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Learn How to Beat Anxiety, Stress, Insomnia, Stress Related Conditions Naturally E-mail
Written by Jeff Behar   

Sstress is the disruption of homeostasis through physical or psychological stimuli. Stressful stimuli can be mental, physiological, anatomical or physical reactions. Stress and anxiety can cause destruction to the mind, body and soul. 

Excess stress and anxiety can manifest itself in a variety of emotional, behavioral, and even physical symptoms, and the symptoms of stress vary enormously among different individuals.

Common somatic (physical) symptoms often reported by those experiencing excess stress include:

  • emotional and behavioral symptoms (e.g., include nervousness, anxiety, changes in eating habits including overeating, loss of enthusiasm or energy, and mood changes)
  • fatigue
  • gastrointestinal disturbances,
  • insomnia
  • muscle tension
  • tension headaches

There is significant evidence that stress and anxiety can cause or worsen various diseases or conditions. These include:

  • Aging. Stress affects our hormonal balance and can make us look older.
  • Auto-immune diseases. Stress may intensify symptoms in diseases that have an autoimmune component, such as rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Asthma
  • Cancer
  • Depression
  • Gastrointestinal problems, including irritable bowel syndrome
  • Heart disease. The link between stress and heart disease is well-established. If stress is intense, and stress hormones are not ‘used up’ by physical activity, our raised heart rate and high blood pressure put tension on arteries and cause damage to them. As the body heals this damage, artery walls scar and thicken, which can reduce the supply of blood and oxygen to the heart.  This is where a fight-or-flight response can become lethal: Stress hormones accelerate the heart to increase the blood supply to muscles; however, blood vessels in the heart may have become so narrow that not enough blood reaches the heart to meet these demands. This can cause a heart attack.
  • High blood pressure
  • Migraines and
  • Fluctuations of blood sugar in diabetics.

Natural Management Tips

  • Get enough sleep. Lack of rest can aggravate stress.
  • Eat well. Avoid sugars, processed foods, too much caffeine.
  • Exercise Regularly. Exercise is one of the best physical stress-reduction techniques available. Exercise not only improves your health and reduces stress caused by unfitness, it also relaxes tense muscles and helps you to sleep. Exercise has a number of other positive benefits you may not be aware of: (1) It improves blood flow to your brain, bringing additional sugars and oxygen that may be needed when you are thinking intensely. (2)  By exercising, you speed the flow of blood through your brain, removing bio waste products caused by our body's internal actions faster.(3) Exercise can cause release of chemicals called endorphins into your blood stream. These give you a feeling of happiness and positively affect your overall sense of well-being. (4) There is also good evidence that physically fit people have less extreme physiological responses when under pressure than those who are not. This means that fit people are more able to handle the long- term effects of stress, without suffering ill health or burnout. Regular exercise can reduce your physiological reaction to stress. It also strengthens your heart and increases the blood supply to it, directly affecting your vulnerability to heart disease.
  • Don't sweat the small stuff. Try to prioritize a few truly important things and let the rest slide Learn how to best relax yourself. Determine if the issue is worth stressing about? is it something that you have no control over to change?
  • Try positive thinking. Positive thinking does help bring about positive change. Negative thoughts can affect the brains thinking and result on physio-chemical changes within your body...and thought process. Negative thinking also damages your performance by undermining your self-confidence. It also occupies "attentional capacity" at times when you need to focus your entire mind on what you are doing.
  • Try not to personalize things. Maybe the other person or situation you are dealing with is really about them and their poor coping techniques and not about you. In many cases, situations do not cause all of the stress that we experience.
  • Keep things in perspective. Sometimes, our reaction to circumstances (and what we say to ourselves about them) contributes to the stress we experience. Sometimes we are right in what we say to ourselves. Often, however, we are overly harsh and unjust in a way that we would never be with friends or co-workers. This, along with other negative thinking, can cause intense stress and unhappiness and can severely damage your self-confidence.
  • Prioritize. In today's fast paced world, whether it be at home or at work, workload issues lie behind much of the stress we experience. Not only can a heavy workload be tiring in its own right, it often drives us to work much longer hours than we would really like. This means that we spend time working that we'd prefer to use for the things that give life value. It also means that we're working when we should really be resting. Worse than this, a heavy routine workload leaves us little time to deal with the emergencies that come up from time-to-time. This adds to the feeling of being "out of control" that is so much part of stress. Successful workload management is therefore vitally important for your job satisfaction. If you feel overwhelmed with a "to do list" reduce the number of events going on in your life and you may reduce the circuit overload. Set a realistic list of items to do and start prioritizing.
  • Be mindful. You can selectively change the way you react, by first identifying stress in its early stages. Listen to your body and feel the early signs of stress (maybe you can feel tightness in your chest, or your response starts quickening). Take these early signs as an opportunity to implement relaxation techniques like counting to ten and deep breathing, and/or use it as an opportunity to remove yourself from the stressful situation before it gets worse. Bottom line: learn to recognize stress for what it is. Increase your body's feedback and make stress self-regulating.
  • Meditate. Meditation is a good way of relaxing during, and at the end of, a stressful day. It is something you can learn to do yourself, or may be something you prefer to learn in classes. Meditation and breathing exercises have been proven to be very effective in controlling stress. Note: Some of the key research on meditation was carrier out by Dr. Herbert Benson of Harvard University. His book on this, “The Relaxation Response”, was published in 1968. In a series of experiments into various popular meditation techniques, Dr. Benson established that these techniques had a very real effect on reducing stress and controlling the fight-or-flight response. Direct effects included slowed heartbeat and breathing, reduced oxygen consumption and increased skin resistance.
  • Reduce brain clutter. Practice clearing your mind of disturbing thoughts.A good technique is to write down what is bothering you, then file it away, and out of your mind.
  • Take 5 for yourself. Give yourself a break if only for a few moments daily.
  • Avoid extreme reactions. Why hate when a little dislike will do? Why generate anxiety when you can be nervous? Why rage when anger will do the job? Overreacting can escalate stress.
  • Walk away. Remove yourself from the stressful situation. Many people bring stress upon themselves by not walking away.
  • Identify your “stressors”. By identifying what triggers stress for you, it will be easier to manage. Stress Diaries can be a useful tool for understanding the causes of short-term stress in your life. They also give you an insight into how you react to stress. The idea behind Stress Diaries is that on a regular basis you write down how stressed you're feeling, so that you can understand these stresses and then manage them.
  • Avoid self-medication or escape. This includes alcohol and drugs, as well as dietary extremes such as excess sugar and caffeine.
  • Consider natural supplements to help manage stress.
    • Stress vitamins. Since the late 1970s significant importance is being given for the so called Stress vitamins. Many manufacturers come out with different combinations of vitamins in varying strengths with promises of relieving stress. The formulations contain combinations of Vitamin B complex and Vitamin C along with Vitamin E and Vitamin A which are called the Stress Vitamins.
    • Vitamin A is essential for vision, skin and mucous membrane integrity and for immunity. It also acts as an anti oxidant. It is the anti oxidant function of this vitamin helps in stress relief.
    • Vitamin B acts as an important chemical called the co enzyme in numerous metabolic reactions in the body.
    • Niacin, a B complex vitamin is necessary for Tryptophan metabolism which is a precursor of Serotonin. Serotonin is a neuro transmitter which keeps the mind calm.
    • Pyridoxine and Vitamin B12 are necessary for the integrity of nerves.
    • Pantothenic acid which is a B complex vitamin plays an important role in stress relief. Pantothenic acid along with folic acid and Vitamin C is required for the normal functioning of adrenal glands. It is in these glands the stress hormones adrenalin and cortisols are synthesized. This vitamin also takes part in many chemical reactions in the body through which energy is released.  
    • Vitamin C is necessary for the synthesis of Cortisol, the stress hormone in the adrenal glands which are situated on the top of the kidneys. Vitamin C is needed in the amino acid tyrosine metabolism which is a precursor of various hormones like adrenaline, dopamine and nor adrenaline. Vitamin C also acts as an anti oxidant. Its anti oxidant property is used for relieving stress.
    • Vitamin E whose significance is still under research is believed to act as an anti oxidant. Its anti oxidant property is used for relieving stress.
    • L-theanine a non essential amino acid is believed to reduce stress and anxiety without the tranquilizing effects found in many other calming supplements. As it is digested in your small intestine, L-theanine stimulates your brain's production of alpha waves, which make you feel relaxed but alert and not drowsy. L-theanine also helps you stay relaxed by stimulating your body to produce other calming amino acids, such as dopamine, GABA, and tryptophan. Suggested dose is 200 mg as needed. Take it on an empty stomach or with food. The effects should be felt within 30 minutes and last up to four hours. The bottom line: L-theanine seems to be a safe and fast-acting therapy for stress and anxiety. Although no side effects have been reported for L-theanine, consult your health care practitioner before taking it if you use any prescription drugs or if you are pregnant. Talk to your pediatrician before giving it to children.
    • St John's Wort. It is also called Hypericum perforatum. It is considered a calming agent. It inhibits the enzyme monoamine oxidase there by influencing the metabolism of serotonin and noradrenaline. Serotonin stabilizes the mood and nor adrenaline prevents exhaustion. It also increases the levels of endorphins which are pain killers and mood stabilizers.
    • Ginkgo Extract. It is the most popular stress relief herbal extract in France and Germany. In the US it is also used to increase memory. Ginko contains flavinoids which are anti oxidants that are useful in managing stress.
    • Kava (Piper methysticum). Piper Latin for "pepper", methysticum Greek for "intoxicating". Kava is a herbal supplement used to prevent stress. It has a relaxing tranquilizing effect. Its active ingredients are called kavalactones. It is used widely to treat mild insomnia, and anxiety.
    • Gotu kola. Gotu Kola has been referred is an oriental herb which has demonstrated mild tranquilizing, anti-anxiety and anti-stress effects, as well as improving mental functions such as concentration and memory. It has a calming effect on the body and is chiefly used to support the central nervous system. Gotu kola has become popular in the West as a nerve tonic to promote relaxation and to enhance memory. The herbs calming properties make it well suited for overcoming insomnia and to improve memory and treat fatigue, both mental and physical. Gotu kola should not be confused with kola nut, which contains caffeine. Gotu kola is not related to kola nut and contains no caffeine. There are three main chemical constituents in Gotu kola, asiaticoside (a triterpene glycoside), brahmoside and brahminoside (which are saponin glycosides) and madecassoside (a glycoside). Asiaticoside is and classified as an antibiotic, brahmoside and brahminoside are diuretic in nature and have a slightly sedative action in large doses. Madecassoside is a strong anti-inflammatory agent.
    • Schizandra. Schizandra has a long history of medical use in the oriental countries. In China, Schizandra is one of the components of the herbal medicine Shenmai San, which is used to treat coronary heart disease. Schizandra is used for the treatment of different diseases, including insomnia, irritation, palpitation and dyspnea. Schizandra is also used a general tonic, for treatment of skin disorders and as sedative (anti-stress relaxer). Recent studies have shown that Schizandra possess following properties: anti-bacterial, cardiac tonic, antioxidant and anti-depressant.
      In Russia, schizandra is a registered medicine for vision problems. and
    • Valerian. Valerian is one of the most important herbal sedatives used against sleeping disorders, restlessness and anxiety. Valerian seems only to work when taken over longer periods (several weeks). Studies have demonstrated that valerian extracts interact with the GABA and benzodiazepine receptors. Valerian is also used traditionally to treat gastrointestinal pain and spastic colitis.Long term safety studies are missing. Valepotriates are potential mutagens, therefore valerian should only be used after consultation with your physician.
    • Black Cohosh. An herb with anti-Anxiety uses.
    • Valerian and Black Cohosh Combination. It contains Black cohosh root, Valerian root, Capsicum fruit, Passion Flower herb, Catnip herb, Hops flowers and Wood betony herbs. The combination is a source of calcium, manganese, selenium zinc and niacin. It stabilizes the nervous system during stress.
    • Fuschen and Dragon Bone Formula. It is a popular Chinese remedy for stress which includes Dragon bone, Oyster shell, Albizia bark, Ginseng, Ginger, Cinnamon and Fuschen plant.
    • Tei Fu Oil. It is an ancient Chinese formula comprising of safflower oil, wintergreen oil, menthol, camphor and other essential oils. It is used as mind refreshers.

      Note about Herbal Remedies…
  • Most herbs for stress relief will need to be are to be taken on long term before getting their effects. Most of the herbs are used as stress management supplements mainly for their tranquilizing and mood stabilizing properties. Herbal stress relief is combined with other stress relievers like Yoga and meditation for optimal results.

Remember, the management of stress depends mainly on the willingness of a person to make the changes necessary for a healthy lifestyle.


 
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