By Patricia Gallagher, Director, HRI Herbal Medicine
We all talk about being stressed – trying to juggle the demands of family, work, home and friends can put a strain on anybody’s equilibrium. However, it is important to recognize the difference between the mild stress of everyday life and times when stress starts to affect your mental and even physical health.
A little stress is a normal part of life, and perfectly healthy. It releases the hormones adrenaline and cortisol, which help put your body into ‘fight or flight’ mode, increasing blood flow and oxygenation of your blood as you breathe a little more quickly. A mild dose of these stress hormones from time to time heighten awareness and clarity of thought and help you to cope with difficult mental or physical situations.
However, prolonged stress can start to take its toll on the mind and body: your thoughts become muddled as blood sugar levels are affected by an excess of cortisol. You will become more prone to laying down fat around the tummy area and blood pressure will increase. Symptoms that tell you that your stress is starting to get out of control include feelings of helplessness and hopelessness, losing interest activities that are usually dear to you, such as taking care of your appearance or making the effort to get together with friends or family.
People often find their sleep patterns change with the low mood that comes with a feeling of being stressed, so you struggle to sleep at night, but fight to keep your eyes open during the day, which in turn can affect your work, and only add to your stress levels. Your appetite may also change, with weight loss for some or for others, comfort-eating leading to a gain in weight, which in itself can contribute to a feeling of low self-esteem.
If you suspect that you are suffering from depression or hopelessness, you should consult your doctor, but if you feel that you can make a difference by managing your own stress levels, here are a few tips:
Develop a positive demeanour – it sounds daft to say that acting positively can help you feel better
Slow down your breathing when you are aware of stressful situations
Actively relax your muscles, especially those around the neck and shoulders which can become very tense from long-term stress
Try to manage your time and be realistic about things you cannot do
Set yourself realistic goals that will help make your life less stressful. Can you ask for more help at work, for example, or ask a friend or neighbour to pick up one of your kids instead of rushing from one place to another in unrealistic timeframes
Accept situations you cannot change
Set aside time to relax and clear your mind – a session in a spa is ideal of course!
Many people find traditional herbal remedies such as our fully licensed HRI Good Mood™ (available online or via Boots and Holland & Barrett) can help to help with relieving the symptoms of slightly low mood and mild anxiety, based on traditional use.
If you decide to use a herbal medicine to help you kick stress into touch, it is important to choose products that are regulated by the UK regulator, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Authority.