Sandra is a medical herbalist, medical anthropologist, and columnist for the NZ Herald.

Your health: Battling school holiday stress

In case you missed it: This was one of Lifestyle's favourite stories of 2016
Can't wait for the kids to go back to school? Photo / iStock
Can't wait for the kids to go back to school? Photo / iStock

School holidays are coming up, and I'm always exhausted by the end of the two weeks just trying to keep up with the kids! What can I do to keep my energy levels up so I can make the most of the time we have?

School holidays can be a difficult time for parents: finding things for the kids to do, keeping the peace, and then trying to keep your sanity. Plant medicine has many options to help support us through those times that require a little more energy and patience.

Licorice is one of the best plants to support your adrenals. It helps to boost your energy levels restoratively, but not in an overly stimulating way like caffeine or ginseng does.

Licorice has a great affinity with your nervous system and helps to work on the stress hormones that we secrete. It helps you to adapt to stress, be it physical or mental - hence why it is called an adaptogen. Another great feature of licorice is that it is naturally sweet, so it helps to reduce the need to reach for a sweet treat in the afternoon when we need a sugar hit.

Passionflower is a traditional choice for helping to help calm people down, so it works well for anxiety. Throughout the day, our stress levels can get out of hand and we can over-produce cortisol in a reaction to what is going on. Cortisol contributes to the fight or flight reaction that we use to get out of stressful situations, which is great when a car is about to hit us but not so ideal when we are constantly producing it in response to daily stressors like screaming children or a messy house. Passionflower helps reduce feelings of nervous tension and irritability.

Lavender is often associated with helping people sleep, however it can help with reducing feelings of nervous tension and restlessness too. It can also help those that get tension headaches from stress. It can assist with worry, nervousness and lowering stress levels.

Lemon Balm supports the nervous system and helps with reducing worry and stress too.

Plants that work on the nervous system help to reduce the amount of cortisol in the body, reducing the "tired but wired" feeling people might get when they are trying to get to sleep.

Often, high levels of stress inhibit sleep, leading the person to feel exhausted but wide awake. This is why it is important to have regular and consistent amounts throughout the day to gradually work on these levels before sleeping becomes a problem.

Try to establish a relatively set time in the chaos to take a break and replenish your reserves.

This can be when the kids are outside playing or at the movies - it gives you a chance to breathe and relax.

Regular consumption of the above plants will help reduce your cortisol levels and the overall feeling of stress.

All the best for the next few busy weeks. If you feel like that you are finding it hard to cope with the stress, it is best to consult your leading medical provider for assistance.

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Sandra is a medical herbalist, medical anthropologist, and columnist for the NZ Herald.

Sandra Clair is the founder of Artemis ( offering New Zealanders a premium range of traditional plant medicine products. She is one of New Zealand’s most highly qualified health professionals in her field, as a Swiss trained medical herbalist and a medical anthropologist (M.A.). Sandra is currently completing a PhD in health science at the University of Canterbury in collaboration with the Chair for Natural Medicine of the University of Zürich, Switzerland.

Read more by Sandra Clair

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