When you find yourself feeling the bad effects of stress, you need to take action immediately. The sooner you begin the process of treatment, the easier it will be and the quicker you will be back to your normal state.
The first step in the process is to try to identify the cause of the stress. Sometimes this is a known source such as a deadline at work, a pile of unpaid bills, or a relationship that is not working out. It can at times be more difficult to find the source of your problem.
Often, many relatively mild stressors occurring at once can bring on the same stress as a larger problem or known source of anxiety or worry.
If you can identify the source of your stress, remove yourself from it or address the situation. That may be all that is needed to resolve the situation and your anxiety. Even if you are only able to get away for a few seconds or minutes, the break is important and can help you on the way to a more permanent solution.
This break can be accomplished by physically removing yourself from the provoking situation (such as an argument) or mentally removing yourself from the stressor (such as financial worries) through a mental distraction, often called a time-out.
The point of these actions is to allow you a moment to relax and formulate a plan for dealing with the problem at hand. Just having a plan can be a great stress reliever. It gives you a set of positive steps that you can work on to get yourself back to your baseline and out of the stressful situation.
These steps should be broken down into tasks you can accomplish easily. Working toward a goal is rewarding. It prevents the hopelessness and lost feeling that can accompany stress and make it worse.
If you are unable to determine the source of your stress, you need to seek outside help. Sometimes discussing your situation with family, friends, or a spiritual adviser can be helpful. If these routes are not successful, you should make an appointment with your doctor or a mental health counselor to help determine the source of the stress and rule out any potentially reversible medical causes of your stress.
Both Siberian and Panax ginseng, which bolster the adrenal glands, may also be effective in coping with stress. These stress-fighting herbs are sometimes called “adaptogens” (because they help the body “adapt” to challenges) or “tonics” (because they “tone” the body, making it more resilient). All can be safely taken together.
Other herbs and nutritional supplements, used singly or together or combined with the supplements above, may be of value in special circumstances. For stress-induced anxiety, try kava, which is best reserved for high-stress periods lasting up to three months. Take melatonin if worry is keeping you up at night, and St. John’s wort if stress is accompanied by mild depression.
Dosage: 100-300 mg 3 times a day.
Comments: Standardized to contain at least 0.8% eleutherosides.
Warnings: Siberian ginseng may interfere with heart medications. Check with your doctor if you’re taking blood pressure or heart medications. Siberian ginseng may cause mild diarrhea and restlessness.
Dosage: 100-250 mg twice a day.
Comments: Standardized to contain at least 7% ginsenosides.
Warnings: Don’t take Panax ginseng if you have uncontrolled high blood pressure or a heart rhythm irregularity. Don’t use Panax ginseng if you are pregnant. Consult your doctor if you’re using blood pressure medications. Panax ginseng increases the risk of overstimulation and stomach upset when taken with neurology drugs such as Ritalin. Don’t use Panax ginseng if you take MAO inhibitor drugs. Long-term use of Panax ginseng may require a change in insulin or other diabetes medications. If you’re taking the diuretic furosemide, Panax ginseng may intensify the blood pressure-lowering effects of the drug.
Dosage: 250 mg 3 times a day as needed.
Comments: Look for standardized extracts in pill or tincture form that contain at least 30% kavalactones.
Warnings: Pregnant or breast-feeding women should not use kava. Don’t take kava if you have Parkinson’s disease. Possible kava side effects include stomach upset, yellow skin, loss of appetite, labored breathing, blurred vision, bloodshot eyes, walking difficulties, intoxication, and skin rashes. Kava may cause excessive drowsiness if taken with antidepressants, antihistamines, muscle relaxants, narcotic pain relievers, psychiatric drugs (antipsychotics, buspirone), sedatives, or tranquilizers.
Dosage:1-3 mg before bedtime.
Comments: Start with the lower dose and increase as needed.
Warnings:Affects hormone levels and the brain. Caution is advised in those using drugs with similar effects, including antidepressants and hormone drugs. May cause excessive drowsiness if taken with sedatives or drugs that have a sedative effect such as antihistamines, muscle relaxants, and narcotic pain relievers. May cause adverse interactions if taken with steroids.
St. John’s Wort
Dosage:300 mg 3 times a day.
Comments: Should be standardized to contain 0.3% hypericin.
Warnings: If you’re taking conventional antidepressant drugs, consult you doctor before adding or switching to St. John’s wort. If you develop a rash or have difficult breathing, get immediate help. Side effects can include constipation, upset stomach, fatigue, dry mouth, dizziness, and increased sensitivity to the sun.