In my last post, I wrote about how stress affects hormone levels. But how do we get a handle on chronic stress?
Sometimes, we can eliminate the stressors in our lives… turn off the news for a few days, say no to unnecessary obligations, create healthy boundaries… But we can never eliminate all stressors. Nor would this be healthy. We need stress in our lives to challenge us and help us grow. But we also need to have the ability to respond to stressors in a healthy way. Increasing our ability to respond to stress is increasing resilience.
What is Resilience?
Merriam-Webster defines resilience as…
1: the capability of a strained body to recover its size and shape after deformation caused especially by compressive stress
2: an ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change
Cultivating resilience allows us to more easily recover from the normal, everyday stressors of life. It means we have the capacity to experience stress, respond appropriately, and recover quickly, without feeling overwhelmed or run down. Doesn’t that sound lovely?
Once we have decreased the stressors we have control over, there are many ways to increase resilience in our lives. Before bringing in the herbal allies, it is important to look at lifestyle factors. Things like sleep quantity and quality, diet, exercise, and connection with community are all important here. In addition, we can increase our resilience by engaging in practices such as meditation, deep breathing, gratitude journaling, and spending time in nature. Even something as simple as making time to do things that bring you joy can increase resilience.
Herbs can help too. When we have taken the time to adjust our lifestyle first, bringing in the herbs to help can be so powerful. Here are some of my favorite herbs for increasing resilience.
Herbs for Resilience
Plant allies that increase our resilience fall into a few different categories. Here are some of my favorite, the ones I work with the most in my own practice.
Nervous System Tonics
These are herbs that tone and strengthen our nervous system. They are safe and most effective when taken over an extended period of time.
Adaptogens increase our resilience when taken over time. They are slow and steady builders. (Many herbs people classify as adaptogens are actually stimulants. They give you a false sense of energy and well-being temporarily, but actually rob you of your energy stores and with continued use can lead to burnout and fatigue… rhodiola, eleuthero, ginseng )
Bitters bring the energy back to our digestive system, stimulate the vagus nerve, and ground us.
These are herbs that help us keep our hearts open and receptive, yet protected, in times of fear and stress.
Anyone who works with herbs would do well to have some of these herbs for resilience in their materia medica. If you don’t work with herbs yourself, it can be helpful to work with a clinical herbalist. They can look at your whole picture and put together a formula designed just for you.
However you bring resilience-building herbs into your life, make sure it is part of a larger plan that includes lifestyle. You will be amazed at how much increasing resilience increases the quality of your life.