Strategies for Stress Management

Your body's response to stress can be supported by herbal remedies and physical coping strategies.

Reader Contribution by Mackenzie Varney and Nezinscot Farm
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by Unsplash/Omid Armin

Stress can be debilitating; anyone with anxiety will tell you this. While people deal with stressors in different ways, our bodies all react quite similarly. You may have heard talk of adrenals, or seen adrenal support tinctures or concoctions for supporting a healthy stress response. This is because your adrenals, which are glands located above each kidney, control specific hormone production. One of these hormones is called “cortisol” and is increased as your body’s response to a stressful environment (3).

Your Body’s Stress Response

When you’re faced with a stressful situation, your body can’t distinguish the threat of financial insecurity from being chased by a bear, and it creates the same internal environment. This response is supposed to be relatively quick, increasing your blood pressure and making you more alert so you can get out of a potentially perilous situation and then go back about your day. When we worry about things, that cortisol level rises.

When we’re chronically worried or anxious, cortisol is in our system for longer than necessary, which can lead to a bulk of health issues. These include a weakened immune system, digestive issues, heart disease, insomnia, depression, skin irritation, and many more (4). This is why it’s incredibly important to have certain strategies in place to help reduce stress in our daily lives.

Tea Blends and Herbal Remedies for Stress

In our present time, I’m sure everyone is dealing with their own different stressors and maneuvering around obstacles that wouldn’t have existed a month ago. Stress-relieving teas or tinctures are a great ally to have on hand right now. Lavender, chamomile, calendula, motherwort, rose, rosemary, and St. John’s wort are all great herbs for relieving stress and tension in the body. Gail Edwards writes that nettles are invaluable at “restoring adrenal function” (1), so if you suffer from chronic stress, a nettle tincture might be a must-have.

At the farm, we drink a soothing tea made up of our house tea blend (see my earlier lemon balm post for the recipe) with added chamomile and lavender flowers. On top of that, I also take a rosemary tincture to help promote mental clarity and untangle some of the things I’m worried about. Rosemary is a great aid for the whole nervous system, especially when dealing with “fatigue, exhaustion, and stress” (1).

I happen to feel everything in my gut when I’m stressed, so I like to massage calendula oil right onto my stomach and neck. Taking the time to care for yourself is a huge part of healing, so make sure you’re setting time aside, or taking advantage of those precious moments when you can just breathe and check in with yourself.

A 2014 study on chronic stress and pain in the body mentioned that “Stress may be unavoidable in life, and challenges are inherent to success; however, humans have the capability to modify what they perceive as stressful and how they respond to it” (2). Though it may not seem like it sometimes, we have the ultimate control to determine what stresses us out and why.

Below, you’ll find some tips for managing stress, along with a list of activities that can be done to improve your living and working spaces!

Tips for Managing Stress

Create a stress board. Make a notecard about what’s stressing you out and why. Then, create another notecard that outlines how you could solve that problem, with steps for accomplishing that. This can help sort out issues that may seem larger than life in your head.

Do 10 minutes of yoga or stretching each morning and night. This will help you reconnect with your body, and it’s a simple way to check if anything hurts or needs special attention.

If the outdoors is available to you, go for a walk. If you live in a more crowded area, just sitting outdoors in a secluded location is a good way to get fresh air.

Keep a separate workspace so your brain doesn’t get overwhelmed with switching between home and work mode.

Try to keep a normal sleep schedule. Your body and mind will benefit from sticking to a schedule!

At-Home Activities

This is a good time to declutter. Go through your rooms and determine what can be donated, thrown away, or kept. Clutter can be overwhelming, even on a subconscious level.

Make music! Especially if you have young ones, making up songs about menial tasks, such as washing dishes, making the bed, or picking up toys, can keep them entertained while also getting the job done. (My siblings and I did a quarantine theatre, which we shared virtually with our friends and family.)

Learn something new. Khan Academy is a free site that offers videos and quizzes on a multitude of subjects, and it’s especially good for school-age kids trying to learn from home right now.

Make a scrapbook with saved movie stubs, photos, drawings, notes, and other things you’ve collected over the years.

Get cooking. Play around with an old family recipe, or make a new one.

Make sure you’re taking good care of your adrenals and coping with stressors you can’t immediately solve. As always, check with your healthcare practitioner before starting herbal supplements, as they may interfere with other medications you may be taking, or may not work for you specifically. Listen to your body. We here at Nezinscot Farm wish you all health, happiness, and safety during these times.

Resources

Edwards, F. Gail. Opening Our Wild Hearts to the Healing Herbs, 2000. pg. 165

Hannibal, K. E., & Bishop, M. D. (2014). Chronic stress, cortisol dysfunction, and pain: a psychoneuroendocrine rationale for stress management in pain rehabilitation. Physical therapy, 94(12), 1816-1825. https://doi.org/10.2522/ptj.20130597

What are the health effects of chronic stress? Medical News Today, 2018.

Mackenzie Varney is an apprentice herbalist on Nezinscot Farm in Maine. She has degrees in biology and health and has lived and worked on farms all her life. Connect with her on Instagram, and read all of Mackenzie’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.


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