Stress

Stress is inherent in our way of life and is part of the human condition. What is important is how we react to it. Reacting with anger, fear, depression, and anxiety without release of the tension can result in illness, either directly or indirectly. Symptoms include muscle tension, high blood pressure, psychological problems, digestive disorders, a weakened immune system, cancer, and heart disease.

When the mind perceives a threat, whether real or imagined, the brain instantly and automatically evaluates the situation. Then the subconscious begins to prepare the body for a response. The sympathetic system causes the blood to flow to the muscles, the muscles and blood vessels constrict, and the body is flooded with hormones from the pituitary and adrenal glands. Heart rate increases and oxygen consumption accelerates. Production of digestive juices is reduced and blood sugar levels increase as the liver releases glucose into the bloodstream. This process becomes harmful when it remains a perpetual state with few periods of full relaxation or full release of the tension. After years pass, many illnesses can develop, including an artery spasm that can result in a heart attack.

Stress is caused mainly by emotional or psychological situations. The mind affects the body and vice versa; if the mind is agitated or worried, the body will be tense. If the body is tense, the mind will be in a high state of vigilance. Eventually, resources like hormones and chemicals become depleted, the body gets tired of adapting to the stressful situation, organs become exhausted and functioning collapses. Only when the mind and body are in a state of calm can energies be directed toward repair, maintenance, and strengthening of the body and the immune system.

Physical exercise oxygenates body tissues, dissipates stress hormones, and relieves tension. Hormones called endorphins are produced and give a sense of well-being. The result of regular exercise is a slower heart rate, lowered blood pressure, a normal functioning respiratory system, and relaxed muscles.

During stress, breathing becomes shallow and rapid. Because oxygen is necessary for the metabolism of every cell in the body, it affects the functioning of the autonomic nervous system which regulates automatic functions like heart rate, respiration, and digestion. Proper breath control stabilizes and strengthens the tone of the nervous system.

Deep breathing uses the full capacity of the diaphragm, a muscle located below the lungs that contracts when breathing in and allows the lungs to expand with air. Shallow breathing only involves the upper lobes of the lungs. This leaves over a million alveoli, the tiny sacs that absorb oxygen which is then transported by the hemoglobin of the blood to all the cells of the body, empty. The consequence is that the cellular structure does not receive enough oxygen to carry out its work.

There are various deep breathing methods but basically the idea is to take a slow deep breath through the nostrils, hold to the count of 7, then exhale through the mouth to the count of 8 or 10 and repeat three more times. This can be practiced several times a day.

Nutrients

Vitamin B complex—50 mg, regulates nerves.

Magnesium—200 to 300 mg, a muscle relaxant.

Vitamin C—500 to 1000 mg in divided doses, urinary excretion of the vitamin increases during stress.

Foods

Whole foods Fresh fruits

Fresh vegetables

Shiitake mushrooms

Potatoes

Onions

Whole grains

Pasta

Oats

Legumes Low-fat dairy Low-fat yogurt Fatty fish Salmon Sardines Mackerel Albacore tuna Seafood

Extra virgin olive oil

Cold pressed organic canola oil

Honey

Garlic

Juices

Fruits Vegetables Carrot Lettuce

Herbal therapy

Passion flower—1 dropperful tincture three or four times daily or freeze-dried caps, reduces stress.

Chamomile, spearmint—have mild relaxant properties, reduce stress.

Valerian—a sedative, helps promote sleep. Ginseng—1 to 2 g root or 100 mg extract, tones and strengthens organs of body.

Homeopathy

Take remedy according to symptoms: Aconitum napellus Argentum nitricum

Arsenicum album

Calcarea carbonica

Gelsemium

Ignatia amara

Kali phosphoricum

Lycopodium

Natrum muriaticum

Phosphorus

Pulsatilla

Silicea

Aromatherapy

Mandarin 1 ml, mandarin petitgrain 1 ml, lemon verbena 1 ml—for anxiety and stress.

Roman chamomile 1 ml, clary sage 1 ml, spikenard 1 ml, carrier oil 10 ml—for extreme stress.

Lavender, rose, rosemary, bergamot—have sedative and relaxing properties.

Ayurvedic medicine

Treatment varies according to body type.

Chinese medicine

Herbal preparations are prescribed.

Astragalus

Ginseng

Acupuncture

Bodywork

Massage

Deep tissue manipulation

Movement therapies—the muscles are interrelated with the nervous and psychological systems.

Qigong

T'ai chi

Acupressure

Shiatsu

Reflexology

Mindbody therapy

Meditation—lowers blood pressure, and heart and respiratory rates.

Yoga

Biofeedback—becoming aware of and control of the autonomic nervous system.

Imagery—establishes the connection between the visual cortex of the brain and the auto-nomic nervous system.

Hypnotherapy—learn methods of relaxation.

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