Stress is a physiological reaction by the body in response to a real or perceived threat.
Being in a state of stress is also known as being in the sympathetic nervous system state, commonly known as ‘fight or flight’.
Our body pumps out cortisol & adrenaline, heart rate increases, blood is diverted to our limbs, our pupils dilate, & we prepare for battle.
The other, much preferred option is known as the parasympathetic nervous system state, ‘rest, digest, & reproduce’. Our muscles relax, blood heads toward our abdomen to digest our food, breath slows down, and our heart rate decreases. In this state we digest our food, create important hormones & neurotransmitters, & feel calm.
The problem today is that our body doesn’t know the difference between actual life-threatening situations (the classic example is being chased by a sabre-toothed tiger), or a perceived, future threat (an email ping from your demanding boss, a call from your frosty mother-in-law, *insert your choice of unpleasantness here*).
Stress is necessary to keep us safe and alive, which is a pretty important task. However, prolonged, high stress states can lead to serious, detrimental health consequences.
What can stress look like?
Shortness of breath
Change in bowel motions
A feeling of heaviness on the chest
Rapid heart beats
Headaches or migraines
Weight loss or weight gain
Cravings – sugar & caffeine are the most common
10 Things You Can Do Right Now:
Eliminate the stressor
I’ve started with the most challenging. Quit the job you hate, leave a relationship that isn’t serving you, or minimise the time you spend in the space that makes you feel anxious or stressed.
2. Decrease stimulants
I’m sorry, I really am, but your third cup of joe at 5pm is not going to make you feel relaxed, nor more alert. Switch it out for green or black tea, or a kombucha. You’re a health goddess already.
Stimulants include caffeine, energy drinks, sugar, alcohol (classically a depressant, but I’ve listed it here as it drastically interferes with our sleep), drugs, & some medications.
3. Increase your phytonutrient intake
Now we’re talking! Eat a wide variety of fresh, whole food. Your meals should be full of vegetables & full of colour. As a bonus you’ll be getting in lots of fibre which helps you to feel satisfied, feeds your glorious microbiome, regulates your bowels, & clears excess hormones from your body.
4. Reframe your current situation
Is it possible to put a positive spin on where you are? Write a gratitude list. I know it sounds corny, but commit to trying it just once, and see how you feel. Write down 5 things right now!
Mindfulness and mediation are also beautiful practices to help reframe your situation.
5. Deep belly breathing
This technique is scientifically proven to click (I like to say trick!) your nervous system into the parasympathetic state. Extend your exhalation, & put your legs up the wall (viparita karani) & you’re nailing calm.
6. Have a siesta
Studies have shown that a 20 – 30 minute naps decreases circulating cortisol levels. Beware, any longer and you’ll feel more exhausted than before the nap. Be kind to your future self and set an alarm.
7. Check out the trees
Another proven technique to lower cortisol & a great excuse to go for a walk break while you’re at work & stare at trees.
8. Move, breathe, move
Do nourishing movement. Walking, yin yoga, tai chi, gentle pilates, stretching, strolling, choose your own adventure.
9. Work with a qualified health practitioner
Find someone you align with & book in. I am obviously bias here, but personalised, bio-individualised treatment from a practitioner that resonates with you cannot be underestimated. And no, that Instagram influencer who lives in leggings does not count!
10. Support yourself through supplementation
Some key nutrients that we burn through when we’re stressed include magnesium, B-vitamins, vitamin C & zinc.
Herbal medicine is wonderful to support a highly stressed nervous system. Some of my favourites nervines and adaptogens include Withania (Ashwaghanda), Skullcap, Rhodiola, Siberian Ginseng, Passionflower, and Licorice.
Nutrients and herbal medicine prescriptions will differ dramatically from person to person, and situation to situation. To book in for a session with one of our experienced naturopaths click here.