Turns out the absence of work is not equivalent to relaxation. I've had to learn how to relax and now I think of it as something I do. Not something that happens to me.
Are you working too hard? I know I am. But not all of us show signs of stress in the same way. It's important to understand that we all have different signs from our bodies but here are some of the most common I see:
- Unexplained migraines
- Difficulty falling asleep
- Difficulty staying asleep
- Waking up tired
- Panic attacks and anxiety
- Unexplained menstrual problems, especially heavy or non existent periods
- Chronic muscle tension
- Recurring infections
If you have some of the above you need to know what stage of stress you're in to choose the right herbs for the situation.
If you've got muscle tension and are finding it hard to fall asleep it's likely you're feeling stressed too. This calls for relaxants such as Lime Blossom, Chamomile, Passion flower or Skullcap. But if it's been going on a while and you think you "feel fine" but wake up early in the morning, wide awake, and can't seem to shake a cold then it's time to consider adaptogens. These include Rhodiola, Nettle seed, Ashwagandha and Sobering ginseng. You might even need some relaxants too.
The trouble with taking relaxants when it's adrenaline that keeps you up right each day is that they tend to make you feel tired and you might feel like you sort of collapse in a heap. While this is probably exactly what you need, and would have once been called convalescence, it's rarely what you want in a world where working is synonymous with paying your bills and supporting your family!
It's not easy to identify what stage of stress you're in as the tendency is to rationalise how well you're coping instead. This is where a herbalist comes in handy. They can look at things objectively and get the herbs right for what you need. But as a general rule of thumb if you feel stressed take relaxants but if you have symptoms but no stress then take adaptogens. I've got a guide to using herbs for the different stages of stress here.
The other thing you need to do is plan things which help you relax. It's no good expecting to feel relaxed just because you stopped working. It's very hard to switch off at night when adrenaline is buzzing on. You must tend to yourself. I suggested some things which you can do to help in my blog on the science of slow living but there is a lot more info in Stitch + Forage.
If you're thinking "pah! Who has time for relaxation?!" then you need this advice more than anyone. You will never be given the time to relax. Time to relax is something you fight for, hook and nail, every week, to achieve. It's whenever you say no to some extra work. It's when you don't answer a text because you just sat down to dinner. It's when you book a massage on the weekend. It's when you ask a colleague to help you out because you're struggling instead of doing it all yourself.
Relaxation is a skill. Learn it.
For more information check out previous articles on The 3 Stages of Stress and How I Survive Adrenal Fatigue.