Humans are estimated to have used plants medicinally for as long as we have existed.
It’s been said—Mother Earth provides everything we need, in nature, to survive and thrive. I personally like to take the natural route to soothe everyday stressors, so let’s do a brief breakdown of stress and some natural remedies to self soothe and cope.
What Is Stress?
Stress is your body’s way of responding to any kind of demand or threat. When you sense danger—whether it’s real or imagined—the body’s defenses kick into high gear in a rapid, automatic process known as the “fight-or-flight” reaction or the “stress response.”
The stress response is the body’s way of protecting itself. When working properly, it helps you stay focused, energetic, and alert. In emergency situations, stress can save your life—giving you extra strength to defend yourself or the ability to act quickly and instinctively.
Stress can also help you rise to meet challenges. It’s what keeps you on your toes during a presentation at work, sharpens your concentration when you attempt anything you consider to be high risk, or drives you to study for an exam rather than indulge in your favorite past times.
How Much Is Too Much?
Beyond a certain point, stress stops being helpful and starts causing major damage to your health, mood, productivity, relationships, and your overall quality of life. Ongoing and chronic stress have been linked to a variety of health concerns.
In our fast paced society high stress levels are normalized because everyone knows the drill. There are expectations, obligations, priorities, and deadlines to meet! It has become normal to ebb and flow through states of being overwhelmed and frazzled—but how often are we slowing down in an attempt to regulate stress levels and bring the nervous system back into balance?
Effects Of Chronic Stress
When you live with chronic stress the nervous system becomes dysregulated and disrupts nearly every system in your body. The nervous system isn’t very good at telling the difference between a real threat, such as being attacked and a perceived threat such as paying the bills on time, a fall out with a loved one, or a deadline that must be met.
If you are living with chronic stress as the status quo, it can suppress your immune system, upset your digestive and reproductive systems, increase the risk of heart attack and stroke, and speed up the aging process. Stress can disrupt sleep patterns, exasperate skin problems, cause weight loss or weight gain, and agitate pain of any kind.
Beside the physical effects, ongoing stress can have negative effects on your emotions as well. Irritability, anxiety, mood swings, and depression are just a few.
Anything that puts high demands on you can be stressful. This includes positive events like buying a house, getting married, having a baby, or planning for any significant event.
Of course, not all stress is caused by external factors. Stress can also be internal or self-generated, when you worry excessively about something that may or may not happen, or have pessimistic thoughts about life. What causes stress is partially based on your perception. Some things that you perceive as stressful, someone else might thrive at and enjoy it.
Other factors, such as experiencing traumatic events past or present can cause chronic stress and be triggered in everyday life. PTSD can have you living in a constant state of fight or flight and is really hard on your body, mind, and quality of life. Reach out, and begin the recovery process if that’s what you are experiencing.
It’s important to seek help from a professional to narrow down how stress is affecting you so that the proper course of action can be taken. For some, it may mean incorporating exercise, planning a day to rest, or having fun implemented into their life may be all they need. For others, it’s important to determine if medical attention is needed or if seeing a Therapist would be most beneficial.
Other lifestyle changes can look like ensuring you get enough sleep, eating healthy foods, making time to connect with loved ones, breathing deeper, and starting a self care routine. These examples seem small but compound over time. Try not to get overwhelmed about making any changes, the goal is to reduce stress so start from wherever you are with what you can.
Alternative Remedies To Reduce Stress
Plants have been used for thousands of years to treat many different ailments. More research is needed but each remedy claims to do something a little different, on the whole body. Always consult your doctor when trying new supplements to ensure there will be no negative interactions with any pre-existing medications or conditions. These remedies are meant for informational purposes only, always do your own research!
- Ashwagandha to soothe long-term sources of stress and the hormone imbalances that may result from it. Studies show that it possesses anti-inflammatory, antitumor, anti-stress, antioxidant, immunomodulatory, hemopoietic, and rejuvenating properties.
- Kava is possibly the most effective herbal supplement for moderate and severe anxiety. The Kava root has been extensively researched for its effects on stress, anxiety, and insomnia. It apparently isn’t just useful for anxious feelings, but for anxious thoughts too. However, kava has been linked to a few health scares, so it’s advised to talk to your doctor before taking kava. It’s generally advised to be a short term solution as you implement other coping skills and/or lifestyle changes.
- Chamomile is a natural sedative that is best for mild anxiety. It’s used to calm nervousness, both in the mind and in the stomach. It can reduce digestive discomforts and improve appetite in those with a great deal of stress. It has also been linked to reducing headaches and improving liver and lung health. Most experts recommend that chamomile only be used as a temporary treatment, not a long-term solution.
- Lemon Balm is associated with improvements in mood and/or cognitive performance while reducing stress.
- Valerian Root is believed to treat a variety of health conditions, including insomnia, anxiety, headaches, digestive problems, menopause symptoms, and post-exercise muscle pain and fatigue. The evidence supporting these claims is generally mixed.
- Skullcap is thought to positively impact mood and reduce anxiety by stimulating gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), a neurotransmitter that helps calm nerves.
- Brahmi has potent anti-anxiety properties. It is known to increase the levels of serotonin – a brain chemical that helps to promote relaxation. Brahmi has a unique ability to improve cognitive function as well as helps the body cope with stress. It induces a sense of peace and soothes restlessness. Brahmi also serves as a mild sedative, but instead of dulling the mind it enhances mental clarity and focus.