Stress. It’s a part of all of our lives, but when it gets out of control, it can wear us down physically, mentally and emotionally--and can have long-term effects on our health. Here are a few ways to help your body handle stress better.
1) Calm your mind and body. Set aside at least 10 minutes a day to try and invoke a relaxation response (the opposite of a stress response) through breathing, progressive relaxation, meditation, self-hypnosis, biofeedback or even prayer. Close your eyes and breathe deep from your belly--in through the nose for 8 counts and out through the mouth for 8 counts.
2) Exercise regularly. A consistent exercise program helps the body improve its response to stress, and releases calming, mood-boosting hormones. Studies have shown that those who exercise regularly are much less likely to suffer from fatigue and depression.
3) Nourish your adrenals. Your adrenal glands produce stress hormones (such as cortisol), but can quickly become depleted when you’re experiencing chronic stress. Certain herbs called adaptogens can help to improve the function of your adrenal glands and boost your body’s natural stress response. Try adaptogenic formulas such as Vital Adapt by Natura, Cortisol Manager from Integrative Therapeutics or Adrenal Booster by Pharmaca.
4) Watch your diet. Reduce the effects of stress with a few dietary changes:
- Restrict or eliminate caffeine, alcohol and refined carbohydrates
- Boost your potassium intake (avocado, bananas, potatoes and raw tomatoes)
- Reduce your sodium intake, since too much sodium can put unnecessary stress on the body and play a role in cancer development and cardiovascular disease.
- Support adrenal function with key nutrients such as vitamin C (citrus fruits, tomatoes, dark-green leafy vegetables), pantothenic acid (whole grains, legumes, salmon, broccoli), vitamin B6 (poultry, whole grains, soy), zinc and magnesium (whole grains, nuts, legumes)
5) Get adequate sleep. If you have difficult sleeping, explore the herbs and natural substances that can help prepare the body for sleep. Ones to try: melatonin, which is your sleep/wake hormone, and 5-HTP and L-theanine that work to calm an active mind down for the day. In addition, herbs such as passionflower and valerian are soothing and relaxing to the nervous system. I recommend Natural Factors’ Tranquil Sleep (a blend of melatonin, 5-HTP and L-theanine), Deep Sleep by Herbs, Etc., WishGarden’s Sleepy Nights or Bach’s Rescue Sleep.
Ask any Pharmaca practitioner if you need help coping with the stress in your life.