As wonderful as becoming a parent is, there is no doubt that the highs can often be accompanied by lows. Dealing with a colicky baby, toddler tantrums, teenage outbursts, financial stresses and work responsibilities, are all things that many of us deal with on a day-to-day basis.
On-going stress can have negative effects not only on the health of our bodies, but also on our relationships and ability to cope with certain situations, leaving us feeling overwhelmed and exhausted.
Your Body’s Response to Stress
When faced with a stressful situation your body goes into what is known as a ‘flight or flight’ mode. Your adrenal glands release a hormone called adrenalin, which in turn sets off certain physiological changes in the body. Your heart starts to beat faster and blood pressure rises. This is a healthy body response to a perceived danger and is nature’s way of kick-starting your body into taking the action needed.
However, problems occur when you experience ongoing stress over a long period. The adrenal glands continually pump adrenalin (followed by cortisol) until the adrenal glands become exhausted, leaving you feeling tired and worn out. Continual stress can weaken the immune system, (leaving you susceptible to cold and flu and other infections), cause high blood pressure, restlessness, lead to anxiety and other health more serious health concerns, such as cardiovascular problems.
Australian naturopath and stress expert Lisa Guy said the by-products of stress such as lack of sleep or trouble concentrating, can compound the issue causing a vicious circle.
“Your body starts to pump out adrenalin which at first helps provide you with energy and makes you more alert. But when stress is ongoing, the coping capacity of the biological systems designed to help you deal with the pressure become impaired and a negative spiral ensues.”
A recent newspoll commissioned by Nutra-Life Organic Magnesium found that the most common by-products of stress were:
• Trouble sleeping (77%)
• Lack of energy (73%)
• Yelling at someone (72%)
• Trouble concentrating (68%)
Guy advocates a holistic approach to overcoming stress and anxiety.
“Adequate exercise is necessary to burn off usused energy and it can help to clear the mind. Good nutrition is also important to ensure sufficient energy to cope with demands, and to replace nutrients consumed during stress coping.”
Amongst exposure to sunlight, support from friends and family, and herbal teas, Guy also cites a magnesium supplement as being helpful at minimizing stress.
Why Magnesium is Important to your Body
Magnesium has a calming effect on the entire central nervous system. This means it decreases neural excitability, the symptoms of which can include muscle tension, stress, tension headaches, migraines, irritability, muscle spasms and cramps.
During a normal hormonal response to stress, magnesium is released by blood cells into blood cells where it has a calming effect on adrenalin and other stress hormones. When the body’s magnesium levels are low, this response disintegrates, and the effects of stress are intensified, making coping more difficult.
Magnesium is not produced naturally by the body. It is absorbed from food, bevearges and supplements. Vegetables (especially dark green leafy vegeatbles, spices, nuts, wholegrain cereals and cocoa) are all rich sources of magnesium.
One Aussie trying to tackle the issue of stress head on is singer/songwriter and mother of twins, Candice Alley, who said the everyday stresses of juggling a career, caring for her children and supporting her husband, swimming legend Grant Hackett, can sometimes be difficult to manage.
“Life can be overwhelming at times and pushing to be the ebst in everything you do, at work and at home, can create anxiety, especially if you’re giving one hundred per cent in each area and sometimes wondering if you are making headway,” Alley said.
“I found myself getting wound up over the big picture while sweating over the smallest things and took it upon myself to create a more stress-free environment and become calmer.”
Alley now mixes exercise, such as pilates and park runarounds with her toddler twins, with the serenity she finds in song-writing and music, and a daily dose of Nutra-Life Magnesium, a natural supplement that help to alleviate stress.
“I did my research and found that magnesium plays a crucial ole in energy production and is necessary for almost every major biological process, so I thought I’d give it a shot and see if it was as calming as I’d read.”
“I can’t categorically say that the extra magnesium is countering the effects of adrenalin and other stress hormones,” Alley said “But I can confidentally say I’m more energetic and able to cope with life’s daily demands. I feel comfortable taking a natural product rather than a pharmaceutical one, and have certainly been sleeping better and loving life a little bit more.”
Natural Stress Busting Tips
Here are some tips, from naturopath Lisa Guy, for natural ways to help treat stress and anxiety related conditions.
• Add nutrients:
Two of the most important ‘anti-stress’ nutrients are magnesium and vitamin B.
• Drink Up:
Herbs used to calm the nervous system are chamomile, valerian, withania, skullcap and lemon balm. These herbs can be purchased from health food stores in tea form.
• Cut Down Caffeine:
Caffeine stimulates an already over-stimulated nervous system, so try cutting down on coffee, black tea, cola, and chocolate.
• Take Time for Yourself
Be kind to yourself and give your body and mind time to relax and reflect. Physical exercise, breathing exercises and meditation are great ways to help to clear the mind and burn off nervous energy.