It may start with tightness in your neck and shoulder muscles. Then your head starts throbbing and before you know it, a tension headache sets in. Stress takes different forms in all of us. It not only manifests itself with physical symptoms, like tight muscles, but mental symptoms too, like being easily irritated or feeling sad. Whether you experience lack of energy, anxiety or an upset stomach, stress is a serious issue that must not be ignored.
I think most of us would agree that it is hard to enjoy the best quality of life if you are under constant stress. Aside from the symptoms I just mentioned, stress is a factor in other health problems like: high blood pressure, depression and chronic fatigue.
Stress also makes it that much more difficult for your body and immune system to fight off infections and viruses, or battle chronic illness. If you experience regular stress, you owe it to yourself to find ways to manage it and reduce its impact on your daily life.
Healthy Answers That Can Help!
Everyone experiences stress differently, and most of us probably have more than one reaction to stress. In my studies of healing herbs, I’ve identified some that are particularly effective for the most common symptoms of stress. Talk to your doctor about any potential interactions with medications you are currently taking before trying some of these herbs.
For some people, a few minutes once or twice a day with a relaxing herbal tea is a great way to reduce stress. Hawthorne berry and linden flower teas are known to calm the body’s physical stress responses, like racing heartbeat and difficulty breathing. If stress gives you a stomachache or other digestive troubles, then peppermint or chamomile tea should be your choice.
Ginseng, an herb popular with athletes, can fortify the body so it handles stress better over time. It increases stamina so the body can respond and recover more quickly. Similarly, Maitake, a Chinese mushroom, helps the body get more resilient in the face of stress by balancing the immune, nervous and hormonal systems.
If tension headaches and even stress-induced migraines are a problem, feverfew and willow bark can ease these symptoms. The Indian herb, gotu kola is known to reduce anxiety and have a calming effect. Wild yam is also calming and is especially useful for relaxing the muscles.
Other Stress Relievers
The Eastern medicine traditions in countries like China and India focused on giving health to all aspects of a person’s life. This led them to develop methods to fight stress and encourage physical and mental calm.
Tai Chi is a gentle martial arts-related practice that engages the body and mind through movement. Yoga unites breathing with specific sequences of movement designed to energize the various systems in the body. Both of these practices are great stress relievers.
Like yoga and Tai Chi, any form of exercise can have a positive impact on stress. Regularly doing a physical activity you enjoy, whether it is a team sport or a solitary evening walk can reduce sadness, fatigue and anxiety. You may also benefit from spending a few minutes once or twice a day on quiet meditation. You don’t have to do anything specific, as long as you focus on clearing your mind of negative thoughts that cause your stress.
Diet also plays a role in stress management. Many of my patients discover that reducing their intake of sugar and white carbohydrates gives them the energy and focus they need to fight fatigue, get to the gym or react more positively in stressful situations. Slowly eliminate processed foods and sweets from your diet, replacing them with fruits and vegetables and lean protein, and see if it works for you too.
Managing stress should not be one more thing on your to-do list that causes additional anxiety. It is simply a matter of putting your physical and mental well-being above other distractions. If you do this, you can be your best everyday and enjoy better health at the same time.
Mark Rosenberg, M.D.
Natural Health News
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