How stress affects your health & alternative ways to promote calm


With everything slowly returning to the “normal”  For most of us this means rushing off to work, dropping the kids to school, social events, and family get-togethers, – the list goes on! For some, this return of the “normal” is a long-overdue welcome for others, the change may be very overwhelming.

The effects of stress

When you get stressed, your body feels under attack and automatically kicks into high gear to deal with the perceived threat. This is what is known as the ‘fight-or-flight’ response. Your heartbeat, breathing rate and blood pressure all go up, and the longer you feel stressed, the greater the physical demands placed on your body and the more likely your energy levels will be sapped. If you are exposed to stress long-term, it could lead to a host of lifestyle and health problems.

Behavioural problems

To get immediate relief from feeling stressed, it’s not uncommon to seek chemical relief from alcohol or cigarettes. You may also start to feel that you don’t have time to exercise or eat properly, and you may be worrying so much that you sleep badly. These lifestyle factors are likely to harm your health.

Heart problems

When stress is intense and your body’s biological reactions are not channelled into physical activity, your raised heart rate and high blood pressure put tension on the arteries and damage them. The artery walls become scarred and thick, which can reduce the supply of blood and oxygen to your heart. This is when the fight-or-flight response can become lethal: your heart accelerates to increase blood supply to your muscles, but the blood vessels may have become so narrow that not enough blood reaches the heart to meet these demands. This can cause a heart attack.

Lowered immunity

Stress can also damage your immune system, which explains why you often catch colds when you are stressed. It can also bring on headaches and irritable bowel syndrome.

Mental health problems

The negative thinking that is associated with stress contributes to anxiety and poor mood and more serious mental health problems.

The natural way to calm

Taking nutritional supplements is one good way to manage your stress. The first option is a good B complex vitamin. B vitamins are not stored in the body so need to be replenished daily. If you are under stress or run down, symptoms such as cracks at the side of your mouth may indicate you need to take a B group supplement.

B vitamins work together to help maintain the health of your nerves. Adding magnesium to the mix will further help because this mineral relaxes the brain and helps neurotransmitter signals work more effectively. Magnesium is best taken in the evening, particularly if your stress is causing insomnia.

Herbal power

For mild anxiety and poor mood, a natural herb called St John’s wort (Hypericum perforatum) has been found to be as beneficial. St John’s wort has a particularly valuable ability to stimulate nerve regeneration and repair. There has been much research on the effects of this herb, and it’s been found to work more effectively when taken in conjunction with passionflower (Passi-fl ora incarnata), a traditional sedative herb. Another herb with sedative properties is zizyphus (Zyziphus jujuba). It is commonly used in traditional Chinese medicine for the relief of sleeplessness, irritability, anxiety and nervous exhaustion, and has also been used to treat spontaneous sweating and night sweats, especially when accompanied by mild anxiety, palpitations and restlessness.

St. John's Wort

Other helpful herbs include schisandra (Schisandra chinsensis), which has tonifying and restorative effects, hops (Humulus lupulus), which calms the nervous system, and vervain (Verbena officinalis), a sedative and relaxant to the nervous system. These all help your body resist the effects of stress and strengthen and calm your nervous system.

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