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Stress

General characteristics

General characteristics

Stress is a commonly used word that covers a wide range of emotional states (such as anxiety, fear, sadness, apprehension etc) that ultimately result in very specific physical and emotional effects within the body. The factors causing the person to experience stress may range from an obvious danger (such as a lion approaching) to a more personal trigger such as an impending exam or job interview. Either way the cascade of physical effects that stress triggers are always the same.


The pathways of stress are complex and many mysteries still remain. In response to a perceived threat or stressful line of thought, the brain is stimulated to release hormones which act upon the adrenal glands and stimulate the release of the hormone cortisol into the blood. When the body decides that cortisol levels are adequate, the release of cortisol is stopped but it is thought that when stress is chronic, the feedabck loop is disrupted and cotisol continues to be realesed, flooding the body.  Cortisol and other hormones (such as adrenalin) cause the kidneys to reabsorb more water and produce less urine, the blood vessels are constricted and blood pressure is raised, the heart rate increases, the lungs dilate, the liver to release more glucose, digestion of foods is delayed, blood is pumped to the major muscles, all in preperation to flee from a threat and provide the body with the energy and blood supply it needs in order to do so. This is a normal response to stress and the body quickly rebalances once the 'threat' has passed.

However when stress is experienced regularly (such as long term worrying) the body's immune response becomes exhausted leading to less resistance to infection, sluggish lymph nodes and fluids, high blood pressure and risk of cardiovascular damage, insomnia, adrenal burnout and chronic fatigue, depression, an increase in belly fat, diabetes, skin problems, joint problems, calcification of the pineal gland and many more health problems.

The physical stress response is a normal and useful aid in many ways that can serve to both motivate us and protect us from physical harm. However, problems can occur when stress becomes a regular part of daily life and little is done to counteract its effects on the body.

Healing objectives are to provide the body with the best nutrition available, to remove any stressful occurrences wherever possible and to help the body to experience long periods of rest and relaxation.


Diet and lifestyle

Diet and lifestyle

Eat a varied diet rich in whole foods such as fresh vegetables, fruits, grains, nuts, seeds and herbal teas to ensure that the body is well supplied with key nutrients that are consumed in large quantities during stressful times. Key nutrients include the B vitamins, calcium, magnesium, potassium and zinc.

Make sure you eat regular meals as skipping meals can lead to low blood sugar and promote feelings of anxiety and unease.

Avoid consuming stimulants such as coffee, colas, and other caffeinated drinks and alcohol if chronic stress is a problem for you. Caffeine stimulates the release of cortisol which is a key component in the stress pathway.

Include spices such as cumin seeds and turmeric in your foods for their anti-stress effects.

A few pieces of high quality dark chocolate daily may help to reduce stress levels. Raw unprocessed chocolate nibs are best for this and high in many useful nutrients.

Make sure you are getting plenty of sleep if you are under a lot of stress.


Useful herbs

Useful herbs

A very useful class of herbs that can be used to help protect the body againgst the effects of long term stress are the adaptogens. They include Siberian ginseng (Eleuthrococcus), Rhodiola root, Astragalus root, Reishi and other medicinal mushrooms, Pfaffia, Schisandra and Ashwagandha.

A daily tea made with a teaspoon each of nettle, raspberry leaf, oatstraw and gotu kola will provide many nutrients that help to calm and nourish the nervous system.

Herbs that help to relax the body and mind include the dried herbs of chamomile, lime blossom, lemon balm. valerian, passion flower, motherwort, oats, skullcap and wood betony.

Crampbark eases muscular tension and can aid relaxation.

Celery seeds could also be useful.


Natural healing

Natural healing

Make sure you have a daily routine for rest and relaxation whether that be yoga, meditation, dancing, listening to music, autogenic training/therapy, painting, a long bath, being in nature, spending time with loved ones, watching funny films...whatever makes you feel at peace and relaxed as this is important to counteract the effects of the stress response.

Physical exercise on a regular basis will help to counteract the effects of long term stress and also encourage a sense of well being and relaxation.

Essential oils such as lavender, bergamot, sage, rose and narcissus oil can be added to baths or massaged into the skin to help induce relaxation.

Breathing exrecises can have a profoundly relaxing effect on the mind and body and can be very useful in the manegement of long term stress.

Some people find that a glass of water with a teaspoon of cider vinegar added helps to improve the mood to a more positive one and may helps to fend off stressful states of mind.

The 'friendly' bacteria such as Lactobacillus can help to prevent infllamation of the intestinal walls that occurs in response to stress.

 


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