Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Knowing the truth about stress


Stress is highly prevalent in today’s lifestyle; the mere drive to work can stimulate your adrenaline in the light of the traffic congestion.  Stress can be activated through various stimuli: physical, mental and emotional, which in turn produce the fight or flight response. We all experience this everyday.  Adrenaline and noradrenaline are hormones produced by our adrenal glands every time we encounter stress.  Adrenaline has a number of effects on our bodies: it raises the blood pressure, produces anxiety, depression, elevates blood sugar as well as cholesterol levels.  Chronic, excessive release of adrenaline can have a profound effect on some major body systems, such as, the heart, blood vessels, immune system and adrenal glands.  With prolonged stress one feels exhausted, tired, depressed, starts to have circulatory problems and increased frequency of colds and flues as well as makes your organism more prone to allergies.

So what can you do to protect yourself from the adverse effects of stress?  Here are some tips you might find helpful.

Relaxation   
There are various methods of relaxation. Here are some methods which you can do in the comfort of your home and at the time that best fits your schedule: meditation, progressive relaxation, self-hypnosis, biofeedback, prayer, guided imagery, acupressure, massage performed by your partner, yoga, tai chi, indulging yourself in your hobby…etc. 
It is important to keep in mind that every person is different and therefore you will have to find out which relaxation method works best for you.


Exercise 

Although exercise is a physical stressor, in moderation, it is a wonderful stress relief method especially for those of you who experience a lot of mental or emotional stress.  Exercise also has several physiological benefits such as: better cardiovascular function by improving heart muscle contraction and decreasing heart rate, decreasing blood pressure and cholesterol levels.  In addition, exercise improves oxygen and nutrient utilization by all tissues in the body, improves your endurance, energy, self-esteem and enhances your mood. With moderate exercise your body will reduce the secretion of adrenaline and noradrenaline so that you can cope with stress better.

Botanicals

This section is very important for all people undergoing acute or chronic stress, especially those who are very busy and cannot find any time for exercise or relaxation techniques.  Botanical (herbal) medicine has a lot to offer; however it is important to get the right botanicals in the right dosage.  There are several categories of botanicals that play a key role. 
First category is called adaptoges.  Adaptogens facilitate the body to adapt to stressful situations by improving adrenal function, improving immune system and tonifying the nervous system. Such botanicals are: Astragalus, Panax ginseng and Eleutherococcus senticosus (Siberian Ginsing).  
The second group of botanicals helpful in coping with stress are the adrenal tonics.  These herbs act directly on the adrenal gland making it work more efficiently.   Examples of adrenal tonics are: Glycyrrhiza glabra (Licorice) and Borage officinalis. 
The third group of botanicals is nervines, which work to calm and tonify the nervous system. These include: Avena sativa (Oats), Passiflora incarnata (Passionflower), Scutellaria lateriflora (Skullcap), Melissa officinalis (Lemon balm), Hypericum perfoliatum (St. John’s Wort) and Humulus lupulus (Hops). 

With all botanicals it is important to consult a health professional who can warn you about any possible drug interactions.  

Homeopathy

Homeopathy is the use of natural substances of multiple dilutions, and is believed to provide an “energetic” stimulus to the body’s inherent healing ability.  This type of medicine is very useful in terms of stress reduction; however, the remedies are determined on the basis of individual’s mental, emotional and physical symptom picture.  Therefore, to have the right homeopathic remedy you should consult a  licensed naturopathic doctor or a homeopathic practitioner.

Nutrition

Nutrition is another big player in combating the effects of stress.  It is often times ignored or forgotten in our busy lives but we must remember that “we are what we eat”. 

All chemical reactions that take place in our bodies need coenzymes or vitamins and minerals.  Our body functions well as long as it has all the building blocks for these reactions to occur.  As soon as your diet is not sufficient to supply your body with vitamins and minerals especially in times of high demand (i.e. stress), the metabolism slows down, fatigue and tiredness set in.
 
With respect to stress there are certain necessary factors for proper adrenal hormone production.  They are: Vitamin C, B6, B5 (Pantothenic acid), potassium, zinc, magnesium and antioxidants.  Out of those, pantothenic acid is the most important one and it can be found in whole grains, legumes, salmon, liver, sweet potatoes and tomatoes.


Stress is a part of our everyday living and we need to know how to cope with it and support our body when it needs to.  The key in keeping yourself healthy through stressful times is to realize that all aspects of your health: emotional, mental and physical, need to be addressed at all times.

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