Support Stress with Breath Work, Movement, Connection & Ashwaghanda

Support Stress with Breath Work, Movement, Connection & Ashwaghanda

November 7, 2023

Stress is the body's way natural way of 'getting through' a difficulty. Whether it's from writing a report, dealing with a hot tempered teenager, lack of sleep, watching the news, too little or too much exercise.... overthinking. Bills. Whatever the cause, the impacts of an over active stress response shouldn't be ignored.

How does stress help us?

When stress is switched on via the sympathetic nervous system our body gets a boost of adrenaline and cortisol and all the wonderful chemicals that help us get into action. More oxygen is delivered to the muscles and more energy is produced for immediate use. If you have to run away from a tiger (or more realistically a cougar) this is a great help and could save your life. 

After 'the stressor' is gone our bodies then return to a natural balance, through a process known as homeostasis, and calm feelings return. Our safe and social nervous system goes back to normal. Or does it?

When does stress become a problem?

Rest and recovery are facilitated by the parasympathetic nervous system and this slowing down helps to restore what was 'spent'. The problem is not with the stress response itself, it's when the stress is ongoing - day after day for months - and our bodies don't get time to recover adequately between stressors, that problems arise.

Without a restorative time after stress we are at risk of burn out and depletion. This might present as poor immunity, insomnia, irritability, digestive upset and overall reduced 'bandwidth'. This can happen so slowly over time we may not even notice we're in trouble until we're really in trouble.

Part of what contributes to stress depletion is our modern lifestyle. We may sit too much, expose ourselves to artificial lights, and not be in sync with nature or our bodies needs. Emily and Amelia Nagoski are the authors of the book "Burnout' and they say 'competing the stress cycle' is key to preventing burnout. What does that look like?

Here are a few ways to assist with de-stress after stress:

1. Move your body - try walking, dancing, shaking, running, swimming, tensing and releasing muscles, jumping up and down - any movement at all helps release cortisol and restore homeostasis. All that adrenaline and cortisol needs to be released as part of the natural stress cycle and if you're not actually running away from a cougar, try incorporating any type of movement after you've been through stress. (hint every day)

2. Breath work - you're probably already familiar with the advice to 'take deep breaths' however this should not be overlooked. It's easy to think something this simple is too basic however breath work is powerful. Breathing is available to us anytime, and it can work really quickly to shift the body out of stress. Try 4-7-8 breathing. Breathe in for 4 seconds, hold the breath for 7 seconds, then exhale for 8 seconds. This is a type of pranayama breathing pattern which can help to reduce anxiety and improve your capacity for rest.

3. Connect - Talking about stress and being heard and seen by another can be powerful medicine. Whether it's a friend, an online support group or a therapist, just speaking about how we feel in a safe space can help reassure our nervous system that we are in fact 'safe'. If you can add a laugh to this conversation, then do it. Laughter IS the best medicine for stress and helps signal that everything is in fact OK. And don't forget to get a hug, or a few hugs. Hugs increase our oxytocin which is a natural stress fighter. The body can better get back into balance when we allow what is to be felt. Pushing stress away with positive thoughts just won't do it. Tears are in fact a perfect exit for all that cortisol. So don't hold them in, let them flow. 

Herbal wisdom: Ashwaghanda for additional stress support

While many herbs are helpful for stress, Ashwagandha is easily one of the best researched and widely used adaptogenic herbs available. It is particularly popular in Ayurvedic Medicine with over 2500 years of historical use backing its effectiveness.

Also known as Indian Ginseng or Withania, Ashwagandha is valued for its benefits on the nervous system, hormones, mood and anti-inflammatory properties. It helps those with depression, thyroid disorders, degenerative diseases, stress and anxiety. As an adaptogen, this means that this particular class of plant contains a range of benefits that can help the body better deal with stress and may help prevent burnout by reducing the harmful effects of high cortisol.

We like the sound of that.

In this weeks new flyer you will find two different options for Ashwaghanda products. Living Alchemy's Stress Less which contains Ashwaghanda, Rhodiola, Holy Basil and California Poppy and also Flora's Stress-Veda with KSM-66 Ashwaghanda and Active B-Vitamins. If you need help finding the right stress product, please chat with our in store Wellness Advisors.

We're here for you!

Written by Sita Huber, BHsc (Nutritional Medicine)
Nutritionist & Digital Marketing Manager at Edible Island

We respectfully acknowledge that we are living and working in the unceded traditional territory of the K’omoks First Nation, the traditional keepers of this land.