Are you working long hours? Is your job stressful?
Have you had a break from work lately? Are you running on empty?
We all live busy lives in this face paced new era where the culture of working long hours and demand from our bosses has reached an all time high. This is all well and good, but is this lifestyle sustainable? No. Our body has been designed to react to stressful situations but it was never designed to be placed under duress for 8-12 hours per day 5-7 days a week. These ‘high stress’ situations place enormous stress on the functioning of our body and this so happens to deplete the nutrients needed to react sharply and have immediate reactions. Unless we support these key functions they will continue to use and rely on the same pathways, nutrients and organs – eventually we end up ‘whipping the dead horse’ as they say.
The symptoms of stress can be many and varied and can include: fatigue / apathy, allergies, irritability, trouble sleeping, difficulty in concentrating, poor memory, anxiety, changes in appetite, high blood pressure, indigestion, bloating, weight gain, diarrhoea or constipation, headaches, aches & pains, low libido, menstrual difficulties, skin problems, depression, increased infections and inflammation.
To summarise the physical, psychological and biological burden that our busy lifestyle places on us I have explained below the general adaptation syndrome. There are 3 stages that we can go through before we ‘burn out’ and become completely exhausted. Don’t stress though because I will also provide my favourite tips to help support your body during stressful situations and prevent yourself from reaching the final stage ‘exhaustion’.
General Adaptation Syndrome (G-A-S)
The body’s reaction to stress
Stage 1: ALARM REACTION
Body releases adrenaline (several other physiological mechanisms) to combat stress. This is the ‘fight or flight’ response. Once the stress is released the body will go back to normal functioning.
Symptoms: Tense muscles, increased heart rate, breathing and perspiration.
Stage 2: RESISTANCE or ADAPTATION
This is when the cause of stress in not removed and is long term. Further hormones are released which increase blood sugar levels to sustain energy and raise blood pressure.
Symptoms: Prone to fatigue, concentration lapses, irritability and lethargy.
Stage 3: EXHAUSTION
Depleted levels of energy and immunity. Mental, physical and emotional sources will suffer. Blood sugar levels decrease as the adrenals become depleted, leading to a decreased stress tolerance, progressive mental and physical exhaustion, illness and collapse.
Symptoms: ‘Adrenal exhaustion’.
James’ Four Simple Tips to Avoid ‘Burning Out’
Without a doubt, supporting patients through stress and restoring their vitality is one of my favourite areas of herbal medicine. With some amazing herbs that help support the body’s functioning (adrenals, liver, nervous system) and normalise our chemical reactions to stress, herbal medicine can have an immediate impact on those who have long forgotten the need to support themselves.
Areas of focus changes with each individual and everyone will respond differently to certain herbs. One of my favourite go to herbs for burnt out individuals is rhodiola. Rhodiola is primary used for stress, mental and physical fatigue, depression, and to boost energy. Results from taking this herb can be seen in as little as one week, optimal results will be seen after 12 weeks of supplementation.
Cortisol is produced during stress and is found to be in excess is patients who have been placed under long term stress. Liquorice extract has been found to reduce and re-balance the levels of cortisol within the body.
Both Indian and Siberian ginseng are adaptogens. Adaptogens greatly improve your body’s ability to adapt to stress, whether it’s a hectic schedule, heat or cold, noise, high altitudes or any number of other stressors. This elite class of herbs impart strength, energy, stamina, endurance, and they improve mental clarity.
Adaptogens have been found in recent scientific literature to help lowering cortisol levels, regenerating brain cells, alleviating depression and anxiety, protecting heart health, protecting the liver, preventing and fighting cancer, lowering cholesterol, protecting against radiation, balancing the immune system, decreasing fatigue.
Stress will always ‘take’ from our body. Its a reaction and therefore our body reacts and uses immediate fuels for functioning and thus the need for supplementation. Once again, the exact supplement required for each individual will be different depending on their situation and current diet.
Blood sugar levels play a major role in stress, as well as obesity and insulin resistance coming into play with certain individuals. The best meals you can eat to reduce the effects of stress include low GI foods, high fibre, high protein and whole foods. Eating 5-6 smaller meals during the day instead of larger meals will help to balance your blood sugar levels and ensure your not creating further stress upon the body.
Exercise. It’s a simple as that. 120-150 mins of moderate intensity exercise per week is enough to help reduce your overall stress.
Holidays every 6-12 months or time away from work each week dedicated to family, friends or even just by yourself. You will be surprised at the effects this can have on your mental status. And not just once every blue moon, book yourself in for some papering such as a massage, float tank, sauna and enjoy some ‘me’ time.
Having a routine at night before you go to bed can also help improve your sleep depth so start thinking of ways you can wind down more effectively at night so you can have a more restorative sleep.
James is available for Naturopathy consultations at Ocean Grove. Book online at www.ogosh.com.au or call (03) 5255 5040 (OG) to discuss how James can help you achieve your health goals.