Even though the holiday season is meant to bring us happiness and joy, all too often, it fills us with anxiety and stress — before, during, and after every event that takes place. This year, let’s try to resolve some of this holiday turmoil — we’ve had enough to contend with in 2020, as it is — to make the celebrations more festive.
One of the more popular psychology searches on the internet is the word “stress,” yielding about 1,250,000,000 results. We all share this phenomenon of enduring stress, and more than a billion people are looking for a solution.
Stress is natural, so it’s unrealistic to imagine a life without it. Stress is a reaction to the way we perceive reality. When we want something to go our way and it doesn’t, we become frustrated, angry, depressed, anxious… In a nutshell, we get stressed out.
It’s worth bearing in mind that none of us is capable of controlling the world and bending it to our liking. We can’t always change the nature of difficult situations or people, but we can adjust our attitudes about the stress and thereby lessen its effect.
Even Good Stress is Stress
Decades ago, Hans Selye invented the word “stressor,” — something that seems to cause stress — though he certainly did not invent the phenomenon of stress itself, which seems to come along with the territory of being a human being. Selye identified two types of stress — eustress and distress. The latter is stress we experience from unpleasant, disturbing, and anger-inspiring people and events; the former is the kind of stress you get during happy occasions, such as the holidays. But both of these stress types cause the body to secrete hormones that are meant to help us cope with the stress. This is because our minds prepare our bodies to handle threatening situations. In the case of eustress, the threat is to our peace of mind; and in the case of distress the body is threatened. Either way, good or bad, happy or sad, stress is stress to the body.
Selye developed a theory of stress and general adaptation syndrome, which has three phases: the alarm phase, the phase of resistance, and the phase of exhaustion. Anyone who has ever experienced the hustle, bustle, food frenzy, and busyness of the holiday season is all too familiar with these phases.
The Holiday Gift of Adaptogens
One way to avoid stress during the holidays is to travel to some remote part of the world and wait until the season passes. Or, maybe you can take a cue from Rip Van Winkle and sleep your way clear into mid-January. More realistically, though, you’ll get the most out of the season by taking proven measures to nurture your mind, body, and spirit.
For thousands of years, people the world over coped with stress by using such simple modalities as exercise, yoga, meditation, laughter, spending time with friends, taking long walks, tending to pets, cultivating hobbies, and so forth. They also depended on various botanicals to ease the severity of their stress and help them cope with it better.
Food researchers have defined adaptogens as herbal preparations that increase attention as well as boost endurance for those showing signs of fatigue. They also reduce stress-induced health issues related to the neuro-endocrine and immune systems. In simpler terms, adaptogens are good for the emotions, mental prowess, nervous system, and immune cells.
Here are five (of many) adaptogen herbs to keep in mind:
1. Ashwagandha: Supports the body’s ability to respond and adapt to physical, emotional, and environmental stress.
2. Tulsi (or Holy Basil): Traditionally used to support immunity, stress response, and the body’s natural detoxification process.
3. Gotu Kola: A nootropic herb used for centuries as a tonic for overall brain and nervous-system support.
4. Shankpushpi: An excellent herb for supporting healthy brain and nervous system function, and promoting memory, concentration, and intelligence.
5. Bacopa: Traditionally used as support for memory, mood, and focus.
Let the holiday season descend upon you and envelope you in warmth and love. Stress is part of the whole experience, and you can learn to say “yes” to it all if you’re equipped with the right attitude and adaptogens. Adaptogens are nature’s herbs that help us handle stress. It’s the perfect holiday treat, so perhaps, instead of buying your friends and relatives socks, gadgets, and whatnot, maybe it’s time to give the gift of adaptogens.