Managing Daily Stress
Stress is a natural, evolutionary body response. You will instinctively react to stress with a fight, flight or freeze type reaction. It may be an acute stressful event such as an exam or public speaking, or it may be the ongoing challenge of raising kids, the daily commute, or financial pressures. Your body will still have a response, even if you do not feel like you’re stressed. You don’t have to be ripping your hair out to be suffering from the effects of stress.
Symptoms of Stress
Stress can be an underlying factor behind a myriad of health conditions, and can present itself in many different ways. Symptoms of acute, current stress include: low energy, difficulty sleeping, poor memory and concentration, mood changes, and digestive disturbances. Long term stress may lead to hormonal and thyroid imbalances, obesity, and a weakened immune system. Stress can be both a cause and a consequence of ill health, which is why it is so important to deal with your stress now. Not only will you feel better now, but it will benefit your health in the future.
Steps to Take to De-Stress
There are steps you can take to reduce the effects of stress and help you manage life’s challenges. Herbal medicine, nutrients, diet and lifestyle factors all play a role.
A class of herbs known as ‘adaptogens’ may be helpful to increase your body’s physical and mental capacity to cope with stress. Traditional adaptogenic herbs include withania, gynostemma, rehmannia and rhodiola. If stress makes you uptight you may also need anxiolytic herbs. These help reduce feelings of anxiety and promote more restful sleep so you can handle the challenges your day has for you more easily. Passionflower, zizyphus, and bacopa are all anxiolytic herbs that have been extensively studied for their mild sedative and calming effects.
Some vital nutrients are also important in times of stress and include:
- Magnesium - Stress reduces your stores of magnesium, and a low level of magnesium in the body may actually make the effects of stress worse! You need to replenish your magnesium levels to support a healthy nervous system.
- B vitamins - These help to support stress moderating brain chemicals called neurotransmitters to keep you in a good mood. B vitamins also help improve your energy levels.
- Essential fatty acids - These are an important building block for the brain and nervous system, and can help support healthy mood.
Stress Busting Diet and Lifestyle Tips
- Eat healthy – lean proteins, antioxidant-rich fresh fruits and vegetables and essential fatty acids from oily fish, nuts and seeds, all nourish your neurotransmitters.
- Exercise regularly – a fabulous stress buster, exercise helps burn up excess adrenaline whilst releasing the ‘feel good’ chemical messengers, the ‘endorphins’.
- Get enough sleep (seven to eight hours) – practice good ‘sleep hygiene’ techniques such as no TV or computer time for at least half an hour before bedtime and avoid caffeine in the afternoons.
- Meditate – particularly helpful if you cannot “switch off” your brain at night. There are numerous techniques available to help calm an overactive mind.
Stress is an inevitable part of modern lifestyles, but it needn’t get the better of you nor keep you from reaching your health goals. With the right support and strategies you can regain control over the stress in your life.