Balance is not a new concept to natural therapists and those interested in health. But achieving it? Not always so simple. Prolonged stress has been linked to inappropriate activation of the sympathetic nervous system (“fight or flight”) and an increased release of adrenaline and cortisol. This in turn wreaks havoc throughout every system of the body. Some of the most common effects include IBS-like symptoms, sleep disturbances, and lowered immunity.
I know that, for me personally, slowing down and finding balance has been a challenge. I began my studies at Endeavour College of Natural Health four years ago. I decided to do it full time. I had to do it full time. After all, I wanted to be a successful naturopath, and I wanted it yesterday. I also wanted to continue my modelling work, and so signed with Giant Management. In the months following, I slowly but surely collected other commitments and part-time jobs, jigsawing them together until I had a seven-day work-and-study week.
Adopting a “she’ll be right” attitude, I sipped coffee in secret to keep me going. But relying on caffeine is like shopping on credit; at some point you will have to pay it back. When Mr Emotional-Debt Collector came, it was in the form of eczema and stomach cramps. I was actually on a photoshoot when one of these cramps came on, and I still see that as my body telling me (or perhaps screaming at me) to slow down and chill out.
Since then, I’ve developed the following tips to manage my stress, and respect my body and the work I put it through:
1. Slow Down. Breathe deeply. Big belly breaths. This tells the parasympathetic nervous system (“rest and digest”) to kick in.
2. Find joy in your day. Pick an activity that is solely yours, and dedicate time to it. It doesn’t have to be something productive, in fact it’s best if it isn’t! Find the value in this activity, and recognise the health benefits of having some “you-time”. Choose something that feeds your soul and is completely indulgent. For me, it’s creative writing. I find an hour or two, at least twice a week, and write. I may not even be very good at it, but that’s not the point. It feels amazing!
3. Nourish yourself against the effects of stress. Magnesium and B vitamins are essential for energy production in every cell of your body, so keep them up during periods of intense stress. I actually supplement with magnesium. When I get those distracting eye twitches, I know it’s time for me to stock up. Vitamin C is important too. Your cortisol-producing adrenal glands actually contain the highest concentration of vitamin C in your body, so keep up your intake to make sure they don’t burn out. Foods like broccoli, kale, kiwifruit, berries, and citrus fruits are all easy sources of this essential nutrient. And don’t forget the basics of good hydration.
4. Wave goodbye to caffeine! I still enjoy the odd coffee, but for the most part I’ve replaced them with Dandelion Root tea, which is not only a great replacement for that bitter, earthy taste, but it also treats the liver, which has been working hard to detoxify all that extra caffeine in the first place.
5. Get Herbal. It’s no secret amongst my friends that I love my herbal medicine, and I think that all things stress-related are best treated with herbs in a tea form. Why? Because it forces you to stop, brew your tea, sip it slowly, and be mindful that this ritual is a part of finding balance and respecting your body. Herbs like skullcap, ashwaganda, and passionflower are all wonderful, and I’ll always add a healthy dose of my favourite nervous-system herb, lavender.
Jackie Morgan from Well Hub Nutrition speaks about self-love over self-sacrificing: How to drop the hustle mentality and connect with your mind, body & soul. Jackie shares her top tips on how to avoid living in your sympathetic nervous system (fight-and-flight) and focus on activating your parasympathetic nervous system (rest and repair) regularly to ensure you're optimising your health and well-being.
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