As a naturopathic doctor, I hear it all the time: “I’m stressed, I’m burnt out, I have no time for me, and I have no idea what to do about it”. One of the number one influences on a person’s current state of health is exactly that; stress. Although providing patients the most useful tools to help address and treat stress is helpful, we all perceive and deal with stress differently. As naturopathic medicine knows and represents best, regardless of where you are on the spectrum of the stress continuum, preventative medicine truly is the best approach to stress management. Here’s how to easily include preventative medicine as part of an effective approach to stress.
An adaptogenic herb is a plant which contains the medicinal properties to support, nourish, and rebuild your stress system. In the face of acute of chronic stress, regardless of how you perceive it, your body is absorbing and dealing with stress in some way. One of the most effective ways to actively engage in anti stress measures is to allow this category of herbs to support your physiology and counteract the brunt of stress that your body has to endure. Although safe, in order to actually maximize the benefits of adaptogenic herbs, there are very specific herbs for very specific characteristics of stress. Not only that, each adaptogenic herb works differently and is precisely suited on the individual person actually experiencing the stress. Generally speaking however, herbs such as ahwagandha or rhodiola, at entry level doses, can initially get you started moving in the right direction.
This category of herbal medicine speaks to those herbs which help relax both the stress and nervous system. Although there are times where anti stress requires us to have extra energy to tap into, calming herbs allow our mind and body to rest, relax and recuperate in the face of stress. The example I often use is to compare calming herbs to that of coffee. Although many reach for the immediate effects of caffeine to help get through a tiring or stressful day, ultimately, coffee only pushes your stress system further into a stressful state. Calming herbs, on the other hand, is like providing yourself a much needed restful ‘sleep’ so to speak; although the stress is present, your body is able to ‘chill’, recover, and re build. If you’re stress causes you to be jittery and restless, the appropriate calming herbs are likely right for you.
Anti Stress Nutrients
Although herbal medicine plants contain a plethora of vitamins, minerals and nutrients beneficial to help fight the effects of stress, naturopathic medicine also utilizes specific nutrients to help your mind and body better adapt to stress. Many have heard that B vitamins are nourishing to the adrenal glands, but did you know that there are other very specific nutrients, in specific amounts, that work just as well, and sometimes better? Depending on which part of the stress system is being most stimulated, very particular nutrients will effectively fill the anti stress gap. Nutrients such as carnitine can help provide direct energy to your stress system, while Vitamin D creates an overall physiological response that will keep your stress response much lower over both the short and long term.
Immune System Support
When you’re stressed, your immune system suffers. Chronic stress suppresses the immune system and won’t allow it to function the way it should. The result? Lower defences, a higher susceptibility to getting sick, and a much longer period of recovery once you are sick. So how do you best support your immune system? As like everything else in naturopathic medicine, it all depends on the individual being treated. We use herbs, nutrients, and other specific methods to modulate and boost a persons immune system in order to ensure it’s working to its optimal potential despite the ugly head of chronic stress at play.
Regardless of what you’re doing to help abate stress, the modern ‘conveniences’ of the man made world will continually work against you when you’re dealing with stress. Although some people love living in the big city, the downturns it has on your health (toxins, artificial light and sound, innate stress that comes with artificial living) just won’t give you what you need. Nature, on the other hand, has lots of scientific evidence proving that spending time outdoors (in green space or in nature) provides a massive amount of anti stress benefit otherwise not gained by any other means. So get out side, go for a walk, or sit under a tree, and reap the immense benefits that nature has to offer.