Stress busters

Stress | March 26, 2018 | Author: Naturopath

work stress, anxiety

Stress busters

In psychology, stress is defined as a feeling of strain and pressure. It is an expected human response to challenging or dangerous situations and is beneficial in small doses. However, if high levels of stress persist this can lead to other mental health problems such as depression and anxiety. Stress is also a significant contributor to physical illnesses such as cardiovascular disease and autoimmune disease. This article will outline the damaging effects of chronic stress, while highlighting ways for you to keep calm and carry on.

The ‘fight or flight’ response

When you sense danger, your body will kick in to an automatic process known as the ‘fight or flight’ or stress response. During this response your nervous system will release stress hormones, including adrenaline and cortisol. As a result, your heart rate increases, blood pressure rises, breathing quickens and muscles tighten. This is your bodies way of protecting you from a physical or imagined threat by giving you extra energy, mental clarity and alertness to respond in an emergency situation. This response could enable you to slam on the brakes to avoid an accident or run away from an attacker.

If you have a work deadline or need to study for an exam this is when stress can help you rise to meet challenges. It sharpens your concentration and keeps you on your toes.

When stress becomes unhealthy

When stress becomes unhealthyBeyond a certain point, stress stops being helpful and can start causing damage. It can lead to anxiety, depression and other mood disorders. Stress left unchecked can affect relationships and your quality of life.

Chronic stress disrupts nearly every system in our body—it makes us more vulnerable to infections, speeds up the ageing process, upsets our digestive system and makes us more prone to heart attack and stroke.
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Other health problems caused or exacerbated by stress include:

  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Insomnia
  • Pain of any kind
  • Weight problems
  • Reproductive issues
  • Cognitive impairment
  • Eczema
  • Autoimmune diseases

Stress overload

Stress can creep up on you. A lot of people may not realise the effects of stress because it has become normal for them. That’s why it is important to be aware of the common signs and symptoms of stress overload.

Stress overloadCognitive symptoms

  • Constant worry
  • Memory problems
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Negativity

Emotional symptoms

  • Depression or unhappiness
  • Anxiety
  • Agitation, anger and moodiness
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Loneliness

Physical symptoms

  • Diarrhoea or constipation
  • Chest pain and rapid heart rate
  • Nausea and dizziness
  • Loss of sex drive
  • Frequent colds or flu

Behavioural symptoms

  • Overeating or undereating
  • Poor sleep pattern
  • Withdrawal from others
  • Nervous habits
  • Using addictive substances such as alcohol, cigarettes or drugs

Common causes of stress

The most common external causes of stress include major life changes, financial problems or relationship difficulties. There might be problems at work or school or stress might be a result of simply being too busy—especially if you have children and family. Attitudes that contribute to internal causes of stress include pessimism, inability to accept uncertainty and perfectionism traits.

How to better cope with stress

Get moving

How to better cope with stressRegular physical exercise is an excellent way to improve your mood and help you cope better with stress. Just 30 minutes of daily exercise contributes to an increase in endorphins which can make you feel more positive and energetic. Rhythmic exercises are particularly helpful and include walking, jogging, swimming or dancing.

Talk to someone

Talking about your difficulties with someone can help to relieve stress. This could be a close friend, family member or a trained healthcare professional such as a counsellor or psychologist. Even just a brief exchange of kind words can help boost a person’s confidence and mood. It’s important to spend time with people who have a positive impact on your life and make you feel good.

Healthy diet

What we eat on a daily basis can have an impact on our mental health. Foods to avoid include caffeine, refined carbohydrates, sugary snacks, alcohol and junk foods. These are all high glycaemic index foods which can contribute to the feelings of stress. Ideally your diet should include healthy protein sources, fresh fruit and vegetables, nuts and fresh fish. They will help you better cope with life’s ups and downs by providing your body with nutrients needed for stress support.
Click Here For Article on Low Glyaemic Food

Learn how to relax

Learn how to relaxIf your nervous system is constantly being activated, it’s important to learn how to turn off the stress switch. Performing relaxation techniques such as meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, yoga or even a spa treatment can switch the body to a calmer state. When practised regularly they can help to reduce your overall stress levels and can give you tools to use during acute attacks.
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Natural medicines for stress

B vitamins

Essential for a healthy nervous system and adrenals, B vitamins work with other nutrients such as magnesium and vitamin C to produce anti stress hormones. In particular, vitamins B5 and B6 are needed to help manage stress but they will function better as part of a B complex.
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Magnesium

If your muscles are sore, tight or cramping this could mean you’re deficient in magnesium. This essential mineral helps to relax the muscles, calm the mind and assist in a good night’s sleep.

Omega-3

Fish oil is a rich source of omega-3 which helps to improve mood and concentration. High amounts of DHA (a component of omega-3) is found in high concentrations in our brain. A deficiency in omega-3 can affect how we think and feel.
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Herbal medicine

How to better cope with stressCertain herbs have amazing anti-stress properties which assist in relaxation. Some of these herbs include passionflower, magnolia, kava, zizyphus and lavender. They can be safely taken throughout the day and even at night to help fall asleep faster. If stress is a chronic issue adaptagen herbs which help us cope better with stress may also be indicated. Examples are withania, rhodiola, licorice and Siberian ginseng.
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Stress summary

  • Stress is a normal reaction but can become unhealthy if high levels persist for too long
  • Chronic stress can affect our health in various ways and it is important to know the early warning signs
  • Anti-stress herbs, magnesium, omega-3 and B vitamins, as well as lifestyle and dietary measures can assist you in achieving a healthier stress response

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References

https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/stress

Braun L, Cohen M. Herbs and natural supplements: An evidence-based guide vol. 2. Churchill Livingstone, Australia

McCabe D, et al. The impact of essential fatty acid, B vitamins, vitamin C, magnesium and zinc supplementation on stress levels in women: a systematic review. JBI Database System Rev Implement Rep. 2017 Feb;15(2):402-453

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28178022

Yeung KS, et al. Herbal medicine for depression and anxiety: A systematic review with assessment of potential psycho-oncologic relevance. Phytother Res. 2018 Feb 21 doi: 10.1002/ptr.6033

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29464801

Cropley M, et al. The Effects of Rhodiola rosea L. Extract on Anxiety, Stress, Cognition and Other Mood Symptoms. Phytother Res. 2015 Dec;29(12):1934-9

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26502953

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