Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Natural Ways to Cope With Stress

Yesterday I spoke about the adrenal glands and the details of the stress response. This is our body’s normal response to a perceived stress. The problem with this system is we are now rarely stressed about survival or bears eating us and stressing more about our job, money, our future and a long list of other things. If we do not have a way to cope with these perceived stressors, it cause our bodies to be in a constant state of stress, keeping the fight or flight system activated and the stress hormones flowing. This can lead to long term emotional, physical and psychological problems. So today, I’d like to offer some coping mechanisms and ways to keep stress at bay via herbs, nutrition and essential oils. It is important to realize, that because stress is a multifaceted issue, affecting many different areas of health, a multifaceted approach to treatment needs to be taken, including options that address physical, emotional and psychological issues.
Tools and Techniques to calm and relax the body
There are so many different techniques that you can use to help you deal with stress. Below are a few options that work well for me, but make sure you find something that works well for you.
  • First and foremost, find out what is causing your stress and address it. Is it work? Maybe it is time for a change of careers or at least time to draw lines about work time and home time. Is it family? Make time for you, separating from your family. This can be hard, especially for moms, but how can you help others, including you children, when you are struggling to help yourself. Sometimes there is nothing you can do to make the problem go away but just being conscious about its affects on you can make a difference.
  • Relax! This is advice given to most people that are stressed out. Yoga, meditation, tai chi, reading a book or taking a bath can all be helpful.
  • Make sure you are getting adequate sleep.
  • Positive self talk and affirmations can help you from feeling out of control in the face of stress.
  • Find a hobby. Sometimes finding something that you like to do and making time for it can help to balance out the stress of other areas of your life.
  • Exercise! Get out side and move. Walk, run, hike, bike, play tennis or flag football doing any of these thing will help calm the body and the mind.
  • Laugh loudly and often J
There are many different herbs that can help the body deal with stress.
  • Nerve Tonics, being high in calcium, magnesium, B vitamins and protein, help to nourish and tone the nervous system. This includes herbs like Oatstraw, skullcap, chamomile, hops and lemon balm.
  • Nerve Sedatives help to ease tension and stress by soothing and nourishing the nerves and tissues. They can help to induce sleep and put the mind at ease at the end of a long day. This includes herbs like California poppy, passion flower, catnip, valerian, lemon balm and skullcap.
  • Adaptogens help to increase the body’s ability to deal with stress. They will be discussed more at length in tomorrows post. This includes herbs like eleuthero, reishi, ashwaganda, nettles, schizandra and astragalus.
Nutrition is wonderful treatment approach that is, recently, gaining more ground and popularity. It is important to realize that eating certain food puts stress on the body and, whether you realize it or not, you will feel more stressed as a result. Before I realized I had a gluten sensitivity and was still eating wheat, I was stressed all the time! Giving up wheat and gluten really lightened my stress load. Here are some nutritional guidelines you may wish to follow to help keep your body less stressed and therefore you mind clearer:
  • Decrease or eliminate your intake of caffeine, alcohol, soda and junk food. You may think that it helps you deal with mental stress, however, it only puts more stress on the body, making thing worse.
  • Decrease your intake of refined carbohydrates and processed foods. -Increase your intake of a variety of different fresh fruits and veggies, preferably organic. This will help to provide your body with the necessary vitamins and minerals needed for proper functioning. Again, the less stress we put on the body, the better.
  • Make sure you are maintaining proper electrolyte balance. This doesn’t mean to drink one of those sugary sports drinks. Instead, try one of the recipes listed here
  • Supplement with B vitamins. Vitamin C may also be helpful.  
Essential oils
Essential oils can be extremely effective at helping individuals reduce their stress. They work by, not only, their constituents having a pharmacological effect, but also by smell through the olfactory system’s link to the limbic system, thus affecting our emotion state. There are many different essential oils that can be beneficial for stress:
  • Essential oils to induce relaxation include bergamot, chamomile, lavender, sandalwood and ylang ylang.
  • Essential oils to relieve tiredness include basil, black pepper, ginger, rosemary, peppermint, pine and thyme.
  • Essential oils to lift the spirit, helping with depression and melancholy include bergamot, mandarin, melissa, neroli, rose and jasmine.
Stress is becoming an overwhelming epidemic in our culture. Even though some stress is normal and needed, in my opinion, for healthy functioning, the amount of stress that Americans deal with every day is sickening. Literally, it is causing people to become sick. So today I have provided tools to help combat stress and tomorrow we will talk the effects that stress have on the body if you do not keep it in check.

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