With today’s 24/7 lifestyle perhaps it is not that surprising that day-to-day living can cause us stress. Long working hours, concerns about money or work, moving house, splitting up with a partner, changing jobs or children leaving home, are just some of the more common triggers.
Editor Jane Garton looks at ways to instil some calm in the fast-paced life many of us lead and some natural stress remedies which may help.
A certain amount of stress is necessary to keep us on our toes but too much is not such a good thing. Although studies show we get better at handling it as we grow older, if we don’t watch out daily niggles such as traffic jams, financial worries, relationship problems, work place pressure and even coping with new technology can increase stress levels fast.
If allowed to build up, stress can literally swamp your grey matter with harmful chemicals that can have a negative impact on memory and other areas of the brain associated with thinking and learning. Too much stress can also increase your risk of conditions such as heart disease, stroke and diabetes, as well as anxiety.
Of course some stress is unavoidable and the secret is to learn to manage it. Many people recommend meditating for around 20 minutes a day to help clear the mind and promote good mental health[i] but what if things get out of hand and stress levels start to soar and anxiety sets in?
Herbal remedies for relaxation
The herbal relaxants, such as valerian and passionflower do just as their name implies – they aid relaxation. They are also good for insomnia and general anxiety problems as well as for helping to reduce the physical effects of stress, such as tense muscles and digestive problems.
Herbal remedies for stimulation
The adaptogen herbs, such as members of the ginseng family, can be used to heighten your resistance to stress. These have an invigorating and enlivening effect, stimulating the nervous system, which in turn improves concentration and reasoning skills.
Herbal remedies for exhaustion
Herbal tonics for the adrenal gland are also useful for stress-related problems. Adrenal tonics are particularly important when physical illness is worsened or caused by stress. Liquorice (which is unsuitable if you suffer from high blood pressure or fluid retention) and borage (which should not be used long-term) are among the most popular adrenal tonics.
Adrenal gland exhaustion often occurs if you’ve been suffering from stress for some time and in this case liquorice together with Siberian ginseng may help, as well as motherwort, a relaxant herb.
Try this simple exercise if you start to feel stressed or anxious. It only takes 15 minutes and can be very useful.
- Choose a quiet time of day and a place where you won’t be disturbed.
- Lie on your back on a firm bed or mat. Let your feet flop outward and your arms rest by your sides but slightly away from the body.
- Close your eyes and sigh to release tension. Breathe slowly, pausing after each exhalation.
- Mentally imagine releasing tension first in your toes, then your feet, and then slowly move up the legs. Then do the same with your fingertips, hands, arms, shoulders and neck.
- Mentally smooth the muscles of your face.
- Relax here for 5 minutes feeling grounded into the floor or bed.
- When you’re ready, slowly open your eyes and stretch your body from the tips of your fingers to your toes.
- Bend your knees and roll onto your right side before slowly getting up.
[i] This years World Mediation Day is on May 15th.