–by Kylie A. Study, M.Sc, MSTOM, Dipl.OM
PUBLICATION DATE: Nov 09, 2020
The holiday season is upon us and with that sometimes comes added stress. Additionally, traditions and gatherings will likely look different this year with the COVID-19 pandemic, and that might bring additional stress, sadness or anxiety. Here are a few ways that stress affects our health and how natural therapies may help.
What happens when we stress?
Stress can impact our day and how we feel physically. Stress can put us into a “fight or flight” response mode that causes us to run on high alert at all times. Being in this state over time can wear us down and make us feel exhausted. Stress can also cause us to tense up and hold tension in our muscles and body.
It is also believed that stress can throw off our circadian rhythm, which controls when we are awake and when we are asleep. Ever notice that when you are stressed out, you lie awake at night thinking about all the things you have to do? That is stress throwing off your sleep pattern.
What can we do to combat stress?
Stress is a part of everyday life, so we often cannot avoid it. Stress can affect our lives and our health in many ways. Finding natural ways to handle stress may help you to feel better overall.
Exercise can be helpful to release tension that is built up in the body from stress. Taking a walk, bicycling or even parking a little farther to get extra steps can help release tension. Doing an activity you enjoy can also help you to feel more relaxed. Making a phone call to a friend, reading a book, baking with the kids/grandkids are examples of activities you may enjoy and can help you de-stress.
Deep breathing can calm and relax the body and mind for some people. Deep breathing helps get the body out of the “fight or flight” response and calms the body. Mental focus may also improve from deep breathing. These exercises can be done very easily and there are many apps on smartphones and smartwatches for deep breathing. A few minutes of deep breathing exercises, especially before bedtime, can help with sleep as well.
Try Essential Oils
How about smelling a calming essential oil such as lavender before bed? Essential oils are believed to stimulate the limbic system in the brain and may help lower blood pressure, calm the breathing rate and help the body to de-stress and relax in some people. Essential oils can be diffused in the air at home, and there are also premixed blends and wearable essential oil jewelry to allow you to enjoy the benefits of essential oils on the go.
Chinese Herbal Therapy
If you have tried several of these natural techniques and are still feeling stressed out, Chinese herbal therapy may be something to consider. Chinese herbal therapy involves the use of natural products such as plants, mushrooms, and minerals to address symptoms you may be experiencing. These natural products are often taken internally in a capsule, liquid or powder form. Many of these herbs are considered to be adaptogens. Adaptogens may help the body handle physical and mental stressors. These adaptogenic herbs contain molecules that can help the body maintain homeostasis (a natural balanced state).
Chinese herbal therapy can be used alone or in conjunction with acupuncture. Acupuncture can help with stress for some people by causing the body to release endorphins commonly known as “feel good hormones.”
Managing stress is important for overall health and well-being. Natural therapies may help, but if stress is affecting your quality of life, consider talking with your health care provider.
Kylie A. Study, M.Sc, MSTOM, Dipl.OM is a licensed acupuncturist and natural wellness practitioner at the ProMedica Natural Wellness Shop in Sylvania, Ohio