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From Mushrooms To Breathwork — Our Favorite Bite-Sized Practices For Less Stress

May 16, 2024
Branded Content Editor
Image by Ivan Marjanovic / istock
May 16, 2024

Stress management is on everyone's mind and social feeds. So why are stress levels still sitting at an all-time high? According to a recent survey, 55% of Americans feel stressed during the day. But when it comes to stress management, 36% of adults say they don't know where to start. A quarter of adults share that they need a lot more support than they're currently getting.

We're collectively overwhelmed by stress. A yoga class, therapist, or mindfulness book may be a stone's throw away, but we don't always have the time or resources. What we need are "bite-sized" practices, accessible rituals we can sprinkle throughout our day. After all, research1 confirms that when it comes to change, it's the small steps that lead to lasting success.

Six new ways to support your stress levels

Maybe you're thinking, "I've heard this all before." Sometimes a few deep breaths are no match for the stress you're carrying, and hey, we get it. That's why we took a refreshed approach to this mental health tool kit. From the adaptogenic support of Gaia Herbs' Turkey Tail and Lion's Mane Mushroom to movements that soothe your vagus nerve, these practices fit into even the busiest days. And more importantly: They work. 

1. Work with functional mushrooms

Functional mushrooms are edible mushrooms that can carry adaptogenic properties2—meaning, these fungal friends support how our nervous system responds to stress.* Clinical studies have shown that in the presence of stress, adaptogens boost our resilience and attention2.* So how about enjoying these benefits every single day

Gaia Herbs, the brand known for its transparent and sustainable sourcing, has made functional mushrooms more accessible at a higher quality. In addition to supporting stress, their Turkey Tail Mushroom capsules promote healthy liver and immune function, while the Lion's Mane Mushroom capsules are formulated to support brain and neurological health.* 

What you really need to know is that these supplements are made from the fruiting bodies of mushrooms, where the beneficial compounds are shown to be highest. Whereas many brands source their 'shrooms from mycelium (the root of the mushroom), Gaia Herbs knows that your body deserves the very best. 

2. Take deep belly breaths

Taking a deep breath here or there provides momentary relief, but getting more technical about our breathing is transformative. When stressed, we tend to take shallow breaths in the upper lungs using the rib cage and abdominal muscles. Instead, try simple diaphragmatic breathing or "belly breathing."

On your inhale, direct your breath to the base of your belly; then fill your chest. As this breath extends your lungs into the diaphragm, it signals to your physiology that it's safe to relax. Diaphragmatic breathing is proven3 to lower physiological and psychological stress. 

3. Activate your vagus nerve

The vagus nerve oversees our parasympathetic nervous system, governing important functions like digestion, heart rate, and immunity. Stimulating the vagus nerve4 is suggested to support mood, anxiety, and stress.

Here's a simple practice: With your head straight forward, look all the way to the right with your eyes for 30 seconds. Then look to the left with your eyes for 30 seconds. Your eyes increase blood flow to the vagus nerve, so don't be surprised if you yawn or suddenly feel sleepy—it's working!

Image by Victor Bordera / Stocksy

4. Put your stress on paper

Putting pen to paper has been proven5 to enhance physical well-being and emotional coping. But sometimes journaling can feel awkward or tedious. Instead of sitting down with something to say, practice free writing. Pen whatever comes to mind, without stopping to analyze. It doesn't have to be sensical, legible, or grammatically correct. Give yourself 10 minutes to transcribe your thoughts, and see how much lighter you feel.

5. Work with quality herbs

"Spending time in nature" is a stress management tip we've heard a thousand times. We're all about a walk in the sunshine, but there are other powerful ways to connect with nature, like working with herbs (or again, mushrooms.)

Ashwagandha, for example, is a popular Ayurvedic herb connected to stress resistance6.* Incorporating herbs can open up a new door to supporting your mental health, but it's important to choose high-quality products like Gaia Herbs' Ashwagandha Root. It's sourced straight from India with transparency and traceability and it is your herbal support for coping with stress in a healthy way.*

Ashwagandha Root

6. Boost your oxytocin 

There's a reason a long hug from a loved one or snuggle sesh with your pet almost instantly improves your mood. Studies7 show that increasing oxytocin, our feel-good hormone, can serve as a "buffer" in stressful situations. Touch is an excellent oxytocin booster, but so is yoga, listening to music, talking with a close friend, or eating your favorite food.

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

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