Forget fight or flight. Discover how these natural methods help to manage and reduce signs of stress
With books titled Rushing Woman’s Syndrome, The Stress Solution, and Perform Under Pressure lining our bookshelves, there’s no denying stress and anxiety management is certainly a hot topic.
According to Nutra-Life naturopath Lynley Baker, demanding work schedules, hectic family lives and social pressures can result in our nervous systems becoming overworked or out of balance, resulting in symptoms of stress.
And the stats certainly add up: a survey conducted by Southern Cross in 2016 found that approximately 60% of New Zealanders experience stress at least once per week.
While prolonged periods of stress may have a detrimental impact on health and wellbeing, there are ways of managing stress to work in your favour.
Be Well chatted to Nutra-Life’s in-house naturopath Lynley Baker to discover how supplementing with Nutra-Life Magnesium Stress Ease helps support a healthy stress response in the body.
UNDERSTANDING THE NATURAL STRESS RESPONSE
The effects of stress are not new. For centuries, humans have utilised stress as a means of adapting to new environments or challenges.
The stress response starts with your hypothalamus, an area at the base of the brain that signals alarm bells – activating adrenal glands to release a surge of hormones including adrenaline and cortisol.
“Adrenaline increases your heart rate, elevates your blood pressure and boosts energy supplies. Cortisol increases glucose in the bloodstream, alters the immune systems responses, while suppressing the digestive and reproductive systems,” Lynley says.
THE LONG-TERM SIDE EFFECTS OF STRESS
Lynley explains that typically the body’s stress response is self-limiting – when a perceived threat has passed, adrenaline and cortisol levels return to normal, and the body’s nervous system resumes their regular activities.
However, it’s when stressors are always present that the natural fight-or-flight reaction remains switched on, which can disrupt the body’s processes, she says.
“Unfortunately, the body can also overreact to stressors that are not life-threatening, such as traffic jams, work pressure, and family difficulties,” Lynley explains.
On-going, chronic stress can cause or exacerbate just about any health problem, including:
- Mental health issues, such as depression, anxiety, and personality disorders
- Cardiovascular disease, including heart disease, high blood pressure, abnormal heart rhythms, heart attacks, and stroke
- Obesity and other eating disorders
- Sexual dysfunction and loss of sexual desire
- Skin and hair problems and permanent hair loss
- Gastrointestinal problems, such as IBS, GERD, gastritis and ulcerative colitis
THE UPSIDE OF STRESS
But it’s not all bad news. Lynley agrees that in small does, stress can be advantageous to the body.
“For instance, stress can help you meet daily challenges and motivate you to reach your goals, boost memory or help you to accomplish tasks more efficiently,” Lynley says.
Good stress can make us more responsive, which is unlike bad stress which can induce feelings of hopelessness.
“Stress is necessary to life as it’s an adaptive response,” says Lynley. “In the same way that inflammation is a crucial and necessary response to an acute injury, so, too, the stress response needs to be balanced with being turned on to respond to an acute stress and then turned off again so that the body can recover.
“This process is called homeostasis – the body’s desire to return to a place of balance or equilibrium,” Lynley says.
TIPS FOR MANAGING STRESS
These health experts recommend exploring a range of stress management strategies, especially those that take you away from devices like your computer or smartphone, including:
- Scheduling in regular physical activity – even if it’s just a walk in the park
- Spending more time out in nature
- Practicing relaxation techniques such as deep belly breathing, meditation, yoga or Tai Chi
- Spending time with family and friends
- Engaging in hobbies like reading or listening to music
- Getting plenty of sleep and eat fresh good quality food
- Avoiding excess caffeine and alcohol
Lynley expands on this list by explaining stress management is best achieved when we engage in activities that optimise our parasympathetic nervous system. This ‘rest and relaxation’ side of our autonomic nervous system helps to promote relaxation, prioritise digestion and decrease heart rate.
SUPERCHARGE YOUR SUPPLEMENTS
If decreasing stress levels is top of the agenda, then why not incorporate Nutra-Life’s Magnesium Stress Ease into your daily supplement mix.
The unique, vegan formula combines magnesium chelate (a well-absorbed form of magnesium) with medicinal herbs to support a healthy stress response in the body.
Lynley says magnesium is known as the ‘relaxation mineral’ for good reason. “It can help calm an over-stimulated nervous system,” she says. “Stress can increase the amount of magnesium we lose from our body, and lead to a magnesium deficiency.”
The Ayurvedic herb Ashwagandha is revered in India for its ability to help normalise the body’s physiological responses and re-balancing cortisol levels.
Similarly, medicinal herb Holy basil is used regularly in Ayurvedic medicine to aid the body’s natural response to any type of stress (be it physical or emotional), as well as promoting overall health and wellbeing.
Finally, Rehmannia is a commonly-known herb in Traditional Chinese Medicine for its multi-purpose use, including supporting the body’s adrenal glands.
For more information on Nutra-Life’s range of quality supplements, call its Naturopathic Advice Line on (0800) 268 872, or visit Nutralife.co.nz.
Always read the label and use as directed. Supplements should not replace a balanced diet. Vitaco Health, Auckland.