I am choosing to write about stress as it is something we all experience in one form or another. Not all stress is bad stress. Different kinds of stress have different effects on the mind and body.
Firstly I will mention eustress. The type of stress we all wish was the only kind in our lives. This is a motivating stress and can be considered ‘good stress’. It can feel exciting, is short term and motivating. Eustress helps us to focus our energy and improve performance. This type of stress is perceived as within our ability to cope with. It helps to challenge us to be productive, motivated and happy. It is when we find this to no longer be manageable that distress takes over.
Then there are normal stress responses, to immediate danger. The kind of incidents that happen abruptly and we have to react quickly to. The kind that warrants an appropriate fight or flight response. Like when a car suddenly comes barreling towards you and you have to react to jump out of the way. This is a mechanism for survival. In these situations our autonomic nervous system starts an avalanche of responses. Immediately signaling our sympathetic nervous system which includes the adrenal glands.
There is so much I could go into about the two parts of our adrenal glands, which sit on top of each of our kidneys. The central adrenal medulla and the outer adrenal cortex. Today I am going to keep it simple. When we perceive danger our adrenals produce a hormonal cascade secreting catecholamines, especially epinephrine, often referred to as adrenaline, and in a smaller amount norepinephrine. These hormones instantly dump into our bloodstream, eliciting a number of metabolic reactions. Including the production of cortisol, causing a variety of physiological responses. Increases blood pressure as well as blood sugar, shortness of breath, racing heart and improved mental clarity are some of the physiological responses caused by the chemicals released from our adrenal glands. This response happens, to give us the kick we need to assess the situation and figure out the fastest most efficient way to safety.
Unfortunately stress is not supposed to be a prolonged everyday occurrence. When we are exposed to these chemicals for a prolonged period of time, our bodies get overloaded with them. This is a chronic situation called distress. It is the bad stress that many of us know all too well. The kind that is too much to bear and we often lose ability to cope with. The challenge is no longer fun, or immediate danger has dissipated. Things seems relentless and appear to have no end in sight.
Distress is very dangerous to our wellbeing and longevity. It can lead to a slue of symptoms involving the skeletal muscles, autonomic nervous system as well mental and behavioural, including:
hardening of arteries, heart attacks and strokes, and lesser though no less pervasive problems such as tension, pain and headaches, hives and rashes (I actually broke out in a terrible rash covering my whole torso from stress this past summer), diarrhea, nausea, panic attacks, night sweats, anxiety, depression, forgetfulness, confusion, reduced productivity, social withdrawal and loneliness. The list goes on…
There are many things we can and should do to combat stress. Firstly, the nutritionist side of me says: drink plenty of water, CUT YOUR SUGAR and CAFFEINE INTAKE, remember to graze regularly on healthy foods (you need to keep your brain and body fed with glucose to help you function at optimal levels). Take a B complex vitamin to increase your mental clarity and brain health. Don’t forget the importance of a good probiotic (50 billion active cells or more). Stress is known to affect our gut. Which plays a very important role in regulating our immune system reducing inflammation which can lead to inflammation in the brain affecting our mental and overall health. In reality our gut controls our mind and body. Stress and gut health are almost like a chicken and egg scenario.
“Research published in 2011 also demonstrated that probiotics have a direct effect on brain chemistry under normal conditions -- in such a way that can impact your feelings of anxiety or depression. In short, the probiotic Lactobacillus rhamnosus had a marked effect on GABA [an inhibitory neurotransmitter that is significantly involved in regulating many physiological and psychological processes] levels in certain brain regions and lowered the stress-induced hormone corticosterone, resulting in reduced anxiety- and depression-related behavior…..Interestingly, neurotransmitters like serotonin are also found in your gut. In fact, the greatest concentration of serotonin, which is involved in mood control, depression and suppressing aggression, is found within your intestines, not your brain!” chronic stress and gut effects
Don’t forget about exercise and grounding techniques including conscious breathing. These along with nature go a long way to helping to reduce your overall stress levels. Take a walk outside, feel the breeze on your face. If possible take off your shoes and put your bare feet in the grass or dirt. Hug a tree, literally stop and smell the roses, the leaves, the crisp air of winter or even the earthy smell of autumn decay. If you can’t hit a park, in the very least you can take brisk walk around the block. I enjoy appreciating the glory of grandmother moon at all points in the day or night. I find her omnipotent beauty very calming. I love finding her in the pale blue sky light of the day. Seeing her alway reminds me of the grander scheme. That the problems I find weighing me down are miniscule in relation the magnificence of the universe on a whole. My stressors are relative comparatively speaking to the true suffering many who inhabit this earth face. Or those of those of global concern.
Lastly and in no way least this brings me to Essential Oils. There are a number of oils beneficial for easing stress. We can diffuse them in a room, make a room spray, have a hot epsom salt bath with some blended in. Simply apply a drop or two to a cotton ball or tissue and leave close to you, brush it over the fabric of the chair you are sitting on or simply wave past your nose. Then of course you could blend a small amount in a carrier oil (less is more when it comes to EO’s) and apply to your temples, behind your ears, at the base of your skull, or even a whole body application. I will add it is rarely recommended to use EO’s neat, there are only very few oils with which this would be appropriate and even then, only for very acute first aid situations. Whatever delivery method you choose, here are some suggestions of stress busting oils. This list is in no way limited to these oils. I have merely picked a few common ones recommended for relieving stress.
Lavender, Bergamot, Chamomile Roman, Lemon, Neroli, Clary Sage, Sandalwood and favourites of mine, the spiritual anointing oils of Frankincense and Spikenard.
One quick note. A common practice for me is to carry a spritz bottle of pure rose otto distillate hydrosol. I find a spritz to my face to be very calming and uplifting. Subtle and soul soothing.
For more in depth info on specific Essential Oils, stay tuned for my new weekly feature called ‘Oil Of The Week’. Where you will find a short description of and uses for my oil of the week and it’s impact on your body, mind and spirit.
DISCLAIMER – Note, the information contained in this website is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease and is not meant to replace the advice of a qualified healthcare professional or practitioner. The information provided on this site is for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for advice from your physician or other health care professional.