Most people are aware of many of the “stressors” in their lives. Those, which are most commonly mentioned, include money problems, time pressures, job issues, family concerns and illnesses. Stress can also be environmental in nature. Being too hot or too cold, environmental toxins, bright lights or darkness, and even smells can produce stress.
Signs and Symptoms
When acutely stressed, a person may notice their heart beating faster. The body is increasing blood to the brain and to any muscles that may need it. The rate of breathing also increases in an acute stress response allowing the brain and muscles to receive more oxygen. When stressed the body will also begin to perspire; the reason for this is to eliminate toxins, as well as, to regulate temperature. Other less noticeable symptoms include a decrease in digestive activity and an increase in blood sugar. Other stress symptoms may include headaches, backaches, tight muscles, fatigue, overeating, insomnia, anxiety and depression.
Blood or saliva tests are useful to determine the levels of stress hormones in the body. These tools allow a doctor to determine how the body is holding up to the daily stresses it encounters.
Treatments for Stress
Most supplement and herbal treatments for stress are treatments that boost the adrenal glands ability to produce adrenal. Adrenal fatigue, a situation in which the adrenal gland is not operating normally, can leave a person feeling exhausted and anxious. Supplements, which are important while supporting the adrenals, include magnesium, zinc, pantothenic acid, vitamin B6 and vitamin C. The most important herb for providing support to the adrenal support gland is ginseng. Both Siberian and Chinese ginseng have been found to improve resistance to stress.
Prevention and Self-care
Regular exercise helps many people cope with and prevent stress. This may seem paradoxical since the body’s first response to exercise is a stress response; blood pressure, heart rate and respiration all increase while exercising. However, exercise also produces endorphins, which have been referred to as natural opium causing a relaxing and euphoric feeling. More importantly, exercise conditions and strengthens the body to cope with stress.
Diet and food routines play an important role in stress management. Maintaining proper blood sugar levels will help prevent stress; therefore, refined carbohydrates such as sugar should be avoided. To support the adrenal glands and reduce the risk of adrenal fatigue, a diet with adequate amounts of potassium and low amounts of sodium is helpful in coping with stress.
Lifestyle is key to the prevention of stress. Many of the coping methods that people turn to for stress relief actually promote stress. Drugs, alcohol, smoking, and overeating are all common things that many people turn to when stressed. These negative coping mechanisms lead to more stress generally. Most of these alter the brain’s chemistry and should be avoided by persons who suffer from stress.
Finally, taking time to relax is an important self-care component of stress management. While holidays are great, individuals prone to stress will want to spend twenty to thirty minutes each day relaxing. Listening to soothing music, sitting in a quiet place without interruption and guided imagery can all promote relaxation and reduce stress.