In many ways, the past 18 months have come to redefine what it means to feel stressed. A recent survey that we conducted across people in the US and UK found 89 per cent have experienced more stress as a result of the pandemic, with over 93 per cent reporting being affected by stress either daily or multiple times a week.
With the end of the majority of Covid restrictions in the UK set to end on 19 July, the idea that our lives will return to normal seems stressful in itself – two-thirds said that they felt more stressed with the end of lockdown approaching.
Stress is a physical and mental response to life experiences and situations. Our physical response to stress dates back through our human evolution. When we are in survival mode (i.e. being chased by a lion), optimal amounts of stress hormones can be lifesaving. Once a threat is recognised, our brain will send the signal to release our stress hormones. The release of these hormones helps our bodies function in an optimised state, maintaining fluid balance and blood pressure to run or assess danger. This is known as our “fight or flight” response.
The issue is that our 21st century stress levels are not usually raised by threats like a hunting lion. Our stress response is triggered by everything from work to the pandemic, credit cards to the climate crisis. When you maintain a state of stress for an extended period, the body continuously releases cortisol and it’s these elevated levels that can lead to further health issues.
It’s a common misconception that stress only affects us emotionally, and that its effects come and go as quickly as our mood changes. Stress also affects us physically and we carry the ‘physical memories’ of elevated stress far longer than we carry the emotional memories. The body is an ecosystem; what affects us emotionally also affects us physically.
So how can you help support your body from the physical impacts of stress? Boosting essential nutrients is a great place to start. I’m a big advocate for a nutrient-rich diet, full of natural whole foods. For people who find they struggle to achieve a balanced diet, or want further support, supplements are a great option B. For finding the right ingredients for you, a great question to ask yourself is where do you feel stress in your body?
Find yourself with a constant cold? Maybe your immune system is being compromised by long periods of stress. Vitamin C and Zinc are essential nutrients which are great for boosting immunity. Studies have shown that Vitamin C can also reduce levels of stress hormones in the blood and can reduce other typical indicators of physical and emotional stress, such as loss in body weight and enlargement of the adrenal glands.
If your productivity is low and you’re suffering from mind fog, this might be because stress is causing your brain to produce beta brainwaves. These help to signal a threat to our bodies, which in turn triggers our adrenal and nervous systems. In contrast, alpha brainwaves are associated with a state of relaxed concentration. L-Theanine can help support by boosting alpha brainwaves, leading to increased creativity, improved learning and decreased anxiety.
Struggling with painful stomach cramps? 74 per cent percent of people reported having stress-induced stomach issues, such as cramps, IBS flare-ups, and bloating when they were stressed. A daily probiotic will help to feed good bacteria into your gut and keep your digestive system working properly. Licorice root extract, widely used in traditional Chinese medicine and thought to be one of the oldest herbal remedies, is believed to have gastroprotective properties which may help inhibit the growth of ‘bad’ bacteria and can help soothe upset stomachs, reducing bloating and reducing acid reflux.
Tight shoulders or a sore lower back? Movement through exercise will help to keep blood flowing through your muscles. Magnesium, a key nutrient which helps support over 325 biochemical reactions in the body, is a great support for easing muscle tension. Exercise in nature is a double mood booster, with the World Health Organization labelling nature as “our greatest source of health and well-being”. There is also evidence to back it up, with scientists attributing the positive effects you feel in nature to phytoncides, a molecular compound produced by trees. For those who might be struggling for green spaces, our anti-stress supplement in the form of a fragrance, FOREST LUNGS, replicates the molecular structure of phytoncides to bring the healing effects of nature indoors and provide calm in moments of high stress.
Whether your approach is through supplements, a mindfulness practise or even spending quality time with family and friends, finding what works for you to reduce stress will positively impact your short-term and long-term mental and physical health so that you can live life to its fullest.
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