This story is For those of you who find relaxation a hard place to be. Did you know that stress hormones can actually be addictive? We can’t always reduce the stressors of life, but what we can do is feed our mind and bodies what they need to become stronger and more resilient.
Adriana Ayales, the clinical herbalist behind Anima Mundi and our go-to guru when it comes to stress and the nervous system. Here are Adriana’s key techniques and supportive herbal tonics to get us un-stuck from “fight or flight” mode.
Yes, Stress Hormones Are Addictive
Stress is addictive. Well, actually, the hormones of stress are addictive. And although the hormones of stress, like cortisol, have an ultra critical function to our survival, like alerting us that we’re in danger, or giving us enough energy to tackle the never-ending to-do list… it is of vital importance that we replace the siren blast of cortisol with regenerative practices that help us stay calm and well.
Your nervous system is connected with every single part of your physical body. And many mystics even said it’s the bridge that connects to our soul.
Our 21st century lifestyles have set us up to be constantly in a state of ‘fight or flight’ or ‘sympathetic dominant’. But! With some basic consciousness around it, we can easily support our body back into homeostasis.
We become ‘sympathetic dominant’ by working too hard, receiving too much stimulation from phones, over-exercising or just being mentally stressed in general (excessive worrying, anger, etc.)
Moving into a ‘parasympathetic dominant’ state doesn’t mean that you are just in a state of meditation all day long. Imagine how you feel after a good workout or a massage. In those moments where you feel at ease and blissful, aches and pains are reduced or are totally dissolved and you can think more clearly. Many of us need to focus on spending more time in this state to balance our health!
11 Herbs + Rituals To Support Your Nervous System
Here are 13 effective practices you can do now to make sure your nervous system is regulated and thriving. Let’s start with some of the lesser-known ones…
01. Calm tea: Stress relief super tonic | Certain categories of plants are ‘trophorestorative’ — highly nutritive and restorative for the nervous system.
Trophorestoratives nourish and restore the function of a tired, compromised, diseased tissue, organ, or system. In basic terms, they act as a super tonic and works to restore and rejuvenate the nervous system. Milky oats are my go-to in this category. Other trophorestoratives that deeply nourish and help with deficiency are Nettle seed, Milk thistle and Goldenseal. Anima Mundi’s CALM Tea is is actually considered our ‘house tea’ and is an incredible stress relief tonic containing milky oats.
02. take Cold Showers | Cold water stimulates our immune system and activates our vagus nerve. Vagal tone is key for dealing with anxiety. The the largest nerve in our autonomic nervous system, the vagus nerve is the communication highway between your brain and gut.
If the vagus nerve is not working optimally, it can lead to slowed motility in the gut, weight gain, anxiety, high-stress, and nutrient deficiencies. This makes it easy to understand the long-term digestive effects of stress, including irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), colitis, and SIBO.
05. put Nervines + Adaptogens to work | Nervines act therapeutically upon the nerves, which nourish and sustain the functions of the central nervous system. Adaptogens on the other hand, greatly protect us from multiple stressors by modulating our stress response during times of stress. Adaptogens greatly protect from oxidative damage and are very supportive to the adrenal, nervous system and endocrine system as a whole.
Some herbs, like Ashwagandha, are both a nervine and an adaptogen, making it a tonic herb perfect for many modern folks in 2023!
04. add Good Fats | Fat helps create a healthy brain and nerve tissue. In fact, fat is the main ingredient in the insulation of nerves and a large component of the myelin sheath that coats the neurons, which grants us increased cognition, ability to think and move. And, fat is fuel! Dietary fats are needed for the absorption (and digestion!) of Vitamins A, D, E and K. Read: How To Make Really Good Vegan Butter
05. Cleanse your Bowels | Deep rooted inflammation is often lodged in some way in the gastrointestinal system. It’s important that we keep the ecology of our gut cleansed, in order for essential biological processes to happen and flourish. Once energy becomes “stuck”, inflammation easily builds up, oftentimes triggering anxiety that can look like inflammatory bowels, or even affecting our ability to relax and decompress. Try consuming liquids, soups or broths more often to support your body’s natural cleansing, and avoid processed foods, most of which can contribute to inflammation.
06. Change Your Relationship with Caffeine | Coffee and caffeine-containing teas can be very straining and stimulating to the nervous system. I LOVE a good cup of coffee, but when reliance becomes a regular thing, it’s time to pull back a bit.
If you’ve been struggling with anxiety, sleep, or digestive problems for any length of time, consider taking coffee, or highly caffeinated beverages, later in the AM, about an hour after breakfast. Caffeine increases heart rate, blood pressure, cholesterol, and homocysteine. It also stimulates the excretion of stress hormones, which can produce increased levels of anxiety, irritability, muscular tension and pain, indigestion, insomnia, and decreased immunity.
07. Care for The Sleep/Wake Cycle | The body’s circadian rhythms play a role in sleep due to how the body and brain respond to darkness, which is when most humans feel tired and tend to sleep. As darkness sets in, the body’s biological clock instructs the cells to slow down. Changes in your sleep/wake cycle may lead to cognitive and behavioral issues, diminished focus, and memory loss. Stay as consistent as possible with your sleep/wake cycle, and enjoy the 8-9 hours of sleep if your body is calling for it!
Darkness promotes melatonin synthesis and triggers its release into the plasma. Darkness prompts the pineal gland to start producing melatonin while light causes that production to stop. As a result, melatonin, other than being one of the most potent antioxidants known, it helps regulate circadian rhythm and synchronize our sleep-wake cycle with night and day. In doing so, it facilitates a transition to sleep and promotes consistent, quality rest.
08. Protect the Nerves with B vitamins | Each nerve has a protective coating known as a myelin sheath. Much like the sheath of an electric cable, it acts as insulation for the transmitting nerve. Worn out myelin sheaths have been associated with imbalances like Alzheimer’s, so it is important for a person to keep up their intake of B12 and fellow B vitamins. Two great sources of B12 are superfood algaes spirulina and chlorella. Try adding a scoop of these sea greens to smoothies everyday for a boost of energizing B12.
09. eats Foods for the Nervous System + Adrenals | A diet which includes healthy servings of fruits and root vegetables can be nourishing to the nervous system. While this transition can take some time for some, often a few weeks to a few months, it can be very healing to the system. We typically advise against a ketogenic or low-carbohydrate diet if you are experiencing stress or tend to run a bit nervous/anxious.
10. Hands-on Healing & Bodywork — Getting bodywork like lymphatic massage, craniosacral therapy, rolfing, abdominal massage (love Chi Nei Tsang!), reflexology and reiki are all therapeutic and immensely helpful at turning off your stress hormones. There are many forms of massage and bodywork out there, try exploring some out of the norm to find the one that somatically matches your needs. These therapies, and similar, can be greatly helpful in releasing stored trauma, emotional tension and physical tension.
11. engage in Meditation + Breathwork | Just 5 – 20 minutes a day of deep breathing through the nose is clinically proven to reduce stress levels and activate your parasympathetic nervous system (PNS). Did you know that the simple act of being in darkness, or even with closed eyes, already activates the PNS?
Close your eyes and practices breathing exercises. Try the 4-7-8 breath. This involves inhaling through the nose for a count of four, holding for a count of seven, and exhaling through the nose for a count of 8.
The statements contained in this story have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The Chalkboard Mag and its materials are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure or prevent any disease.
This story is brought to you in partnership with Anima Mundi. From time to time, TCM editors choose to partner with brands we believe in to bring our readers special offers. All material on The Chalkboard Mag is provided for educational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified healthcare provider for any questions you have regarding a medical condition, and before undertaking any diet, exercise or other health-related programs.