Brian E. Murphy
2 months ago
Our bodies and minds weren’t built to deal with stress; we evolved our ‘fight or flight’ mechanism to react to imminent danger, which for most of history is what we needed.
When faced with something that wants to eat us adrenaline floods our system, our heart rate rises, our senses become more acute, and then we’re off to the races (quite literally if there is a sabertooth tiger behind us.) We can deal with short-term stress like this very well, but under the constant strain of attacks from modern day predators like bills and bosses, the foundations start to crumble. Our bodies are awash with the stress hormone cortisol and a whole cascade of health problems can follow in its wake.
Many people turn to medication (both the legal and illegal kinds) when this happens but drugs can often make the problem worse. It’s better to use natural responses to excessive stress, treatments that add to your comfort without adding more problems for you.
Frequent bouts of anxiety are your body’s way of telling you that it needs rest and restoration. A few deep breathing exercises aren’t going to cure you, but they’re worth doing throughout the day as one small part of your overall efforts to restore the balance.
If you work at a desk all day hunched over a computer then chances are you’ve forgotten how to breathe deeply. Some have speculated that the desire to escape and breathe properly might help to explain the regular exodus of office smokers in the past. They probably got as much relief from that first long inhalation outside than they did from nicotine.
To breathe right, inhale slowly until you feel your lungs fill, then exhale slowly, so that each exhalation lasts twice as long as each inhalation. Do this a few times an hour and you’ll have started the pushback.
Caffeine is the most widely consumed psychoactive substance in the world, and it’s the one that most helps productivity. It can be medicinal in small irregular doses because it increases bile flow which stimulates the gallbladder and cuts down on cholesterol. Regular doses are a different matter, however. Too much caffeine increases anxiety and interferes with restful sleep, which itself adds to anxiety and stress. One or two caffeinated drinks a week should be your limit when you are struggling with stress but cut down slowly. Caffeine withdrawal is a recognized phenomenon that brings low mood, brain fog, and a headache that lasts for days.
Regular exercise removes waste products like lactic and uric acids from the muscles and nervous system, and too much of either can make you feel edgy. Try 10 to 15 minutes of brisk walking each morning and afternoon and you’ll soon notice the difference. Up your exercise, as you become fitter, either the duration, the intensity, or both, and you’ll release a cascade of benefits will help to keep your stress levels to a minimum.
Getting good sleep is hard work when you’re under stress, and sleep deprivation is a notorious stress inducer. If you’ve cut down your caffeine and added in exercise, then you’ll notice that you sleep better. Do you see? There’s no magic pill for beating stress. It’s a team effort, where all of the different things that you do work together.
Several non-prescription supplements have been shown to help with mild to moderate anxiety, but you should still ask your doctor before taking anything, even if it sounds ‘natural’.
If your doctor gives you the okay to take natural supplements, you should try only one at a time. That’s because if you take five new pills then you won’t know which one is working, and which one is making you feel groggy.
B6 and B12 In particular help to regulate your body’s response to stress and maintain the nervous system. They are very difficult to overdose on but it is possible over time. They are also more effective when taken together with other vitamins and minerals. So instead of buying a very strong B6 supplement on its own, for example, get something with a balance. Also, look out on the label for B12 in the form of hydroxocobalamin or methylcobalamin. They are the best for absorption and are far superior to the cyanocobalamin version.
This herb can help relieve anxiety without drowsiness or addictiveness. It’s as good as serax—a benzodiazepine tranquilizer—for controlling anxiety. That said, you shouldn’t mix Kava with alcohol or benzodiazepines, like Valium or Xanax, sleeping tablets like Seconal or Halcion or antidepressants like Prozac or Zoloft. It can also make tremors worse if you have Parkinson’s disease.
This is an antidepressant herb that also helps with chronic anxiety. It takes a few weeks to work but it does work. Research shows that it’s as good as Valium at lowering anxiety levels without giving you a foggy brain. It slows down the removal of serotonin—one of your happiness hormones—from the brain so you feel calmer without feeling drugged. Take 300mg a day of the fresh freeze-dried extract, but avoid it if you’re on an antidepressant like Nardil or Parnate. You also need to wear sunscreen as it can sensitize the skin.
A natural sedative that resembles Valium and aids sleep. Take 300mg one hour before bedtime to avoid drowsiness in the daytime. Keep this up for a few weeks and you’ll notice an improvement in your sleep, but don’t use Valerian if you’re on sedatives, like phenobarbital or benzodiazepines.
We think that you’re bound to benefit from these drug-free approaches because so many other people have already, so give them a try!
Brian E. Murphy