 ( Note: If pregnant, breastfeeding, or under a doctors care consult your physician or a trained aromatherapist before using essential oils. For safer topical use dilute oils with a carrier oil, this avoids possible skin irritations or burns)

We have all experienced the juicy aroma when peeling an orange, our mouth starts to water as the smell intensifies. This happens because aromas reach our limbic system (the processing center of reason, emotion, and smell) and the hypothalamus (the hormone center of the body). Aromas have the ability to affect the body and the mind. 

The most powerful part of plants is the oils. Oils a​re the blood of the plant and help protect t​​he plant from disease. They also contain hormone like compounds which helps balance the body. Oils have been used medicinally as far back as 4500 B.C. Even today in the United States, pharmaceutical companies have based some prescription drugs on the naturally occurring compounds from plants. 

The Bible has over 200 references to the use of oils, incense, and ointments some being used for anointing and healing the sick. Oils have been known to stimulate the immune system and fight infections by killing bacteria, viruses, fungi and other pathogens. Their aromas have been used to balance moods, decreasing anxiety, energize or calm ones spirit. It can even help promote romantic feelings.


Understanding Therapeutic Grade Oils

Before purchasing and using oils it is important to understand what oils are and the ways they are extracted.  

Essential oils are the volatile liquids distilled from many parts of the plants. They can be extracted from the leaves, bark, and roots from flowers, trees, or shrubs. Chemically they are complex, contain hundreds of different chemical compounds, and are highly concentrated. Since one oil can contain many different compounds it enables them to work several different ways in the body. 

When purchasing essential oils it is important to chose oils that are medicinal grade, 100% pure essential oils. they usually cost more and are stored in dark amber bottles. Avoid oils that are synthetics and labeled "perfume" or "fragrance".

Most comm​only used oils and their uses

Oils can be administered in several ways:

  • Topically - CAUTION Even 100% pure essential oils can burn or irritate the skin. Dilute oils in a carrier oil such as: almond, grapeseed, olive, canola, castor, hazelnut, rosehip, safflower, sunflower, coconut, or walnut.  It is not recommended to use petroleum based oils as carrier oils.  To make your own massage oil, The International Childbirth Education Association (ICEA) recommends  diluting 12-20 drops of oil in 1 ounce of a carrier oil.
  • Inhalation - diffuse in either a cotton ball, electric or battery diffuser, or a lamp ring. If diffusing using distilled water.  Aroma stones, lockets or jewelry can be used. You can also use a spray bottle to make your own misters by mixing the essential oil in water. Use 15-30 drops of oil per one ounce of water. Add a small amount of witch hazel to disperse the oil in the water. Smell is the only one of our senses that is directly linked to our emotional center, the limbic center in the brain. 
  • Ingestion - (only use oils labeled as food grade) maybe used in recipes or added in capsules. Due to the lack of studies, it is generally not recommended to ingest while pregnant or breastfeeding.

Below is a list of a few essential oils, that when diffused, help to create a state of peace and relaxation. For a complete list of oils safe for pregnancy, and the ones to avoid in pregnancy and when breast feeding Click Here.

One of my favorite combinations I find refreshing and uplifting is diffusing 2-4 drops of Peppermint with 6-8 drops of Grapefruit oil.

Frankincense​ (Boswellia carteri)

  • has been referred to as the "holy anointing oil"  It has been used for thousands of years in religious ceremonies. It has been helpful in meditations.  It can stimulate and elevate the mind.  It has helped overcome stress and  and feelings of hopelessness.

Geranium  (pelargonium graveolens)

  • when diffused can help to release negative memories and decrease stress and nervous tension. Can help promote a more positive mood, increase a sense of well-being, relaxation and hope.

Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia)

  • used in clinical settings because of its relaxing proprieties both physically and emotionally. Other possible uses are: burns (skin renewal), headaches, indigestions, insomnia, high blood pressure, nausea, PMS, scarring, stretch marks, bruises, and skin irritations, and nervous tension. Can also help promote better sleep. 

Lemon (Citrus Limon) 

  • is known to have antiseptic-like properties, anti-infectious, disinfectant, antibacterial, antiviral.  May be beneficial for anxiety, digestive problems, sore throats. The aroma is uplifting and invigorating which can lift ones mood and promote a sense of wellbeing. CAUTION Lemon oil is photo sensitive, avoid exposure to sunlight or UV rays for 3 days if using topically. Suggested use is diffusing or misting. 

Peppermint (Mentha x piperita)

  • DO NOT use during pregnancy and breastfeeding. When diluted and applied to the forehead and temples has been shown to reduce the severity of headaches and migraines. It has also been shown to reduce symptoms of IBS and other digestive disorders in some people.  Diffusing can be uplifting and energizing. 

Laughter for Health 

We have heard that laughter is the best medicine.  Laughter has been shown to have many mental and physical benefits that can combat the long term side effects of stress.  

Sven Svebak, professor emeritus at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, has studied the impacts of humor on our health for over 50 years. In a 15-year study, that included 53,556 participants, indicated humor can delay or prevent certain life-threatening diseases.  

Professor Svebak stated "A friendly sense of humor will bless you with better social relations as well as coping skills, and the reduced risk of dying early." 

The Mayo Clinic finds the short term benefits of laughter can:

  • stimulate your heart and lungs 
  • increase endorphins 
  • stimulate circulation and help with muscle relaxation 
  • activate and relieve your stress response by decreasing heart rate and blood pressure 
  • retrain your body to recover from stress much faster

The Mayo clinic also states the long term effects of laughter are:

  • improves immune system, by releasing neuropeptides 
  • releases natural painkillers reducing pain 
  • improves mood by decreasing depression 
  • helps people to cope with difficult situations 

Norman Cousins, author of Anatomy of an Illness and biochemist, incorporated self-induced bouts of laughter by watching various comic films. He reported that "...ten minutes of genuine belly laughter had an anesthetic effect and would give me at least two hours of pain-free sleep."

How many times a day do you laugh? Do you go days without laughing? If so, then it is important to get you smiling and laughing every day. But how? There have been times when I was under a lot of stress and found it difficult to find the humor in anything.  The best place to start is "fake it until you make it". Next, watch movies and videos that make you laugh. Surround yourself with people with a good sense of humor.  Don't be afraid to laugh out loud.  Love your laugh and let it out. Practice "Laughter Yoga" and consider joining a laughter yoga group. Dr. Madam Kataria started the first laughter club in 1995. He was inspired by the scientific research on the benefits of laughter. He stated that to get the full benefits, we need to laugh continuously for 10-15 minutes daily. To learn more and experience laughter yoga, Click Here. 

 I have attended laughter yoga classes and would end up laughing so hard that I cried. To help increase laughter every day, I would create reminders. I used my phone as a trigger. When it would ring, I would purposely laugh before I would answer it. Doing this everyday helped transform me from a serious person to someone with a good sense of humor. The ability to laugh easily has helped me get through some tough times. When you develop the skill of laughing spontaneously at even the littlest things, your outlook on life can become more positive. This shift has the ability to have many benefits on the mind, body, and spirit.  Laughter is contagious, be the one who brings joy and laughter into the lives of your friends and loved ones and see how everyone benefits!

bottom of page