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Modulating your body's response to stress

By Nadia McMorran

With the way that 2020 has been going so far, I think we can all be forgiven for feeling a little more stressed than we normally might!

There has been so much going on around the world on top of the day to day stress that we deal with regardless of a pandemic and economic uncertainty.

There are things that we can do to help us cope with stress including herbal medicine, good nutrition and supplementation, breathing, meditation and mindfulness techniques, outlets and hobbies such as sport or crafts, optimal sleep and social engagement (which of course was difficult during level 4 lockdown).

There are a number of herbs, vitamins and minerals that can work to modulate your body’s response to stress, by making sure that your adrenal glands are working optimally and not flooding the body with too much cortisol. One of my favourite herbs for this is withania, which I have written about in previous catalogues (this article is available at should you wish to read it again).

The gut-brain connection is an important factor in how your body deals with stress and anxiety. A diet high in whole foods with a focus on healthy fats (especially omega 3 oils), vitamin C and probiotic rich food and low in processed, sugary food can make a huge difference to your stress response and anxiety levels. The GAPS (Gut and Psychology) diet by Dr Natasha Campbell-McBride is a book that has detailed information on how this works and very specific dietary recommendations to follow for good gut and brain health.

Meditation can seem overwhelming – it can be a real struggle to clear your mind without unwanted thoughts running through your head. If you can, just focus on each breath. Breathe in for a count of five, and out for a count of 10, making sure that you are breathing from your diaphragm rather than your lungs. If you put your hand on your chest, you should not feel it rise. Even just five minutes twice a day of this diaphragmatic breathing can make a big difference to your stress levels.

Any hobbies that you have whether it be walking, sport, knitting, colouring in or playing cards or board games are a great way to distract your mind and allow you to focus on something different, even if it is just for a short time. Sometimes a short time is all we need to reduce our stress levels!

Social engagement is also important, whether it’s talking to friends or family on the phone, meeting for coffee or even just talking to someone at the supermarket, it can lift your spirits and make a big difference to your mood just to interact with other people.

Ultimately, in these uncertain times (which thankfully are improving) it is important to take care of yourself. Make sure you’re checking in on family or friends, especially those that live alone and focus on breathing, good food and recognise when you may need to change your routine in order to maintain healthy stress levels.