There are numerous stress management techniques to help you cope with stressful situations. Not every technique will appeal to everyone, so it is important to find one that you feel comfortable with, knowing it will help.
Even though we cannot always remove the cause of stress easily, there are natural solutions that help. Our body and mind responds well to nutritional support, herbal medicine, time to relax, good nutrition and a readiness to heal. Afterwards, it is essential to find ways to maintain balance in our busy lives – whether it is regular yoga classes, time out every day for a walk, or learning breathing exercises to help maintain calm under stressful circumstances.
Stress management: diet and stress
- Avoid caffeine in strong tea and coffee. You may think a ‘caffeine’ fix is the only way to get you through, however too much caffeine can also take its toll on our adrenal glands.
- Avoid sugary food such as sweets, cakes, biscuits, soft drinks and foods with sugar in the top five ingredients.
- Avoid fatty foods which can lead to declining energy levels.
- Avoid ready-made meals and takeaway fried food.
- Aim for a balanced diet to ensure you are getting enough vitamins and minerals i.e. a balance of low GI complex carbohydrates, protein and good fats.
- Eat regularly to avoid blood sugar ‘slumps’.
- Watch your wine, beer and spirits intakes. A maximum of one to two units a day may be consumed safely but aim for at least two to three alcohol-free days a week. In many cases, total avoidance is recommended.
Stress management: supplements for stress
Natural treatment for stress may include the use of specific and important nutritional supplements. These include the following:
- B vitamins are of benefit in times of stress and help with nervous system activity and provide energy. Specific B vitamins used in the stress response include B2, B5 and B6.
- Vitamin C is one of the first nutrients used in the stress response, and is an important vitamin for immunity, skin health and anti-ageing.
- Magnesium and potassium are minerals essential for adrenal gland functioning and nervous system activity. A deficiency of magnesium reduces our coping mechanisms for stress.
- GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid), an important inhibitory neurotransmitter helps assist symptoms of stress, anxiety and insomnia.
- 5-HTP is an amino acid which is very effective for times of stress and anxiety. ‘Water off a ducks back’ remedy!
NB. For best results, try these recommended supplements for a period of three months. These supplements are best taken under the care and guidance of your healthcare practitioner.
Stress management: herbs for stress
- Chamomile, hops, kava, skullcap, lavender, lemon balm, oats, passionflower and valerian calm the nervous system.
- Kava is beneficial in reducing anxiety levels.
- Licorice, Rehmannia, Withania, Rhodiola, Siberian Ginseng and Astragalus support the adrenal glands, nervous system and immune system.
- St Johns Wort can improve symptoms of anxiety and mild depression.
NB. You should not take any of the above herbs if you are taking the oral contraceptive pill, fertility drugs, HRT or any other hormonal treatment or other medication unless they are recommended by a registered, experienced practitioner.
More stress management techniques
Talk it out
Often talking your problems over with someone helps you see things from a different perspective. This can help find a solution that you may not have considered. If there is no family member or friend who you feel comfortable talking to, ask your healthcare professional for a referral to a counsellor who will help you pinpoint events or conditions that are stressful to you, and to devise ways of reducing stress.
Walk it out
Maintaining your physical health has benefits for your mental health too. When you are under a lot of stress, pay extra attention to your diet and exercise routine. Schedule regular periods of activity which you find relaxing. This can mean anything from walking the dog to watching a funny movie or going out to dinner with friends. Massage is also of benefit, and as well as being relaxing, can help improve your sleep and relieve muscle tension.
Even though you may feel better initially for having that extra cup of coffee, a cigarette or that wind-down alcoholic drink after work, these stimulants are not going to provide any favours in the long term. Your body is less likely to be affected by stress when it is in good health. Stop smoking, start a regular exercise program and maintain a balanced diet, and you will find that you don’t get stressed as easily.
In addition to the obvious link between smoking, heart disease and cancer, tobacco is also a stimulant that has a strong influence on the nervous system. There is no situation where smoking is harmless.
If you know that you are particularly susceptible to stress, consider taking up meditation or doing a course to develop new problem-solving skills. Sometimes changing the way you look at problems changes the way you react to them. For help in these areas, ask your healthcare professional to refer you to a teacher in your area. Below are some suggested meditation techniques.
It can help stop a racing mind and ease anxiety. The Heartmath solution book is written by Doc Childre and Howard Martin. ISBN 0-06-251606-x
Here is an exercise they suggest called freeze frame that becomes second nature with practice:
1. Recognise the stressful feeling and ‘freeze-frame’ it! Take a time out.
2. Make a sincere effort to shift your focus away from the racing mind or disturbed emotions to the area around your heart. Pretend you’re breathing through your heart to help focus your energy in this area. Keep your focus there for ten seconds or more.
3. Recall a positive, fun feeling or a time you’ve had in life and try to re-experience it.
4. Now, using your intuition, common sense and sincerity, ask your heart, what would be a more efficient response to the situation, one that would minimise future stress?
5. Listen to what your heart says in answer to your question. It’s an effective way to put your reactive mind and emotions in check and an in-house source of commonsense solutions.
This exercise is designed to get your heart, pulse transit time and respiration synchronised. When our systems are synchronised in this way, they function with increased efficiency, saving valuable energy and promoting health.
The Ishayas’ Ascension is a simple, gentle and extremely powerful form of stress management meditation that allows anyone who learns it to experience more peace and joy in their lives. For those who desire it, the practice of Ascension is a fast and joyful road to enlightenment, peace, or full union with the Divine/God.
Tips for Better Balance
Here are a few more stress management techniques which may inspire you!
- Have clear, well-defined goals. Work out where you want to be and what you need to do to get there. Ensure your goals are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timed (SMART).
- Develop effective coping strategies. Quit addictive substances and/or behaviours and learn a few time management, meditation, lifestyle and communication skills. These become important resources in times of stress.
- Develop and foster relationships since these are vital to our emotional wellbeing.
- Look after your health. Exercise regularly, eat well and enjoy your food, make sure you get enough sleep and rest, and take recommended supplements daily.
- Live for today as opposed to dwelling on the past or worrying about the future. Learn from your experiences.
- If you are feeling under stress all or most of the time, chances are your body is feeling it too. Take time out to evaluate your situation and long-term ways to deal with it, and consult your healthcare professional for supportive therapy and advice.
Stress means different things to different people, and it sometimes seems that the people around us know when we’re suffering from it before we do! We need to have a certain level of stress in our lives as it inspires us to move ahead, accomplish tasks and motivate us to action. The trick is learning how to find the best stress management technique suitable and make stress work for you rather than against you.