by Farrah Kaeser, CMH, RMT, CNHC
Originally published on H.O.M.E. Feature Friday's Guest Expert
My name is Farrah Kaeser, Master Herbalist, Reiki Master Teacher, Natural Health Consultant, Essential Oil Specialist, and doctorate student in the field of Traditional Naturopathy (ND). I’m the owner of Natural Equilibrium and the director of the Reiki for Military Program. I’m here today to talk to you about a serious and prevalent issue: Stress.
We are incredibly designed to benefit from stress. It pushes us, keeps us going in difficult situations, and helps us achieve our highest goals, professionally, recreationally, and personally. We are built to experience healthy stress in acute situations. When we experience stress, the amygdala in our brain sends a distress signal to the hypothalamus, which activates our sympathetic nervous system, causing it to kick in like a lead foot on a gas pedal. It tells the adrenals to jump into overdrive, releasing epinephrine, aka adrenaline, and cortisol into the brain, and we experience the fight or flight response. Our heart rate increases, breathing gets faster, sight, hearing and other senses become sharper, glucose is released from temporary storage, and nutrients flood the bloodstream, supplying energy to all parts of the body. We become stress-fueled gladiators! Then, once the stressor passes, our parasympathetic nervous system steps on the brake and calms the body down.
What we are not designed for, however, is chronic stress. Days, weeks, months of constant stress. When your sympathetic nervous system has been active and your body has been pumping adrenaline for so long, it isn’t always biologically, chemically possible for your body and mind to release the stress response. You may have adrenal fatigue, nervous problems, and sleep disorders.
When the mind and the body can’t relax, serious issues arise. Studies have shown that, extremely conservatively, 60% (some experts say 90%) of all illness and disease are caused, at their roots, by stress. The conditions stress can cause or exacerbate range from depression and anxiety, to heart disease and Alzheimer's, to asthma, diabetes and obesity, to headaches, gastrointestinal issues, and accelerated aging. Stress can actually change your DNA, and cause birth defects in children!
So, what to do? First of all, everyone’s biochemistry and lifestyle is different, and deserves to be treated as such. So talk to your healthcare practitioner or health consultant about a tailored consultation. But there are a few things that apply to everyone. Here are my top 5 general recommendations.
Mindfulness meditation. You don’t need hours to sit in silence to meditate. Every hour or so, find 30 seconds - 5 minutes to just be mindful. Check in with yourself. How do you feel? The breeze on your face, the tension in your neck, the softness of your socks against your feet. Don’t worry about anything else, just touch base with yourself for a few seconds. Be present in this moment.
Diet, sleep, water! The big three. You are what you eat. If you don’t want to feel like crap, don’t eat crap! Seriously, if your body feels better, your adrenal glands are supported, you will be able to process and release stress much better. Stay well hydrated, to help flush toxins from the body and keep your body functioning at the optimal level. And get good, deep sleep. During sleep your body heals, restores, processes. This is incredibly important for all health, healing, and prevention.
Shinrin-Yoku. This Japanese term literally translates to “Forest Bathing,” but simply means taking a 20 minute walk in the woods. Exercise not only keeps the body healthy and feeling good, but also releases endorphins, which helps reduce stress and improve sleep. Additionally, studies have shown that walking in the woods/nature versus an urban area significantly increases the stress-reducing chemicals released by the brain.
There are many essential oils which can be used to help relieve and prevent stress. The most well-known is lavender essential oil, but there are many singles and blends which can help ground you, keeping you connected and helping stress roll off your back. Others are uplifting, elevating, and calming, and help relieve stress and stress symptoms.
For some, especially those with jobs such as paramedics, doctors, and military service members, or anyone who experiences chronic, long-term stress, there may be adrenal fatigue to take into consideration. This basically means that because you’re body and mind is kept on “high alert” at all times, the body doesn’t get to properly rest from the fight or flight response from day to day. This eventually causes the adrenal glands to become exhausted and function below the necessary level, causing many symptoms, the chief symptoms being fatigue that is not relieved by sleep, irritability, cravings for salty foods, dry skin, weight gain, and a lowered immune system.
So, there’s a quick-and-dirty rundown on acute vs. chronic stress, and a few general recommendations for helping you to be healthy and happy. More questions, concerns or want to schedule a wellness consultation? I’m here!
These facts and opinions are those of a certified Master Herbalist, Reiki Master Teacher, and a Natural Health Consultant, and are for educational purposes only, and not intended to replace consult with your healthcare practitioner.
If you have any questions or concerns about anything in this article, please contact me or your natural healthcare practitioner immediately.