You're surrounded by stressful situations that you cannot control. From work deadlines to bills to your endless to-do list, it's no wonder you feel stressed in your daily life. You might have trouble falling asleep, find it hard to focus, or suffer recurrent digestive issues. That’s why non-stop stress can be detrimental to your emotional, mental, and physical health.
You can't always control the things that bother you, but you can change the way you manage stress. This can help you stay out of a stress spiral that keeps your mind in a reactive fight-or-flight response. For extra support, use safe, natural botanicals that can help you de-stress and provide calm, focused energy every single day.
Stress Effects on Mental Health
Stress can be overwhelming and prolonged, which increases the risk for mental health problems and physical problems. Chronic or Long-term stress can increase the risk of mental health issues such as anxiety and depression, substance use issues, sleep problems, pain, and physical symptoms such as muscular tension. There are connections between stress and various mental health conditions including depression, anxiety disorders, psychosis, and post-traumatic stress disorder ( PTSD ).
Chronic stress may increase the risk of developing depression or anxiety in some people. As we learn more about the link between stress and mental illness, we're uncovering the exact mechanisms by which stress causes mental illness.
Scientists have discovered that the earliest response to a stressor occurs in the brain within seconds. Neurotransmitters are chemicals that signal between nerve cells. Serotonin and adrenaline are two hormones that play an important role.
After this, stress hormones are produced, which particularly affect areas of the brain important for memory and regulating emotional health. Repeated stress changes the way these systems work.
Researchers are also looking into whether there is an association between stress and mental health issues. Recent studies have shown how long-term stress can alter the structure of the brain. Especially in areas supporting learning and remembering.
It can affect both neurons (grey matter) and their connections (white matter). It is possible that these changes, along with others, can increase the risk of developing mental illness.
Effects of Adolescent Stress
The researchers isolated mice that were genetically at high risk for mental illness from others. They were able to prove that isolation causes stress hormones to be released. Dopamine is affected by cortisol. Changes in dopamine levels are seen in schizophrenia, depression, and other mental disorders.
"Most clinicians would agree that adolescents' stress can cause major changes to their adult brains," Sawa says, "Adolescents' brains are at a unique stage of their development." "It is a time when the human brain is very sensitive and is in the process of forming new connections."
Adolescents' brains may be more sensitive than adults' to the stress hormone cortisol. Adolescents' brains are not fully developed, so they experience stress for long periods.
The effects of stress overload in teens can include headaches, frequent sickness, withdrawal from friendships and activities, changes in sleep and eating habits, anger, irritability, and hopelessness. The biggest risk from mental health issues in young adults is suicide.
Effects of Work Stress
Workplace stress also has negative effects on workers' mental well-being, with increased risks of anxiety, burnout depression, and substance use disorder. If employees are stressed at work, they're more likely to engage in unhealthier behaviors, such as cigarette use, alcohol, and drug abuse, and poor dietary habits.
Stress at work has serious negative consequences for employees' health, their ability to perform their jobs, and the companies they work for. Emotional stress at work is also linked to higher injury and accident rates, higher turnover rates, and higher administrative costs.
A study of a recent study found that employees who had stressful jobs were at a higher risk of depression within a few years than employees with less stressful jobs.
Effects of Extreme Stress
Unchecked stress can lead to many chronic diseases, including high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, obesity, and diabetes.
The consistent and ongoing increases in heart rate, and elevated levels of stress hormones, can be harmful to the body. Long-term stress can increase the risk of heart attacks, strokes, or high blood pressure.
Stress can directly increase your heart rate and blood flow and cause the release of cholesterol and triglycerides into your bloodstream. Doctors are aware that sudden emotional stress can trigger serious cardiac problems, including heart attacks. Those who suffer from chronic heart problems must avoid acute stress as much as possible.
How Does Stress Affect the Brain?
It causes synaptic dysfunction, resulting in the loss of social skills and the avoidance of interactions. Stress can cause brain damage and shrink the brain. Chronic stress shrinks the size of the prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain responsible for learning and memory.
Can Managing Stress Help?
Indeed, stress can affect your emotional symptoms, thoughts, feelings, and your behaviors. Recognizing common stress symptoms can help us manage them. Unchecked stress can lead to many health problems, including high blood pressure, heart diseases, obesity, and diabetes.
Normally, the body goes back to its resting state once the stress has passed, but if the stress continues for too long, it can cause damage to the heart and blood vessels.
Researchers at Yale University found that stress reduces the size of grey matter in the parts of the brain responsible for control.
Effects of Stress on Your Health
When you're in a stressful situation, an alarm system located in an area of your mind called the hypothalamus is triggered. Your pituitary organ receives the alarm signal from your brain and sends it on to your adrenal glands.
This relay then sets into motion a chain reaction that includes an increase in adrenaline and cortisol production designed for you to escape danger. Once the threat has been removed, the alarm stops ringing, your hormones return to normal, and you resume your daily routine.
That cycle works well if you're facing an immediate and finite danger, like a minor car crash. But when your stress keeps you constantly worried and stressed out, your body never gets the ‘all clear’ and stays stuck in a state of constant worry and stress. And that can harm your body.
Research shows a clear relationship between stress and dozens of health issues, including:
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Anxiety & Depression
- Heart disease & Hypertension
- Inflammatory Bowel Disease
- Immune Dysfunctions
- Premature aging
- Type 2 diabetes
Fortunately, you can change the ways your body manages stress by reducing stress-inducing activities and increasing stress-relieving ones.
Consequences of Chronic Stress
If you're under constant stress, it's easy to fall into bad behaviors. Those can amplify the negative aspects of your stress response and increase your risk of developing stress-related disorders.
Examples of the unhealthy behaviors that increase the consequences of stress include:
- Social Withdrawal
- Drinking & Smoking
- Sedentary lifestyle
Any of these bad behaviors can interfere with the way you manage stress and make it harder for your body enters its calm-down mode. Chronic stress can cause you to develop unhealthy habits, which makes it hard for you to engage in physical activity that help reduce your stress levels.
Stress Management Help Calm Your Body
Studies show that stress management techniques will help you feel better, and they might even have some physical health benefits.
One study of heart attack survivors showed that taking a stress management course reduced their risk of having another heart attack by 74%. Stress management has been shown to improve immunity.
Many of us remain skeptical about the benefits of stress management. After all, life is just plain stressful. We have busy jobs and families to raise, tight budgets, and no time to waste.
Indeed, some things in your life may never change. But you can change the way you react to them. That's what stress reduction is all about. Learning some basic stress management techniques isn't hard.
When you're feeling stressed and overwhelmed, use one or more of these relaxation techniques to help calm your nervous system. Keep building on that progress until you're able to get your chronic stress responses under control.
Some proven stress relievers include:
- Deep breathing
- Calming Exercises
- Meditation & Yoga
- Spending time in nature
Any of these action steps can help reduce your stress levels. Combining them with stress-busting herbs helps you stay balanced and steady when under intense stress.
Using Adaptogens for Stress Management
Natural healers have used a special class of herbs for centuries called adaptogens that help our bodies adapt to stressors. Adaptogens help keep your stress hormones in balance, so your body can better respond to stressful situations. That balanced response helps prevent you from falling into a chronic stress loop.
Adaptogens help balances out your body by relaxing you while also helping you feel rejuvenated. Botanical extracts are powerful tools for restoring health and vitality. They boost energy levels, improve moods, increase endurance, and help fight stress.
Each adaptogen works differently, but they all help to rebalance your body's stress response. Some excel at gently stimulating your mind and body, whereas others work better for calming stress. This allows many adaptogen herbs to work well when combined.
5 Calming Adaptogens
Adaptogens have been used for centuries to help people feel mentally and physically rejuvenated. These five traditional botanicals can help you manage stress and avoid the health consequences of an ongoing stress cycle.
It has been traditionally used for thousands of years in traditional Chinese medicine. This adaptogen is known for its ability to strengthen the immune system, which can be weakened by chronic stress.
Andrographis has a special compound called andrographelide that provides most of its health benefits, including strong antioxidant and neuroprotective activity. Andrographis was shown to reduce fatigue by 44 percent in people with MS.
Andrographis combined with ashwagandha heightens the effects of both. A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial found that a formula containing both herbal ingredients reduced anxiety and improved attention/concentration after just four weeks of use.
Ashwagandhá has been a staple of ayurvedic medicine for over 5000 years. This revered botanic adaptogen has powerful compounds called withanolide which is well known for increasing the body’s resilience to stress. Ashwagandhas have been shown to reduce cortisol, which helps calm the "fight-or-flight" response that will prevent panic attacks.
It's important for people suffering from chronic stress who have high cortisol levels to keep their cortisol levels low. An eight-month study published in the journal Cureus showed that older adults who took 300 mg of ashwagandha per day for six months experienced improvements in quality sleep, reduce mental fatigue, and overall quality of life.
Another study found that taking 600 mg of ashwagandha daily lowered cortisol levels by 33 percent in healthy people. Those who took the herb also reported better sleep quality and significantly reduced stress levels.
Though it’s typically associated with cold and flu support, specialized root extracts of this ancient herb provide ongoing relief from stress and stress. According to one study, only an alkamide rich root extract of Echinacea Angustifolia showed consistent results in relieving anxiety. The dose that showed the best results for reducing anxiety was much lower than what's typically used to stimulate the body's immune responses.
A recent double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial showed that an echinacea extract called EP107 reduced anxiety and improved emotional health after taking doses of either 40 mg or 60 mg daily for six weeks.
One of the first adaptogens, red ginseng improves physical and mental resilience while helping your body adapt to stress. This Asian herb has been shown to help reduce your body’s reactivity to stressors and encourage calming brain activity and balance cortisol levels.
Ginseng contains more than 100 different types of ginsenosides, most of which aren't absorbed well by the body. To be effective, ginseng must be converted into so-called "noble" or "rare" ginsenosides by beneficial bacteria in your gut before it can help you.
However, one proprietary type of red ginseng called HRG80 has already converted into a highly absorbable and bioavailable form of this herb. A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical study published in Pharmaceuticals showed that red ginseng improves mood and brings a sense of calm and relaxation to older adults during stressful life events.
An herb native to Northern Europe and Asia, is best known for its ability to bring a sense of calm and focus, not the frenetic spike brought by stimulants like caffeine. This adaptogen improves dopamine and serotonin activity in your brain, helping you to remember things better and focus more easily.
Rhodiola contains unique chemicals called salidroside, which includes rosavin, and rosin. Rhodiola has been used for centuries by people who want to feel calm and relaxed.
A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study found that taking Rhodiola was effective at relieving the symptoms of burnout in acute stress. A new study has shown that people with chronic fatigue syndrome who take Rhodiola saw their fatigue levels decrease significantly after just one week of taking the herb.
Adding adaptogens to your daily routine can help keep a lid on stress. You may want to experiment with some of the relaxation techniques mentioned. Over time, these techniques can help you relax more and enjoy life more!
These stress management techniques can be helpful at the moment, but you can also make some larger lifestyle changes. Regular exercise is important for long-term and short-term stress management. Physical Exercise tends to improve mood and energy levels.
Learning some relaxation techniques, meditation or yoga will help with managing stress. It takes some practice to get good at any of these techniques, but the payoff -- both for your short-term happiness and long-term health – could be substantial.