Feeling tense? Wired? Frazzled to the max? I see you and I hear you. Juggling the kids, your work, home responsibilities along with maintaining relationships is quite frankly overwhelming at times. Throw in a few other modern day life and worldly challenges that reduce your self-care time even further, and then yup, you wind up feel totally STRESSED out! We’ve all experienced varying levels of stress throughout our lives and know how it makes us feel, but what is stress and what effects does it have on our bodies?
Stress can be defined as any event in which environmental or internal demands exceed the resources of an individual. Put more simply, stress is the disturbance of balance (homeostasis) within the body. Whether actual, or perceived, stress activates a cascade of reactions throughout the body which are mediated via the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, resulting in the release of stress hormones from the adrenal glands, such as cortisol and adrenaline. In the short term, this response to stress is completely appropriate and helps us adapt and cope. However, if stress becomes chronic and prolonged, it can take a serious toll on our body, wearing us down and leaving us at risk for virtually all modern diseases. Among all the factors which contribute to poor health and suffering, stress is arguably the most insidious and damaging.
Long terms effects of stress:
- weight gain (especially around the mid-section)
- digestive problems, such as leaky gut
- raised blood sugar and insulin resistance
- increased blood pressure and cardiovascular disease risk
- hormonal imbalances
- weakened immunity, allergy and autoimmunity sleep difficulties
- memory problems and cognitive impairment
- depression, anxiety and mood disorders
- fertility problems
Now, most of you probably don’t need anymore convincing of the negative impact of stress… so let’s shift our focus on what we can actually do about it!
There are three approaches you can use to reduce the impact of stress in your life.
- Reduce the amount of stress you experience.
- Mitigate the harmful effects of stress you can’t avoid.
- Adopt strategies for stress management.
1) Reduce the amount of stress you experience
- Learn to say no. Know your limits and be aware of over-committing yourself.
- Avoid people who stress you out. If you can’t avoid them completely, limit your time with people who might be prone to drama or conflict.
- Turn off the news, or at least limit your exposure. So much of the media coverage today is sensationalistic and alarmist.
- Give up pointless arguments.
- Limit your to-do list.
2) Mitigate the harmful effects of stress you can’t avoid
- Reframe the situation. Look for a more positive light. For example, if you find yourself stuck in traffic, you can use the time to enjoy a podcast or an opportunity for contemplation and solitude.
- Lower your expectations and standards. Don’t let ‘perfect’ be the enemy of ‘good’. Let good be good enough.
- Practice acceptance. Learn to accept the things you can’t change.
- Be grateful. Try keeping a gratitude journal and writing down three things from each day that you are grateful for.
3) Adopt strategies for stress management
There are a number of proven ways to manage stress, from yoga, deep breathing and meditation, to mindfulness, journaling and spending time in nature. Here are some points to consider when getting started:
- Start small. Start with just five minutes each day. Gradually increase that time as you become more accustomed to the practice.
- Make it a priority. Consider putting it on your calendar, just as you would any other important task for the day.
- Be gentle with yourself. It’s okay if you miss a day, and it’s okay if you don’t feel like you’re “good” at it.
- Choose a mix of practices. Some days sitting still may feel near impossible, and yoga or another movement-based practice may be a better fit for the day.
In addition to the above, there are several stress-busting remedies which have shown to be effective at promoting better stress tolerance. Here are a some of our favourites:
- Adaptogenic Herbs. These substances have a long history of use in Chinese, Ayurvedic and Western Herbal Medicine to help our bodies adapt to stress. Some examples include: Ashwagandha, Rehmannia, Rhodiola, Holy Basil and Siberian Ginseng.
- B-Complex. B vitamins (B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B12, folate, biotin) play a vital role in the maintenance of good health and well-being. They promote stress tolerance, reduce fatigue, increase cognitive function and boost mood, even in the absence of B vitamin deficiency.
- Magnesium. Magnesium is an essential mineral that is depleted during chronic stress. Low levels of magnesium worsen the impact of stress in a vicious cycle. Magnesium has been shown to modulate the body’s stress response, improve energy levels, reduce anxiety, ease muscle tension and promote better sleep. Our preferred forms of magnesium are magnesium glycinate, threonate and citrate used at around 400mg daily.
- Hemp Extract Oil. This is by far our favourite and personal go-to stress buster! Hemp extract oil contains naturally occurring phyto-cannabinoids that interact with the body’s endocannabinoid system. Numerous studies have shown that these active constituents have stress modulating, neuro-protective and antioxidant effects. Helpsies No.Wo contains 2000mg of full-spectrum hemp extract per 30ml bottle and is a powerful strategy you can add to your self-care routine to support your body during times of stress.
So, if you’re finding your stress levels mounting and you stress tolerance dwindling, we hope some of the strategies above help you gain more sense of control. Why not give some of them a go?!