While scents like lavender commonly come to mind when we think of stress relief, it turns out citrus may evoke a sense of calm, too. Typically associated with invigorating and energizing powers, the scent of an orange has also been associated with stress relief. Find out how having this fruit on hand can help you stay calm in the face of a chaotic day below.
Inhale to Reduce Stress
By some estimations, the scent of an orange may reduce stress by more than 70%. Yet, having ripe orange slices on hand may not always be the most practical option for those of us with busy schedules. Using essential oils is therefore be a good alternative for getting an uplifting whiff of citrus during a long commute, for example. Likewise, if you anticipate a hectic work day, you can apply a few drops of essential oils approved for topical use on the wrists, temples, neck, or behind the ears. While mandarin has been linked to better digestion in addition to reduced stress, other citrus oils have unique benefits, too. Lemon, for example, has been shown to improve cognitive performance, while the scent of grapefruit oil appears to reduce cravings and boost metabolism.
Of course, you don’t have to simply smell oranges to reduce stress. In fact, eating oranges may pack an even more powerful punch.
Vitamin C for Relaxation
If you have a particularly stress-inducing event coming up, it may be worthwhile to pack an orange in your bag. People who consumed 1,000 mg of vitamin C before delivering a speech had lower levels of cortisol, also known as the stress hormone, as well as lower blood pressure. While the sensory benefits of peeling an orange undoubtedly contribute to this more relaxed state, the vitamin C itself also aids in stress reduction by allowing the body to quickly process cortisol. Moreover, people with high vitamin C levels actually recover from stressful situations quicker.
While an orange a day may keep the stress away, vitamin C supplements may also be beneficial for certain populations. Although the recommended dietary allowance for vitamin C for adults is a mere 75-90 mg, some evidence suggests that this outdated recommendation – which was established to combat scurvy – is inadequate for optimizing health. Thus, it comes as no surprise that vitamin C is the most commonly consumed supplement. If you’re considering upping your intake, just be sure to check in with a medical or dietary expert before beginning a new supplement regimen.
Stress is the body’s natural response to a threat, but when this response occurs often and even when there is no real danger present, it can increase your risk of developing serious illnesses. Moreover, both chronic and short-term stress can affect the body. Here, we take a closer look at how being stressed out impacts your health.
How Stress Works
When you become stressed, your heart rate becomes elevated and your blood pressure spikes. The stress hormone cortisol is also released, which send the body into “fight or flight” mode. Breathing becomes more rapid, and the muscles tense to prepare for action. While this response served our ancestors well in precarious situations, the effects of being in this state consistently can be harmful.
Symptoms of Stress
Stress produces a number of physical effects, including chest pain, fatigue, stomach upset, difficulty sleeping and focusing, and headaches. It’s also linked to heartburn, lower sex drive, and reproductive issues in women.
Of course, stress doesn’t just impact the physical realm. It can also alter your mood, leading to irritability or anger, lack of motivation, restlessness, and ultimately, sadness or depression. These affects can manifest through behavioral factors, too. Stressed individuals may be more likely to engage in dangerous behaviors, such as drug or tobacco use and alcohol abuse. Angry outbursts, over- or undereating, lack of exercise, and social withdrawal are also common behavioral effects.
The Serious Nature of Chronic Stress
Beyond contributing to the unfavorable conditions listed above, stress can also put you at risk for concerning conditions, including heart disease, stroke, and high blood pressure. Studies show that chronic stress is linked with inflammation, which is thought to be a culprit behind many chronic illnesses, including diabetes, heart disease, and autoimmune disorders such as multiple sclerosis. It’s suspected that stress is related to an increase in cytokines, pro-inflammatory cells which are typically used for defense against infection. When they are triggered without an infection, however, the immune system attacks itself, leading to autoimmune conditions.
How to Combat Stress
Luckily, there are many practical ways to address stress, alleviate inflammation, and lower cytokines to support better overall health. While relaxation techniques such as meditation are preferred among many individuals, others find counseling to be helpful in identifying the sources of stress and developing healthy coping mechanisms. Exercising regularly, setting aside time for personal interests, and socializing regularly can also help to alleviate tension.
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