Natural Ways to Reduce Stress

Science by Temple Stewart, RD

Stress is something we all experience, and while it may not be entirely avoidable, stress can be managed. Stress levels are important to keep in check because of the negative effects on our mental and physical health. Since 2020, stress levels in adult Americans have been increasing significantly. According to the American Psychological Association, in 2021, more than 8 in 10 Americans reported feeling emotions associated with stress. [1] Let’s take a look at how we can reduce stress naturally.

6 Ways to Reduce Stress:

Limit Sugar
Mood and stress levels are often attributed to what we put in our bodies. Are you noticing increased stress after eating? Be sure to check your diet and be prepared to make changes. Sugar is certainly not doing us any favors. A diet consisting of low sugar, and high protein and fats are ideal for managing stress.

Get Moving
Exercise can directly and immediately impact stress levels. Walking, going to the gym, or engaging in a sport increases serotonin, which can boost your mood, make you feel calmer and more focused, and normalize your sleep. Also, when your heart rate increases from exercise, your body experiences a similar physical response to what one might have when faced with a stressor! This prepares your body for an involuntary stress response, so when a stressor does come, you’re more resilient. [2]

Go Outside
How often do you get outside? According to a study in 2017, getting outside in the sunlight can improve stress and overall mental health. Simply going for a walk, riding your bike, or reading in the sun can all help make getting outdoors easier. [3]

Prioritize Sleep
Sleep is vital for so many functions of the body. Stress is just one of many symptoms of poor sleep. Nearly ⅓ of adults get less than 6 hours of sleep a night, but it is recommended adults get 7-9 hours. [4] What can you do to improve your sleep?
Incorporate these tips into your nightly routine:

        • Utilize mouth tape for deeper sleep
        • Limit screen time before bed
        • Go to bed at the same time each evening
        • Jot down any worries or stressors on your mind
        • Stop eating at least 2 hours before bed



Limit Caffeine Intake
Though so many of us rely on it, it’s important to note the significant effects caffeine has on stress. Caffeine can cause nervousness and jitters, which heighten the symptoms of stress. Due to caffeine’s ability to alter brain chemistry, it can interfere with neurotransmitters and therefore alter your mood. If you decide to cut back on caffeine, be sure to do so gradually to avoid some of the withdrawal symptoms. [5]

Consider Cold/Hot Therapy
A cold water swimming researcher, Mike Tipton, found that cold water swimmers had decreased levels of cortisol (the body’s stress hormone), and “a better adaptation to their bodies’ “fight or flight” response.” Cold immersion also helps lower inflammation, increases metabolic rate, and increases dopamine. [6] Similar to cold therapy, hot saunas also have a similar impact on lowering cortisol in the body. [7]

Acupuncture and Massage Therapy
Acupuncture is said to encourage the body to let the parasympathetic nervous system take over to help healthfully handle lots of different clinical states, including stress. This can prompt lower blood pressure, lower cortisol levels, and lower perceived levels of stress. [8, 9, 10]
Massage therapy helps by releasing some of the feel-good hormones in the brain like oxytocin. It also helps facilitate a more relaxed state while decreasing the stress hormone cortisol. [11]

There are several supplements that have been shown to help improve stress and symptoms of anxiety including ashwagandha, magnesium, Rhodiola Rosea, l-theanine, and saffron. Always discuss supplementation with your medical team. [12, 13, 14, 15, 16]

While everyone has at least some degree of stress in their life, you can see there are a lot of ways to treat stress naturally. Find things that work for you and your lifestyle and take steps in the right direction.



  1. American Psychological Association. (2021, February 2). APA: U. S. Adults report highest stress level since early days of the COVID-19 pandemic [Press release].
  2. Weir, K. (2011, December). The exercise effect. Monitor on Psychology, 42(11).
  3. Triguero-Mas M, Donaire-Gonzalez D, Seto E, Valentín A, Martínez D, Smith G, Hurst G, Carrasco-Turigas G, Masterson D, van den Berg M, Ambròs A, Martínez-Íñiguez T, Dedele A, Ellis N, Grazulevicius T, Voorsmit M, Cirach M, Cirac-Claveras J, Swart W, Clasquin E, Ruijsbroek A, Maas J, Jerret M, Gražulevičienė R, Kruize H, Gidlow CJ, Nieuwenhuijsen MJ. Natural outdoor environments and mental health: Stress as a possible mechanism. Environ Res. 2017 Nov;159:629-638. doi: 10.1016/j.envres.2017.08.048. Epub 2017 Sep 19. PMID: 28938204.
  4. Earl S. Ford, MD, MPH, Timothy J. Cunningham, ScD, Janet B. Croft, PhD, Trends in Self-Reported Sleep Duration among US Adults from 1985 to 2012, Sleep, Volume 38, Issue 5, 1 May 2015, Pages 829–832,
  5. Winston, A., Hardwick, E., & Jaberi, N. (2005). Neuropsychiatric effects of caffeine. Advances in Psychiatric Treatment, 11(6), 432-439. doi:10.1192/apt.11.6.432
  6. Solianik, R., Skurvydas, A., Vitkauskienė, A., & Brazaitis, M. (2014). Gender-specific cold responses induce a similar body-cooling rate but different neuroendocrine and immune responses. Cryobiology, 69(1), 26–33.
  7. Podstawski, R., Borysławski, K., Pomianowski, A., Krystkiewicz, W., & Żurek, P. (2021). Endocrine Effects of Repeated Hot Thermal Stress and Cold Water Immersion in Young Adult Men. American journal of men’s health, 15(2), 15579883211008339.
  8. Schroeder, S., Burnis, J., Denton, A., Krasnow, A., Raghu, T. S., & Mathis, K. (2017). Effectiveness of Acupuncture Therapy on Stress in a Large Urban College Population. Journal of acupuncture and meridian studies, 10(3), 165–170.
  9. Zheng, H., Zhao, X., Du, Y., & Shi, X. (2016). Acupuncture for Blood Pressure Control in Stroke Patients: Case Reports. Forschende Komplementarmedizin (2006), 23(6), 351–355.
  10. Longhurst, J. C., & Tjen-A-Looi, S. (2013). Acupuncture regulation of blood pressure: two decades of research. International review of neurobiology, 111, 257–271.
  11. Lee, Y. H., Park, B. N., & Kim, S. H. (2011). The effects of heat and massage application on autonomic nervous system. Yonsei medical journal, 52(6), 982–989.
  12. Kell, G., Rao, A., Beccaria, G., Clayton, P., Inarejos-García, A. M., & Prodanov, M. (2017). affron® a novel saffron extract (Crocus sativus L.) improves mood in healthy adults over 4 weeks in a double-blind, parallel, randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trial. Complementary therapies in medicine, 33, 58–64.
  13. Kimura, K., Ozeki, M., Juneja, L. R., & Ohira, H. (2007). L-Theanine reduces psychological and physiological stress responses. Biological psychology, 74(1), 39–45.
  14. Edwards, D., Heufelder, A., & Zimmermann, A. (2012). Therapeutic effects and safety of Rhodiola rosea extract WS® 1375 in subjects with life-stress symptoms–results of an open-label study. Phytotherapy research : PTR, 26(8), 1220–1225.
  15. Auddy, B., Hazra, J., Mitra, A., Abedon, B.G., Ghosal, S., & Nagar, B. (2008). A Standardized Withania Somnifera Extract Significantly Reduces Stress-Related Parameters in Chronically Stressed Humans: A Double-Blind, Randomized, Placebo-Controlled Study.
  16. Pouteau, E., Kabir-Ahmadi, M., Noah, L., Mazur, A., Dye, L., Hellhammer, J., Pickering, G., & Dubray, C. (2018). Superiority of magnesium and vitamin B6 over magnesium alone on severe stress in healthy adults with low magnesemia: A randomized, single-blind clinical trial. PloS one, 13(12), e0208454.

This article is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not, nor is it intended to be substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice.