As the pandemic drags on, I’m finding myself more and more overwhelmed by stress. What can I do to support my stress levels naturally?
Are We Done Yet?
This is an important question and a growing concern for so many these days. Throughout this past year and a half, we’ve each endured a greater mental and emotional burden than usual. With the addition of career difficulties, social isolation, and the fear for our health and the health of our community, this is an especially difficult time for anyone, and especially those who already struggle with anxiety or depression. Manageable amounts of stress can be beneficial to the body, but excessive stress may prove harmful to the whole system. Thankfully there are many effective and gentle ways to support our stress response naturally through these times.
Reishi mushroom (also known as lingzhi) is an adaptogenic herb: an herb that supports the body’s adaptability to stress. Reishi is one of the foundational tonic herbs of Taoism and is helpful for strengthening Shen, one of the three treasures of Chinese medicine. (Shen is the treasure most commonly associated with the inward life or one’s emotional well-being.) This grounding tree mushroom is thought to be perfect for anyone on a reflective journey or one who wishes to remain resilient through hardship. My two favorite ways take to reishi are as a tincture in the Host Defense Reishi Extract or as a warm nightcap. For this I use one packet of Four Sigmatic Mushroom Cacao Mix with Reishi and mix it with steamed coconut milk and organic stevia extract.
Excessive stress can lead to imbalances of various vitamins and minerals in our bodies. Some vitamins and minerals that can help to support calming the body and stress resilience are B Vitamins, Calcium, Magnesium, and Zinc. I personally have felt a profound relaxing effect from using transdermal magnesium chloride. For this, I love the Magnesium Lotion and Magnesium Spray from Life-Flo.
Holy basil (also known as Tulsi) is an Ayurvedic adaptogen. In Hindu cultures, it is revered as a holy herb and called “the Mother Medicine of Nature”. One study found 500 mg of Holy Basil to be effective for lowering cortisol levels in the body and for treating stress and anxiety. A six-week human study examined patients suffering from symptoms of stress and found that those that received holy basil in an extract formula showed a 39% improvement in stress symptoms as opposed to those who received the placebo. I am very partial to Gaia Herbs Holy Basil for its excellent quality and the fact that it is an encapsulated potent liquid extract.
There are also many lifestyle adjustments we can implement to manage our stress levels and nurture our bodies and minds. In Japan, a practice called Forest Bathing (the art of being fully present in nature) is used to treat individuals suffering from PTSD, anxiety, and depression. Time spent in stillness in nature can be deeply restorative. Daily walks outside, hikes and sun exposure are helpful for reducing stress levels as well.
Relaxing exercises like yoga, tai chi, and qigong can help to unwind and bring the physical and emotional body into balance. Mindfulness practices like deep breathing, keeping a journal, and meditation are excellent ways to get grounded throughout a hectic day.
Lastly, stress is amplified when we’ve underslept. We can help to ensure a good night’s rest by avoiding blue light exposure from screens and harsh overhead lighting in the hours leading up to bedtime and by hanging black-out curtains in our bedrooms.
We’ve all experienced an increase in isolation over the past year and a half, some even more than others. Our quality of life is deeply impacted by the quality of our relationships. It is more important than ever to find ways to stay connected, whatever that looks like for you. If you can, find a walking partner or schedule a reoccurring coffee date with a friend. When in-person isn’t possible, planning regular video calls with loved ones and online groups can help to keep us plugged in to community from afar.
The supplements and practices are all things I’ve found personally effective in managing my own stress. These are just a few of the many things we can do to feel empowered over our mental and emotional well-being and to nourish ourselves through these difficult times and beyond.