We tackle how to combat the bane of many people’s lives with natural remedies.
What is stress exactly?
To look at it in scientific terms it is a physical reaction by the body to a pressurised situation, which activates the ‘fight or flight’ mode and prepares us for action. A complex blend of chemicals and hormones such as adrenaline, cortisol and norepinephrine are naturally released and so we feel a surge of energy as they enter our system en masse. We also experience a more intense focus as we prepare ourselves for ‘battle’. The knock on effect of this is that our system is altered during such surges, for example the digestive system will be put on hold, and blood will be diverted to different appropriate muscles, in order to approach the impending ‘danger’ to the best of our abilities.
This reaction was all well and good when we were combatting sabre-toothed tigers and woolly mammoth attacks, as is it just as effective today when we need to dodge a speeding car or catch a child from falling from a climbing frame; however, problems arise when we experience regular negative stress due to such pressures as work deadlines or money problems, for example. When blood flow is going only to the most important muscles needed to fight or flee, brain function is minimised. This can lead to an inability to ‘think straight’; a state that is a great hindrance in both our work and home lives. If we remain under such stress levels for long periods, it can be detrimental to our health. The results of having elevated cortisol levels can be an increase in sugar and blood pressure levels, and a decrease in libido.
If, during such stressful states we go in to “flight” mode, we would be assuming the approach of running from the situation, which, if actually in a dangerous life-threatening moment, would potentially save our lives. However in modern times it may just involve us running from that which causes the stress rather than dealing with it. This removal of ourselves from the situation can cause prolonged and heightened stress levels as the situation escalates rather than being tackled.
If we opt for ‘fight’ mode on the other hand we may experience an exaggerated negative reaction towards others around us, our agitation can be expressed in agressive attitudes and behaviour, which otherwise would be uncharacteristic. In a dangerous situation this could ward off the imposing threat – in daily life it can potentially ruin relationships and personal reputations.
So, we can see that our instinctual responses are essential, yet problematic. So how do we best deal with the modern-day life where stress is as common an issue as getting enough sleep?
I have researched plenty of different ways to tackle the beast and here is a list of natural approaches we can utilise to reduce our stress levels, and to learn to handle it better.
Practice mindfulness and attention to self
This may come in the form of meditation, a brisk walk, a stretch or full on yoga session, or simply a cup of herbal tea in a quiet space. So many doctors, holistic practitioners and gurus on stress all concur that paying attention to yourself is vital in attaining a calm and stress-reduced attitude. We must take a little time out each morning to hear ourselves think, sit and have a cup of tea somewhere peaceful, get some rays of sunshine on your face, meditate and find your balance or just go for that walk around the block. Whatever it is you do make sure it is enjoyable and more importantly ensure that you do it every day. Carve out this personal time and lower your feelings of anxiety and stress hormones while improving your attention span. Practicing mindfulness can induce an immense improvement to our stress levels, taking deep breaths; mindful breathing for five minutes a day can really lift our spirits and prevent us hanging on negative emotions.
Gratitude is also a wonderful tonic in the battle against stress. There are many studies which show that our minds cannot entertain both fear and gratitude simultaneously and so if we practice gratitude, call a loved one and express what you are thankful for, make a note of all your blessings, for example, such minor activities can alleviate fears and stresses from our day.
Mind what you eat
This is an obvious thing to do for our general wellbeing, but diet also has a huge impact on our ability to deal with stress. The main things we need to do to achieve this is to get the daily recommendations of all 60 minerals, 16 vitamins and 12 amino acids, plus the two fatty acids that our bodies cannot make alone, and avoid inflammatory foods. The fuel we take in to our bodies is what drives us, it is what enables us to interact positively, or negatively, throughout the day. One way to prove this to yourself is to make a personal trial and try to keep conditions as similar as possible, so perhaps on two work mornings, for example. On the first day try eating something inflammatory, lacking in vitamins and minerals for breakfast. The next morning try something full of fruit, eggs and a smoothie, and note the difference of how you tackled the morning, how you felt at a certain time following your meal and how you handled difficult or challenging situations. Did you feel fatigued or energised? Certain foods can actually help to relieve stress. Good fats can calm us as they support nerve function – try adding coconut, avocado and salmon into your diet. Certain amino acids also support our balance and assist in regulating our moods. Tryptophan is an example of this and can be found in nuts, seeds, tofu, cheeses, red meat, chicken, fish, beans, lentils and eggs.
Practice yoga, better still practice yoga outside – the combination of the mind-body practice and a few rays of sunshine plus the connection to nature really reduces stress whilst at the same time boosting our immune function. Try to take walks in nature, go barefoot and step in the sand, through a river, over uneven terrain and reconnect to the energy nature provides. It is something we regularly take for granted but we are part of the planet and the practice of ‘earthing’ ourselves is a powerful tool to achieving vibrant health.
If your surroundings are not peaceful, it will be problematic to achieve personal calm. Reduce your distractions and eliminate clutter from your personal space. Minimise noise and if possible create an opening to the outside world, have plants nearby.
Strengthening your social connections also helps in the process to reduce stress as it strengthens bonds and relieves a lot of otherwise kept in feelings and thoughts, if we allow our negativity to fester or build up it can be progressively difficult to alleviate. Friends and loved ones can help to release such negativity as can making time to listen to songs you like, writing something down, going out and doing something you enjoy.
A balance of these six life pointers can help us in the alleviation and prevention of negative stress. If this alone does not help you then there are plenty of homeopathic remedies which may work as well as aromatherapy relief:
Aconitum napellus, Gelsemium, Natrum muriaticum, Pulsatilla, Sepia, Ashwagandha, Holy basil, Rhodiola, are all effective herbs and homeopathic treatments for stress, anxiety and worries, depression, mental pressures, hormonal fluctuations, healthy immune system, nervousness, panic, insomnia, fatigue, lack of energy and endurance.
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