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Combatting Christmas Stress

Christmas can be demanding financially, physically and emotionally, but there are ways to reduce your stress levels.

Cortisol is the stress hormone that is secreted by the adrenal glands in response to pressure, it allows us to cope and respond in a manner that preserves quality of life.

Short term stress, like that experienced during an exam, can be useful and improve performance. The cortisol level returns to normal once the cause of the stress has passed. However, in some situations the cause of the stress remains and this keeps stress levels high for long periods of time.

Long-term increased cortisol may cause high blood pressure, heart disease, osteoporosis and other chronic diseases. Cortisol may also increase appetite and cause weight gain.

Research has found that adaptogens such as Ashwaghanda and Rhodiola can help your body adapt to physical, chemical, environmental and emotional stress, and can also exert a normalising effect on bodily processes and the production of cortisol. Nervines such as Passiflora act directly upon the nervous system to soothe stress.

Ashwaghanda (Withania somnifera) has been used for its stress-busting and brain-rejuvenating abilities for over 3,000 years. Additionally, modern-day research has extensively studied this herb to remedy neurological conditions and support memory, and confirmed its age-old use
Passion flower (Passiflora incarnata) is a climbing vine with white and purple flowers. The chemicals in passion flower have calming effects.

Supporting the stress response with herbs should be done in tandem with eliminating processed and high sugar foods and eating more wholefoods which contain the main nutrients required for normal adrenal function – Vitamin B5, Vitamin C, Magnesium and Omega 3. Eat more fruit, vegetables, beans and lentils, eggs, meat, oily fish, nuts and seeds.

Lifestyle changes can also help. Find activities that help you to relax and destress the mind and make them a regular practice in daily life. Take walks in nature, try meditation, play music; find time to do what you enjoy.

Finally, and maybe most importantly, don’t be shy to ask for help if you need it.