What is stress?
Stress may be defined as the mental state when we are unable to cope comfortably with events facing us. These can occur suddenly and be short-lived or be around us for long periods of time.
This results in the release of specific chemicals or hormones into our bloodstream, namely adrenaline, noradrenaline and cortisol, triggering a stress response in the body.
When we speak of stress, we usually refer to stress on the mind or psychological stress, rather than that on the body (physical stress).
Many of us are so used to living with stress daily that we may not even understand what stress symptoms are. Here are some signs:
- Waking up in the middle of the night and unable to go back to sleep easily
- Heart palpitations and feelings of edginess
- Tightness of stomach, or abdominal cramping around events that are perceived as stressful (tight deadlines, family pressures, etc)
- Repeated Cravings for caffeine throughout the day to feel awake and boost energy
- Depressed mood, crying easily and unexpectedly
- Feelings of being overwhelmed and sense of unrelenting pressure
There are many more symptoms of stress, both physical and emotional/ mental, but if two or more of the above ring true to you, then you are likely experiencing stress.
Long term stress causes many symptoms of ill health, such as:
- high blood pressure
- neck aches, muscle tension and pain, cramps
- digestive symptoms such as diarrhoea, bloating, nausea, IBS, ulcers
- lack of appetite or over-eating and/or cravings
- sexual problems
- poor immune function
- emotional instability, crying easily, low mood or depression
How to deal with stress
Stress in today’s society is often more of a function of perception of the event being stressful vs. a real life threat. Learning to relax and practice mindfulness, even if only for a few minutes a day can help shift perception. Many find yoga, meditation, gardening, walking or simple quiet time alone or in nature can be very restorative and calming.
Good sleep will also enable our bodies to unwind and repair, yet many of us suffer from sleeping problems. To enjoy a good night sleep, it is important to have a routine, so that your brain knows it’s time to be sleepy. Avoiding the TV, work or your tablet in the bedroom will help, and many find herbal teas in the evening are soothing.
Exercise is one of the best ways to channel energy during periods of stress. Time should be taken for physical activity such as skiing, jogging, tennis, swimming or any enjoyable form of exercise. It is a fact that people in good physical condition are able to withstand periods of stress better than those who are not.
Talking to friends should help to put things into perspective. Many people come to talk to their friendly health store staff for just this reason too – social support is key.
Many people suffer from “superhumanism”: the belief that they need to support the whole world on their shoulders. It’s amazing how well the world around you continues to work if you learn to nurture yourself and give yourself a break. Don’t be afraid to take some time out for yourself.
Natural remedies for stress
Nature provides many herbs to relax and revitalize the nervous system. Passion Flower, St.John’s Wort, Rhodiola, and Valerian work gently with your body to restore balance.
Taking these herbs in an extract form can be very effective as they can be absorbed easily by your system, are non-addictive, and non-drowsy.
What is Passion flower?
Passion flower (Passiflora incarnata) is a renowned nerve tonic recommended for adults and children to treat: nervousness, insomnia, restlessness, agitation and irritability.
It aids with emotional symptoms of stress, creating a calming effect that can help support a peaceful sleep. This is extremely important because the restorative action of sleep, both physical and mental, makes the body better able to deal with the demands of the next day. Not sleeping well makes everything far harder to deal with.
What is St. John’s Wort?
Hypericum perforatum gained its common name of St John’s Wort from the fact that it is in full bloom on the midsummer birthday of St John (24th June). St. John’s Wort, the sunshine herb, not only boosts the mood but also alleviates seemingly disparate symptoms that often accompany stress, such as fatigue, nervous anxiety and tension, headache and insomnia.
St John’s Wort is suitable for cheering those who are sad and calming those who are anxious, but it should not be used for anything more than minor depression or states of anxiety. It cannot be used with other medication. Check with your doctor or health practitioner prior to taking it if you are on other medications.
What is Rhodiola?
Rhodiola rosea (Golden Root, Roseroot, Aaron’s Rod) is a medicinal herb that grows in the cold regions of the world. In Russia and Scandinavia, Rhodiola has been used for centuries to cope with cold climate and stressful life. Also called the Golden Root, it is known in Siberia that those who drink rhodiola tea live to be 100.
Rhodiola is included amongst a class of plant derivatives called adaptogens which have the ability to increase the body’s resistance to stress, trauma, anxiety and fatigue. Rhodiola has the ability to increase resistance to a variety of stresses – chemical, biological and physical.
Valerian has been used by many for all kinds of nervous conditions. According to some, its name comes from the Latin « valere » which means « to feel good, to be healthy ».
Valerian (Valeriana officinalis) reduces muscle spasm and has an impressively sedating effect on mind and body. If you are unable to sleep, Valerian can calm both your central nervous system and relax your muscles, allowing you to sleep more restfully.
This herb is perfect for short term stress requiring a fast acting remedy with no side effects.
Check with your doctor or health practitioner prior to taking it if you are on other medications.