It is well-documented that chronic stress, which most of us suffer from to a degree, causes rapid aging, makes us gain weight, undermines our immune system, shortens our life span and can even damage our brain - and from a beauty point of view, it wreaks havoc on our appearance. In addition, if left unchecked, stress undermines our ability to enjoy relationships with others and drastically reduces our quality of life. 2020 brought additional stressors due to the pandemic and social distancing requirements.
Whether you experience a traumatic event, are overloaded with too many stressors at once, or are just trying to manage the day-to-day grind, your body is probably running in emergency fight-or-flight mode. If you're super stressed over an argument with a friend, a work deadline, or a mountain of bills, your body can react just as strongly as if you’re facing the threat of a mountain lion. And the more your emergency stress system is activated, the easier it is to trigger and the harder it is to shut off.
When you experience stress, your brain’s emotional response center, the amygdala, communicates that you need to either fight or flee. When this happens, the hypothalamus signals the adrenal glands, and they release catecholamines into the bloodstream, hormones that include adrenaline. Adrenaline increases your heart rate and blood pressure. It speeds up your breathing, which delivers extra oxygen to the brain to increase your alertness, while at the same time triggering the release of glucose and fats within your body to provide extra energy. All this happens as fast as you can blink your eyes! As the surge of adrenaline dies down, your hormones respond by releasing cortisol. When you experience chronic stress, this release of cortisol never ends, which causes a plethora of detrimental side effects.
Some experiences generally considered positive are still forms of stress, such as having a baby, going to college, buying a home or a new car, being promoted or retiring and even - believe it or not- going on vacation! This is because any kind of major change is a direction into the “unknown” and requires you to shift responsibilities and/or adapt.
Stress can also be acute, such as trying to make a deadline. It can be episodic and recurring, such as always rushing to make it to work on time or feeling pressure to check social media so you don’t miss anything. It can also be chronic, as when you feel totally “burned out” in an unhappy marriage or have a job with demands that never end.
A Few of our Favorite Stress-Busting Solutions
It's important to remember that the effects of stress are cumulative, so while all those simple day-to-day stressors in life may seem bearable, they can eventually lead to more serious health issues. We live in the real world, and stress is not something that will ever go away entirely.
However, taking time for yourself, recognizing your patterns when it comes to stressful events, and removing as many stressors from your life as possible are all effective long-term strategies for managing stress. To look and feel your best, here are a few effective steps you can take toward a more healthful way to manage stress.
Movement, whether it be yoga, gardening, a hike in the woods, walking your dog, or cellercising in your home gym, increases longevity and energy levels, helps you achieve and maintain a healthy weight, enhances circulation, promotes healthy tissue, reduces stress, builds healthy bones, detoxifies through sweating, boosts memory and concentration, and improves sleep. Movement can also provide emotional balance and mental peace.
BE OF SERVICE TO OTHERS
People who help others, such as through volunteering or community work, become more resilient. Helping people who are in situations worse than our own can put our problems into perspective. The more we give, the more resilient and happy we feel.
Practice daily acts of kindness, like helping someone cross the street or delivering fresh food to an elderly neighbor who is confined to their home. When you focus your attention on someone else's well-being, it greatly reduces your own stress levels.
TOUCH THE EARTH
The earth's energy not only has a beneficial effect on cortisol and other hormones but also supports a calmer nervous system and a healthy inflammatory response, thus offering effective and natural support for counteracting things like stress and adrenal exhaustion.
Try hiking barefoot, gardening barefoot, or doing some push-ups in a nearby park!
UNPLUG AND SPEND TIME IN SILENCE
It is important to acknowledge that your central nervous system responds to each and every sound in your environment. It sends hormones coursing through your body, your heartbeat rises and falls, and your blood pressure changes accordingly. All of this can take a toll on your mood and therefore your hormones, affecting the way you look and feel.
Some great ways to create space and silence include taking a break from the TV or computer, meditating, journaling, taking a relaxing bath (add some lavender essential oil), or turning off your cell phone for an hour (or more).
TAKE SUPPORTIVE SUPPLEMENTS
Tonic herbs can be used to modulate adrenal secretion and increase the body's ability to respond to stress. Adaptogenic herbs have innate wisdom to respond to the specific needs of your body. These are safe to use because they will not overstimulate the body and will support the natural healing process.
Research studies have shown that American Ginseng (Panax Quinquefolius) has both anti-stress and anti-anxiety benefits. Ginsenosides are the beneficial compounds of ginseng & Wisconsin ginseng has higher ginsenoside levels than ginseng grown anywhere else in the world. Our Ginseng Extract uses 100% pure Wisconsin ginseng and is one of the most potent liquid ginseng formulas available.
Some other excellent choices for anti-stress tonics and adaptogens include ashwagandha, chaga, cordyceps, eleuthero, maca, reishi, rhodiola, and schizandra. Check out our stress-busting recipe below which includes reishi and maca.