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The Science Of Stress Relief

Natural Stress Support for Balancing Mind and Body

In today’s fast-paced world, stress is an all-too-common challenge that many of us face. Our body’s natural stress response was developed for those life-threatening encounters with a Sabre tooth tiger or enemy tribe once in a while, but now they come in almost continuous micro doses all day every day.  By testing our stress hormones like cortisol, adrenaline and noradrenaline we can gauge our physiological response to things in our environment. What studies have shown is that even the most minor activity like a phone notification can actually result in a stress response from our body.

So, if you wake up after a poor night’s sleep and fall straight into your hectic daily routine, with kids, work, bills, convenience food and a gym session, never stopping to take a breath…you’re putting a huge strain on a nervous system that was never designed to withstand that level of stress.

What does constant low-level stress do to our physiology?

Our body can’t immediately tell the difference between imminent danger and something that won’t necessarily kill us, so it puts us in a state of high alert regardless. With this state comes advantages for getting out of a sticky situation, for example your body releases stored sugar into your blood for energy and sends it to your muscles and limbs so that you can run to escape. However, this will be at the expense of other systems, like your digestive or endocrine (hormone) systems. This is fine in the short term for dealing with a specific situation, but if this state of high alert or stress is prolonged it can begin to cause problems.

Stress Hormones

Cortisol (our stress hormone) helps keep our stress response in check and will signal the body to unwind once the threat has passed. When cortisol is turned up all of the time, it can get confused about what is actually stress and what is not and start misbehaving. If this happens you may begin to experience symptoms such as racing thoughts when you’re trying to sleep, waking up tired, anxiety, muscle tension and acid reflux. Ignoring these symptoms for too long can allow them to develop into chronic conditions like IBS, diabetes, high blood pressure or fertility issues. Once you’re in this state it can be difficult to switch off and really get your body to relax.

But don’t stress about this too! We know of lots of ways to address and support this. The first step is to recognise it and begin work on turning off the constant dripping stress tap so that you don’t end up flooding your system. 

How does the nervous system work?

Check out this helpful video from the Headspace app for detail on how your nervous system works:

Useful Tools for Stress Management:

There are many ways to support your nervous system to either reduce perceived stress or build resilience so that the response is a positive one, and it knows when to stop. Different techniques will work for different people, but the key is consistency. Try some of these recommendations consistently for 1 week to see if you can notice a difference in your mood, anxiety, sleep quality, tolerance, heart rate or heart rate variability.

  1. Breathing exercises.

    Long, slow, deep belly breathing can help calm the body and mind, and is a simple and FREE but powerful way to switch your body from sympathetic to parasympathetic mode and lower stress. When we take long slow, deep breaths, especially on the out breath, our heart rate actually slows down which sends a signal that everything is okay. You can use this tool anywhere, anytime to calm yourself down. Try the Box Breathing technique, breathing in for a count of 4, hold for a count of 4, breathe out for a count of 4. hold for a count of 4 and repeat for a few minutes. You may also like to try different counts like the 4-7-8 (in for 4, hold for 7, out for 8), or even alternate nostril breathing to activate different parts of your brain.

  2. Reconnecting with nature (or ‘forest bathing’).

    Simply being outside in nature and connecting with it through your senses can improve your mood! This is particularly true when you are surrounded by trees, so much so that walking in a forest has been proven to help your immune system, reduce your blood pressure and help with depression. Aiming to take a walk outside even for 10 minutes after a meal has many proven health benefits. Or perhaps gardening is something you enjoy? Another fantastic way to connect with nature and feel more grounded.

  3. Massage Therapy

    The power of touch has been understood for thousands of years, and studies now show how regular massage therapy can benefit not only our nervous system but our health and wellbeing as a whole. Massage releases many feel-good chemicals (like endorphins), boosts circulation to get nutrients to tissue and improve drainage, and can relieve tension from symptoms like headaches or pain.  Additionally, massage helps to reduce stress hormones, such as cortisol, allowing us to experience a sense of calm and tranquility. For more information on massage read this article The Power of Touch: Exploring the Benefits of Massage for Stress Relief | Health Centre NZ. You don’t necessarily need to even see a therapist if you have a willing partner to trade massages with!

  4. Mindfulness, meditation or just being present

    Are you operating on autopilot? Do you ever drive somewhere and struggle to remember the journey? Racing through life like this is not ideal for your nervous system, which will find it difficult to switch off if you don’t stop to take in the experience of what is happening right now. That can be all it takes to switch from sympathetic to parasympathetic mode and allow your body to calm. As this article gracefully describes it:

    ‘Presence is meditation in motion‘.

    By simply slowing down, focusing on your senses, noticing what is happening around you, being still, you are making the effort to be present which is a type of meditation. Anything
    done with this intention or mindfulness can be a form of meditation, and when done repeatedly can retrain your nervous system to default to the calm setting (also known as ‘rest and
    digest’). In this way your nervous system is like a muscle, which you would spend time working on it and challenging it in order to strengthen it.

  5. Supplements to support the nervous system, sleep and relaxation

    There are natural remedies that have been shown to support the nervous system, stress response and melatonin production for quality sleep, all key factors in stress management. O2B Mind & Body Soother combines the ingredients:
    – St John’s Wort, which is a viable alternative to anti-depressant medications in the management of mild to major depression
    – Chaste Tree, which is excellent for influencing a wide range of hormones and especially good at balancing hormones related to cycles (eg menstrual cycle, circadian cycle)
    – Oats for supporting a healthy cardiovascular system and for nervous system support, helping with recovery from fatigue
    – plus others to support the gut-brain axis, liver function and blood-sugar balance.
    Best taken consistently for a minimum of 6-8 weeks and alongside other daily practices mentioned above for nervous system management.

Key Takeaways

  • The human body developed a stress response to help us survive, and enhance our performance, both cognitive and physical, when needed
  • In this modern fast paced world our nervous system may struggle if it is under what it considers to be constant perceived stress
  • If we stay in stress mode with the sympathetic branch of our nervous system activated (fight or flight mode), we can be at higher risk for developing chronic illnesses
  • By understanding what your body perceives as stress and working out ways to manage and mitigate this, we can help our bodies relax
  • There are many tools we can use to directly impact our nervous system, best if used consistently, and may include natural health supplements to complement


Natural Stress Support for Balancing Mind and Body


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* Disclaimer: Information on this website is for your general knowledge only. It is not intended to replace qualified medical advice nor intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Do not disregard medical advice or postpone consultation with your health care professional because of information that you have read on this website. Always consult your doctor or other qualified health care professional regarding a medical condition. Always read the label of any natural health products you purchase and use only as directed. Consult a health care professional if symptoms persist. Customer reviews reflect individual experiences and results may vary.

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