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Using Herbs To Help Cope With Stress

Research done by the Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development shows that heavy workloads and job loss worries are causing rocketing stress levels amongst employees, to the extent that stress is now the number one cause of long-term absence from work, taking over from musculoskeletal problems such as bad backs.In fact, such are the worries about job security that people are more likely to go to work whilst ill, a phenomenon known as ‘presenteeism’. Organisations where presenteeism was noted were more likely to have also experienced an upturn in stress.

It was observed that both manual and non-manual staff are affected by the negative effects of chronic stress. Unsurprisingly, employers who are planning redundancies are significantly more likely to report an increase in stress-related absence (51 per cent) than other employers (32 per cent).

Under these circumstances, any steps taken to strengthen the nervous system and make it more robust in the face of ongoing pressures will reduce the likelihood of succumbing to stress-related ill health.

Here are a few examples of how you can cope with stress naturally.

Example 1 – I’m a bag of nerves, irritable and jumpy, and I can’t seem to concentrate properly.

  • Take a deep breath. In fact, take several. Breathing exercises are very steadying and help reduce the release of inflammatory and pain-causing chemicals from the brainstem. Also anything that stimulates your circulatory system will keep oxygen flowing to the brain, which needs it in order to work well!
  • Cut out, or at least cut down, on the caffeine – coffee, tea and fizzy drinks should be ruthlessly suppressed to give your suffering adrenal glands a break. Try green or white tea, or calming teas such as lemon balm, and Bambu coffee substitute.
  • Have a quick overhaul of your diet and see how much refined sugar has crept in – this is also bad for irritated nerves, as it causes blood sugar swings that take your mood along for the ride.
  • Try a combination of B vitamins and magnesium supplements to feed your adrenal glands and nervous system.
  • Take a herbal remedy for stress relief – particularly those containing valerian which is excellent for relieving the symptoms of stress and mild anxiety.

Example 2 – My mood has plummeted and it’s harder to feel cheerful or optimistic. I’m not that keen on the dark nights and grey weather, but moving abroad seems a bit extreme!

  • Implement the breathing advice above. In addition, try to get outdoors in the daylight hours each day, even if the quality of that daylight is pretty uniformly grey and damp! It helps your pineal gland to get some light exposure regularly.
  • Get outside anyway, even if it’s in the dark, for some oxygenated exercise to brisk you up and stir the blood. Some believe that a good brisk walk can sort out most ailments!
  • If you can’t face the cold and wind, at least commit to some form of exercise most days, as jumping about liberates happy chemicals called endorphins that cheer you up. If you can’t physically jump, then crawl, waddle or twitch gently: any movement is better than none!
  • Try a light box or at the least a daylight bulb in your office or sitting room to lighten the gloom as much as possible. A daybreak-simulating alarm clock may change the quality of your mornings for the better.
  • Take St. John’s Wort tablets to help lift your mood. However, as it is quite a ‘strong herb’, you will have to check the leaflet for contraindications and don’t take it if you are on the pill.

Example 3 – I just can’t sleep properly! I’m tired and fractious and long for my bed, but I keep waking up and find it hard to fall back asleep

  • Implement the dietary recommendations above. Caffeine and refined sugar are not good bed partners – replace them with soothing herbal teas, water, and dried fruit/fruit bars.
  • Get some exercise every day, albeit just 15-20 minutes gentle walking. It’s important to have exercised both your mind and body in order to sleep well, so if your mind is weary from a stressful day at your computer, but your body is flaccid from lack of stimulus, then dropping off can be a problem.
  • It works the other way too – if your job is physical or you rush around after your family all day, but don’t have anything interesting to chew on mentally, your mind may race at night despite your tired body. In this situation it will help if you read for half an hour or so before bed, giving your body a chance to relax whilst your mind gets a workout outwith the daily grind.
  • Don’t watch television or films just before bed. Tune out at least half an hour before bed and have a bath or read a good book or chat to your family. Let your body know that you’re en route to slumber. Whatever you do, don’t have the television, computer, piles of work or (especially!) the ironing board in your bedroom! Your bedroom needs to be about rest, not toil, nor electronic gadgetry.
  • Try a herbal sleeping preparation such as Dormeasan containing valerian and shops.

Alison Cullen is an education manager for the leading herbal remedy company A.Vogel. She has worked in the health industry since 1987.  Alison lectures & trains on health issues, and is often to be found quoted in health magazines.


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