The truth is, sometimes we need a little help calming the fuck down. It is so easy for us to get wrapped up in our own heads, or in the overwhelming amount of stimulus that happens around us. What happens to us when this happens is we get so bogged down, and overwhelmed with what we are trying to process that we make ourselves sick and tired. This is chronic stress. As I’ve said before and will say again, probably a thousand times, humans are meant to be stressed out less than 50% of the time. Our bodies function best when we are resting and relaxed for 60% of the time. Now, not to say that this means we need to be lounging on the couch for this 60% of our life (although that sounds awesome). What I mean is our ancestors were designed to face stress in life or death situations, like being chased by a lion. When they encountered this stress, adrenaline would peak, and they would choose fight or flight. Then, once the lion was gone, so was the stress.
Today, we are constantly stressed. The lion is everywhere, and we cannot seem to enter that restful, relaxing state as easily as our ancestors. There are tons of things you can do physically to reduce this stress, but for times when that is not enough there are also herbal supplements that you can take to help get your body back into a place where you can manage your stress again. Let’s dive right in!
Natural Ways to Manage Stress
Get Enough Sleep
Sleep deprivation causes an array of side effects from weight gain, skin eruptions, lower sex drive, daytime fatigue and headaches. Even a night or two of insufficient sleep can cause irritability and an increase in depressive thoughts. Your brain needs this rest time to detox and rebuild itself to prepare you for the upcoming day. If you struggle with getting enough sleep or getting quality sleep, check out my article about herbs for deeper sleep.
Any type of movement whether its walking, swimming, running, yoga, weight-lifting or even just stretching, pumps up the endorphins in your body which are “feel-good” hormones. Along with this chemical shift, exercise helps the body work out physical manifestations of stress like tension in the shoulders or tightness in the hips which will calm and relax you. It also increases self-confidence and helps the body release cortisol, a stress hormone.
There is tremendous evidence on the positive effects of being outside on your mental state. There is a Japanese practice called Shinrin-Yoku or “forest bathing” that, very basically, invites you to take a slow meditative walk through a natural area to absorb some of the benefits from the nature around you. There are natural chemicals produced by trees called phytoncides which have been shown to help reduce the stress hormone, cortisol. More research on this can be found here.
Herbs to Help with Stress
For the past few months I have been taking an adaptogen blend as a supplement and I have noticed a real difference in my ability to perceive and manage stress. Adaptogens are a group of herbs that help your body adapt to stress and develop a resilience to stress over time. They work to maintain energy reserves helping to prevent the body from working itself into depletion and therefore, speeding up the body’s recovery from stress. In most cases, adaptogens are also immunomodulating meaning that they support the immune system and prevent the depletion of white blood cells in stressful situations.
Asian Ginseng (panax ginseng)
Especially useful for stress that is affecting the cardiovascular system, Ginseng is a hypoglycemic, hypolipidemic herb which means that it is blood sugar lowering and cholesterol lowering.
Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera)
Used in Ayurvedic tradition of India to provide vitality in order to combat stress. This one is my favorite. IT is helpful for stress that is targeting the reproductive system. It stimulates the thyroid and is rich in Iron. Avoid in cases of hemochromatosis and hypertension or if taking thyroid hormones.
Eleuthero (eleutherococcus senticosus)
Another one of my favorites, eleuthero enhances physical performance and reduces fatigue without being overstimulating. It is balancing to the thyroid.
Tulsi or Holy Basil (ocimum sanctum)
Used in Ayurvedic tradition and from Hindu mythology. Tulsi is an incarnation of goddess Tulsi, the goddess of protection. It was planted near doorways to protect the inhabitants. A clinical trial reported that Tulsi weakened the effects of generalized anxiety disorders along with stress and depression.
Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum & G. tsugae)
Used in Chinese medicine as a “mushroom of immortality”. Almost good for just about anything, Reishi is useful for conditions of hypersensitivity like stress and panic. If you want to learn more about mushrooms and their uses, Four Sigmatic has a mushroom school on their page that is completely free and full of so much amazing information. I will link it here.
If you are looking at adding an adaptogenic herb to your routine, I would recommend starting with a blend so that you get more generalized effects. There is likely more happening in your body than you think. As always, this information is for education purposes only and is not meant to be a substitute for medical diagnosis, treatment or advice. Please maintain an open line of communication with your doctor when adding any type of supplement into your routine.