Managing Stress for Good Health
Stress can be both good and bad for you:
- Short-term stress allows your body to react and respond quickly to demanding or dangerous situations. Short-term 'good stress' can motivate you, drive you forward to achieve your goals. Once the demands or danger has passed, your body returns to balance, or a state of ‘ease’.
- Long-term stress on the other hand is detrimental to your health, and is considered a major trigger for ‘dis-ease’. One of your greatest assets in managing stress levels is you!
Phases of Stress - Alarm, Resistance & Exhaustion
- Phase 1 (Alarm) – your ‘fight or flight’ response; increases cortisol and adrenaline
- Phase 2 (Resistance) – persistent, prolonged stress with your body attempting to ‘adapt or normalise'; facilitates elevated cortisol production
- Phase 3 (Exhaustion) – elevated cortisol production initiates cortisol resistance, decreasing cortisol production; your body’s resources become depleted, unable to mount any stress response (adrenal fatigue)
Chronically elevated cortisol and ‘dis-ease’
Persistent and prolonged stress appear to be the new ‘norm’, reaching epidemic proportions in today’s fast-paced lifestyles.
During Phase 1, cortisol and adrenaline drive essential changes in your body, helping you to focus and react quickly. Cortisol also curbs non-essential stress related changes in your body by decreasing immune, digestive and reproductive function.
Most people exposed to long-term stress are caught up in Phase 2, where chronically elevated cortisol levels trigger several changes in the body. Many chronic diseases are associated with long-term stress, particularly those related to dysfunctional neurotransmitter, hormonal, digestive and immune pathways.
Effects of prolonged Phase 2:
- Decreased serotonin production leads to low mood and anxiety
- Dopamine dysregulation generates cravings, addictions, poor focus and concentration
- Increased adrenaline, noradrenaline and adrenocorticotrophin releasing hormone (ACTH) drive insomnia, sleep disorders and increased alertness
- Decreased leptin levels increase central fat deposits, appetite, cravings and weight gain
- Decreased thyroid hormones resulting in sub-clinical thyroid disease
- Modified functioning in the brain results in poor memory and anxiety
Managing chronic stress
Managing long-term stress is an essential component of reducing your stress levels. You can address long-term stress by targeting cortisol through adrenal gland support and cortisol release with specific herbs, and make some positive lifestyle changes:
- Rhodiola & Withania: adaptogen herbs that support a healthy response to stress; increasing function where function is low, or decreasing function where function is high. Rhodiola and Withania are traditionally used to restore vitality and to enhance physical and mental performance during times of stress and fatigue. Rhodiola also supports production of serotonin and dopamine.
- Licorice & Rehmannia: adrenal tonic herbs that benefit those experiencing long-term stress and who are unable to mount a healthy stress response. Licorice and Rehmannia support the adrenal glands during prolonged stress, helping to reduce adrenal stress and reduce excessive cortisol production by slowing or inhibiting cortisol breakdown (sparing effect).
Positive lifestyle choices to help manage stress in life include:
- Eat a healthy and varied diet
- Exercise regularly
- Try meditation or yoga
- Deep breathing exercises
- Make time for things you enjoy
- Cognitive behavioural therapy
- Positive affirmations
- Reading a good book
A product containing some of the ingredients mentioned in this article is the Herbs of Gold Stress Ease - Click Here to View
- Goh C & M Agius (2010), The Stress-Vulnerability Model How Does Stress Impact On Mental Illness At The Level
- Of The Brain And What Are The Consequences?, Psychiatria Danubina, Vol. 22, No. 2, pp 198–202.
- Han KS, Kim L & Shim I (2012), Stress and Sleep Disorder, Exp Neurobiol. 21(4):141-150.
- Kim JJ & Diamond DM (2002), The Stressed Hippocampus, Synaptic Plasticity and Lost Memories, Nature Reviews – Neuroscience, vol. 3, pp. 453-462.
- Lucassen EA & Cizza G (2012), The Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal Axis, Obesity, and Chronic
- Stress Exposure: Sleep and the HPA Axis in Obesity, Curr Obes Rep. 1(4): 208–215.
- O’Connor TM, O’Halloran DJ & Shanahan F (2000), The stress response and the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis: from molecule to melancholia, Q J Med, 93:323-333.
- Pani L, Porcella A & Gessa GL (2000), The role of stress in the pathophysiology of the dopaminergic system, Molecular Psychiatry, 5, 14–21.
- Pizzorno JE & Murray MT (2013), Textbook of Natural Medicine, 4th Edition, Missouri, Elsevier.
- Ranabir S & Reetu K (2011), Stress and hormones, Indian J Endocrinol Metab. Jan-Mar; 15(1): 18–22.