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. Once the danger has passed, your body should return 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!
3 Phases of Stress
- 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’; 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
Persistent and prolonged stress appears 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.
Managing chronic stress
Managing long-term stress is an important component of reducing your stress levels. You can manage stress by taking specific herbs and nutrients to support a healthy stress response including:
Rhodiola is traditionally used in Western herbal medicine as an adaptogenic herb, typically standardised to contain the active components, salidroside and rosavin, to help enhance physical and mental performance during times of stress and fatigue. Adaptogenic herbs help the body resist physical, mental and emotional stressors while helping the body ‘adapt and cope’ with stress. Rhodiola also supports exercise endurance and performance and has been traditionally used in Western herbal medicine to relieve fatigue, and enhance physical and mental endurance and stamina.
Withania is an adaptogenic herb, traditionally used in Ayurvedic medicine to restore vitality during debilitation, stress and exhaustion and supports nervous system health.
Licorice is traditionally used in Western herbal medicine as an adrenal gland tonic which helps to maintain the tone and function of the adrenal glands.
You can also implement lifestyle changes in your daily routine to support your nervous system and promote a healthy response to stress. Some of these may include:
- Exercise regularly
- Try meditation or yoga
- Deep breathing exercises
- Make time for things you enjoy
- Cognitive behavioural therapy
- Positive affirmations
- Reading a good book