Dealing with Stress
Stress is the body’s way of responding to and protecting against physical or emotional threats, whether real or imagined. It isn’t necessarily bad since it can motivate and help you to focus, but constant stress can have severe effects on both mind and body.
The nervous system responds to stress by increasing production of the hormones adrenaline and cortisol which cause the heart to beat faster, raising blood pressure and sharpening the senses. However, too much stress can affect an individual’s ability to cope, compromise the immune system, upset digestion and increase the risk of heart attack or stroke. It may also increase vulnerability to anxiety, depression and other mental health problems. Many physical conditions such as irritable bowel, eczema, insomnia and pain can be caused or exacerbated by stress.
Individuals may experience stress in response to a wide range of physical and emotional stimuli including pain, violence, major life changes, relationship or financial difficulties, and unrealistic expectations. Signs of chronic stress include poor memory and ability to concentrate, constant worrying, irritability, feelings of isolation, low libido, eating or sleeping too much or too little, and neglecting responsibilities.
A good network of supportive family and friends combined with an optimistic outlook and strong sense of humour can help protect against stress. Proper interaction with real people is recommended. Don’t sit at home logged into social media – it can actually make you feel more isolated, especially if you dwell on what a wonderful time everyone else seems to be having.
When stressed, people often crave sugary snacks and highly processed foods. Try to adopt a healthy diet and reduce your consumption of caffeine and alcohol.
Herbs can help reduce the effects of stress and restore emotional balance. Valdrian® (Valerian) has been used for centuries to reduce tension, anxiety and over-excitability, its sedative effect due to the constituents valepotriates and isovaleric acid. It is a valuable treatment for sleep disturbances and its antispasmodic action makes it an appropriate remedy where pain is associated with tension. Passiflora is also helpful in the treatment of sleep disorders, irritability, anxiety, and spasm induced by nervous tension. Neurotone®, a traditional remedy containing the herbs Hops, Skullcap and Valerian, helps relieve stress-induced symptoms too.
Regular exercise releases endorphins that help to lift your mood. Relaxation is important too, and techniques such as yoga or meditation will help induce feelings of calmness and restore emotional balance. Chamomile is a wonderfully gentle relaxant and a cup of chamomile tea is particularly beneficial for children affected by anxiety and nervous irritability. Melissa, another calming herb, is of particular value in the treatment of agitation, nervous digestive complaints, sleeping problems, melancholy and grief.
Panax Ginseng can be helpful in dealing with physical and mental exhaustion, enhancing the body’s resistance to external stresses and improving physical and mental performance. It improves the responses of the adrenal glands in secreting the stress hormones. It should not be taken continuously – occasional use or courses of 1 month followed by a 2 month interval are recommended.
Finally, you should consider taking a Vitamin B-complex supplement. The B-vitamins are essential for maintaining the health of the brain and nervous system, and depletion of B-vitamins is more marked in those who drink lots of alcohol or who suffer from stress.
The above information is for guidance only, and is not intended to take the place of diagnosis and treatment by a qualified practitioner. If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, or taking any other medication, you should seek advice from a health professional.