Stress can be seen as one of the first contributing causes of most diseases. Research continues to link stress to more and more symptoms and diseases, both acute and chronic.
Stress is inevitable in today’s world and of course we need a certain amount to function.
The key is to be able to manage our level of stress.
What is stress ? It is our reaction to our external environment as well as our inner thoughts and feelings. Stress in essence is our body’s natural response to dangers, the “fight or flight” mechanisms – the body’s preparedness to do battle or flee from danger.
Stress in today’s world is mainly a result of continuous high demands that are imposed on us by work, family, and lifestyle, or that we impose upon ourselves through our desire to accomplish.
Mild stress acts as a useful motivation for activity and productivity. But when the stresses in our life are too extreme or too many, this may result in all kinds of problems.
Long-term stress is dangerous. A state of continual stress eventually wears the body out. Because of its effect on immune response, stress increases susceptibility to illness and slows healing.
Please realize that in most cases of stress, it is not the situations or incidents themselves, rather real stress comes from the way we react to them. Learning to create healthy mental attitudes and finding positive outlets for our stress is a very important for our long-term health and wellbeing.
“Not everything that is faced can be changed; but nothing can be changed until it is faced.” – James Baldwin
Natural Stress Management Recommendations
- Eat a diet of 50 to 75 percent raw foods. Fresh fruits and vegetables not only supply valuable vitamins and minerals, but are rich in compounds called flavonoids, many of which scavenge and neutralise dangerous free radicals.
- Avoid processed foods and all foods that create stress on the system, such as artificial sweeteners, carbonated soft drinks, chocolate, eggs, fried foods, junk foods, pork, red meat, sugar, white flour products, foods containing preservatives or heavy spices, and chips and similar snack foods.
- Limit your intake of caffeine. Caffeine contributes to nervousness and can disrupt sleep patterns.
- Avoid alcohol, tobacco, and mood-altering drugs. While these substances may offer temporary relief from stress, they do nothing to really address the problem and they are harmful to your health. The stress will still be there the next day…
- Practice Deep Breathing.- This can be done when facing a stressful situation – at home, at work, in your car, or elsewhere. Holding your breath is also good for relieving stress. Inhale deeply with your mouth closed, hold your breath for a few seconds (do not wait until you are uncomfortable), then exhale slowly through your mouth, with your tongue placed at the top of your teeth, next to the gum line. Do this four or five times, or until tension passes.
- Monitor your internal conversations. The way we talk to ourselves has a lot to do with how we feel about ourselves and our environments. Telling yourself things like “I should be able to handle this better, “ only adds to the stressfulness of situations and does nothing to resolve them.
- Take a day off ! That’s what weekends are for. Take a drive, listen to music, go to the beach, read- whatever you find relaxing and rewarding.
- Avoid hassles. Identify the things that are making you feel stressed out and either eliminate them from your life or prepare yourself to cope with them.
- Do not repress or deny your emotions. This only compounds stress. Emotions need regular venting, and unexpressed emotions are the building blocks of stress, pain and illness.Keeping strong feelings bottled up only causes them to resurface later as illness. Don’t be afraid to cry. Learning to cry can help you to manage stress. Crying can relieve anxiety and let loose bottled-up emotions.
- Work on creating a stress-free home environment. Keep the noise level down – noise contributes to stress. Turn down the radio, stereo, television. Throw rugs and wall hangings absorb noise are good additions to décor.
- Colour therapy – colour is another important element of your environment to consider. Certain colours are much more calming and soothing than others. Also use as much natural lighting in your home as possible. Unnatural fluorescent lighting can be aggravating.
- Try not to take life too seriously. Learn to laugh. Read Humour books, watch comedies. Laugh with friends.
- Have more fun. Do things that you enjoy and that help you relax.
- Get Good Sleep: Poor sleep or sleep habits do not let your body really rest, discharge tensions, and recharge.
- Learn relaxation exercises: These can help a great deal in reducing stress through letting go of mental stresses and experiencing moments of inner peace. This quiet, “nothing happening” space is where, I believe, the healing process begins.
- Exercise: Regular physical exercise is one of the best ways to clear your tensions and feel good, with more energy and a better attitude toward life.
- Develop good relationships: It is important to have friends in whom you can confide and find support. Those who love and accept you and will advise but not judge you are your true friends. It is also meaningful to be a true friend to another.
- Experience love and satisfying sex: A primary relationship that is loving, sensual, and sexual can also be a major stress reducer. Having an understanding, accepting, and warm partner to receive your hardworking body and mind can be the best therapy available. Often an intense relationship can also be quite stressful. It is important to find a balance in all you do, in each endeavor and in your life as a whole.
- Change perceptions and attitudes: When ideas or views are not serving you, it is wise to examine and adapt them. It is important to learn to respond to life’s situations and not react. This is a true response-ability! Hanging onto frustrations, holding grudges, and accepting the victim-blame game are not in your best health interests.
- If stress-related symptoms become chronic or recurrent, consult your doctor to rule out an underlying illness.
- If you feel you simply cannot handle the stresses in your life, consider seeking outside help. It may be worth it to consult a qualified counselor or other practitioner who can help you to handle your problems and learn effective stress-reduction techniques. It is often enlightening and beneficial to talk with someone who can offer an objective response, whether a trusted friend or a professional counselor.
You may use these herbs individually or for a powerful anti-stress tonic, mix 1/2 teaspoon of any three of the herbs listed below and steep in 2 cups of boiling water for at least 5 minutes
Alternatively you may use essential oils. These have a wonderful effect on both the mind and body. Essential oils that are particularly good for relieving stress include chamomile, Bergamot, sandalwood, lavender, and sweet marjoram. Add 10 – 20 drops of one or more of these oils to a warm bath and relax in the bath, or simply dab a couple of drops of oil on a tissue or handkerchief and inhale the aroma periodically during the day.
- Catnip is an effective anti-stress herb that also causes drowsiness.
- Chamomile is a gentle relaxant. It is a good nerve tonic, soothing to the digestive tract, and a pleasant sleep aid. Caution. Do not use this herb on an ongoing basis and avoid it completely if you are allergic to ragweed.
- Lavender has a wonderfully relaxing effect on mind and body. It makes a good remedy for anxiety, nervousness, and physical symptoms caused by stress such as tension headaches, migraine, palpitations and insomnia.
- Rosemary is a wonderful tonic, particularly to the heart, brain and nervous system. It has been used for anxiety, tension, exhaustion, lethargy, depression and insomnia. (Never use in early pregnancy)
- Sage is one of the most valued herbs of antiquity. It has powerful antioxidant properties, is a tonic to the nervous system and has been used to enhance strength and vitality. (do not use in pregnancy or while breastfeeding).
- Hops helps to ease nervousness, restlessness, and stress. It also decreases the desire for alcohol.
- Valerian keeps the nervous system from being overwhelmed. It is also a powerful sleep aid when taken at bedtime and helps to ease stress-related headache
ABOUT THE WRITER:
Barbara Karafokas is a qualified nutritionist, and a health, nutrition and wellness consultant. She inspires others to celebrate and love life by creating healthier eating and lifestyle habits and attitudes for life !
Barbara is also the author of ‘The Med Life Diet’ an ingenious 12 week, step by step program, aimed at helping others develop healthy eating and healthy lifestyle habits.