Let’s Talk Stress: An Interview With Tipper Lewis & Susan Curtis

It’s Stress Awareness Day on the 3 November 2021, so I got together with our Senior Brand Ambassador, Susan Curtis, to discuss our top tips for those moments when life gets too much.


Susan is a practising homeopath and naturopathic nutritionist and I’m a naturopathic herbalist, so many of our lifestyle and diet tips cross over. Diet was top for both of us; choosing unprocessed, nutrient-rich foods that help your body thrive even in pressured times; ditching stimulants like caffeine which cause the production of stress hormones; and avoiding sugar which can impact blood sugar balance, sending your body into survival mode.



Of course, what stresses us out and how stress is perceived is different for each of us, and it has different ramifications for our wellbeing. Most interesting were the different remedies we turn to in those moments when it’s more difficult to cope.


So, let’s get started…


What causes stress?

Susan: I think the most stressful thing for human beings is when we lack a sense of purpose or feel that we are on the wrong track. Everything follows on from that really. Even if your health or circumstances aren’t that great, providing you feel you are doing the right thing with your life most things are bearable; and you are likely to sleep better, look after yourself better and have more energy and enthusiasm for life.


Tipper: I completely agree, purpose gives you a sense of peace – for me, it’s too much time on tech and I find noise really gets under my skin, whether its noisy neighbours, traffic, power tools, even lawnmowers – whereas sounds of nature make me feel soothed and connected. There’s nothing that empties my mind of worry, stress and anxiety more than being outside, focused on my plants and the creation of a beautiful garden.



Susan: Completely, during the day it’s essential to get outside and go for a walk at some point. Being outside gives us a different perspective on life, and it’s a chance to interact with nature; just walking in a city park for a few minutes has been proven to have a beneficial effect on our wellbeing. Walking out in the open gives us a different perspective on any problems or concerns we may have. This is especially important as so many of us are working long hours online these days, getting a bit of exercise and a change of scenery helps dispel the tension and anxiety that can build up.


Tipper: Over the past year caring for outdoor spaces has become more vital, it’s wonderful to see community gardens thriving, flowers planted around trees on the street and window boxes bursting with flowers. It helps us to feel we’re doing good, not only for ourselves but also for pollinators, wildlife and for the planet.



What things do you do daily to manage stress?


Susan: I always start the day with a short exercise regime – literally only 10 minutes. If you can begin the day with a few mind and body exercises, it’s a really good foundation and it has a cumulative effect over the months and years that you do it, so that you keep more supple and optimistic. I do a blend of Qi Gong, yoga and Pilates. The Qi Gong element has a mental component that involves doing a physical movement alongside saying to yourself several times, “Don’t worry, be happy.” It’s a small thing but if you can say that to yourself and feel it, even for a minute or two every day it’s like a reset for your emotions, and as I say, it has a cumulative effect.


Tipper: I have meditated twice daily, on waking and before sleeping for over 20 years, to me it’s an essential part of daily life. It’s when I resolve most problems and when my best ideas come to me. Interestingly, studies have shown that the positive effects of meditating are greater than those from sleep alone and that it helps to make us less responsive to stressful situations and recover better from them.



Susan: Yes, sleep is a great healer for the mind and body and good relaxation and sleep is key to preventing the damaging effects of stress. It is unfortunate that often when we are feeling stressed and anxious and need sleep the most, it escapes us. A good tip is that if you are finding it difficult to sleep make sure you build in extra relaxation time to compensate for it – that means time away from all screens and doing something that helps you to feel relaxed, such as meditating, having a bath, reading something uplifting or just dozing.


What natural remedies do you use when the pressure builds?


Susan: I find adding essential oils such as lavender, mandarin, rose or neroli to the bath is very relaxing and using essential oils in a diffuser can create an atmosphere conducive to more optimistic and positive thoughts.



Tipper:  B vitamins are my first point of call, I normally start taking them when I feel less clarity or focus. B vitamins work together, so a complex is good, and they’re water-soluble so you can benefit from a daily top-up. This is why a whole food diet is a good foundation because whole foods are unprocessed they contain B vitamins, magnesium, vitamin C and omega oils – all of which support our mind and resilience to stress.



Susan: During stressful times some herbal help can be a great gift; I take a tincture blend with lemon balm, vervain and skullcap that helps me feel more relaxed.


Tipper: Ooooh yes, lovely herbs – nice as a tea too. Sticking with herbs I also use adaptogens like maca and ashwagandha, particularly if stress is prolonged. Adaptogens build your resilience and ability to cope with stressors, whether that’s internal or external, physical or emotional. However, when I feel level ten, red alert I turn to flower remedies, in particular Bush Flower Emergency Essence – it’s normally in my bag! I take 7 drops every 5 minutes or so until I feel more in control.



Susan: Finally, it can be part of a process towards greater wellbeing to admit that we need some extra help. Going to see a homeopath for constitutional treatment or booking in an aromatherapy massage or acupuncture treatment are all therapies that I have used regularly in the past to help me cope with stressful times.



Tipper: After our conversation, it was clear there are elements we both do to build our resilience to stress, like diet, nature, exercise and meditation. These everyday essentials get us through most of the things that life throws at us, but in those SOS moments bringing in the extra support of natural remedies can make a real difference.


During the more acute stressful times, both Susan and I use multiple natural remedies together, acting as a team but working on different levels – ultimately nurturing mind, body and spirit. This highlighted that we’re all individual and it’s about finding what works for you. So, try different natural remedies, experiment, and if that all seems a bit bewildering ask for help with a natural health therapist.


Please note if you have any concerns about stress and/or severe or persistent symptoms you should consult your doctor.

Tipper Lewis

Tipper Lewis

Writer and expert

I’m a qualified Naturopathic Herbalist and have worked at Neal’s Yard Remedies for 20 years – in our stores, as Head of Training, and most recently as a Brand Ambassador. Outside of work, I love nothing more than being out in the garden and growing my own veggies, herbs and flowers to support wildlife.