Mental Health

UR.Life’s Instant Stress Reduction Toolkit

From omega-3 fatty acids to breathing techniques, explore natural remedies to combat stress.

By URLife Team
20 Jun 2023

With stress becoming an inevitable aspect of our lives, it is crucial to understand how stress affects our brain and body, and ways to effectively manage and prevent its negative impact. Learn about the three main types of stress, the surprising benefits of certain types of stress on our immune system, and practical tools to control stress in real-time and prevent long-term stress-related issues.


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What is Stress?

Stress is the body's natural response to demands or pressures, whether physical, mental, or emotional. It triggers a cascade of physiological and psychological reactions, preparing us to cope with challenging situations. However, prolonged or excessive stress can have detrimental effects on our well-being.


The system that governs what we commonly refer to as stress is not specifically designed for one purpose. Instead, it is a generic system that can take control of our brain and body in various situations. This characteristic gives it an advantage in influencing our physiological and psychological state. However, this generic nature of the stress response system also provides us with an advantage because it is based on hard-wired biological mechanisms.


These mechanisms consist of cells, chemicals, pathways, and tissues within your body. They are not dependent on neuroplasticity, which refers to the brain's ability to change and adapt. This means that you have the inherent capabilities to put a brake on stress without requiring significant changes in your brain's structure.


The stress response system is genetically encoded within you, and you were born with it. It is a part of your biology and accompanies you throughout your life. This system includes various mechanisms that allow you to control stress and distress. These mechanisms are like built-in tools that are available to you.


For example, one of the mechanisms is the ability to activate the relaxation response through deep breathing, which can help counteract the effects of stress. Another mechanism involves engaging in activities like exercise or spending time in nature, which can release chemicals in your brain that promote feelings of calmness and well-being.


Related story: De-Stress In Four Minutes With Box Breathing


Types of Stress

Acute Stress

This is the most common type of stress and occurs in response to immediate threats or challenges. Acute stress activates our fight-or-flight response, mobilising energy and resources to deal with the situation. It is typically short-lived and does not pose significant harm to our health.


Episodic Acute Stress

Some individuals experience frequent episodes of acute stress, leading to a pattern of episodic acute stress. This can arise from a chaotic or overwhelming lifestyle, constant rushing, or always being in crisis mode. Episodic acute stress can have more pronounced negative effects on our well-being.


Chronic Stress

When stress persists over a long period, it becomes chronic stress. It often stems from ongoing issues like financial difficulties, relationship problems, or job-related stress. Chronic stress can disrupt our physical and mental health, contributing to various illnesses and disorders.


Related story: Five Ways To Relax Yourself In Stressful Situations


Surprising Benefits of Stress On The Immune System

While chronic stress can impair immune function, acute and episodic acute stress can surprisingly enhance the immune response. During short-term stress, the body releases stress hormones that temporarily boost the immune system's activity, making us less vulnerable to infections. This phenomenon, known as "stress-induced immunoprotection," showcases the intricate relationship between stress and our immune system.


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Best Tool for Real-Time Stress Management

Deep Breathing Exercises

Slow, deep breaths can activate the body's relaxation response, reducing stress and promoting a sense of calm. One such tool to de-stress is the physiological sigh, a natural breathing pattern that can help calm both our mind and body. By understanding how our brain, diaphragm, and phrenic nerve work together, we can learn to use the power of lengthening our exhales to slow down our heart rate and feel calm. Let us explore the science behind the physiological sigh and share simple techniques to incorporate them into your daily routine.


The Physiology Behind The Sigh

The physiological sigh is when we take a deep breath and let out a long exhale. This happens because our diaphragm, a muscle below our lungs, contracts and pulls down when we sigh. It's like taking in a lot of air and releasing it slowly. This deep breath triggers our body's relaxation response by activating the parasympathetic nervous system, which helps us calm down.


Lengthening The Exhale To Calm Down

To make the most of the physiological sigh, we can focus on making our exhales longer during breathing exercises. By doing this, we activate the parasympathetic nervous system even more, which helps reduce stress hormones like cortisol and slow down our heart rate. Many relaxation practices, like yoga and meditation, have used this technique for centuries.


Try The Double Inhale-Exhale Technique

One simple technique to enhance the benefits of the physiological sigh is the double inhale-exhale. Start by taking a slow, deep breath through your nose, letting your belly expand. When you reach the peak of your breath, exhale through your mouth with a gentle sighing sound. Repeat this pattern, taking two breaths in and two breaths out, with each, exhale longer and more relaxed than the inhale.


The double inhale-exhale technique helps you engage your diaphragm more actively, amplifying the effects of the physiological sigh. By deliberately making your exhales longer, you can create a sense of calm and relaxation in your body.


How It Affects Your Heart Rate

Research shows that exhale-emphasised breathing techniques, like the physiological sigh, directly influence heart rate variability (HRV). HRV measures the time between heartbeats and reflects how well our bodies handle stress. When our HRV is high, it means we can regulate our emotions better, reduce anxiety, and become more resilient. By lengthening our exhales, we can improve our HRV and create a state of relaxation and calm.


Incorporating the Physiological Sigh into Daily Life

To make the most of the physiological sigh, try incorporating it into your daily routine. Set aside a few minutes each day for focused breathing exercises. You can do this in the morning to start your day calmly or in the evening to unwind before bed. Practising these techniques regularly will help you manage stress and improve your overall well-being.



In his podcast on ‘Tools for Managing Stress and Anxiety’, Dr Huberman explains and reviews tools that allow us to control our stress in real-time, as well as tools to prevent long-term stress.


Related story: Yoga Poses To helpm You Destress


Preventing Long-Term Stress and Burnout

Work-Life Balance

Prioritise self-care, set boundaries, and allocate time for activities that bring you joy and relaxation. Engage in hobbies, spend time with loved ones, and create a healthy balance between work and personal life.


Time Management

Develop effective time management strategies to avoid feeling overwhelmed. Prioritise tasks, delegate responsibilities when possible, and avoid procrastination.


Healthy Lifestyle

Maintain a well-balanced diet, prioritise regular sleep patterns, and limit caffeine and alcohol consumption. These practices contribute to overall resilience and stress reduction.


Social Support

Seek support from trusted friends, family, or professional counsellors. Sharing your feelings and concerns with others can alleviate stress and provide valuable perspectives.


Related story: Just Ten Minutes of Body Massage or Rest Will Reduce Body Stress


Supplements to Combat Stress

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids are essential fats that play a crucial role in maintaining our overall health, including brain function and emotional well-being. They are commonly found in fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, and sardines, as well as in flaxseeds, chia seeds, and walnuts. Research suggests that omega-3 fatty acids have anti-inflammatory properties and can help reduce symptoms of stress and anxiety. They may also support the production of neurotransmitters like serotonin, which is known to regulate mood. Adding omega-3 supplements to your diet can be beneficial, especially if you don't consume enough fatty fish or plant-based sources of these healthy fats.


Omega-6 Fatty Acids

Similar to omega-3 fatty acids, omega-6 fatty acids are essential fats that our body needs but cannot produce on its own. They are found in various vegetable oils, such as sunflower oil, corn oil, and soybean oil. While omega-6 fatty acids are necessary for our health, it's important to maintain a balanced ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fats. Usually, the intake of omega-6 fatty acids is often high compared to omega-3 fatty acids, which can lead to an imbalance. However, when consumed in the right ratio, omega-6 fatty acids contribute to the normal functioning of the brain and help manage stress. It's advisable to consult a doctor to determine the appropriate balance for your specific dietary needs.



Ashwagandha is an ancient herb commonly used in Ayurvedic medicine to help combat stress and promote relaxation. It is considered an adaptogen, which means it can help the body adapt to stress and maintain balance. Ashwagandha has been shown to reduce cortisol levels, the primary stress hormone, and support the body's natural stress response. It may also improve sleep quality, boost mood, and enhance overall well-being. Ashwagandha supplements are available in various forms, such as capsules or powders, and can be a valuable addition to your stress management routine.



Magnesium is a mineral that plays a vital role in many biochemical processes in our body, including nerve function and mood regulation. During times of stress, our magnesium levels can become depleted, which may contribute to increased anxiety and tension. Supplementing with magnesium can help restore optimal levels and promote relaxation. Magnesium supplements are available in different forms, such as magnesium citrate or magnesium glycinate. It's worth noting that excessive magnesium intake can have a laxative effect, so it's important to follow recommended dosage guidelines and consult with a doctor if you have any underlying health conditions.


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Remember, while supplements can be beneficial for stress management, it's important to adopt a holistic approach that includes healthy lifestyle practices, such as regular exercise, balanced nutrition, quality sleep, and stress-reducing activities. Consult with a doctor or nutritionist to determine the right supplements and dosages for your individual needs and to ensure they won't interfere with any existing medications or conditions.


Regular health checks are essential for everyone, but they are particularly important for individuals who are at risk of or already have chronic stress. Taking regular health checks can help detect chronic stress at an early stage when it is easier to manage and treat. With the UR.Life HRA, we help you to invest in your well-being through seamless interventions and targeted medical treatments. Our holistic wellness approach caters to all aspects of your well-being. We ensure that you can bring your whole self to work.

With our medical professionals by your side, routine health check-ups will never be an issue. Advanced laboratory technologies back UR.Life’s Occupational Health Centers (OHC), and with highly qualified experts/technicians, we’re committed to delivering trusted and quality recommendations, modifications and advice to you.



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