Stress is unfortunately a part of daily life for many people nowadays. A challenging profession with constant time constraints, the balancing act between family and work, marital conflict, misfortune, disease or other problems can cause stress. Anyone who feels constantly stressed should take action, as this level of stress can have a negative effect on the body and the psyche. Relaxation techniques and other methods help to reduce stress. Herbal remedies such as valerian, lemon balm, passiflora and hops can often provide further relaxation. Read more here on stress and its effects, as well as tips on how to reduce stress effectively.
What is stress?
Stress is a completely natural physical reaction. The stress reaction has developed as part of our evolution to enable us to react quickly by fleeing or fighting when we are faced with danger. We still react in this way to this day. If a situation is dangerous, exciting or challenging, it is viewed as “stressful”: the stress reaction is then triggered.
What happens when stress occurs in the body? Your pupils widen to improve your vision. Your pulse, blood pressure and respiratory rate increase to ensure optimum concentration and performance. Your initial rapid reactions are primarily driven by the hormones noradrenaline and adrenaline. As a result, the level of cortisol, also known as the stress hormone, increases and has a long-term effect.
Stress also has a residual positive effect nowadays if we need to be active for a short time, motivated, fully concentrated and totally focused on what we are doing. The stress reaction was originally only relevant for exceptional circumstances. However, it has become a permanent state nowadays and can have an impact on the health of the psyche and the body. This is also called “negative stress”.
Causes of stress
The causes of stress differ from person to person. They depend on the issues, which occur in your daily life. Common causes of job-related stress include insufficient time, overwork, over demanding workload or feeling insufficiently challenged, as well as problems with colleagues or your superior. Your family, children and partner can become additional stress factors when day-to-day family life or your partnership has problems. It should not be underestimated how much long commutes with traffic jams or train delays contribute to a stressful life.
However, whether or not someone perceives a situation to be stressful (and if so, to what extent), depends on their own resources. Your personality and the way you deal with stress greatly affect your individual perception of what constitutes stress – however, taking specific relaxation measures and knowing how to best reduce the level of stress in your life are also important.
Consequences of longer-term stress
If stress hormones are raised over a longer period, this has consequences. A lack of rest can cause chronic stress. This in turn can have a negative effect on the body and psyche, and increase the likelihood of specific diseases occurring.
Physical consequences of stress
In the short term, physical stress causes digestive issues, stomach pain or headaches in some people. Permanent stress can result in migraines and chronic problems in the gastrointestinal tract. Ongoing stress also affects negatively the cardiovascular system and is associated with an increased risk of high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease. Tinnitus, painful muscle tension, back pain, sleep disorders, reduced fertility and skin reactions can also be caused or intensified by stress. Permanent stress also weakens the immune system, so you become susceptible to colds and infections.
Mental consequences of stress
Ongoing stress often causes irritability, irascibility or dejection. Many people feel less resilient over the long term, have difficulty focusing and sleep badly. Stress can also affect a person’s self-confidence. In the worst-case scenario, this can cause burnout or depression. Therefore, it is important to make a concerted effort to relax during stressful periods.
Who is particularly affected by stress?
More than half of people surveyed in Switzerland, Austria and Germany admit that they regularly suffer from stress. It affects those aged between 35 and 45 particularly often. In this group, four out of five people often perceive their life to be stressful. Every fourth or fifth employee admits that their professional day places them under severe stress or exhausts them. Increasing numbers of children and young people are also being affected. Test anxiety, the fear of bad marks, too much homework, too little time, as well as problems with teachers, parents, siblings or classmates are the main reasons for stress in school-aged children and young people. Therefore, it is particularly important that children learn at a young age the best ways to relieve stress.
How to combat stress
Anyone who has a lot of stress in their life should address it in order to prevent the physical and mental consequences of continual pressure, In particular, this includes measures, which reduce stress or can be used to prevent it. Herbal remedies can also help to combat nervousness, test anxiety or stress-induced sleeping disorders.
Some stressful situations in life cannot be prevented, even with the best possible management – however, others can definitely be prevented. The important thing to remember in the case of permanent stress is to always take stock and analyse the causes of your stress, your own priorities and the situations in which stress occurs particularly often. Sometimes small changes are sufficient to reduce your individual perception of stress. Below you will find some helpful tips to prevent stress.
The level of the stress hormone will only fall if the body has sufficient time to recuperate and regenerate. However, people often do not allow themselves sufficient time to recover during stressful phases in their life. Nowadays, it is particularly important to have sufficient breaks and allow yourself a bit of time where you can stop and take a breath during your day-to-day life. Stress or relaxation techniques are particularly effective ways to reduce stress. Specific tips in this area are available below.
Herbal products for stress
Various medicinal plants can help you to reduce the level of stress in your life in a gentle manner. General anxiety and nervousness as well as stress-related sleeping disorders and test anxiety can often be alleviated by using herbal products. Depending on the preparation, they can also be used for children and teenagers.
In this case, nature provides a large range of plants, which have a soothing effect. They include, among others:
- Lemon balm: This lemon-scented medicinal plant has anxiolytic and antispasmodic properties.
- Valerian root: Facilitates sleep when taken in a higher dose; calms when taken in a lower dose.
- Passiflora: Extracts of this plant have been shown to have an anxiolytic effect in various studies.
- Butterbur: The ingredients of butterbur have an antispasmodic effect and alleviate stress-related tension, migraines and tension headaches.
- Hops: The bitter substances contained in hops have a calming and an antispasmodic effect. Studies have shown that a combination of baldrian and hops is an excellent herbal treatment for sleeping disorders.
Combination preparations combine the effects of different plants, which complement each other perfectly such as butterbur, valerian, passiflora and lemon balm. This not only alleviates nervousness, anxiety, tension and test anxiety but also related symptoms such as spasmodic gastrointestinal complaints, irritability or occasional problems falling asleep or sleeping through the night. The tried and tested combination of hops and valerian in medications ensures restorative sleep and combats stress-related sleeping disorders.
Tips: Reduce stress sustainably
You should make a concerted effort at an early stage to ensure that long-term stress does not have any lasting negative consequences. The following tips may be of help.
Sport and exercise speed up the reduction of stress hormones, so they should not be neglected during a particularly stressful period. Dancing, club sport, sport in groups or with friends all have additional social aspects, which also helps to reduce stress.
Use a relaxation technique such as progressive muscle relaxation or autogenous training. You first have to learn relaxation techniques. However, a very deep level of relaxation is often possible in a short period. Yoga, Tai-Chi or Qigong also help many people to feel relaxed.
Stress is often easier to reduce than is thought. Have in-depth discussions with other people who are involved, such as your partner, family or boss. Your daily life and profession can often be organised in a more relaxed manner on a lasting basis. For example, instead of changing job, you could aim to take on other tasks at your current place of work.
Organise breaks and time out. This applies during work as well as in your private life. The goal is to reduce stress and negative feelings on an ongoing basis over the course of the entire day. Ideally, you should come up with a relaxation ritual that you can make a specific part of your daily routine.
Make sure your diet is healthy during stressful times in particular. Wholegrain products as well as sufficient fruit and vegetables strengthen the immune system and help you to deal with the consequences of stress.
Some people forget to drink enough fluid during stressful times. Drink a lot, ideally just water. Dehydration causes fatigue, poor concentration and headaches.
Outdoor walks are particularly good for reducing stress. Studies show that sun, fluctuating temperatures and fresh air boost the immune system. Sunlight improves your mood. The colour and sounds of nature also have a calming effect.
Stress disrupts your sleep; disturbed sleep in turn causes increased stress. Therefore, you should ensure that your sleep is restful – by practising good sleep hygiene, for example. Medicinal plants such as valerian and hops help to alleviate occasional stress-related sleeping difficulties. The above relaxation techniques can reduce inner tension, help to switch off your brain and make it easier to fall asleep.
People often neglect their friends and family during stressful times. Maintain your social contacts. An intact social environment plays a major part in alleviating the stress in your day-to-day life.
Constant tension or more intense physical or mental symptoms are a sign that you should consult a doctor or a psychologist. This is particularly important when those affected are possibly heading for burnout or depression.