Natural Remedies to Soothe Stress and Ease Anxiety
Addressing Anxiety Can Help Relieve Back Pain
As we age, we become more vulnerable to the effects of emotional and physical stress. Our spines can feel the effects of this stress, leading to back pain or neck pain. This article gives several tips for dealing with stress; taking these initial steps can also help you prevent (or deal with) back pain.
Excessive stress can lead to chemical imbalances in the brain and overreactions in its alarm center. This produces a hyperaroused or anxious state.
If you're suffering from frequent bouts of anxiety, your body and mind are signaling that they need more down time to restore balance.
Initial Steps to Control Stress
- Take frequent time-outs. Throughout the day, we're confronted with stressful situations. It is critical not to let this stress build up.
For every 50 minutes you work, take a 10-minute break to reduce your stress level. This can actually make you more productive than working straight through. During at least one of these breaks, do deep breathing.
Helpful Tip: Inhale slowly, allowing the air to push out your abdomen. Exhale slowly, allowing the stomach protrusion to return to normal. For maximum oxygenation and benefit, each exhalation should last twice as long as each inhalation.
- Reduce caffeine intake. In small, irregular doses, caffeine can be medicinal. It increases bile flow, which stimulates the gall bladder and reduces cholesterol. But in regular doses, it can hinder a number of body systems that are responsible for responding to stress.
Important Tip: Limit intake to one to two caffeinated drinks a week.
- Exercise regularly. Physical activity is necessary to remove waste products, particularly lactic and uric acids, from the muscles and nervous system.
In excess, these acids help make you feel edgy. Mild to moderate activity can both prevent and reduce anxiety for up to two hours.
Helpful Tip: Engage in at least 10 to 15 minutes of activity in the morning and afternoon. A brisk walk combined with deep breathing is ideal.
- Work hard to sleep well. Irregular sleep patterns and poor-quality sleep confuse your body. Your body becomes less able to respond appropriately to stress, and you are more vulnerable to anxious feelings.
Helpful Tip: Keep a regular bedtime, even on weekends. Take a hot bath or a brisk walk three hours before bedtime to prime your body for sleep. Avoid naps. Avoid eating heavy meals or consuming alcohol or caffeine in the evening.
A number of non-prescription supplements have been shown to reduce mild to moderate anxiety. Before you try any vitamin, mineral, or herb therapy to modulate symptoms, check with your doctor. Be sure you don't have any medical conditions, including pregnancy, that may prevent you from taking certain supplements. Ask if you are taking any drugs that could make a natural remedy dangerous. Experiment with one remedy at a time.
Reason: If you start taking several supplements and develop side effects, you won't know which one is responsible.
You can purchase quality herbs through a licensed naturopath physician or at a health food store.*
Take the herbs listed below daily for three months and then take a two-week break. This strategy will minimize the potential for adverse effects and the risk of becoming psychologically dependent on them.
Natural treatments to ease anxiety (they can be combined but only with the guidance of a licensed naturopathic physician)...
- B vitamins: The B vitamins (especially B6 and B12) help regulate the body's response to stress and maintain a healthy nervous system.
What I recommend to my patients: Twice a day, take a vitamin B complex formula that contains at least 25 mg of B6...and also contains 1 mg of B12.
Because these vitamins work best in combination with other nutrients, also take a multivitamin-mineral supplement twice a day.
Best: Look for B12 in the form of hydroxocobalamin or methylcobalamin. They are better absorbed than the more commonly available cyanocobalamin.
- Kava kava: This herb is approved as an anxiety and insomnia treatment in many European countries. It can help relieve acute and chronic anxiety without making you feel drowsy or 'fuzzy.'
Kava is as effective as serax - the benzodiazepine tranquilizer - for quelling anxiety but with no addictive potential.
Warning: Avoid kava if you drink alcohol or are taking benzodiazepines, such as Valium or Xanax...sleeping pills, such as Seconal or Halcion...or anti-depressants, such as Prozac or Zoloft. Do not take kava if you have Parkinson's disease - it may worsen tremors.
- Saint-John's-wort: This herb works as an antidepressant. It also relieves chronic anxiety. You must take it for several weeks before you feel its effects.
Research shows it lowers anxiety levels as well as Vallium does without fogging thinking. It decreases the uptake (rate of removal) of serotonin in the brain, thereby increasing serotonin levels, which induces calm feelings. It is not addictive and has few side effects.
What I recommend to my patients: Take 300mg of the fresh freeze-dried extract as needed. Avoid so-called 'standardized products.' The active ingredients often are not standardized.
Warnings: Don't take Saint-John's-wort if you're on an antidepressant, particularly Nardil or Parnate. And - because Saint-John's-wort may make you more sensitive to the sun, wear sunscreen when you are outdoors.
- Valerian: This is a natural sedative, and it is the most popular one used in Europe. It contains ingredients similar to those found in Vallium. It is useful for relieving anxiety because it helps you sleep. It isn't addictive, nor does it make you feel groggy the next morning as sleeping pills can.
What I recommend to my patients: One 150mg capsule twice a day. Even this low dose can make you drowsy. If you would prefer to take it just for sleep, take one 300mg capsule one hour before bedtime. It may take several weeks before you notice an improvement in sleep.
Warning: Don't use valerian if you're taking sedatives, such as phenobarbital or benzodiazepines.
Courtesty of The Southbury Clinic Connecticut