Whether it’s with shamanic healing, Access Bars, ear seeds or adaptogens, Jane Wolfe discovers that the world of natural de-stressing often draws on traditional wisdom
There’s no doubt, stress is a huge issue in the UK (the enduring hangovers of Brexit and COVID, plus the cost of living crisis are enough to send anyone’s anxiety levels through the roof) and creates symptoms aplenty to propel customers into their local health stores. In fact, in NPN’s last Health Check, 80% of retailers cited stress and anxiety as their biggest driver of sales, with sleep (the lack of which is undoubtedly an exacerbating factor) the second biggest driver (71%).
According to 2021 research by CIPHR, the top three stressors for British people are money worries (39%), lack of sleep (39%) and health concerns (35%), with women experiencing stress more than men, at around ten days each month for women versus seven for men.
The majority (79%) of UK adults feel stressed at least one day a month, the research discovered, with a typical UK adult experiencing stress more than twice a week. One in 14 UK adults (7%) feel stressed every single day and one in five feel stressed more days a month than not.
When it comes to age, the firm found that on average 18 to 24-year-olds feel stressed for more days a month than any other age group, with those aged 55 and over being the least stressed.
A balancing act
The bottom line is that stress exists in everybody’s life, it’s impossible to completely circumvent, but it’s not a wholly negative thing. “Experts are now reframing stress as a positive force rather than something to avoid completely,” says Laura Neville, co-founder of The Herbtender. “Championing anti-fragility, as we do … rather than seeking to eradicate negative emotions, is a far more effective way for people to tackle everyday problems positively and effectively.
“A small amount of stress is both good and necessary, but intense or chronic stress can be harmful. We can implement many daily habits to help manage stress when it does arrive in our lives, leaving us able to tackle those challenging moments calmly and with no lasting effect.”
“We have lost connection to our cyclical nature which is so important for the … wellbeing of the body and mind”
Her top tips to be prepared for these moments are: to prioritize exercise, which supports mental wellbeing by releasing endorphins and lowering stress hormones; surround yourself with a supportive network of people; avoid alcohol, smoking and junk food; follow a regular sleep routine; and boost the body’s natural resilience with adaptogens – which is where The Herbtender comes in.
Founded in 2020 by Neville and her husband Mark when they spotted a gap in the market for unadulterated formulations, The Herbtender’s seven adaptogenic formulations were created in collaboration with medical herbalist Schia Mitchell Sinclair and address common issues including sleep, anxiety and fatigue.
Depending on the desired effect, the adaptogens used can be stimulating or calming, says Neville. “Adaptogens work intuitively with the pituitary, hypothalamic and adrenal glands. Crucially, they do so by supporting equilibrium in the body. The goal is to support the body’s natural defences by adapting to its needs, not overriding or manipulating them. In terms of helping return the body to its natural balance, they could either calm a person feeling stressed or revitalize a person feeling worn down.”
Highlighting the importance of sleep, Neville says: “Sleep is the golden thread of health. Chronic sleep issues elevate cortisol levels and create a negative feedback loop … We always say that a good night’s sleep starts in the morning. Everything you do throughout the day can set you up for a good night ahead. Getting sunlight into your eyes when you wake up helps to set your circadian rhythm. If you drink caffeine, have a cut-off in the early afternoon, and don’t look at your phone, or other devices that emit blue light, in the hours before you go to bed.
Adaptogens regulate the production of cortisol, which can reduce stress, she explains, adding that a relaxed, less stressed body enables better, more rejuvenating sleep. “Our sleep formula is based around ashwagandha and reishi, two wonderful non-stimulating adaptogens that are known for their calming, anti-anxiety and sedative effects. Schia added to these some of her other favourite sleep herbs, ensuring that all aspects of sleep were covered including falling asleep and staying asleep through the night.”
Shamanic healer Inga Lamb believes the major cause of stress is the ‘modern lifestyle that most of us have been living since we were born, unaware of anything different’. “Most people have lost touch with the true nature of life, and in fact it has now become something of an alien concept to the average Western, modern human being,” she explains. “We have lost connection to our cyclical nature, which is so important for the harmony and wellbeing of the body and mind – as the body works in cycles; we have lost touch with our own ‘magic’ – we have forgotten the magic of food, of laughter, of rain, of sun.
“We have forgotten the importance of family and community and therefore we have become detached, lonely, disempowered and fearful; we have chosen adrenaline over peace. The ‘high’ hormone has taken over our world. We drink coffee, create impossible schedules, leave things till the last minute, overdo, over-plan and create stress in our lives because we have become addicted to our high hormones.
We have forgotten the importance of family and community and therefore we have become detached, lonely, disempowered and fearful
“Then there is trauma, and this is where my work is fundamentally based. We all experience trauma but … we do not have the tools to do deal with it, it lingers in the body and brain, creating imbalances and energetic blocks which then manifest in a myriad of ways.”
When people are constantly stressed the body adapts to compensate for the increased stress hormones produced, says Lamb, and this can lead to problems including reduced immune response, hormonal issues, lack of sleep, digestive issues, brain fog and low libido. “The list is endless, and from a shamanic perspective this is all blocked energy caused by unresolved trauma,” she says.
The process of shamanic healing involves the shaman connecting to their spirit guides and working with the client’s higher self. The shaman undertakes a journey to bring back information the client needs, usually in symbols, images or items. During the journey, the shaman can also work to remove energetic blocks, resolve past trauma and rebalance the energy body. “Once trauma has been resolved,” Lamb explains, “the stress and anxiety disappear as a natural result.”
She believes shamanism is having a welcome resurgence ‘because nothing else is working’. “Having tried many other things, people are now beginning to realize the power of this ancient form of healing. Shamanism is the most comprehensive and incredible healing modality. I believe that it is the future of healing.”
Another ancient healing tool, used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), are ear seeds which address phyical and emotional health concerns through the stimulation of specific points of the ear (auricular acupressure).
“Ear seeds are the oldest healing modality you’ve probably never heard of,” says Giselle Boxer, who founded ear seed brand Acu Seeds after being diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome at the age of 26. By using a holistic approach to diet, supplementation and TCM, and with the use of acupuncture, Chinese herbs and ear seeds, she fully recovered and is now on a mission to share the benefits of auricular acupressure with the world.
So, how can these work in relation to stress and anxiety? “Think of it like reflexology, but for the ears … When ear seeds are pressed into the skin, they stimulate the pressure points beneath the surface. This encourages the release of endorphins, which can help to improve mood and reduce stress levels. Ear seeds can also stimulate the vagus nerve, calming your sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system (aka, your fight or flight response). You can stimulate the vagus nerve on the surface of your ear through ear seeding on the concha, intertragic notch and tragus. One of the best points for this is the tranquilizer point, which can have an incredible sedative effect, reducing anxiety and promoting relaxation.”
Boxer cites a Leeds University study showing that stimulation of an area of the outer ear for 15 minutes a day for two weeks reduced the fight or flight response and significantly improved sleep and mood.
“They are super easy to apply on your own, it might just take a couple of goes before you feel comfortable doing so,” explains Boxer. “Ear seeds are an incredible tool to have in your handbag when life feels overwhelming. It’s a simple practice that only takes a couple of minutes, and can make you feel more centred and grounded.”
One hands-on process designed to assist in reducing stress and promoting positive attitudes is Access Bars – a treatment involving light touch that stimulates 32 points on the head to produce a positive neurological response, enabling the body and mind to return to a natural state of calm. Research published in the Journal of Energy Psychology: Theory, Research and Treatment indicated that a 90-minute Access Bars session significantly decreased the severity of anxiety, and another study found the treatment had a positive neurological effect similar to that experienced by advanced meditators, and produced immediate results. The results of treatment differ with each individual but reported benefits include greater mental clarity and reduced stress; enhanced motivation; a marked increase in feelings of joy, happiness, gratitude, kindness and peace; deeper relaxation; and reduced symptoms of depression and panic attacks.
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Stress Relief from Helios
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NutraRelax – Herbal Tea For Stress
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From our farm to your shelf De-stress with SOiL Organic Aromatherapy
The SOiL Organic Aromatherapy De-Stress blend is a calming complex of the purest 100% organic essential oils including grapefruit, clary sage, cypress and cedarwood, all expertly blended to help ease tension and anxiety while calming both the body and mind. SOiL Organic Aromatherapy is grown on our own farms to bring you the purest essential oils for your store and your customers. The range includes essential oils, body and massage oils, carrier oils, shea butters and remedy rollers and are all certified organic by ECOCERT. If you are interested to stock the SOiL Organic Aromatherapy range, please get in touch with Pravera Ltd for your information pack.
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