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Aug 8st

Diffusing your Daily Stress

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stressStress is something we all encounter in our lives. Most of us have accepted it as “just something we have to put up with”. But beyond making us frazzled, stress can have a huge negative impact on our health, disrupt our sleep and keep us from reaching our full potential.

What IS stress?

The word Stress was coined in the 1930’s by a man named Hans Selye, and defined as “the non-specific response of the body to any demand for change.” Stress can be hard to quantify because each of us will experience in in different ways and to varying degrees in any given situation. How we respond to stress is greatly affected by our individual expectations and perception.
Acute stress, like being chased by a dog will trigger a chain reaction in the brain to the adrenal glands prompting them to release epinephrine (adrenaline) which allows us to react quickly. This process is known as the fight or flight response. If the threat is ongoing the adrenal glands release cortisol which acts like a gas pedal keeping our fight or flight response active. With ongoing stress the Adrenal glands are forced to produce a continuous supply of these “emergency hormones” but over time will become exhausted and unresponsive leaving us unable to respond to stress.hairloss

Continuous stress impacts our health in many negative ways. The fight or flight response optimizes our heart function, lungs and muscles does this at the cost of “secondary” body
functions such as digestion, growth, some hormones and brain function. Over time this manifests as digestive issues, IBS, sleep disruptions, hairloss, weight gain, thyroid dysfunction, skin issues, anxiety, depression and sexual dysfunction. High levels of Adrenaline also damages veins and arteries, leading to an increase risk of heart attack and stroke.

Eating for stress

Coffee and energy drinks may seem tempting when you are feeling stressed and run down, but stimulants put even more stress on those already tired adrenal glands and leave you feeling StressReducingFoods2even more burnt out in the long run.  Skip the sugar caffeine fix and instead indulge in some healthy mood boosting foods like avocados, nuts, pumpkin seeds, celery or fresh fruit. Your body will thank you for the nutrients and you wont be left feeling the crash later in the day. Eating lots of cooked leafy greens like swiss chard, spinach and kale will boost your magnesium levels, helping to keep muscles relaxed and improving sleep.

What About those stress supplements?

There is no shortage of supplements at the healthfood store promising to end your stress. Many of these products are helpful, but supplements should only make up a small part of your stress toolbox. Herbs and supplements can help us better navigate through stressful life events and offer us some balance as we make permanent lifestyle changes.

Herbs such as rhodiola, relora, ashwaghanda, ginsing and tulsi all have strong adaptogenic qualities, meaning they are good for helping us adapt to change and better mediate stress. Furthermore each of these herbs also have specific niches of action which can help target specific stress. An example of this is rhodiola which in addition to it’s stress managing abilities also improves concentration ans mental performance making it ideal for students stressed about exams. Adaptogens are not a quick fix and you need to take them for several weeks before you experience significant relief.tea

Another group of herbs with sedative qualities can help more immediately. Nerve tonics and sedatives such as valerian, skullcap, chamomile, hops and lavender can be taken as a tea to help release stress and anxiety and help you sleep.

Herbs can be used as teas, capsules, tinctures, herbal baths or essential oils and are quite powerful. It is important to remember that although natural, herbs are chemically active and may interfere with medications or health conditions. It is always best to take them under the care of a healthcare practitioner, especially is you have a pre existing condition.

Homeopathy

Homeopathy can be helpful in getting to the root cause of stress as well as alleviating the immediate symptoms. Everyone’s stress is unique and made up of a personal life story of things that have influenced their current state of health. As a homeopath I work with patients to discover the underlying patterns and circumstances that have lead to their current health concerns and treat them as a whole person keeping all of these components in mind. Because homeopathic treatment, like stress is unique to each individual it can be extremely successful as a long term and permanent treatment.

Craniosacral therapy

Stress has a tremendous toll physically on the body. As tension builds muscles tighten leading to changes in posture, feelings of CSTnervousness and pain. The tension created in the muscles makes it increasingly difficult to relax creating a vicious cycle of increasing stress. Craniosacral work puts the patient in a very deep state of relaxation known as stillpoints. While in a stillpoint the fight or flight response is temporarily shut off allowing the system to reset. By releasing tension and bringing the body back into alignment a craniosacral therapist can undo the physical effects of stress. When working with patients I will often  hold them in a still point providing a safe space for them to invite to the surface and work through mental and emotional stressors from a place of calm and clarity. Often this deep personal work takes place in silence and I simply act as a conduit for calm.

Reducing stress is an active process, like exercise and requires a multi faceted approach to be successful. People who actively pursue stress reduction have increased optimism, energy and productivity are more successful ,healthier, score higher on cognitive function tests, report greater joy and fulfilment from relationships and are able to experience and bounce back quicker from acute stress.