Holistic Stress Management for Mind, Body and Spirit

By Val Silver

What is holistic stress management? It is a whole person approach to three types of stress - mental, physical, and spiritual.  It offers a wide array of strategies for managing stress in each of those domains. 

Holistic stress management addresses three aspects of stress relief:

  • what are the main causes of your stress - known and unknown, chronic and short-term. 
  • how you respond to sources of stress as a whole person made up of mind, body and spirit.
  • how to best address distress and become resilient in ways that positively impacts your health and happiness in the short and long-term.

Why Practice Holistic Stress Management

When asked to define different types of stress, most of us think of unpleasant situations that originate outside ourselves. Annoying coworkers, crying children, a scary diagnosis, or burgeoning debt are blamed for your feelings.

What you may not pay much attention to are the troublesome undercurrents inside your mind and body. You may become so used to them that you consider them part of your personality. You may not realize stressors stirring up trouble deep in your subconscious or affecting you on a silent cellular level. Out of sight, out of mind.

Distressing beliefs, feelings, thoughts, and physical toxins act out beyond your awareness. Some are just under the surface; they bubble up every once in a while until you push them down again. All play a part in adding health-negating distress to your body, mind and spirit.

Holistic stress management takes this whole picture into consideration.

The idea of holistic stress relief may seem overwhelming but it doesn't have to be. It does require some out of the box thinking and a willingness to explore your situation in multiple areas (not all at once!).  As you become aware of the problems causing physical and mental distress, the natural stress relievers that will help you become obvious.

The goal of holistic stress management is to reduce and alleviate chronic and acute stress at the physical, mental or spiritual levels. The good news is that as you eliminate stressors in one domain, you positively impact your whole self. This is holistic stress relief. Expect this approach to impact your mind, body and spirit in a powerful way. And with that, miraculous healing of mind, body, and/or spirit sometimes occurs.

Managing the three types of stress

Let's take a look at the different types of stress and what you can do to relieve them.

Physical Stress

Our bodies are continually being challenged. Some stress on your body is necessary or unavoidable. Your body is well-equipped to handle them. For example, weight-bearing under the force of gravity keeps your joints, muscles and bones strong. Your body also experiences a certain amount of metabolic stress as part of being alive.

What the body isn't equipped to handle as well is the onslaught of man-made chemicals coming in via the air, water and food supply. There are thousands of chemicals on the market and more being developed all the time. These toxins accumulate in your cells and create an environment that puts us at risk for cancer and other diseases. The liver and other organs of elimination become burdened trying to eliminate them.

If you doubt that they are a potential danger to you, just walk down the store cleaning supply aisle. The strong smell of chemicals permeates the air, right through their packaging. Check in with your body - does it want to stay there or get away?

types of physical stress chemicals

Outside influences aren't the only stress your body has to deal with. It may also have to cope with continuous or combined burdens of too much or too little exercise, sleep deprivation, illness, overeating, under-eating, poor diet, medications and substance abuse.

When you are triggered by mental upset, your body is bombarded with stress hormones. When this happens too often, it takes its toll on your body. Add to this the challenges of coping with occasional and chronic pain, inflammation, illness and addictions, and it's easy to see that our bodies are under tremendous stress.

It may be impossible to avoid all of these physical assaults, but there is much you can do to greatly reduce this burden. This is the first prong in your holistic stress management plan. When you support and protect your body by practicing principles of healthy living and wellness, your physical stress load is lighter. Your body is more resilient and better able to handle challenges.

Ways to help your body cope with physical stress

  1. Healthy living habits such as good nutrition, adequate exercise, and adequate rest.
  2. Natural stress reducers including brain breaks and mindfulness.
  3. Adaptogenic herbs that help your body cope with stress in the long-term.
  4. Natural body detoxification helpers that help your body get rid of toxins.
  5. Eco friendly habits that promote the health of the environment and your family.

Mental/Emotional Stress

Your mind is often bombarded by messages coming from the media, authority figures, and family. Messages that stir up fear, sadness, confrontation, and mental discomfort challenge your sense of security, control, and self-worth.

Add to that the inner voices that criticize you, push you, and hold you captive to the traumas of the past and worries about the future.  Mental distress happens when you think about something or do something that isn't congruent with your core values or subconscious programming.

You perpetuate mental exhaustion when you berate yourself for making a mistake, relive past wrongs, worry incessantly about the economy, or repeatedly work too long and too hard. 

holistic stress relief overwhelmed man

Negative mind chatter causes unpleasant feelings and emotions in your mind and body.

Just as mental triggers cause bio-chemical reactions, physical distress and unconscious triggers can cause reactions that lead to mental stress. Think about how difficult it is to cope with everyday matters when you are over-tired, in pain, or having PMS. 

How to manage mental and emotional stress

Mental and emotional issues are usually top of mind in holistic stress management. It is wise to use natural stress relievers that calm your mind, quiet incessant negative chatter, and disarm triggers so you are less affected by others and outside events.

  1. Use techniques to release negative emotions that are stressing you out.
  2. Use relaxing herbs that take the edge off stressful feelings.
  3. Ease in-the-moment stress so you can release tension and relax a bit.
  4. Cultivate resilience: the capacity to recover quickly from setbacks and to adapt to change.
  5. Do mindful stress relief exercises that bring your attention to the present moment and off circumstances.
  6. Dump your head trash so that your distress barrel is less full. 
  7. Enjoy a guided meditation for several minutes of focused relaxation.

Spiritual Stress

Of the three types of stressors, spiritual stress may be the most elusive to pinpoint. You many not be aware of its undercurrent in your life. It may manifest physically and/or mentally. Spiritual stressors may enter your awareness as thoughts, or as feelings and illness in your body. They may show themselves as inklings, intuition or dreams.

Addressing spiritual issues is often the missing prong in holistic stress management. This is unfortunate because it may well be a most important factor for healing and wellness. It affects us deeply in ways we are yet to fully understand.

Spiritual distress occurs when you are out of alignment with your inner truth, your true Self, and your sense of connection with others and 'all that is'. 

holistic stress management accept or refuse

How to relieve spiritual distress

  • Let go of grudges and guilt. Grant forgiveness to yourself and others.
  • Be honest with yourself about your spiritual beliefs. Admit where your beliefs are at odds with your religious affiliation and/or practices. 
  • Express gratitude and appreciation for your life blessings as well as life's learning experiences.
  • Treat yourself and others, including non-humans, with lovingkindness. 
  • Nurture your relationship with the Divine, your higher Self, or a power greater than yourself as you understand it.
  • Accept yourself and others for who you are. 
  • Embrace your role as co-creator in your life instead of having a victim mentality. 
  • Engage with your life purposes even if they seem too big, too weird or scary. 

Summary of Holistic Stress Management

Holistic stress relief takes into account body, mind and spirit. It considers all the toxins and triggers that cause each of these parts of you to react in distress instead of from a position of balance, healing, and love of self and others. When you reduce stress in one area of your life and cultivate resilience in the face of challlenges, your whole self benefits. 

Visit the Natural Stress Relief Guide for more information on the causes of stress, how it affects you, and ways to master it so that it doesn't master you. 

Holistic Stress Management page updated 12/2020

For Educational Purposes Only. This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. It is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease or medical condition. Please consult with your health provider before using natural remedies and/or complementary therapies if you are pregnant, nursing, or you are being treated for a medical condition. Be aware that certain herbs and supplements interact with medications.

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