Stress & Supplementation, Part 4: Putting Supplements into Context
NB: the information in this article is for educational purposes only, and should not be read as medical advice. If you have any concerns about your diet or a particular supplement, please consult your healthcare professional
Over the previous three articles in this series, we’ve looked at how supplementing can help us manage our stress. We’ve looked at how replacing vital nutrients that the stress response uses up and/or leaches can help our bodies recover quicker from the damage getting stressed inflicts on them. We’ve also looked at herbs that will help us to feel more relaxed (and therefore less stressed), so that our stress responses become less intense. And in each article, we’ve included a caution against relying on supplements as the be-all and end-all of a stress management programme.
This will be met with varying degrees of frustration by those who are used to the instant gratification method of managing their health. Our modern lives condition us to expect fast results from simple actions that we don’t have to think about implementing. If it hurts, we take a painkiller. If we have a cold, we suck on an anaesthetic lozenge, inhale some decongestant, and try to carry on as normal as much as possible. After all, our symptoms aren’t troubling us any longer, so the method works, right?
TREATING THE SYMPTOMS
The trouble with this method when it comes to healthcare is that there’s a reason we became sick in the first place – we let our immune systems get run down enough that when there’s a cold going around, our systems aren’t strong enough to fight it off. We can treat the cold symptoms, but if we don’t do something to build our immune systems back up again, we’ll simply come down with the next cold we’re exposed to after that – and the one after that.
Stress is much the same. Taking a stress supplement to help us manage our stress is much like taking cold medication to manage a cold. It will usually relieve the symptoms of stress – but as we mentioned in Part 3 of this series, unless the cause is treated, the stress will only end up manifesting in other ways. The question, of course, is how to treat stress. If you have a cold, you know that the best ways to build your immune system back up are to eat healthily and rest enough. But what about stress?
THE STRESS PROCESS REVISITED
Perhaps unsurprisingly, resting and eating well go a long way in helping you to manage your stress too! But because stress is partly mental and emotional, there are far more options available. It’s helpful here to go back to the 3-part stress process we mentioned back in Issue 1 of Optimum Stress News. Stress, you’ll remember, happens when someone:
1. Becomes aware of being exposed to a specific situation (past, present or future),
2. Believes the situation is beyond their current ability to cope with, and then
3. Has a number of physical, mental and emotional responses triggered
STRESS MANAGEMENT STRATEGIES
Stress management strategies can be aimed at any of these points. For example, we can:
• avoid the stressful situation altogether, or reduce our exposure to it
• work on our ability to deal with the situation – learn new skills to help us manage it better
• work on our beliefs about the situation
• learn to consciously manage the responses that are triggered
• increase our resiliency to stress damage by ensuring we have full resource banks (most supplements are a part of this approach)
The best method to use to manage your individual stress response will depend completely on your situation. Sometimes avoiding the situation is the quickest and easiest way to manage it – other times it will be completely inappropriate. Research suggests that taking a combination approach will often get far better results than any one approach on its own. If you’re not sure which method (or combination) will work best for you, consider speaking to a stress management coach – that’s what they’re trained to help with!
SUPPLEMENTING AS PART OF A STRATEGY
None of which is to say that stress supplements don’t work. There’s a fair amount of evidence – research and anecdotal - to show that they can. But if you want to manage your stress instead of simply pushing it down, you need to see supplements as part of an overall stress strategy, rather than as an alternative to one. It may take more time, effort and energy – but the end results in your life will be worth it. If you have any questions about anything in this article, please don’t hesitate to contact me. Otherwise, until next issue, may every day bring you closer to your optimum life.
This article © Tanja Gardner, Optimum Life Ltd.
For more information on how we can help you start living your optimum life, please check out http://optimumlife.co.nz.
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