Does bothersome stress make you feel on edge and ill? It’s time to stop ignoring it. Neglecting your stress could lead to death. People with high levels of stress hormones could be five times more likely to die from diseases than those with low stress levels, according VU University Medical Center in The Netherlands.
Not only does it have serious physical effects, it also lowers productivity, decreases life satisfaction and causes relationship problems.
Stress isn’t always bad though. Having some level of stress provides motivation to be productive and do well on activities. It’s high levels of stress that cause problems.
Are Your Stress Levels Too High?
You don’t need a special test to determine your stress levels are hazardous to your health. You most likely have been having the telltale signs for a while.
You will notice detrimental stress effects in four areas of your being: emotional, behavioral, cognitive and physical.
Emotional Stress Signs:
- Feelings of loneliness and isolation
- Feelings of being overwhelmed
Behavioral Stress Signs:
- Change in appetite
- Change in sleep patterns
- Alcohol or drug use
- Nervous habits
Cognitive Stress Signs:
- Memory problems
- Lack of concentration
- Poor judgment
Physical Stress Signs:
- Aches and pains
- Gastrointestinal problems
- Chest pain
- Frequent colds
- Decreased or lack of sex drive
Stress management techniques can greatly improve your life. Deep breathing, meditation, exercising, eating right and prioritizing without overwhelming yourself can start the fight against stress.
When you can’t avoid stressors your body needs help with its stress response. When you’re presented with a threat, your body prepares to fight or flee the situation. Your heart beats faster increasing your blood pressure, your muscles tense, you may sweat, along with other get ready to act symptoms.
These bodily processes over time become chronic and are what causes problems. To combat your body’s response to stress, you can take medication, but some of the side effects of these prescription drugs can be as irritating or as damaging as the effects of stress.
Herbal Remedies for Stress
Many herbal remedies exist that will help your body remain calm in stressful situations that have been in use for years.
Julie Brannon, an herbalist and owner of Bailey’s Naturals, an Herbal Apothecary in Safety Harbor, Florida, identified two classes of herbs that help with the regulation of bodily responses to stress: nervines and adaptogens.
“[Nervines are] a class of herbs that act on the central nervous system by reducing anxiety and tension symptoms. The standouts are scullcap, passion flower, and lemon balm. They are perfectly safe for daytime use in appropriate doses.
Valerian root is often put in this class, but it is technically a sedative, and should only be used prior to bed, unless it is combined with other herbs to dilute its action for daytime use. Valerian also contraindicates for people on prescription antidepressants and MAO inhibitors,” she said.
“This is a classification of herbs that have a regulating effect on the body, assisting in a balanced response to stress and lessening the negative effects. They are particularly beneficial for adrenal function, which can be dramatically depleted by long-term chronic stress. These herbs include ginseng (preferably American ginseng), astragalus, schizandra berry and ashwaganda, to name a few,” she added.
Deciding on a Type of Anti-Stress Herbal Remedy
If your stress is short-term, you would most likely benefit from nervines because they're effective in giving you quick calming effects, Brannon recommends.
She also suggests that if you’re enduring chronic stress, the adaptogens will help correct overburdened and depleted adrenals, which will help you feel less fatigued, improve memory, mood and reduce frequency of headaches associated with stress. Adaptogens need to be taken daily with results experienced within a week or two.
Use Herbal Remedies with Caution
Herbs in general are a safe alternative to prescription drugs, Brannon said, but just because something is labeled "herbal," doesn't necessarily mean it's safe.
Become educated about the condition you're trying to treat, and research which herbs might be useful. Exercise particular caution if you're taking any prescription or over-the-counter meds, and work with a qualified natural practitioner, Brannon finished.