When it comes to stress relief, most of us need a little help. Whether you practice daily meditation, take brisk walks or engage in a friendly chat, there are many forms of relief that don’t require a pharmaceutical drug or a trip to a psychiatrist’s office. However, many anxiety-reducing treatments, both conventional and alternative, can make you feel drowsy and even fatigued. The following suggestions are natural therapies that can help keep you focused and energized while encouraging you let go of the stresses that commonly overwhelm you mentally, physically and emotionally. These options can help improve your mood, relieve anxiety and boost immunity while keeping your mind alert and your energy stable throughout the day.
Ashwagandha is a plant has been used traditionally throughout the world as an herbal remedy to treat inflammation, fight infection, enhance immunity, improve memory, and promote overall well being. Ashwagandha is one of the most highly regarded and commonly used adaptogens by Ayurvedic healers. Adaptogens are a special class of botanicals that help to balance your system for optimal energy during stressful periods. Ashwaganda helps the body to resist stress and maintain vital mental and physical energy throughout the day, while promoting restful sleep at night. Its ability to reduce anxiety, ease restlessness and stabilize moods is highly valued by many herbalists.
Holy Basil (Tulsi)
Holy basil is an herb native to India, where it is known as Tulsi, and has been shown to decrease the stress hormone cortisol. Studies have shown that high levels of cortisol cause the mind and body to put rest and repair operations on hold, ultimately contributing to long term wear and tear and a variety of stress-related illnesses. Holy basil also operates as an adaptogen, naturally improving the body’s response to physical and emotional stress during periods of high anxiety and physical exhaustion. Taking a holy basil herbal supplement or drinking Tulsi tea can help stabilize the brain’s serotonin and dopamine levels to calm and relax you without making you feel drowsy. Holy Basil also helps to balance blood sugar and cholesterol as well as providing a rich source of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds.
We all know how important B vitamins are for metabolic and immune health. In addition, research shows that healthy levels of B vitamins, in particular B6, B9 and B12 may also contribute to the reduction of anxiety and depression and help boost energy. Whether you supplement your diet with these essential B vitamins or obtain them through foods such as dairy products, lean meats, fish, poultry, nuts, and eggs, they can have a direct impact on your brain’s serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine levels. Evidence shows that B vitamins help to balance and metabolize neuro-toxic chemicals that are associated with certain psychological conditions such as anxiety and depression. There are a number of B vitamins that effectively benefit your mental health, including vitamin B1 (thiamine), which may improve mood, memory and energy levels. Additionally, studies have shown that vitamin B6 (pyridoxine HCL) – combined with other B-complex vitamins – can reduce levels of the toxic amino acid homocysteine, and has a direct effect on GABA and serotonin neurotransmitters. This combination can reduce feelings of rage, anxiety, despair, and depression. When taking B vitamins, it is essential to also take minerals such as zinc and trace elements.These serve as co-factors that support the health benefits of B vitamins.
Green Tea (EGCG)
A Japanese study examined the effects of green tea consumption on 1,058 healthy individuals over the age of 70 and concluded that regardless of lifestyle and social factors, elderly men and women who drank four or more cups of green tea daily were 44 percent less likely to have symptoms of depression than those who drank only one cup per day or less. What these researchers and many others examining the effects of green tea have found is that L-theanine could be the component responsible for green tea’s potential antidepressant effects. L-theanine is a calming amino acid known to reduce mental and physical stress and enhance critical neurotransmitter activity. Green tea is also abundant in a class of phytochemicals called polyphenols, including the potent antioxidant epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), which contributes to an increase in brain alpha wave activity. Alpha waves are associated with a state of being awake but relaxed, so the EGCG together with the L-theanine also found in green tea, promote a state of “alert relaxation.” High levels of caffeine can have the opposite result, so remember to choose a decaffeinated green tea in order to avoid over-stimulation and anxiogenic (anxiety promoting) effects.
Yoga and Tai Chi
Natural herbs and supplements can make a difference in helping to reduce stress but for many, these remedies are only half of the equation. A number of people also rely on physical activity to relieve stress and lower their anxiety. Some of the most well-researched stress relieving exercises include yoga and Tai chi, which are shown to dramatically reduce stress levels and provide real empowerment to those practicing these ancient art forms. Yoga is a physical, mental and spiritual practice for developing strength, awareness and consciousness, while also heightening the senses and intuition. Yoga aims to relax and rejuvenate but is also invigorating, as the constantly moving poses work to release the dormant energy in your body. Similarly, Tai chi is Chinese martial art that is designed to help bring about a state of mental calm and clarity. The strategic breathing involved in both yoga and Tai chi naturally increases energy levels while the postures and meditation keep your mind, body and spirit focused and grounded. The exercises create a platform for spiritual connectedness that allows you to let go of your anxieties and re-focus your energy on positive thoughts and feelings.
Another well researched method — and my personal favorite — for relieving stress and improving energy and focus is meditation practice. A simple 10-minute daily meditation session can offer significant improvements in your mood and energy levels. In fact, published studies show that simple meditation when practiced daily is more effective than anti-depressants in improving mental, physical and emotional well being. More and more peer-reviewed research on meditation confirms that it is a viable method of improving health and emotional well being, helping with anxiety, depression, mental imbalances, and more.
While there are countless styles of meditation practice, one of the most profound is the ancient Tibetan practice of Shamatha meditation. Shamatha means “calm abiding” in Sanskrit. This meditation is intended to let the mind’s natural state of tranquility and clarity be accessed by focusing the breath on a specific object, and letting all other thoughts arise and slip away as the attention is turned back to the breath. As you become more practiced, the space between thoughts becomes greater and more profound, allowing you to make room for your true inner nature of love, peace and tranquility to arise and expand. The health benefits of this expanded depth of experience are numerous and well documented. Most often they are marked by a greater mental and emotional stability, and a balancing and strengthening of physical energy. The longer meditation is practiced over time, the more profound the benefits and results, so I encourage everyone to try this simple, ancient method which has been proven successful over thousands of years for reducing stress and improving mental, emotional and physical health, without costing anything. Now that’s relieving! For more health and wellness tips and information, visit www.dreliaz.org.