During my full-time job, which I just recently left, I was always running from one meeting to another, juggling multiple client ’emergencies’ on a daily basis, and never finding enough time to get it all done. I often found myself justifying my crazy lifestyle by saying ‘things will be better next week when the project delivers’, or ‘once I have more team members’ etc. But, there was always more work and more demands on my time. Being in a constant high-stress environment had a cumulative effect on my health. I was burned out and felt off-centered. It was getting harder for me to provide emotional support for my family and teams at work.
As I talk to more and more friends, I learned that it’s not just me. Quite a few of my friends have mentioned that their own health is taking a back seat due to their jobs. They’re feeling like they’re constantly trying to keep their heads above water between work, family and home. They keep wanting to get healthier for themselves and their loved ones, but don’t know where to start.
So, I’ll share 4 easy ways we can turn to plants to enhance our well-being and make us get more centered.
1. Plants as Direct Nourishment
When we’re running around, are stressed or tired, one of the first things that suffer is our food choices. Research shows that chronic stress releases cortisol in our bodies which increases our appetite for sweet and fatty foods. These cravings for bad food are part of a real mechanism that kicks off in our bodies. We start to deprive ourselves of the vitamins and minerals our bodies really need especially during these times. In fact, bad foods can alter your gut and it can lead to negative thinking, low-motivation and depression.
Be kind to your body and give it what it really needs first and foremost. Plants provide many of the essential vitamins, minerals, fiber and micro-nutrients that increase our physical and mental health. Make sure you’re feeding your body nutritionally dense vegetables and fruits. It will boost your immune system and overall health. As a result you’ll be able to balance your stress-levels, rest better, gain mental clarity and even promote positive thoughts.
2. Plants as Medicine
I’m a big believer in medicine. However, I think there are many forms of healing and when possible, I prefer natural remedies (with my doctor’s advice) to help boost my body’s immune system. Our bodies are amazing healing machines, and if we constantly bombard them with harsh pharmaceuticals, we don’t allow for our natural defences to get stronger (not to mention side effects). In fact, bacterial infections are on the rise, and these bacteria are increasingly getting resistant to pharmaceutical antibiotics.
From treating headaches to common colds and taming inflammation to boosting your immune system, there are many healing plant remedies that have been backed by science. A few of my favorite remedies and scientifically researched plant-based herbal medication include
- Ashwagandha and Rhodiola for female hormone imbalance
- Turmeric for inflammation
- Garlic for colds and the flu
- Ginger, fennel, licorice and peppermint for digestion
- St. John’s Wort, kava kava and rose for anxiety
- Nettles for high blood pressure, and many more.
More to come on each of these herbs and how to easily add them to your diet.
Even, if you combine these herbs with your regular medicine to start with (until you gain confidence in their use), it can help you strengthen your body’s natural mechanisms as you learn more about these foods.
Note: As always, please make sure to consult with your doctor before using herbal remedies for your specific condition.
3. Plants for Sleep
When I work long days, it’s almost impossible for me to shut off my brain during bed time. I’ve never been a great sleeper since a young age, but I’m cautious to take any pharmaceuticals as I don’t want to get too reliant on drugs. I find that incorporating plants such as reishi mushrooms, chamomile tea, passionflower, and CBD oil helps me stop an active mind and regain my sleep patterns. Adding a little honey also increases the sleep quality, not to mention give a little dessert-y boost to my evenings.
4. Plants for Stress & Anxiety
Many of the plant medicines are also considered to be adaptogens and anti-stressors (they protect our bodies from the effects of stress). And yes, stress not only impacts our emotional health, but also triggers a lot of hormonal and chemical responses in our bodies that have long term impacts. It can throw off our hormone imbalances and result in inexplicable weight gain. This happened to both Nadia and I at different times in our lives, and we couldn’t figure out we we gaining weight despite eating a very healthy diet and exercising regularly. But, once we got our stress levels in check, the weight came off.
Some of my favorite plants and herbs for promoting calm and emotional strength include incorporating lots of wild mushrooms, avocados, comforting and warming herbal teas, soups in our diets along with bananas, dark chocolates. I like to have bananas with a little cacao powder, honey and coconut oil paste… a delicious dessert with many health benefits.
Other ways of incorporating plants to find balance is to spend some time in nature. And, when not regularly possible, like for some of us New Yorkers, create an urban plant oasis at home or your office desk. Latest scientific research has proven that spending more time in nature or green spaces has been linked to reduced levels of the stress hormone cortisol, lower heart rate, reduced risk of coronary heart disease, lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol, and reduced risk of type II diabetes among other conditions.
Go out, and find some nature for ‘forest-bathing‘! Take your family or a friend with you. Even if it is a small park nearby, or your backyard, or your green sanctuary at home, spend some time with plants. They will make you feel centered. Trust me.
We’d love to hear from you and how you connect with plants to make you feel better. Leave us a comment below.