Understanding Stress; the number one killer!

Understanding Stress; the number one killer!
Sonia Sharma
Herbalist & Co-founder of Quinta Essentia Organic

We live in a crazy world of technology and gizmos, with mobiles, internet and mobile internet! We want it all and we want it now! Dealing with the sheer volume of information, work load, meeting people with their varying levels of energies each day, it is little or no wonder that so many of us feel stressed and overwhelmed. In a recent study by the Mental Health Foundation in UK, 7 million people suffer from anxiety related problems. This is more than 10% of the UK population. In USA, 85% of the adult population is reported to be on some form of Anti-depressants!

From a biological perspective, it is important to first understand the word “Stress” and the chemical reactions it causes in the body. The term “stress” was introduced by the endocrinologist, Dr Hans Selye from Canada in 1930s. In his terminology, “stress is the reaction of an organism to a “stressor” - or a perceived threat. Stressors can be emotional or physical, real or imagined”. In this respect there are two fundamental aspects to the subjective experience of stress - the individual’s ‘perception’ of the stressor and his/ her ‘response’ to the stressor. These two aspects are determined by a multitude of influences e.g. personality, social and cultural background, upbringing, self-image, physical and mental health, level of fulfillment and security, locus of control, stage of life etc. Basically, we all respond to stressful situations in a predictable, machine like manner, however, ultimately, it is our ability to adapt to the stressors that enables us to carry on in life.

Dr Selye developed a model termed as ‘General Adaptation Syndrome’ (GAS) which supported his view that Chronic stress is a major cause of diseases because it causes long term chemical changes within the body.

He stated that the body’s ability to cope with stress is not infinite but an exhaustible resource. There are three key stages to GAS - a) alarm stage i.e. the fight or flight response to a stressor. Chemically in this stage, there is an acute release of adrenalin and cortisol from the adrenal gland (b) resistance stage - If the stressor persists over time, cortisol output increases on a more continuous basis (c) Exhaustion stage - over time Cortisol is depleted leading to fatigue, anxiety and depression.

Cortisol is the most important stress hormone in the body. It is the level of cortisol in the blood that supports Glucose metabolism, blood pressure regulation, insulin release, immune function, support in general metabolism, appetite control and mental function. For example, in the alarm stage when there is a quick release of Cortisol in the blood stream, a person gets a burst of energy for survival, heightened memory function, reduced pain and a rapid increase in immune function. However, if there is a more regular release of Cortisol, it leads to adrenal depletion characterized by fatigue, anxiety, depression, increased inflammation and increased hypoglycemic episodes.

The harmful effects of stress do not just end with the above list of affective disorders. Overtime, it leads to several functional disorders such as Hypertension, TB, Asthma, Irritable Bowel Syndrome; Skin eczema and various disorders of the Nervous system.

This gives a high level view of the chemical make-up of stress, as explained by medical science. However, millions of people worldwide today believe holistic solutions can help cope with stress and its related ailments.

Meditation, Yoga and herbal solutions are fast becoming a way of life for people across the board. Yoga, however, has been badly interpreted, limiting its objective only as a form of Exercise. Nothing can be farther from the truth. Yog is the final frontier and it is only through Yog that we can achieve higher consciousness.

As is commonly understood, western medicine approach is to treat the effect e.g. ailments caused due to stress. Holistic approaches like Yog and Ayurveda target the cause of imbalances rather than treating the effect. The level of health and vitality in a person is directly related to the frequency of ‘Prana’ (life force) in the being. Emotional congestions, anger, anxiety etc all lead to the depletion of prana, eventually leading to physical manifestation of ailments in the body.

For a Yogic solution to managing Stress related disorders, visit www.dhyanfoundation.com.

Below are simple holistic remedies to beat the Stress blues:

1. Yog, Pranayam, chant of Aum or Shanti path
2. Aromatherapy - for mild stress make a synergestic blend of 10 drops of Eucalyptus Citriodora, 15 drops of Geranium and 5 drops of Lavender. Use this blend in your oil burner or add this to 30 ml Sweet Almond oil for regular deep tissue massages.
3. Herbal teas - German Chamomile, passion flower, Valerian or St. Johns Wort
4. Regular long walks in open air is one of the best remedy for stress management
5. A sattvic diet and a healthy lifestyle

As a final note, below are two Himalayan herbs which are known to help relax the nerves:

Brahmi (which gives knowledge of Brahman or supreme reality), is perhaps the most important nervine herb used in Ayurveda. It revitalizes the brain cells, removing toxins and blockages within the nervous system, while at the same time having a nurturing effect. Himalayan Brahmi is an important food for yogis as it improves meditation and helps awaken the crown chakra. It calms the heart and helps guard against heart attacks.

Shankha Pushpi
Shankha Pushpi is another Ayurvedic nervine along with Brahmi, Calamus and Jatamansi. It is excellent for nerve pain, improves memory, concentration and perception, and aids in the rejuvenation of the mind. It increases blood circulation to the brain and stimulates higher cerebral functions.

You can get a Traditional ayurvedic hair oil with the above herbs from Quinta Essentia Orgnaic

Caution: If you are on medication for any nerve related disorder, please do not stop your treatment without consulting your doctor. Also the above remedies are suggestions only - for a herbal cure, consult a qualified Ayurvedic practitioner.


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