Natural Remedies For Stress
There are many natural remedies for stress, “do it yourself” tools that we can explore and use in everyday life to help support and ground ourselves during challenging times. Getting enough sleep, a good diet and enough exercise can all be beneficial. Having someone you can reach out to, a trusted friend, a loved one, a family member, a health professional can really help towards creating a feeling of safety, support and belonging.
Improving our understanding and knowledge about stress, and what the root causes are can also really help – once we understand ourselves better there is the opportunity to do much more to help ourselves.
The word stress comes from the Latin words “strictus” (which means “tight” or “narrow”) and “stringere” (which means “to tighten”). These word roots carry the meaning of restriction and limitedness and reflect individual psychosomatic states under physical pressure or mental demands, Encyclopedia of the Sciences of Learning.
A stressor can be defined as “a threat, real or perceived, that tends to disturb homeostasis (balance). To clarify this further we need to differentiate between acute and chronic stress. Acute stress is the immediate, short term body response to threat, a valid and essential physiological response to ensure our survival. Chronic stress on the other hand is the activation of the stress mechanism over long periods of time, when someone is exposed to stressors that cannot be escaped either because they do not recognise them or because they have no control over them. It is now widely understood and discussed, what the detrimental damage and consequences are on health if our stress response is chronically triggered. For example, high cortisol and adrenaline levels (stress hormones) destroy tissue, raise blood pressure and damage the heart. There is also extensive documentation of the inhibiting effect of chronic stress on the immune system. Also delays in tissue repair and wound healing.
Some interesting facts – chronic stress plays a big part in many long term, chronic health conditions. Chronic pain and illness is now considered to be the biggest pandemic in healthcare today. In fact, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) estimated in 2020 that “arthritis and back pain account for one third of all claims for disability benefits in the UK ” and productivity cost is between £5 billion and £10.7 billion, just for back pain. Furthermore, the prevalence of chronic pain in a recent study has shown that possibly 28 million people in the UK (43%) are struggling with chronic pain – putting this into perspective, there are more patients with chronic pain than all of heart disease, diabetes and stroke put together!
What can we do to help ourselves? Reducing stress starts with self awareness, we cannot change what we are not consciously aware of. Having some understanding of what is causing our stress and how we respond physically and emotionally can be the beginning of creating some natural remedies for stress and more positive coping strategies.
The Pancha Kosha (maya) model describes the human being as multi-layered, all layers interwoven, all playing a role in the health and balance of the individual. Here we can see how some symptoms of stress show up in each of our layers and what we can do to help ourselves. Some natural remedies for stress, the yoga way…
Physical body – some symptoms of stress can include general muscle tension, particularly the jaw. General aches and pains, hunched shoulders, restless, hyperactive, nail biting, finger drumming, foot tapping – restless.
Yoga support: moving in a gentle mindful way, tuning into physical sensations can bring conscious awareness to physical state. This can be the start of developing a better understanding and relationship with the body. Physical tension means that body tissue has hardened, as a result blood flow, energy/oxygen flow and movement can be restricted. Mindful movement can bring energy, mobility and life back to body parts. We can also calm the mind, giving it something to focus on rather than everyday stressors!
Energy/breath body – here we can feel low in energy, drained, regularly tired, lethargic, exhausted. Disrupted breathing patterns e.g. rapid shallow breathing, breathlessness and disrupting sleep.
Yoga support: developing some awareness of disrupted breathing patterns brings the power to correct them. Breathing practices and pranayama to support all physical systems. To improve the functioning of our heart, lungs and increase energy.
Mind/emotional body – stress can create an over active, busy mind, an inability to switch off. Negative, intrusive thoughts can prevail. Regularly feeling worried, upset, tearful, deflated, feelings of helplessness and hopelessness, withdrawn, feeling unable to cope, anxious and depressed, impatient, easily irritated and aggravated. Low self esteem, and feeling overwhelmed.
Yoga support: deep relaxation can be useful to experience a sense of “letting go” to relax physically and mentally. Visualistion, affirmation and meditation are additional tools to help us stay calm and positive.
Wisdom body – this is where we can explore new perspectives, perhaps question our beliefs and attitudes. Here we may be able to understand things differently, adapt and learn.
Yoga support: being open to learning and able to reflect on life means that lessons can be learned and positive changes can be made. We may seek inspiration from different sources, friends, family, podcasts by leading experts, health professionals. Ancient yogic texts, Patanjali’s Sutras, Bhagavad Gita, The Upanishads can be as relevant today as they were in the time they were composed.
Bliss body – this part of ourselves needs nourishing, and refers to our ability to find contentment and inspiration in life. We can find inspiration and joy in many places…watching a sunset, enjoying a favorite hobby, painting, e.g. singing, gardening, painting etc.
To conclude, there are many different ways you can create some natural remedies for stress. What’s important is choosing something that is right for you.
Note: some of the above listed symptoms may also be symptoms of other illnesses too, always check with your GP if worried.
References: When the Body Says No, Gabor Mate,p34. When the Body Says No, Gabor Mate, p36. The Pain Free Mindset, Dr Deepak Ravindran, p125. National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence , “Chronic Pain: Assessment and Management” (in development). Retrieved from http://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/indevelopment/gid-ng10069/consultation /html-content-2. Fayaz, A., Croft, P., Langford, R. M., Donaldson, L. J., and Jones, G., T., 2016. “Prevalence of chronic pain in the UK: a systematic review and meta-analysis of population studies” BMJ Open, 6(6), p.e020364.