Stress is, unfortunately, a common experience. We all know that this should not be the case, but many of us seem unable to avoid it – the modern world seems to put us under more and more pressure.
Stress can affect both our mental and physical wellbeing. It is not, in itself, a medical condition, but can lead to anxiety, low mood or depression.
There are several ways to describe stress, including:
- Positive stress
- Negative stress
- Acute or short-term stress
- Chronic or long-term stress
All of these lead to the same physiological response in our body and the release of stress chemicals such as adrenalin into our bloodstream. The purpose of these chemicals is to make our minds more alert and prepare our bodies for action.
This is known as the ‘fight or flight’ reaction and is one of the primitive reflexes we have left over from our cavemen days.
Back then, stress came about when we faced a large animal – we had to make the decision whether to run away from it or fight it so that our family could eat for a few days.
By releasing the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol, the sympathetic nervous system prepares to cope with stress.
These hormones are secreted by two glands located above the kidneys, known as the adrenal glands.
When released into the blood stream, these hormones mobilize our body to respond to stress.
Several areas of the body are affected by this process:
Your heart beats faster;
Your muscles become tense due to an influx of blood;
Your digestion slows;
Your hairs stand on end to impress your enemy(!);
Your awareness is heightened.
The fact that your hairs stand on end may seem strange, but, as in animals, this is a primitive survival response going back to the first humans.
Of course, today’s stress is quite different from that experienced by our ancestors; we are subjected to much more psychological stress than physical stress.
However, the physiological response is the same, whether you’re being attacked by a woolly mammoth or worried about arriving late at daycare.
Adrenalin triggers the instantaneous physiological responses mentioned above. Our body has to increase its metabolism of proteins, fats and carbohydrates to produce the energy required.
Then, the cortisol kicks in to maintain a constant blood-sugar level in order to keep up the flow of energy to the heart, muscles and brain. Its role is to make sure our body has constant reserves, allowing it to resist as long as possible.
So, if our body is in a continual state of alert day after day, it is always renewing its energy reserves. That’s why it deposits these reserves in an accessible spot, just above the kidneys and close to the adrenal gland, in the form of fat. This fat will eventually be converted into sugar to meet the body’s energy needs. That’s why it’s not uncommon to see highly stressed people with a stress belly!
The accelerated metabolism of certain organic substances triggers an increase in the secretion of other substances, including proteins, potassium and phosphorus, as well as a decrease in calcium reserves.
Many of the physical problems triggered by stress are actually not a direct result of stress itself, but rather of the loss of nutrients caused by accelerated metabolism during episodes of stress.
Too much unrelenting stimulus, and things tend to deteriorate into stress. Long term stress causes many symptoms of ill health:
- Eat meals at regular intervals to avoid blood sugar dips that
trigger a release of adrenaline.
Promote good digestion by chewing your food thoroughly
and taking the time to eat peacefully.
- Avoid artificial stimulants such as caffeine, alcohol and
nicotine, which trigger adrenaline release and use up stress fighting
- Avoid refined sugar, which causes blood sugar levels to
spike and dip, and also depletes magnesium.
- Get sufficient sleep. If sleeping is a problem, take natural
sleeping remedies, practice meditation and use relaxation
techniques to help you calm down before bed.
- Moderate exercise will improve oxygenation of tissues and
release endorphins, the “happy” chemicals that improve
your mood. For example, gentle walking releases muscle
tension and clears the mind… unless you do it in a bustling
downtown or on a divided highway.
- Talking to friends should help to put things into perspective.
Oats are rich in vitamin B and calming agents that gently reduce the physical and emotional effects of stress while nourishing the nervous system. It’s the ideal solution for situations where the stress just won’t let up.
When combined with Avenaforce, Passion flower has a slightly stronger effect, easing muscular tension and relieving nervousness. Its calming effect is beneficial for people who are constantly on edge. It also improves the quality of sleep and can be taken both short and long term in combination with other remedies.
If you’re looking for a faster, more targeted effect, use Valerian. It reduces muscle spasms and has an impressive sedating effect on both mind and body. Perfect for short-term stress calling for a fast-acting remedy with no side effects. Do not take Valerian along with other sedatives.
St. John’s Wort
St. John’s wort has a positive effect on blues and mood swings. It also acts on the nervousness that can lead to depression. St John's Wort is not suitable to be taken with other medication. Please consult label before use.
To make up for the loss of nutrients, try a supplement rich in vitamin B that has a positive and nourishing effect on the nervous system, such as Bio-Strath.
So, next time your heart rate starts racing and you get butterflies in your stomach, take a step back and assess the situation. Is it a matter of life and death?
How we act and react in the face of the events that life throws at us has a direct effect on our level of stress.
It’s better to tap into all that energy to stop the defence mechanism that’s been triggered.
And don’t worry, there’s no woolly mammoth on your heels!
If you are taking tranquillizers, sedatives or antidepressants, it isn't wise to take herbs that have similar effects as well. If you feel your medication isn't working, consult your physician and either change medications or simply try a natural product instead.