To lead a balanced, enriching life we all know that we must eat well and exercise… because without optimal health and energy it becomes a daily struggle to reach our potential.
But it is equally important for optimal health and happiness that we create balance in our lives… time to stop, relax, reflect and reconnect with nature. And for most of us therein lies the greatest challenge!
Ghandi once said, “There is more to life than increasing its speed”
If we truly desire optimum health we need to make a real effort to incorporate strategies that help us slow down, diffuse everyday stresses and enjoy life!
The moment the stress response is activated our heart rate speeds up; our blood pressure increases; our respiration quickens; our hormones that help provide immediate energy such as adrenaline, noradrenalin and cortisol are released into the circulatory system; our blood flow is directed away from our digestive system and toward our head for quick thinking and to our arms and legs for the power necessary for ‘fight or flight’. Thus the sympathetic nervous system becomes active and all the body’s metabolic functions are geared directly for survival. This feature of our central nervous system (CNS) has evolved over millions of years into a brilliant safety mechanism that supports us through life-threatening events.
The idea, though, is that once the danger has passed the stress response (sympathetic nervous system) turns off and the body relaxes triggering the parasympathetic nervous system to switch on. In this mode the metabolic functions return to normal. Our heart rate decreases as does our blood pressure; our blood flow is directed back to our digestive processes and our ‘stress hormones’ stop being released so that the body can go back to its regular routine of fighting off viruses, assimilating nutrients and producing energy to enable us to carry out our normal daily activities.
It seems with every New Year the pace of life is stepping up a notch and we are becoming ever-more stretched to our limit… unrealistic work hours and deadlines, increasing societal expectations and family commitments. I see more and more people suffering from physical and mental exhaustion, becoming overwhelmed, teary, anxious and irritable, suffering from a low libido and lowered mood. Sleep problems are on the rise along with high blood pressure, hot flushes and night sweats. Stimulants such as coffee and sugar are relied upon to keep us going and it seems as a society we’re absolutely exhausted.
More often than not our bodies are functioning in sympathetic mode. The result is a compromised digestive system, lowered immunity, low energy and vitality and a general struggle to get through the day. And if we keep operating in the fight or flight mode it may increase our anxiety levels and ultimately we run the risk of the body becoming overwhelmed and shut down into depression.
Herbs can Help
If you can relate to any of the above symptoms and feel a little like you are no longer in control of your life as it’s sweeping you along at break-neck speed… then it’s time you need a little support.
In these high stress, and high pressure times, you need to nurture, nourish and support your nervous system and adrenal glands and Nature provides beautiful herbs that can help.
Withania is an Ayurvedic herb (traditional Indian) and one of our favourites for stress and debility. It is the number one tonic to the whole nervous system and used when we are under both acute and chronic stress. It supports adrenal function by acting as an adaptogen.
Adaptogens increase the body’s resistance to stress, trauma, anxiety and fatigue.
Rehmania is one of the most important tonics in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). It is used to nourish and replenish depleted vital energy known as “qi”.
Rhodiola is another beautiful adaptogenic herb that is very rejuvenating and restorative. Traditionally rhodiola has been used to increase physical endurance, work productivity and longevity and was revered as a “gift of the spirits”. More recent research has revealed rhodiola as a great protective herb to the nervous system, (and also the cardiovascular system), a great anti-fatigue, anti-anxiety, anti-depressive and anti-ageing. Wow a must have!
Siberian and Panax ginseng
These two ginsengs are well known ‘adaptogens’ – herbs that protect the adrenal glands when under stress. They promote energy, endurance and stamina. These revitalising herbs work to improve energy levels by supporting the nervous system and enhancing the functioning of the adrenal glands therefore increasing the body’s ability to deal with stress.
St John’s Wort
St John’s wort is great for lowered mood and has been used since the middle ages as a valuable relaxing herb and has long-lasting tonic effects on the whole nervous system. It is a gentle nerve tonic, boosting the whole nervous system when taken regularly over a period of 3-6 months. In the case of long-term stress leading to nervous exhaustion, St John’s Wort may help build up energy levels.
Brahmi and Gingko
These beautiful herbs are a great combination to use for poor memory, focus and concentration. Gingko stimulates the blood circulation (hence oxygen) to the brain. Brahmi is a beautiful Ayurvedic herb that helps the brain focus and retain information It has also been shown to reduce anxiety so it is a great herb to take during exams.
Valarian, Hops, Passionflower and Melissa
Getting adequate and quality sleep is vital when exposed to added stress and so these herbs are a great help in getting you to sleep, staying asleep and waking refreshed.
Astragalus is an immune tonic that gently supports the immune system as it is prone to be compromised under continuing stress.
“Because it’s Not a Rehearsal”
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