Dried rhodiola root and adaptogen herb used for stress relief and energy

Adaptogens: your new BFF when it comes to stress relief

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Stressed out and thinking, ‘If only there was something, that’d help me out there’? Turns out there is. Here’s what you need to know about adaptogens.

What are adaptogens?

Even if you’re not fully across all things adaptogenic, you’re probably on a first-name basis with Ginseng, Reishi mushrooms and even ashwagandha by now.  
They’re just three of a number of known adaptogens, a group of plants (mostly herbs) and a couple of mushrooms, that have been used for aeons in both Ayurvedic and traditional Chinese medicine, and can act like your wing-person when life just gets a bit much.  
And that happens more regularly and to more people than you might think – three out of four Australians say stress regularly kills their health buzz.  

So how do adaptogens help?

Different adaptogens do slightly different things, but basically they help you cope better – by which we mean support your response to stress - when you’re up against it.  
One way of getting your head around it is understanding that there are three stages of stress – the alarm phase, the resistance phase and the exhaustion phase.  
Essentially, the alarm phase does what it says on the tin – it’s that much-talked about ‘fight or flight’ moment when your body or your brain first notices that a stressor is present.  
You know like when you realise that big deadline at work is actually Wednesday this week, not next week. And it’s 2pm on Tuesday. Insert wide-eyed emoji.  
Once the alarm dies down – and you’ve decided to fight rather than run – you hit phase two, the resistance phase. It’s actually pretty handy because the hormones your body releases in response can help you think more clearly and work more efficiently and may even make you feel like you’ve got energy to burn.  
Suddenly that deadline tomorrow seems doable. Ah-mazing. You’ve actually got this!  
Unfortunately, though, your body and your brain can only cope with that kind of pressure for so long. So while you might get away with meeting tomorrow’s deadline unscathed, if you’re faced with stress and pressure like that day after day (after day) the exhaustion phase kicks in. And that’s when stress can cause things like fatigue and burnout, which apart from not feeling great, aren’t great for you either.   
In simple terms, adaptogens work by training your body to stay in that ever-so-sweet and productive resistance phase for longer – a bit like how, over time, exercise trains your body to be able to run for longer, stretch further or lift more before you have to call it quits.  

Which adaptogen does what?

They all help your body adapt to and cope better with stress, but some adaptogens are better for helping you hold onto your zen than acting like jumper leads for your energy levels – and vice versa.

For example, ashwagandha might help to relieve and reduce symptoms of stress, including nervous tension, while Siberian ginseng can help to improve focus and support energy levels.  

Don’t stash your yoga mat away just yet

Keep in mind that while adaptogens can help you cope with pressure better by working behind the scenes as your own personal stress coach, they won’t make you invincible. In other words, they can’t ‘cure stress’ or make you immune to it. If only! 
So even when you’re considering adaptogens, it’s also a good idea to keep giving your stress levels a hand by doing things like saying no to stuff if you’re overloaded and asking for help when you need it.  
You should also stick with tried-and-true stress busters, like getting enough sleep, eating well and exercising regularly.