De-stress your life

How to de-stress your life

By Tim Altman – published by minx, 17 April 2012

There are two ideal approaches to de-stressing your life, one involves a practice and the other is a remedy.

Number one:

Do anything you can to relax i.e. increase parasympathetic nervous system function, which sounds complicated, but is really quite simple.

The stress response and all automatic functions of the body (being those that work whether you are aware of it or not – digestion, heart beat, breathing, etc.) are controlled by the autonomic nervous system, which has two components.

An excitatory component – the sympathetic nervous system, which is what predominates when we experience stress, and is responsible for the ‘fight or flight’ response. Heart rate, breathing rate, blood pressure, adrenaline and cortisol levels all rise and digestive function, immune system function, and blood flow to the brain all decrease.

And a relaxing component known as the parasympathetic arm, which creates the ‘relaxation response’ – the exact opposite of the stress response. We see greater relaxation, lower heart rate, breathing rate, blood pressure and cortisol levels, plus greater levels of serotonin and melatonin (happy hormones) as well as improved digestion, immune system function and cognitive function.


  • meditation
  • deep muscle relaxation
  • breathing exercises
  • yoga
  • massage
  • reading

Number two:

Use adaptogenic herbs that help reverse the damage done by stress (or sympathetic nervous system dominance). These work in a number of ways depending on the herb. Essentially they increase the body’s ability to adapt to stress, and often come from herbs or trees that are exposed to extremely harsh or stressful environmental conditions themselves.

The best adaptogen I have used by far, both clinically and personally, is Siberian Fir (Abies siberica) needle complex. These trees are exposed to -55 degrees Celsius and periods of constant darkness during winter, yet remain vibrant, green and disease free all year round. The herb is extremely effective in maintaining energy levels, treating fatigue, boosting the immune system and building endurance and stamina.

Other great de-stressing processes include the following:

Exercise – we were made to move. Movement (combined with sweating, the increase in endorphins, and release of nervous tension) is great for stress release.
Take some time off every week for yourself, where you have no commitments to others or life responsibilities. You can spend this time with others if you choose, but make sure you get a chance to totally “chill-out”.