The pressure heats up. Your calendar is overloaded, tension is stirring in the family, and the boss is emailing morning, noon and night. You grab some fast food to eat in the car, pick up a few necessities at the store, grind your way through the to-do list after to-do list items until way too late in the evening and when you finally drop into bed your mind just spins and spins. Sound familiar? The typical American’s day is filled with stressors that trigger our fight or flight response over and over again, making life feel rushed and harried. No wonder we feel so out of sorts!
For many years we’ve heard about the bad things persistent stress can do to the body. An excess of the stress hormone cortisol can put your overworked heart at risk for disease. Breathing problems such as asthma are triggered and worsened in stressful situations. Headaches are a common ailment of the stressed. Obesity has a strong connection to the stressed-out go-getter life. And gastrointestinal issues are compounded when the digestive system is overworked or shuts down during stressful hours. Cumulative stress most certainly creates and exacerbates anxiety disorders and depressive symptoms. It’s far too easy for a bad mood to slip from stressed out to hopeless.
But since we know the risks, why are so many of us still not managing our stress better? The answer is most likely because we tend to look for outside fixes. Many of us turn to food and alcohol to numb us from the busy bee world we live in. We distract our eyes and ears with hours upon hours of TV to “wind down.” We pile on the pounds by turning to overly sweet and salty treats for solace. These coping mechanisms are effective in dulling our senses, but are not healthy. Do we feel refreshed and ready to take on more of what life is throwing at us after a Netflix binge and take out? Not likely.
It’s far healthier to turn inward and take a look at how we are approaching our lives. Is there room for a little meditation or movement in your day? Turn off the screens for just a few minutes and pay attention to your breathing. The connection between your mind and your breath is an excellent barometer for how you’re really feeling. Take a moment to check in and find a little perspective. Maybe something on that to-do list can wait. Do you really need to bake brownies from scratch for the kids’ game tomorrow? Or would fresh fruit be both healthier and easier on you?
You are likely to find a beautiful bounty of resilience in yourself when you strengthen your whole foundation and your approach to life with exercise, wholesome food, and meditation. Find the time to recognize what you need. You may find you simply need a little solitude or time in nature, or a warm aromatherapy bath each night to awaken the senses.
Another way to tap into the soothing power of water is using herbal teas to calm the nerves and improve sleep.. A 2012 study of chamomile showed to be highly effective at alleviating daily anxieties and even mild depression, promoting a calm outlook and relaxed mood.
Other powerful herbs found in stress preparations and on their own in tea and/or supplement form are lemon balm, valerian, California poppy, hops, milky oats, St. Johns Wort, skullcap, and ashwagandha. For everyday accumulation of stress these easy to access herbs can work wonders in addition to a healthier lifestyle. Why not replace your nightcap with a hot cup of herbal tea? The comforting ritual and these gentle but powerful herbs can go a long way toward easing you into better sleep so you can wake with more energy and go about tackling the demands of the day with a smile.
To reduce stress in the long-term, learn to become an expert at self-care. And make sure you take care of yourself before you take care of others! As a sage once said, “Do not set yourself on fire just to keep someone else warm.” Wise words!
Tieraona your books are really good clear and complete. I posted you comment about problem and I read your book now have the answer. I was reading your book ” Life is Your Best Medicine” and guide for women health and I am a male yet has good general information in for males. Today I read the Sleep chapter and in general thinking stress interferes with sleep was one of my own conclusions. You enlighten me with your wisdom of cutting out blue light from the television, lamps and the computer as well as mediating before getting a good night sleep and reduce stress. And I have to get another book that recommended in the “Life is Your Best Medicine” The National Geographic Guide to Medicinal Herbs Thank for your infinite wisdom
Dr. LowDog, I love your articles and herbal medicine course. I’m learning so much from you as I am listening to your lectures during my last break as a pharmacy student. This article reinforces how important it is to take small steps in reducing stress which prevents future disease. I have also found in my personal life and in the lives of those I work with that time management, the inability to say no, and lack of daily organizational skills cause a huge unnecessary heap of stress. Most of us were not taught how to properly manage ourselves. Here’s what I do when I am overwhelmed. Maybe this could help one more person along with drinking a nice cup of tea. http://www.wellnesswithamanda.com/feeling-stressed-a-step-by-step-guide-to-optimize-your-stress-level/
Amanda, thank you so much! And congratulations on your journey. The ability to say “no” is so powerful. My grandmother used to say, “Honey, when you say yes to one thing, remember you are saying no to 100 other things. And some of those “no’s” might be real important.”
I heard you speak on “The People’s Pharmacy” on Jan. 30. What is the substance you cited as important for pregnant/ lactating women because of the long term impact on lowering stress levels of the fetus/infant? You said 400 mg per day for pregnant women, and 500 mg per day for lactating women. Plentiful in egg yolks.
Hi Nancy, it was choline. It can be found in eggs and soy lecithin, as well as some in dairy and meats.
You’ll be happy hearing that we now enjoy drinking CHAMOMILE Tea daily before bedtime.
This is quite different from our former occasional consumption.
We have reduced our GREEN TEA consumption !
Thanks for your convincing words in favor of CHAMOMILE.
Professionally yours…gez. Dr. EHP, PHD.
I love it!! Here’s to chamomile (I am drinking a cup right now!) Warmly, Tieraona
Hello. I am new to your website. I have seen you on Dr. Oz. Can you tell me your thoughts on magnolia bark for anxiety? I have been suffering from this for some time now, and i think it is disrupting my sleep lately. I don’t take sleep meds. Only melatonin. Which doesn’t always work for me. Thank you for your time
Hi, I have long been a fan of your aritcles on herbal medicine you wrote for Prevention magazine. So happy to find you online. There is one article in particular, that I was interested in, and that was on Valerian for use in relieving stress, anxiety, and seep problems. You said that it sits on the same receptors in the brain as Valium. I was put on Valium for severe muscle spasms, meant to be short term, so I was interested that Valerian may be an alternative for me. I weaned off the about 1/3 of the 20 mg. dose of Valium 1/4 pill at a time and now have been completely off for 2 weeks. My spasms returned with a vengeance & am going to try Valerian, hoping for some relief. What dose would you recommend? If you need more info, please email me. Thank you for your wisdom.
Hello Dr Low, I am a would-be Irish Herbalist and just heard about you for the first time at class in Ireland. Sometimes as students we are weighed down with the academic information, but reading your blog just brings home the beautiful power of the herbs, brings the knowledge to the heart, not just the head. Thank you.
You are so very, very kind.
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