Lowering The Bar Of Stress

by Guest Blogger September 22, 2017


Within the delicate balance of human physiology, there is a fine line between feeling grateful and feeling burnt out. There have been so many times in my clinical practice when I hear a similar story: Someone living with an extremely high demand job and home life, very little self care, infrequent time off or no vacations, inability to be away from technology and emails even for a single day, caring for elderly parents, financial strain, family disharmony, (needless) drama at work, guilt for not exercising enough, the loss of a loved one with no time to grieve….often followed up with a shrug of the shoulders and something like, “Well, at least I’m not in Syria”.

I’ll smile and nod and say, “Yes, we are so very fortunate to be where we are right now”. We have so much access to what’s happening everywhere else in the world that we can easily put our own lives into perspective and know that it could always be worse. Instinctually, feeling grateful for what we have and where are are from day to day is an extremely healthy emotion. Feeling grateful for the small things in life that bring a smile to our face, feeling grateful that we have a roof over our heads, live family members and food to eat every day does put into perspective how lucky some of us are. However, we don’t always have to overload ourselves with unmanageable stress and difficult situations just because we know other people elsewhere are handling more than their fair share.

We don’t have to set the bar of stress that high for ourselves.

Managing daily life stress can be an such a challenging balancing act, and I often like to give people the exercise of differentiating between “essential stress” and “needless stress”. Write down every single thing in life that causes even the most remote feelings of stress, nothing is too big or small to include in the list. Once it’s all down on paper, go through every one and ask yourself, “How essential is this in my life?” And, “If I could let that go, how would I feel?”. For example, essential stress are things like managing and raising your kids. Paying your mortgage. Showing up for work.

Examples of needless stress may be things like creating stories in your head about events that haven’t actually happened.

Getting upset about traffic every day on the way to work. Saying yes to to every task that comes your way (not setting boundaries). Some stressors in our life are so constant we don’t even realize we can easily do without just by changing behavior. It’s just habit to have them around. Hence why so many of us are wound up so tight by stress, we have woefully low resistance to anything new or unexpected that comes our way, and our health suffers for it.

As an herbalist, stress and anxiety are two of my favorite things to work with herbally because herbal medicines are so incredibly good at both calming down the central nervous system (where we hold most of our acute and chronic stress) and building up our resilience so that we can respond to and manage stress in a more therapeutic way over time.

Herbs are not just something we take when stress is present.

Tonic herbal formulas can be taken daily to develop a healthy response to stress so that we never feel like we’re at a breaking point even when those essential stressors may pile up. This is where I love to use nervines and adaptogens and together to create the perfect physiologic balance of calming + building.

Nervines are herbs that target the nervous systems (both the central nervous system and the enteric nervous system in our gut). They help to ease spasms in the gut, soothe muscle tension and relax the cerebral space and support circulation. Generally, they help to take the edge off and modulate our fight or flight response to not be so heightened all the time. Alternately, herbal adaptogens are supportive of our of body’s adrenal and cortisol response, as well as supportive to our cardiovascular system, immune system and digestive system. Adaptogens are the strengthening and building herbs that, over time, allow us to build up more reserves and not collapse when some new stressful situation comes along. When we take nervines and adaptogens daily, we’re creating more flexibility and resilience to manage those essential stressors in a non-addictive and non-habit forming way.

It is important to remember though that herbs should not be used to compensate for pushing ourselves past a healthy limit. They are allies in our daily life, not replacements for time off, appropriate sleep and self care.

A perfect example of a tonic herbal stress formula is the Simmer Down Tonic for daily nervous system support. It’s a balanced formula of calming nervines (skullcap and milky oat) with building adaptogens (ashwagandha and holy basil).  When taken daily, this tonic formula allows the body to build up resilience against stress in a replenishing and restorative way. Think of these as resilient medicines. As daily tonics. As allies in our everyday lives. I also encourage people to take their herbs with a sense of gratitude throughout the day, like thanking these herbal friends for supporting you when you need it most. If you feel like your daily intake of stress is unmanageably high, try the “essential/needless stress” exercise and see if you can’t eliminate even just one cause of stress in your week or month. Couple that with the addition of the Simmer Down Tonic and see what changes you notice. Even the smallest changes can have a big effect over time!

Lindsay Kluge, M.Sc, CNS, LDN is a clinical herbalist & licensed dietitian nutritionist currently living and practicing in Richmond, Virginia. Her love of generational herbal medicine infuses deeply into her work as an herbalist and teacher, and her blog,Ginger Tonic Botanicals, is where she shares herbal stories, recipes and holistic living insights to connect people and plants more intimately.

Guest Blogger
Guest Blogger

3 Responses

Vertical garden planters
Vertical garden planters

October 10, 2017

I also encourage people to take their herbs with a sense of gratitude throughout the day.

Urban Moonshine
Urban Moonshine

September 28, 2017

Hello Jessyloo,

The formula is a combination of herbs that support adrenal hormone secretion (ashwagandha and tulsi) and herbs that support the nervous system (oats and skullcap). Based on the available literature, none of the herbs in Simmer Down have a direct effect on the hormone systems involved in the production of sex hormones like estrogen. Ashwagandha and tulsi, herbal adaptogens, support adrenal hormones by ensuring optimal levels of stress-related signaling in the brain: to summarize, it seems they can help us secrete a normal, balanced level of hormones in response to stress (as opposed to over- or under- secreting). Based on current research, ashwagandha also seems able to support normal thyroid hormone levels. The result is optimal resilience for the stress-response system of the body.

We do know that imbalances in our stress-response systems can have far-reaching consequences, including on fertility and breast milk production. Supporting a normal stress response, therefore, can (indirectly) help support balanced estrogen secretion.


September 26, 2017

This article is great! As a new breastfeeding Mom, I’ve been taking Simmer Down daily – and boy do I feel it when I don’t. Clearly, I am still in the toning phase, & your suggestion to reduce unnecessary stress I take to heart. Are you able to explain what these herbs do to the hormones & their release in the body? I’m currently looking in to the connection between post partum depression & increasing milk supply, & how the herbs may or may not be helpung both or working one against the other … as in the need for low estrogen to make milk vs the need for estrogen in the body to maintain a stable mood … Thoughts? ? Thank you for your insight.

Leave a comment

Comments will be approved before showing up.