Five Natural Stress Busters

by Christiane Northrup, M.D.

Menstrual Cycle

Today, women run from task to task trying to do more and be more than at any other time in history. At first, we push ourselves, relying on an adrenaline rush, the boost of cortisol, and maybe some extra caffeine to address today’s crisis (real or perceived). Initially, we recover quickly from the additional demands that we have placed on our bodies and our minds. But when we call upon these stress hormones to boost us to heroic heights time and again, our bodies can do nothing else but operate in fight-or-flight mode 24/7. This sets the stage for all kinds of medical problems—and a very unhappy life.

We feel stress when we believe we must do something that contradicts our core values. Think of a new mother who would rather stay home with her baby, but has to work to help support her family. It’s important to monitor our decisions to make sure we aren’t doing too many things, on a day-to-day basis, that go against what we hold important.

Stress also occurs when we wish that something were different from what it is! That’s why books such as Loving What Is, by Byron Katie, and The Power of Now, by Eckhart Tolle are so helpful. They help us stay in the present where our power is.

We also feel anxious and overwhelmed when we have too many things to do. My advice? Don’t fall into the trap of being Superwoman. Lower your standards a bit. Delegate. And just let it go.

I know it’s easier said than done, so here are Five Natural Stress Busters (I’ve got a lot more, but this will get you started) to help you feel better—Get enough vitamin D, supplement with magnesium, breath to calm the senses, do something that you enjoy, and take Rescue Remedy.

Stress Buster #1: Get More Vitamin D

There’s a connection between natural light and vitamin D levels—and vitamin D literally enhances the health of every cell in your body. Having optimal levels of vitamin D can protect your musculoskeletal, immune, and cardiovascular systems and reduce the likelihood of certain cancers. Vitamin D has also been shown to reduce stress and naturally increase the feel-good chemical serotonin, a hormone known to reduce anxiety. Despite all these benefits, most people don’t get nearly enough vitamin D! The best way is by exposing your body to the sun every day from three to fifteen minutes depending on your skin tone and also the time of year. Just don’t let your skin burn and use sunscreen on your face and hands.

Since this isn’t always practical, make sure you get adequate amounts of vitamin D daily through supplements, cod liver oil, or canned salmon. I recommend at least 1,000 IU per day. If you have any doubts about your vitamin D status, get a blood test to find out what it is.

Know that you’re practicing preventive medicine when you do this—which should also put you at ease.

Stress Buster #2: Increase Your Levels of Magnesium

Magnesium is another medical wonder. It supports the cardiovascular, respiratory, and nervous systems, modulates blood sugar levels, and lessens the occurrence and severity of pain, cramping, and headaches. Unfortunately, many people have low levels of magnesium; chronic emotional and mental stress is associated with this deficiency. This occurs because the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline release magnesium from the cells.

Carolyn Dean, M.D., explains in her book The Magnesium Miracle that we don’t get enough magnesium from our foods due to common farming practices. (She also points out that the rate of depression has gone up every decade since these practices began after World War II. This is not a coincidence.) Magnesium supplements come in several forms, including magnesium oxide, magnesium chloride, and chelated magnesium. Make sure to get 500–800 mg per day. Magnesium and calcium intake should be balanced, too, in a 1:1 or 2:1 ratio. If you take 1,000 mg of calcium a day, you pair that with a minimum of 500 mg. Epsom salts are mostly made of magnesium. So soak in a tub with 1/2 cup of Epsom salts and you will be replenishing your magnesium—delightfully.

Stress Buster #3: Do Something Pleasurable Every Day

It’s true that laughter is the best medicine—taking time for pleasure and fun decreases the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline. Commit to a minimum of fifteen minutes of true enjoyment every day. Not only will you feel better, you’ll be able to approach arduous tasks with more energy and a better outlook.

I suggest you come up with five simple things that make you feel relaxed. Make sure that two or more are free (or at least inexpensive), easy to do, and don’t involve food. Some examples are taking a bubble bath, reading a novel that transports you to another place and time, watching a romantic comedy, talking to a friend, doing easy stretches, meditating, listening to music, or writing in your journal. Entering a blissful state every day (even for a short amount of time) will help you create a healthy stress-free life.

Stress Buster #4: Always Breathe Deeply and Fully

Breathing in fully through your nose instantly engages the rest and restore parasympathetic nervous system and helps the body metabolize stress hormones. Put Post-it notes on your phone, your computer, and your bathroom mirror. Write BREATHE in beautiful letters that uplift and remind you to breathe fully.

Mindfulness meditation and techniques like those found in Herbert Benson’s The Relaxation Response have been used successfully to reduce stress and stress-related medical conditions. If you prefer an audio program, I recommend Buddhist Meditation for Beginners by Jack Kornfield.

Stress Buster #5: Let Flower Essences Calm Your Nerves

I have used and recommended flower essences for many years. Flower essences are a form of homeopathic medicine that help the body restore itself to a desired emotional state. One of the best known flower essences is Rescue Remedy. Made by Bach, Rescue Remedy is a blend of Cherry Plum, Clematis, Impatiens, Star of Bethlehem, and Rock Rose flower essences that calms the nerves.

Rescue Remedy is useful during times of acute stress, such as before taking a final exam, after a heated argument, during a frightening thunderstorm, or while waiting for a medical procedure. (It has no known side effects and is even safe for pets.) In short, any time you feel fear, anger, or stress just put a couple of drops in water and then drink it. (Rescue Remedy comes in spray form, too.) Most people experience an immediate sense of relief. But don’t wait for stress to occur. You can take Rescue Remedy every day—just a couple of sprays in your mouth or drops in water will do.

One more thing: It’s common to feel more stress when our bodies are operating suboptimally. And sometimes we may feel trapped in a vicious cycle. Don’t worry! Just review the list above and start somewhere, knowing that even small changes can greatly reduce your stress level.

Learn More — Additional Resources

Last Updated: September 6, 2008

Christiane Northrup, M.D.

Christiane Northrup, M.D., is a visionary pioneer and a leading authority in the field of women’s health and wellness. Recognizing the unity of body, mind, and spirit, she empowers women to trust their inner wisdom, their connection with Source, and their ability to truly flourish.


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  1. Louise Castronova
    5 years ago

    Important knowledge is always shared by Dr. Northrup. She is a master teacher and offers her wonderful picture of things we need to know and pay attention to as we live our daily lives. Thank you, Dr. Northrup, for sharing so unselfishly.

  2. johan
    9 years ago

    Enjoyed the book.Its my bible.After a breast cancer it helped me a lot.

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