There are two, separate but closely linked, elements to stress – the physical and the psychological.
At the psychological level stress is most simply described as a feeling of being overwhelmed or unable to cope. This leads to frustration, despondency and a sense of poor self-esteem. This can result in poor work performance and problems with relationships both at work and at home. It is both unpleasant and unproductive.
At the physical level stress pushes your body to run on adrenaline in a state of continuous “fight or flight”. This is a normal physical response to danger, which prepares the body to use muscular strength to run or fight.
Stress is an unavoidable aspect of modern life. When we are stressed we become out of balance and personal effectiveness can be compromised. The key to eliminating stress is understanding how to manage the stress in our life, and how to function at our optimum level. Stress has a detrimental effect on a person’s wellbeing. A depressed immune system due to stress can lead to physical ailments such as:
- Lack of concentration
- Forgetfulness, absentmindedness
- Lack of energy
- Muscle tension
- Mood swings
- Headaches and migraines
- Persistent negative thoughts
- Indigestion and bloating
- Hormonal imbalances
Stress management – The good news
The good news is that it is possible to increase the tolerance that you have for stress and learn coping mechanisms to use when you need to relax. The first key is to recognise stress in yourself and in your colleagues, friends/partner. Acknowledging the problem means that you can begin to deal with it.
Remember: Accumulative stress is manageable and reversible
Firstly it is important to point out that no two people respond exactly the same to stress. There are however some common strategies that can be of assistance when we are dealing with stress and anxiety.
Although there are cases of very mild to severe stress and anxiety and their symptoms, it is also important to note that symptoms as well as recovery also vary greatly in individuals.
What can we do to help ourselves? Except for the visit to your health practitioner that could assist through herbs, minerals, vitamins and other methods such as massage, creative visualisation, positive thinking and other methods to relax, strengthen your nervous system and help you cope with stress, as well as counselling and facilitation of relaxation techniques, here are some things you can do for yourself, starting right now.
It is important firstly to accept what can change and what cannot. Turn your attention to the things that you can control and change. You can change yourself and the way you see things, but not necessarily others. Take your time. Think before you act, in a positive manner and without rush or anxiety. Analyse and prioritise calmly. Don’t try the impossible. Do a bit at a time. Don’t be your own worst critic. If you make mistakes, admit them, learn from them and put them behind you.
Look for the funny side where possible and appropriate. One of the best anti-anxiety medicines is laughter. So don’t take yourself too seriously, try to take life as it comes.
Techniques of breathing help reduce stress.
Although your Naturopath can advise you better, here are some simple steps. Take a deep and slow breath Hold in your breath for a few seconds, and then exhale slowly through your mouth. Feel your stomach expand and then contract. This will help you to learn to breathe efficiently. Imagine the stress of the day leaving you when you exhale. Let both your body and your mind relax
Keep yourself occupied.
Many people sometimes get stressed because they are idle and don’t keep themselves occupied in their spare time. Definitely make time to rest and relax, this is extremely important. It is also important that you do things that you like in your spare time. Do you have a hobby? Do you invite friend over? Do you like reading a book, watching a nice movie? You can see that we don’t mean “work” when we say we need to keep ourselves occupied – it needs to be relaxing, fun and without pressure. For some people, listening to their favourite music is helpful.
I do understand how you may feel, and you may rightly say that being positive during times of stress and anxiety is extremely difficult if not impossible. I agree with you. Please keep in mind though that positiveness can be practiced and eventually train you subconscious mind to be positive and prevent worry and anxiety. The mind needs positive exercise, the same as the body needs physical exercise. In time, you can learn to increase your positive thoughts and outlook and reduce stress and anxiety.
Be also mindful that feeling sad is a perfectly normal reaction. Crying may be part of the relief that you need, to bring out the stress and effect some relief. Make sure though that you are not excessively sad that can lead to depression that requires professional assistance.
Physical exercise is known to reduce stress so if you are able to undertake some physical activity – especially with friends, do so. It doesn’t have to be difficult of intense, just some exercise that you enjoy.
It is also worth mentioning that a small amount of stress is not only normal but essential for our normal functioning. It is the excessive, repetitive stress that is problematic, especially for an already depleted and weak nervous system. Don’t underestimate the benefit of natural medicines and their positive therapeutic effect. If you have tried by yourself and have been unable to conquer anxiety seeing a professional is a must.
How natural medicines help with stress and anxiety
There are many natural medicines that assist with stress and anxiety. Vitamins, herbs and homeopathic medicines are examples. The good news is that these medicines can be used without any side effects. Let’s look at herbal medicines so we can get a basic understanding of how they work.
Herbalists use a class of herbs known as nervines to help with many different kinds of nervous disorders and imbalances.
Herbs have a special place in healing the mind-body connection. We have a history and connection with them over the centuries.
Most nervine herbs that herbalists use, have a long history of use and have more recently been scientifically supported with clinical and laboratory tests. They are safe and effective medicines when taken in the right dosages and in high-quality preparations. It is also important to note that if you are taking pharmaceutical medicines, you do need to carefully select herbs as they may produce undesirable effects when taken together. Your Naturopath has the knowledge of what you can take depending on your specific medication.
The term nervine usually encompasses several different kinds of therapeutic activity. For instance, a herbalist might prescribe a herbal nervine to calm and sedate the nerves in cases of anxiety or insomnia. But he or she might also recommend a nervine to perk you up if you’re feeling run-down, depressed, or have low energy. This may sound like a contradiction for those not familiar with herbal medicine.
Nervines and stimulants offer an increased nourishment to the nervous system and a restoring and balancing action.
To understand this “contradiction”, we need to know a little bit about what the nervous system is and how it works.
The nervous system is the “wiring” that connects all of our organs, muscles, and other functional parts with the control centre of the brain and spinal cord.
We have known for a long time that stressing the nerves can weaken digestion for example. But further studies have found fascinating connections between the nervous system and other systems in the body, especially the hormonal and immune systems.
What we’re interested in for our purposes here is the autonomic nervous system, (automatic if you like for better understanding) which regulates automatic functions like breathing, heartbeat, release of hormones from glands, dilation of the pupils, etc. These functions are usually considered to be outside of our conscious control–that is, unless we train ourselves we cannot affect them. However, in the case of stress and anxiety, we CAN affect the autonomic nervous system if we train ourselves and if we relax our system. This has a gradual and accumulative effect to our nervous system. In a similar way, herbal medicines can assist in the following ways.
Sedative nervines are prescribed for anxiety, over-excitement, and sleeplessness.
Stimulating nervines are for low energy states, lethargy, and depression.
Functional nervines are needed to repair actual nerve damage or weakness.
Antispasmodic nervines are prescribed for muscle cramping or twitches, especially of the colon, bronchi, or uterus. For example thyme is used for coughs (bronchi), while chamomile and peppermint are good for painful digestion (colon).
Choosing Effective Herbal Nervines
It is extremely important to consult a qualified herbalist who has knowledge and experience in selecting herbs that are effective and suited to the individual. In addition, herbs vary greatly in quality, from total ineffectiveness to the highest quality and concentration – in our clinic we only carry the best, purest, most concentrated herbs available.
We also utilise tablets, capsules and liquid herbs. This enables an individual prescription every time with the appropriate combination and dosage of herbs. Follow up is also important so that dosage and combinations can be altered according to progress.
Remember, the above are only examples of what a health practitioner can utilise. We have a great variety of medicines and methods we can use, appropriately combined for your individual needs with the most appropriate dosage.
The good news is that you DO have options – in natural medicine; so don’t despair and don’t give up. Take charge of your life and seek help as early as possible.