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Do You Need a Stress Cleanse?

Do You Need a Stress Cleanse?

This is the ‘good intentions’ time of the year. Most of us will try and identify ways to make positive changes for the New Year. We’ll decide to exercise more, take up a hobby or cut back on sweets or alcohol – all great ideas!

One proactive action that is rarely considered is stress prevention, sometimes called a stress cleanse. People often wait until they feel pretty bad – the ‘fix it when it’s broken’ method, looking for advice only when they haven’t slept for a month or have muscle tension that has hobbled them in some dreadful manner.

Acute stress preps you for an immediate response to danger, and is extremely helpful, if you actually are in physical danger.

Chronic stress is different to the pressure you feel when you have to make a deadline or finish a task in a hurry. That kind of good stress acts as a motivator and is relieved when the job is accomplished. You feel only a kind of excitement and afterwards a sense of satisfaction.

Chronic stress is ongoing and unrelenting. Parents, care-givers, retail workers, anyone with too much on their plate experiences this. The home-working environment, whether for homemakers or transposed ‘office workers’, can be less than ideal; and it can be hard to find the time to have a break. We forget that a commute can offer the space and time to move in our heads from one part of our life to another; as in, work-me and home-me.

During times of long-term stress, the responses that save your life in physically dangerous situations are no longer so helpful. They are associated with poor self-esteem, anxiety and depression, as well as physical illnesses including heart disease, digestive complaints and skin conditions. They can ruin sleep as well as negatively affecting the immune system.

Comfort food, cannabis or alcohol, used as a crutch to relieve stress, will mask the underlying pressure. They can worsen symptoms in the long run, and allow the situation to worsen, unchecked. We cannot always avoid stressful situations, but we can learn techniques to control how we manage them.

Symptoms that may emerge include:
Fatigue
Irritability and anger
Sleep problems
Back and muscle pain with an increased risk of injury
Difficulty concentrating
(cotton brain)
Racing and disorganised thoughts
Headaches
Low mood
Loss of sexual desire
Loss of confidence
Nervous feelings
How to stress cleanse

The go-getters may want to do this in one day, or over a weekend. Like a stress purge. It doesn’t really work like that: stress is not something you can eject from your body. It’s far better to find ways of incorporating these stress-relieving and relaxing techniques into your life every day. If yoga, deep breathing, or meditation don’t sound like your bag, here are a few other ideas:

Exercise

Whatever you enjoy and can follow through. I like to do something that allows my mind to switch off entirely. When I am swimming, I can’t listen to music or pay attention to anything except my own breathing. I focus on how my muscles feel, how they are tensing and releasing, I try to get my breath in line with my movements. This is effectively a form of meditation, even though I am going like the clappers. Walking, even for 15 minutes a day, can reduce tiredness and help with concentration.1

The Japanese call a walk in the woods ‘forest bathing’. They do it to reduce blood pressure and stress levels. It’s said to help depression and feelings of hostility.2

Hobbies and crafts

We have become very technologically dependant in the last decade. Very little operates without an electrical connection or wi-fi connection any more. And everything is faster: you can go entire days and weeks without needing an attention span. Basic relaxation techniques require an activity that allows the mind and body to focus on one thing only. The breathing slows and heart rate slows. The sympathetic nervous system is activated and we go into sedation mode. Hobbies like tiny figure painting, knitting, and jewellery making, painting and even DIY are perfect. They relax the body and mind. It can be very satisfying, creativity.

Baths and electric blankets

A hot bath is the ultimate mini pamper. Heat relaxes muscle tension. It’s a quiet and private space that is just yours for half an hour. You can glam it up with candles and beautiful therapeutic essential oils. If you don’t have a bath, hop into bed and turn on the electric blanket. Put on some relaxing music. Just lie there. Don’t forget to set the alarm if you don’t want to sleep.

It’s important to talk to your doctor if your stress levels are affecting your ability to function, if you feel anxious or depressed, and you think that nothing is helping.

Help from Herbs

Try a herbal remedy. Herbal remedies and teas can help to relax the mind and body.

Oats are the seed of the grass Avena sativa, which thrives in a damp, chilly climate. They therefore flourish in the UK in general and Scotland in particular. At one time there was a discernible coolness between the English and the Scots on the subject of whether oats were merely fodder for horses or worthy nourishment for the human population too. Snobbery on this topic has been overtaken by the science that shows oats are full of important nutrients such as B vitamins, which make oats a smart pick for strengthening your nervous system.

AvenaCalm Avena sativa oral drops is a traditional herbal medicinal product used for the temporary relief of symptoms associated with mild stress such as mild anxiety and to help sleep, exclusively based on long-standing use as a traditional remedy. Always read the leaflet.

AvenaCalm-avena-sativa-50ml

Avena sativa extract is made from the oat plant, harvested before it flowers. This means it is a different product to oats-as-food. An extract made from the fresh green shoots of the oat plant therefore shouldn’t contain any gluten; but those with severe allergies should be wary as this can’t usually be guaranteed. Herbalists have traditionally used Avena sativa extract made from the pre-flowering herb, rather than the dried seed, as a nerve tonic, helping to calm and sooth frazzled nervous systems. The use of Passiflora incarnata as a medicine was first mentioned by a Spanish researcher, Monardus in Peru in 1569. It was traditionally used by Native Americans for its sedative and anxiolytic effects.

Passionflower’s floral arrangement is so unique that early Christian missionaries decided to capitalise on its distinctive morphology, and use it as an educational tool in describing Christ’s crucifixion. The name describes the passion of Christ and his disciples; although, in addition, it does excite passion in laboratory mice!

Passiflora extracts have been shown to demonstrate anxiolytic (countering anxiety) and anticonvulsant effects in human volunteers.3 Several different modes of action have been found to account for its calming effects. It’s thought that having more than one mode of action can help reduce side effects and withdrawal effects.

1 Choi KW et al. JAMA Psychiatry 2019; 76 (4): 399-408
2 Furuyashiki A et al. Environ Health Prev Med 2019; 24 (1): 46
3 Elsas SM et al. Phytomedicine. 2010; 1 7 (12): 940-949

AvenaCalm Avena sativa oral drops A traditional herbal medicinal product used for the temporary relief of symptoms associated with mild stress such as mild anxiety and to help sleep, exclusively based on long-standing use as a traditional remedy. Always read the leaflet.

FED UP WITH BEING TOLD TO EXERCISE?

Shake it, baby! Shivering and shaking can help us to literally shake out the tension and anxiety held in the muscles, to calm the nervous system. When muscular shaking/vibrating is activated in a safe and controlled environment, the body is encouraged to return back to a state of balance. You can just shake your hands, swing your arms back and forth, rock your upper body, or crawl about on all fours – these actions all help release tension ‘frozen’ into our musculature.

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Do You Need a Stress Cleanse?