Managing stress starts with conceding that you are stressed, and that steps have to be taken to manage it. If you are still not sure if you are stressed, especially if you have low-grade unidentified stress, then read parts I through to III and familiarise yourself with the nature of stress again.
If you are still not sure, then check out the list below and see how many apply to you.
Changes in appetite
Feelings of exhaustion or fatigue
Muscle aches or general aches and pains
Unable to shake off colds or bronchial complaints
Shortness of breath
Touchy and irritable
Easily moved to tears
Screaming and shouting
Unwarranted suspicions and paranoia
Avoiding commitment to caring
Loss of interest in work
Job satisfaction lack
Withdrawing from clients and colleagues
Indifference to the suffering of others
Bored with clients
Quality loss in performance
Deteriorating relationships with colleagues
An increased use of alcohol or drugs, sugar, smoking, energy drink in order to cope at home or at work
Stress depletes the adrenal glands and suppresses the parasympathetic nervous system; therefore to help reduce stress and the effects of stress we will look at how you can support your adrenal function and how you can switch on the parasympathetic nervous system.
Stopping, sitting and closing the eyes while conscious activates the parasympathetic nervous system, and more importantly sends a signal to the sympathetic nervous system to quieten down. It strengthens digestion and is why a lot of health writers suggest taking a few moments before meals to close the eyes and meditate.
Meditation does not have to be some weird eastern chanting draped in religious robes under a tree on a small knoll, though this may engender a sense of calm. Meditation is focusing on not focusing – relaxing the tumultuous whirl of the mind.
A key idea especially if using meditation as stress relief is to try and work your way through your body identifying areas that may be tight or holding on to stress. Typically the shoulders and neck cop most of the tension. So breathing and visualising these areas relaxing will help.
A slow enjoyable walk around the block, through a small reserve, along a beach has a number of benefits. First it takes you away from the source of the stress especially if taking a lunch time walk during work. Secondly when not done as a power walk it clears the mind and helps the parasympathetic system recharge the adrenal glands. It is very common for a person to feel more energised after walking.
Thirdly if walking somewhere not man-made then the air is likely to be filled with aromatic oils from plants, and the air negatively ionised. Aromatic oils have a molecular structure that when entering the nose activate parts of the brain responsible for creating an uplifting feeling.
Air that is stale, re-circulated, devoid of plants and filled with synthetic material (ie most offices) creates positive ions in the air and can account for the tired worn out feeling a lot of office workers get when spending hours at their desk. It is dead air. Where there is an abundance of plant life the air is negatively ionised and tends to have more of an uplifting bracing feel to it.
Chronic stress can decrease a person’s time and desire to exercise. This can make the stress worse as the blood and lymph become sluggish leading to a reduced ability for a person to handle stress.
20 minutes a day exercising is the magical number that will help the body push through the stress barrier to help the body keep producing energy. Exercising releases chemicals known as endorphins that help boost the mood. These are associated with the “high” runners describe when completing long runs.
If the stress occurs while sitting down then exercising will help balance the body out. If stress occurs with a lot of physical running around and standing up then brief periods of siting and meditating will help.
One of the best nutrients to take during periods of stress is magnesium aspartate. Magnesium is rapidly depleted during stressful periods. It is a key element that helps nerve signalling and muscle relaxation. Reducing magnesium levels reduces a person’s effectiveness in dealing with stress.
For mild stress around about 200 – 300 mg per day is sufficient. If the stress is severe then that level can be bumped up to 600mg per day for a short term.
Tyrosine is one of the building blocks of protein in your body. It is a precursor in the production of the adrenal and thyroid hormones for energy and mood support during times of stress.
Stress as we have already mentioned can suppress the digestive function, however the body when stressed needs more targeted nutrition but is unlikely to absorb what it needs from food. Consider taking a B Vitamin Complex, Vitamin C and a good all round Multivitamin to help maintain the high nutrition requirements. These are key nutrients the adrenal gland uses when trying to produce stress response hormones.
Long term stress can lead to adrenal fatigue. Once the adrenal glands become depleted and cannot produce adequate amounts of cortisol, a person’s health can become compromised.
Adaptogens are herbs that have a known ability to help the body adapt to stress and change via supporting the adrenal function. Withania somnifera, Liquorice, Siberian Ginseng, Rhodiola, and Rehmannia glutinosa are pre-eminent herbal adaptogens.
Ingesting these will help restore adrenal function and thus energy, and will also help prevent them being ravaged by the effects of stress.
Adaptogen herbs have a long history going back thousands of years for helping to restore a person’s energy and stress handling ability. Hans Selye did most of the modern day seminal research on these plants and it was he who coined the term “adaptogen.”
So much happens when human contact is made during a massage under stress. Blood and lymph flow where before it may have been sluggish. The mind relaxes and unwinds. Muscles lose tension. Clarity through relaxing is gained. Just human touch alone can boost a person’s spirits.
A regular massage is better than a one off when stressed. A deep tissue massage can sometimes make a person feel worse before feeling better. It has something to do with releasing tight muscles and a sudden flow of blood to sluggish areas. If stress is an ongoing issue then it is better to have a massage at least once every two weeks.
And if time is a constraint – just getting the neck, shoulders and upper back done will make a world of difference.
Acknowledge that you are stressed
A journey of a thousand miles starts with one step, and so to deal with stress, first a person has to recognised they are stressed. If they do not, then none of the remedies above will be of any use, as they will not have the nouse to employ them.
The worst stress to acknowledge is long term stress, especially that which a person comes to tolerate, or the lo-grade stress that insidiously snakes its way into a person’s life.
If you are not sure if you are stressed then check the list at the top of this article and see if apply to you. If yes, then chances are you have some form of stress in your life.
Stress does not have to rule or ruin your life. There are steps you can take to get on top of stress, and nutrients and herbs that will feed your inner fortitude, increasing your stress response stamina. You can master stress if you make a conscious decision to do so.
By Shane Mason.