Our guest post comes from Natural Medicine Specialist Rachel Weaver. Rachel has completed an Advanced Diploma in Naturopathy over 5 years of study at Nature Care and holds a Bachelor of Applied Science in Physical Education. She enjoys relying on both traditional and evidence based naturopathic medicine in her clinical practice.
Stress isn’t always a bad thing. In fact, the stress response is an important survival mechanism. Known as the “fight or flight” response, the body responds to an imminent threat through the immediate sequence of hormonal changes and physiological responses. Your heart races and your adrenalin surges. The body is priming itself ready to either flee to safety or fight the threat – whether it be real or perceived.
However, this is mostly (and should be) a temporary state of arousal. When maintained over a long period of time, the response is somewhat dampened but the body gets stuck in a hyper-vigilant and less desirable state.
Stressors aren’t always life-threatening nor obvious, as in being chased by a lion for example. Stress includes dealing with traffic jams when running late, financial pressures, moving house, moving job, dealing with disruptive neighbours, relationship breakdowns such as separation or divorce, meeting work deadlines, parenting, social media……and that’s just a few.
The problem is prolonged stress exposure creates a chronic stress response and this can then result in a wide variety of health problems if left unchecked.
As a family naturopath, I often see the signs and symptoms of stressful living in my clinical practice. Plus, I’ve had my fair share of stressful life events over recent years including multiple house moves, divorce and new work environments so I feel I’m well placed to also speak from experience.
So how can we all deal with stress and maintain our health, and what can we do before we start to experience symptoms?
Here are some of the symptoms of chronic stress that may include the follow
Muscles aches and pains
Immune system depletion e.g. greater frequency of infections, viruses
Irritability or lack of tolerance
Digestive disturbances (constipation, bloating, diarrhoea)
Fatigue or/and Brain fog
Skin breakouts or dry skin
Migraines and headaches
Irregular cycles and/or painful periods
Loss of hair
Lack of libido
Lack of lustre joy for life
Anxiety / panic attacks
Loss of interest in social connection
If these signs are ignored, then they can result in chronic, significant and severe health conditions. In fact, stress can be the trigger for any genetic pre-disposition in regards to your health being switched on.
So, as an exhausted, stressed out woman, what can be done to help manage stress and avoid illness? Ideally, remove the threat but of course this is not always possible.
Here’s my top ten tips to support the nervous system in times of stress:
(in no particular order)
1. Elicit the relaxation response
Counter the stress response by eliciting the relaxation response. This includes finding a moment – even just for a moment – to breathe. Ground yourself with both feet on the floor and take a big breath in and out into your abdomen, visualise tranquility, self-soothing words such as saying; “This too shall pass”- this one has helped me on many occasions when feeling overwhelmed or anxious.
Visualise tranquility and self-soothing words such as saying; “This too shall pass”
It doesn’t have to be hard core exercise, although some intensity when feeling frustrated and irritable can help. A brisk walk can help deepen your breath and also help to relive muscle tension. Bear in mind, if you’re on the brink of chronic fatigue, intensive exercise may need to be scaled back somewhat. Think 'rest and restore, nurture and nourish' during this time of heightened stress.
3. Eat food that is easy to digest
Your stress response pretty much shuts down your digestive function so eating foods such as slow cooked food, soups, roasted vegetables and buckwheat with steamed veggies are great. Try to avoid the high sugar or junk food options as this will inflame your system further and lead to weight gain and blood sugar dysregulation. Oh, and sit down to eat and chew your food!
4. Increase your nutrient status
Take a practitioner prescribed activated Vitamin B complex and a bioavailable magnesium such as magnesium citrate to increase your nutrient status. A stressed system churns and burn more nutrients so your diet – especially if you have gut issues – may not be adequate.
Think rest and restore, nurture and nourish during this time of heightened stress.
5. Look into Medicinal herbs
But please do NOT self-prescribe. Over the counter herbal medicines can interact with medication and need to be appropriately prescribed to suit YOU. Seeing a naturopath or herbalist will also have the added benefit of supporting you holistically – not just symptomatically – to assist you in responding to your stress appropriately. We even have classes of herbs called “adaptogens” and “nervines” which, you guessed it, support your ability to adapt your nervous system to respond. I call them my “hug in a bottle”.
6. Book an appointment with a chiropractor
Book an appointment with a chiropractor to have your nervous system, the master control system of your body, assessed and supported. Through your nervous system, you coordinate all of your body’s functions and movement, adapt to stress, sense the world, think feel and express emotion. It keeps you alive and healthy. As does your immune system.
7. Get into nature
Mother nature should be called mother nurture. Enjoy some sunshine, feel the wind in your hair, walk with a friend, climb a wall, dip in the ocean, feel the sand between your toes, go on a stroll through the local park, take a drive to the mountains….whatever your fancy. Nature is one of the most powerful de-stressors for the nervous system.
Mother nature should be called mother nurture.
8. Connect…..and disconnect
The tech age is upon us and increasingly we forget true social connections with others. Share a pot of tea or a meal with a friend, put your phone away (and I don’t mean face down on the table) and enjoy meaningful, undistracted conversation. Or go and enjoy a movie – by yourself!
9. Keep it real
Too often we compare ourselves to the filtered version of others. Keep your reality real for you. Remind yourself you are unique, you are enough and you deserve love – from yourself and from others. Be true to you.
10. Seek support
I call it the scaffolding of support. There’s no harm in asking for help. Don’t wait until you feel really unwell before seeking some support. Choose from a range of allied and medical health care practitioners to support you in your journey to reduce stress and live life with vitality.
This information is not to be used as medical advice. Please seek care from your allied health care practitioner or contact me for a individualized consultation
Enjoy this post? How about sharing it with others?
Thrivhers mission is to inspire as many women as possible to take action on their ambitions. We'd be so grateful if you could help join us on this quest and share it via your preferred social media channel.