Stress and anxiety

Have we learnt anything about how to manage stress?

The latest report from the National Drugs Advisory Board got attention recently because it alerted us to what is happening in Ireland – we are taking more tranquiliser and sedative medication. Not that surprising - stress is a huge issue today. Many people encounter its negative effects, such as disturbed sleep, digestive problems, mood swings, or difficulty concentrating, on a daily basis. In the long term we end up with chronic conditions like insomnia, irritable bowel syndrome, hair loss, headaches, fatigue and of course good ol' anxiety. We become less efficient at our work and less effective in many of the things we do. It's no fun having the worm of anxiety constantly burrowing away - it makes us moody and irritable and many people end up with quite marked levels of depression. Experiencing stress on an ongoing basis takes from what's good in life. Yet we have to keep functioning, somehow. This is often the point at which tranquilisers and sedatives are prescribed as they offer temporary relief from the crippling feelings of worry and anxiety, and at least grant the gift of sleep, although not the most restful kind. Other people self-medicate with alcohol and various drugs (another league table which we top). It's not a very radical thing to say that using substances in this way only adds to the original problem, yet this is how we are behaving.

 

How can herbs help?

The historical role played by herbal medicine to help with certain states of mental distress was never more valuable than it is today. One aspect of this is how herbs can strengthen and feed the nervous system. Periods of prolonged stress may lead to disturbances of the nervous and adrenal systems. By supporting the adrenal glands, and calming the nervous system, people can experience better emotional health and enjoy more restful sleep at night. In cases of shock, stress or nervous debility, nervines (tonics for the nervous system) support and restore normal function. Many people with low-level stress and anxiety will find a good level of support with herbal medicine. Anxiolytics, (herbs that relieve anxiety), take the edge off the sensation of anxiety and induce feelings of relaxation. Other herbs also have some mood-lifting properties and can help in cases of mild to moderate depression.  They support and strengthen the nervous system, helping us to adapt and giving us extra energy and the resilience to cope better. Oatstraw, skullcap, gotu kola, lemon balm, valerian are well know 'nervines'. They are not dependency forming and are designed for short to medium-term use, or to take if life goes a bit off the rails on occasions. For more information on herbs to help with stress, contact: helen@homeofherbs.ie

 Build your skills

To really address stress, you have to reduce the impact it has on you, mentally, emotionally and physically. Learn about using techniques that can bring you to a more relaxed state. Tried and tested practices that only take 20 minutes can really help you and may be the difference between coping well or developing a dependency on medication. Different techniques suit different people, but all are about how to elicit the relaxation response. The relaxation response is defined as a state of true relaxation that allows you to really wind down and helps your body and mind cope much better with stressful situations. Using the most simple and natural mechanism, breathing, we can achieve many positive changes without the need for any chemical assistance.

For more on abdominal breathing technique, check out the following:

http://www.yogalifestylecoach.com/abdominalbreath.html 

Another resource I particularly like is www.helpguide.org/topics/stress.htm as it provides information and advice in a range of formats such as downloadable aids to practice yourself.

 

Take stock of your situation – are you prepared to put in the work to manage stress in your life? Invest the time and effort and you will be much better able to cope without resorting to prescription drugs or alcohol. Give it a go, you have a lot to gain.

 

Note: When considering taking herbal medicine for a depressive or anxiety-related condition, always consult a trained herbalist.For more information on managing anxiety and stress, learn a little bit about the Acceptance Commitment Theory ACT, a proven and effective method for managing these conditions. Click here to view their website.

For general information, the following websites are also accessible

www.yourmentalhealth.ie

www.grow.ie

www.aware.ie


Design: Alan Davis