Are you feeling the effects of stress? Do you feel like you’re just not going to cope if just one more thing happens? And then it does? Well, read on, because I have a few tips to help get you through.
A little bit of stress is actually good for us, but too much can make us ill. When we’re in the middle of a crisis it can seem like there are too many problems and too few solutions. Work and family demands, financial worries and not enough time in the day. Not to mention all the global concerns that affect us all. It can all seem too much.
When stress occurs over the long term it can take its toll on our health. Though it might feel like you have no control and there is little you can do. Just recognising that you are under stress can help you to better manage its effects on your body.
Everyone probably needs to develop their own protocol for managing their day to day stress. But here are some relaxation techniques to get you started and help you manage stress.
Deep breathing exercises
Controlled breathing can be done anywhere and anytime you’re feeling stressed. It helps to lower your blood pressure and makes you feel calm and relaxed. Take long, slow deep breaths into the belly. Try breathing in slowly for a count of four, hold for a count of four and then breathe out slowly for a count of four. Repeating for a few minutes if possible.
Take the breathing exercises one step further and try meditation. Find a comfortable position to sit. You can lie down instead, so long as you don’t fall asleep. If you’re new to meditation it is usually easier to meditate with closed eyes. Focus your mind on the breath without controlling your breathing. If your mind wanders just come back to the breath. It can be surprisingly difficult at first to quieten the mind. Try to meditate every day. Even if you only have five minutes. Once it becomes a habit you will probably find meditation so relaxing you will want to do more.
Depending on your level of fitness, exercise can be a good way to reduce stress. Walking, jogging or running are simple methods to enjoy regular exercise. And, if this involves time outdoors then this provides another added benefit. Just spending time in natural surroundings helps to reduce levels of stress. Try to balance cardiovascular workouts like running with strength training.
If you just don’t have the energy for all that work then start very slowly. Just a few minutes walking and some gentle stretching can be a good place to start.
Research shows that acupuncture decreases the body’s stress response. Regular acupuncture treatments improve feelings of relaxation, increase energy and also improve sleep.
People with mental and physical stress took part in a study. The researchers found that daily magnesium supplementation reduced the effects of stress. Participants in the study took 400mg of a magnesium supplement, daily for 90 days. I have written more about the benefits of magnesium here.
There are a group of tonic herbs that help the body adapt to the effects of stress. These tonic remedies are the adaptogen herbs, and they include:
- Ginseng (Panax ginseng
- Eleuthero (Eleutherococcus senticosus)
- Five Flavour Fruit (Schisandra chinensis)
- Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera)
Ashwagandha is one of my most favourite of all herbs. A trial of Ashwagandha showed that it reduced the symptoms of perceived stress. It also lowered blood cortisol levels, a marker for stress in the body. Participants in this trial took 300mg of Ashwagandha root extract, twice a day, for 60 days. Another way to take Ashwagandha is to add one teaspoonful of the powdered root to a smoothie.
Ashwagandha can increase or decrease the effect of some prescribed medication
Pregnancy: Consult a medical herbalist to see if herbal medicine is right for you.