I spoke on the phone recently with a customer who continues to have difficulty sleeping even while taking my Sleepy Time tincture before bed. I explained to her that in consulting with clients with sleep issues, I have a complex flow chart that I work through in order to assess the factors contributing to a variety of sleep issues. Although phone consultations have become more of the norm during CoViD, these shorter phone inquiries just don’t allow either party the time to delve that deep into those discussions. Many times I find myself the next morning wishing I could have said more to help them.
This morning it occurred to me that this would be a good topic for a blog. In general, other than the systemic deterioration of our bodies associated with normal aging, there are just a few factors that, especially over time, significantly affect our health. One of those is stress. You see, our primal brain doesn’t know the difference between being chased by a bear and having work overload, having financial issues, having to juggle work, childcare and educating your children (common side effects of CoViD for many people), or taking on the responsibilities of your aging parents later in life. These all add stress to our lives. And the thing about stress is, it not only makes your feel emotionally “stressed”, it also trumps normal body functions of many of our body organs and systems, affecting daily rhythms and long-term leading to many serious health issues.
When you are being chased by whatever breed of bear you find yourself confronted with, your digestive system shuts down. This means that even though you continue to eat (in fact you may even eat more, using food as an escape or reward to try to feel better), you won’t be assimilating nutrition because your “gut instincts” are preoccupied by the bear. This psychological stress induces systemic and mucosal pro‐inflammatory responses that damage your gut (intestines). The downward spiral inhibiting the assimilation of nutrition affects every cell in every organ and body system. Over time, this can lead to multiple forms of dysfunction and disease in the body. And your gut (or specifically our GALT: gut-associated lymphoid tissue) is the main player in your immune response. An inflamed gut significantly impairs your immune responses.
Stress can be very disruptive to your sleep. You may have difficulty falling asleep due to worry, or wake frequently with worries on your mind. What is important point to recognize here is that our bodies repair themselves in our deep sleep (REM) cycle. I mean repair EVERYTHING from bumps and bruises to the wear caused by daily exercise on our structural system, to remodeling muscle and bone. So, lack of quality sleep for just one night can curtail our normal “maintenance and repair” cycle, but can also affect your mental function, mood, and energy levels, which generally relates to how well we function in life and with others in our lives. This can lead to even more stress and further lessen our ability to handle it! Over time, sleep deficit leads to diminished physical and mental capacity, including loss of memories, cognitive skills, and perception, as well as conditions like osteoporosis and chronic inflammation.
So, what can be done to manage stress and improve sleep quality? One key focus here is perception. We’ve got to figure out how to shift our internal “bear-there” reaction to the stressors in our lives, as well as adopt skills for reducing the stress that we feel when we do face a bear. So, we first must learn how to take a pause when confronted with a stress trigger. Stop and think “is this really a bear?” If not, ask yourself why the situation triggered this response.
Sometimes it’s our own feelings and emotions about an event that trigger stress. Feelings are not good or bad, they just let us know how we feel about a situation, based on each of our own collective experiences in life. Feelings generate emotions that can make this new situation stressful. Releasing these emotions is critical to relieve our stress. Don’t hold it in, it doesn’t “go-away” on its’ own, it only builds and wreaks havoc. Once we accept how we feel, we can find appropriate ways to help us to feel better about it.
There are many ways to remove stress “in the instant” that it confronts you. Shaking your body is great, just “shake it off.” Deep breathing works wonders, especially for anxiety. Screaming or yelling works great for anger. Sometimes crying is inevitable. Talk therapy is wonderful, whether it’s in a group of individuals with similar concerns, or with an private therapist. Talking to someone who is trained to help you work through your feelings and overcome your emotional ties to stress is best. But sometimes just venting to your best friend gets you through. Exercise helps, whether it’s running, boxing, cycling, or gardening. Time in nature is awesome for grounding us back to a calmer place.
Herbs can help to manage stress, as well as help restore healthy sleep cycles, calm anxiety or lift grief. Adaptogenic herbs have qualities that help increase our tolerance to stressors, as well as mitigate the effects that stress has on our bodies. Sedative herbs help us get to and stay asleep. Tonic herbs help to restore and support your physical and mental good health and can do wonders to calm uncontrollable feelings and emotions. Proper dosage means we don’t wake up with a hangover. Some are safe to be taken long term, while others should be only used until we can restore our body’s own natural rhythms.
Supplements can also help. Just about all of us are magnesium deficient. This mineral relaxes everything from our muscles to our mind. It’s important to have an annual assessment of your health. Review your lab work with someone who is trained to look for deficiencies or patterns of dysfunction and recommend the appropriate support that you need to stand strong in the face of adversity of every kind.
And, of course, we’ve got to repair the damage to our gut so that our intestines can get back to their important work assimilating nutrients out of the foods we eat. Our body systems, both physical and non-physical, do not work independently from each other. We humans are complex entities intertwined in a symbiotic relationship with the world in which we exist. And that world is constantly challenging us. We must look at the whole person and their whole world to find ways to coexist with all of the bears hiding therein.
Real Caring for Your Health~ Medicine Woman Herbs, LLC. 28 March 2021