Sara Southgate - Naturopath & Herbalist

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Managing the Human Stress Response Managing the Human Stress Response

The human stress response is designed for fight or flight. Both are physical actions: fighting or running, and nature enabled us to survive acutely stressful situations by diverting all the body’s resources into survival:

  • - Pupils dilate, alertness heightens, muscles tense
  • - Blood supply diverts away from digestion to the muscles and brain
  • - Breathing rate and heart rate increase
  • - Blood pressure increases, blood sugar and heart rate increase due to adrenalin release
  • - Cortisol keeps blood pressure and blood sugar high

Non-essential body-functions cease, and all your resources are directed towards survival: digesting breakfast isn’t going to increase your chances of survival at this instant, nor is being fertile or having good immune function. The heightened alertness and increased strength from adrenalin and cortisol provide our best chance of beating the beast in the jungle: your body becomes a coiled spring, tensed and ready to respond instantly to the slightest trigger.

The thing is the stressors we face today aren’t the kind of stressors our stress response is designed for. The bodies we stand up in today are cavemen’s – we haven’t evolved much since then physically, but our lifestyles are incomparable. The majority of the stresses we encounter on a daily basis aren’t immediately life-threatening.

Modern stressors are different: lower level, longer-term and lingering. Constant deadlines, crowded commutes, children disrupting sleep, financial pressures, guilt, – all of these things are mentally or emotionally stressful. Other 21st Century stresses include sugar, inactivity, allergens, infection, nutritional imbalance, nicotine, caffeine and alcohol, anxiety, depression and pain, as well as electromagnetic stresses such as televisions, computers, mobile phones and fluorescent lights.

21st century stress is cumulative, disruptive to healthy body function and damaging.

Chronic stress can:

  • - significantly lower immune function
  • - increase cholesterol and blood pressure, contributing to risk of heart attacks and strokes
  • - trigger or exacerbate digestive conditions such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
  • - cause or aggravate skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis
  • bring about or exacerbate menstrual disorders – heavy bleeding or absent periods
  • - initiate or intensify anxiety, panic attacks or depression
  • - worsen a variety of existing conditions including headaches, migraines and menopause

Did you know that...we all have a relaxation response that opposes the stress response and we can choose to turn it on.

Dr Herbert Benson, American Cardiologist and Associate Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School has written and researched this subject extensively. In clinical trials, his programme has been found to

Having studied the work of Dr, Herbert Benson, and worked with relaxation and breathing techniques I know how effective it is in reducing stress and making a busy life manageable.

In addition to teaching relaxation techniques, based on Dr. Benson’s work, I use a combination of dietary advice to stabilise mood and energy levels, herbal medicine to support the adrenal glands and calm the nervous system together with the relaxation techniques, makes a powerful package you can use whenever you need to, wherever you are.

Last modified on Friday, 27 January 2012 09:58
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Sara Southgate

I am a naturopath and herbalist, with a decade's experience of working with natural remedies. I am a member of the United Register of Herbal Practitioners (URHP) and complete regular Continual Professional Development courses.

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Sara works from home in central Leamington - to make an appointment please contact me on the numbers above.

Sara Southgate - Naturopath & Herbalist © 2012 | Sara Southgate. All rights reserved.