Tag Archives: health

Stressed? How Herbal Remedies Can Help

By Katya Difani, Herbalist and Founder of Herban Wellness and Friend of Simple Intentions

We all experience stressStress_0713. How we experience, recognize, and address it (or not), is very individual to each of us.

However, there are some common ways that stress can affect the body. One of the most common reasons people come into a shop like mine seeking herbal remedies is for stress. My first question is always, what does that mean to you? How do you experience stress? Because, for most people, when they recognize themselves as “being stressed” it’s due to a sense of feeling overwhelmed, a description of anxiety, trouble quieting their mind, and/or shoulder and neck tension.

Rarely does anyone recognize long-term symptoms of stress, such as fatigue, trouble sleeping, low immune function (frequently getting colds or flus) as “being stressed.” Surely their body does! And the reason is that when we are responding to stressors such as a high work load with impending deadlines, tension in relationships, trying to fulfill many obligations, believing we should be able to “do it all” and say “yes” to everything, etc. it stimulates the “fight or flight response” in our body.

Basically, the hypothalamus sends a signal to the pituitary gland in the brain, which releases hormones that travel through the body and bind the adrenal glands (which sit atop the kidneys), and then signals them to release epinephrine and norepinephrine to respond to the stressor, activating the body into action. Cortisol is also often released in larger than “normal” amounts, as it is the long-term stress hormone (among its many other necessary functions). Anyway, not to get too involved in the physiology, the take-home is that the adrenal gland stimulation is meant to occur, but the theory goes that evolutionarily speaking, we should respond to a short-term stressor, then relax.

If we are continually producing stress hormones, this can cause all sorts of imbalances over time, including fatigue, increased inflammation, and a weakened immune system. Also, our nervous system gets called into high alert in response to these stimulating stress hormones, so it can make it harder for our bodies to relax and “unwind” at the end of the day, exacerbating the problem and leading to many of the common symptoms people associate with being stressed.

How herbs can help.

One of my favorite things about herbal medicine, and why I was drawn to it in the first place, is that there are a plethora of plants (made up of their many plant compounds) that can help support our bodies acutely and preventively. There are herbs that can help our bodies adapt better to stress that were coined as “adaptogens” in the 1970’s by Russian scientists, because of how they can prevent long term effects of stressors on the body, and how they can help our bodies recover from long-term or acute stress after the fact. When taken 2-3 times daily on a consistent basis (as a capsule, tincture, powder, or tea) for a month or more, these herbs such as Eleuthero (aka Siberian ginseng), Schisandra, and Ashwaganda, can help restore that Hypothalamus-Pituitary-Adrenal (HPA) axis function, and nourish the adrenal glands which have often been depleted because of overuse.

Many people notice increased and sustained energy throughout the day, better ability to fight infection, better sleep, and increased endurance (and much of this has been born out in clinical studies as well).

I like to combine these herbs with “nervines”, which calm and nourish the nervous system. Some of my favorite herbs include Lemon balm, Holy basil (aka Tulsi), and Passionflower for daytime or evening use.  Many of the nervines can help with symptoms of being “stressed out” by helping ease feelings of anxiety and tension, as well as helping to promote more restful sleep, with herbs such as Valerian root, Skullcap, and California poppy for a more sedating effect.

Ideally, we would nourish and support our bodies while undergoing periods of stress in our lives. This is an act of self-care that requires awareness. Along with utilizing stress-relieving techniques in daily life, herbal medicines can be another useful tool for managing, preventing, and recovering from the impacts of short-term and long-term stress on our bodies.



Detrimentally Altruistic

By Chelsea Elkins, Simple Intentions Marketing Manager

airplaneThe very definition of altruism reveals that this is a trait that is neither sustainable nor in our best interest. In fact, it seems to me that altruism is in direct opposition to self-compassion and can in fact be detrimental to both our physical and mental health.

To be clear, I am not suggesting that we stop supporting charitable causes or start refusing to give up our seat to the pregnant lady on the bus. On the contrary, I am the first to agree that a bit more kindness in the world would do wonders.

My intention with this post is to shine a light on a dangerous belief that many of us hold to be true: that it means more if we sacrifice something in order to help someone else.

I respectfully beg to differ.

The consequences of depriving ourselves can at first seem small compared to the good we perceive we’re doing. So what if we’ve been volunteered for overtime again? Who cares if we have to sacrifice another night out? In the words of my 3rd grade math teacher, “small things add up”. Eventually the consequences, which at first seem insignificant, can become, well, consequential. Furthermore, it is inevitable that we will eventually run out of altruistic steam if we are in a constant state of sacrifice.

I am suggesting that before being selfless we must be self-full. This means we must ensure we are nourishing ourselves both internally and externally. When we are full to the brim with self-compassion and care, it will cost us very little to generate the smallest or most breathtaking of beneficent acts to our fellow humans.

Airplane emergency procedure teaches this philosophy flawlessly – secure your own mask before assisting others. That concept makes perfect sense. Once you secure your own mask it will be infinitely easier to help others. Rather than fighting for oxygen, you’ll be thinking more clearly, and you’ll have more strength to offer.

When applied to life, however, this idea is a tough thing to swallow. Didn’t we learn at a young age that being a good person means putting others before ourselves? That only by being selfless, by being truly altruistic may we have any positive impact on the world? Though this belief has been relentlessly ingrained in me, I have come to the conclusion that not only is it false, but this way of thinking is also preventing us from leading the fullest and richest lives we are capable of.

Once we start taking care of ourselves by directing kindness and compassion inward, then lending a helping hand to others will not only be vastly meaningful, but also an almost effortless process.

There will be countless times in life when we’ll be called upon to assist others, loved ones and strangers, in putting on their metaphorical oxygen masks. My sincere hope is that we graciously provide a helping hand, that we assist others with their oxygen masks and hold their hands when they’re scared. I hope that we, as a global community, lift each other up after we fall.

But it is my deepest wish that we do not give up a part of ourselves to do this, that we can feel secure and unashamed when putting our own mask on first.


How to Improve Public Health? Be Your Word

By Jae Ellard, Simple Intentions Founder

[Note: This post originally appeared on Huffington Post.]

Be Your Word

In 2008, I founded Simple Intentions with the intention of helping people have conversations about topics that are difficult to talk about at work. Topics like balance, values and the choices we make that support or sabotage our desired outcomes.

That intention has evolved as a result of our team’s commitment to stop and reflect on what we learn from our customers and from our own journeys practicing what we teach. It was during one of these reflections that we developed a theory about how to improve public health around the world. That theory is: Be your word.

Our team belief is that if people are willing to say what they mean, then the collective impact could transform workplaces, communities, families, and the health of individuals everywhere.  We believe that a lot of modern-day stress stems from a lack of communication. Too often, we are not having conversations about our values and the boundaries we set (or don’t set) around how we live, honor or uphold our values. Sometimes these conversations are with friends, family and colleagues. Sometimes we avoid having these conversation with ourselves.

Or we might have the conversation, but it’s only half the conversation we need to have. Each day we encounter situations when we half-way express our needs and desires. We complain that we don’t feel heard. But how can others hear us if we’re not saying what we really mean?

In many cases, we half-way share because we fear being judged for what we think, feel or believe. We edit our expressions because we feel guilt or shame about a topic. Sometimes it’s just easier to not say what we really mean because then we don’t have to deal with the fall-out of disappointing or displeasing another person. So we half-way share.

The impact is many of us are experiencing a half-way existence with our colleagues at work, our friends and family at home. This way of living has become so common that full expression now feels radical and dramatic.

And what happens to the half of the conversation we withhold? It has to go somewhere, but where? We can’t help but believe it lives on in our bodies, contributing to stress, anxiety and depression.

The great news is that every single conversation you have with others offers you a choice to be your word, to say what you mean and embrace full expression. Even better is you have the same choice with the conversations in your head. What would it look like to have a full conversation with yourself?