Conquering Your Stress, with Naturopathy

Stress levels can have a big impact on our mental wellness. I wrote this article to support you with stress management, providing recommendations and resources.

I believe in a holistic approach to health – nurturing physical and mental function so that your systems operate harmoniously, helping you achieve optimal well-being.

In today’s fast-paced society, it’s easy for day-to-day obligations to take priority and for stress to accumulate over time until you feel overwhelmed. Or, you may find yourself suddenly struggling to cope with unexpected changes and challenging circumstances that inevitably arise throughout life.

 

Many people may overlook tell-tale signs and symptoms of poor mental health or push these out of their mind, persevering until the effects take their toll physically. You may start to feel exhausted and overreact to small things. You might experience frequent headaches and get sick a lot. Your mind may feel clouded as you struggle to concentrate or maintain motivation. Unhealthy habits and distractions can creep in as you try to relieve stress. Refreshing sleep becomes a distant memory, and your libido may be missing in action!

While you may become “used to” feeling this way, it is not how life is supposed to be long-term or how you’re supposed to feel daily. Ultimately, all these things have a detrimental effect on your health and can eventually lead to feeling like you have lost control.

The good news is that you will get through this. Whether you’re going through a trying time or experiencing sustained stress, you can and will get back to feeling like yourself again and living your best life. You can and will master your mental well-being and restore your health.

 

While it’s not always possible to prevent stressful situations or adverse events, you can strengthen your capacity to deal with them physically and psychologically.  Simple changes to diet and lifestyle can significantly impact potentially reversing stress symptoms and help you regain control of your life; promoting peace of mind and vibrant energy.

A healthy diet and lifestyle also supports sound sleep and effective stress response,

nourishing your nervous system and happy hormones; and optimising gut-brain function.

Mental health (or mental well-being) refers to a state of wellness rather than the absence of illness.

It’s about being cognitively, emotionally, behaviourally and socially healthy – the way you think, feel, behave and form relationships all contribute.

Stress & Your Mental Well-Being

COGNITIVE CHANGES

Poor memory and concentration; mood swings and irritability; brain fog; cognitive dysfunction; constantly worrying and looping anxious thoughts are all related to experiencing long-term stress and can lead to anxiety and depression.

BEHAVIOURAL CHANGES

Stress can influence your behaviour in a number of ways. For example, you might turn to a specific vice to try to alleviate the feeling, withdraw from others, or start eating more or less food than you need.

EMOTIONAL & PERSONALITY CHANGES

When you’re stressed, you tend to feel unhappy – perhaps sad or angry – and when you feel this way for long periods of time, you can suffer emotionally. If you remain stressed and unhappy over the long-term, it can feel as though it’s altering your personality and you may even forget who you are without stress – potentially leading to more severe mental health issues.

Stress & Your Mental Well-Being

Stress

Anxiety and depression are common mental health conditions that can affect anyone, at any time. However, different people can be at greater risk, as well as people going through particular events in their lives.

 

According to Beyond Blue, changes such as becoming an adult, retiring, starting a family or losing a loved one can put people at greater risk of developing a mental health condition. Experiencing discrimination based on sexuality, gender identity, ethnicity and religion can cause psychological distress, resulting in increased vulnerability to anxiety and depression.

45% of Australians will experience a mental health condition in their lifetime​

1 in 6 Australians are currently experiencing depression or anxiety or both​

Only half of all Australians with a condition currently seek support​

6 out of almost 8 suicide-related deaths each day are men​

Women experience anxiety and depression at higher rates than men​

1 in 4 young people experience a mental health condition​

Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander People experience greater rates of isolation, poor health and depression​

Depression is one of the most disabling mental conditions later in life and those who experience a chronic medical condition are twice as likely to develop depression ​

Pregnancy & Parenthood can be an emotional and stressful time for parents, and women in particular can experience anxiety and depression​

Is stress a bad thing?

There’s no shame in feeling stressed. Everyone experiences stress at some point and different things will be stressful for different people. There are no hard-and-fast rules about what should or should not stress you out.

 

It might surprise you to learn that stress is not necessarily a bad thing. Some people thrive on that rush of adrenaline as it helps them to work better, or faster, to meet an impending deadline. However, the modern lifestyle lends itself to long-term stress through prolonged exposure to stressors which opens us up to suffer from more debilitating effects, both physically and mentally.

Why do I feel Stressed?

Stress is an evolutionary response from our ancestors who operated in an environment where “fight or flight” were normal everyday options – like when coming face-to-face with a tiger.

 

Our stress response was designed to protect us in dangerous situations. The hypothalamus (a small region at the base of your brain) releases a surge of stress hormones, adrenaline and cortisol which prepare your body to react quickly and either stay and fight or run away – resulting in the physical sensation of stress.

 

These days, however, this innate stress response isn’t needed as frequently as it was at the beginning of human evolution. Fortunately, we now encounter fewer fierce felines! Instead, the perceived “danger” has become much more subtle yet pervasive. Today, daily life is made up of so many small stressors – traffic, meetings, social and family pressures, deadlines, parking, the list goes on – making stress an all-too-common feature of our modern lifestyle. From a psychological perspective, these conditions known as stressors are situations or events that you find demanding, challenging or threatening to your physical or mental health.

 

While our stress response does still have a place in certain situations, the key is to manage your stress response and ensure it is not stuck in the “on” position for a prolonged period of time.

Whilst stress is an unavoidable part of life, if it continues long-term it can cause issues for your health.

 

Avoiding stress wherever possible is ideal, but arguably more important is learning to effectively deal with stress. The first step is usually to deal directly with the cause of the stress and once the situation is rectified, focus on recovering and returning your body to a balanced state.

 

Reducing long-term stress and its effects requires a multifaceted, holistic approach. Using techniques to deal with stress both in the moment and once it has passed, as well as making sure your body is physically supported by receiving the right balance of nurturing nutrients, can all help to reduce long-term effects.

 

Some techniques that can help you manage stress and break the cycle include breathing techniques, regular exercise, prioritising sleep and of course, proper nutrition – which will be covered in more detail later.

What are the physical effects of stress?

When your brain releases stress hormones, your body has an immediate physical reaction, increasing your breathing and heart rate; heightening your awareness; and tensing your muscles – ultimately preparing you to take physical action.

 

While stress hormones are helpful in the moment when needed, elevated levels over the long-term can potentially lead to additional physical impacts on systems throughout your body:

Other effects of chronic stress include frequent headaches, insomnia, weight gain, anxiety and depression.

 

This is why it’s important to try and regulate your stress response and soothe the production of stress hormones once the situation has passed, to help you mitigate any negative effects.

Cardiovascular system:

Increased blood pressure and risk of cardiac events

Endocrine system:

Increased blood sugar levels

Gastrointestinal system:

Slowed digestion, irritable bowels, ulcers, heartburn

Reproductive system:

Decreased fertility by impacting sperm production and quality in men and affecting menstruation and PMS in women

Immune system:

Weakened immune function

Copyright © Samantha Lluisé of Lotus Womens Health 2024

DISCLAIMER

This is a personal blog and may contain general health and medical information. This information should not be construed as medical advice or relied upon as a sole source of information. If you are experiencing health concerns, it is imperative to seek help from a medical professional.  The information and opinions expressed on this website are not to be taken as medical advice. No liability or responsibility for actions taken due to information on this website will be taken. All views and opinions represented in this blog are personal and belong solely to Samantha Lluisé of Lotus Womens Health.

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