We all experience stress from time-to-time. Most of us have a general awareness of what “being stressed” means, but to really understand how it occurs and what you can do about it, is worth digging a bit deeper.
At a physiological level, the stress response is the body’s way of reacting to threats.
It’s an interaction between yourself and the situations and environments you find yourself in and tends to arise whenever you feel unsafe or you lack the resources to enable you to cope with whatever you’re facing.
Although every individual’s reaction to stress is different (and may change according to circumstances), in simplified terms, one of the body’s goals is to maintain a state of homeostasis (balance) and can be summed up in these stages:
You’re travelling along nicely, in a normal state of balance (homeostasis).
Something stressful happens, triggering a state of alarm, accompanied by a temporary decline in physical and mental function.
Quickly afterwards, you move into stress resistance, in which your body aims to operate at peak efficiency to deal with the crisis. This is the fight-or-flight response: a time when you become alert, energised, and ready for action, physically and mentally.
However, peak efficiency can only be sustained for so long before your reserves become depleted, and you enter the overload or exhaustion phase of the stress response.
This is when you need to rest, recover, and replenish your capacity to fight another day.
When it occurs in short, sharp bursts, stress adaptation makes you increasingly capable of coping with stress over time.
An example of a healthy adaptation to stress occurs when you embark on a fitness regime in which you repeatedly put your body under stress, take time to recover afterwards, and gradually increase your aerobic capacity or muscular fitness.
However, if you don’t fully recover from the resistance phase of the stress response because you don’t get enough rest, don’t have the personal skills to cope with stress appropriately, or are overloaded by repeated, ongoing, stressful episodes, your ability to respond to stress in a healthy way may become compromised.
In that situation, instead of returning to its natural, healthy state of balance, the exhaustion phase of the stress response may persist, and over time, may reduce your ability to adapt to stress and ultimately impact on your general wellbeing.
Once you become aware of the importance of the recovery phase of the stress response, it’s easy to understand why the first step to managing and bouncing back from stress is to make sure you’re getting enough rest.
Wherever possible, avoid continuing to push yourself after a stressful time, and instead give yourself permission to rest and restore your energy so you can rebuild your physical and emotional resilience.
In Ayurvedic medicine, holy basil (AKA sacred basil or tulsi) and ashwagandha (AKA withania) are traditionally taken to adapt and build resistance to stress.
These herbs help manage symptoms of stress, mild anxiety, worry, tension, fatigue, disturbed sleep, nervousness, restlessness, irritability and cognitive impairment (including forgetfulness and brain fog)
In the body, magnesium is involved with several stress pathways.
During acute stress, it helps reduce the adverse effects of stress.
However, when stress becomes chronic, your magnesium stores may decline in greater quantities.
If you’re under pressure, consider taking a magnesium supplement.
Choose a formula containing magnesium in a highly bioavailable form, accompanied by B-group vitamins.
Naturopath, Peter Balogh, suggests taking a holistic approach to managing stress conditions.
Include relaxation techniques, hobbies, calming herbs and a nutritious, unprocessed diet containing a variety of fruit, vegetables and protein.
Adding superfoods like maca, spirulina, and berries will optimise your body’s nutrient stores, helping to replenish and repair stress-affected tissues and organs.
Also useful are oily fish and flaxseed as these contain essential fatty acids that help to buffer your nervous system against the impact of stress, preventing chronic anxiety states and reducing phobias.
A comprehensive diet high in B-complex vitamins and cofactors such as choline, the minerals potassium and magnesium, and the amino acids lysine and glutamine, will also help to balance your nervous system.
Consider taking a good stress nutritional supplement, which includes high levels of B-vitamins, in particular a blend of B3, B5 and B6 that are required for cortisol metabolism.
Ask the experts at Go Vita Tanunda for recommendations to suit your individual situation.
Information presented is for information purposes only and is not intended to replace advice or treatment from qualified healthcare professionals.
The information is not intended to treat or diagnose. Always consult your healthcare professional before taking nutritional or herbal supplements.
If you are pregnant, breastfeeding, have any allergies or diagnosed conditions, or are taking prescription medications, always consult your healthcare professional before taking nutritional or herbal supplements.