Pressure. Anxiety. Tension. Worry. Stress. Whatever you call it, you know when it’s heavy on your shoulders. You might get tension headaches, feel nauseous or have anxiety attacks. Or your symptoms may be less physical and more behavioral: a constant feeling of irritation, a sense of being overwhelmed, an inability to relax, a constant need to defend yourself (which often comes out as a version of attacking others). The symptoms of stress tend to create even more stress. You may not be able to take a week-long beach vacation to get away from the sources of the stress, but you can incorporate some herbal remedies into your daily routine. Stress always exists somewhere, but learning to cope with it calmly and naturally puts you back in charge.
Aromatherapy: Lavender Essential Oil
Lavender is calming, soothing, a sort of flowering tranquilizer. Purchase a bottle of high-quality, pure lavender essential oil. It may seem cost-prohibitive, but it will last a long time. Simply smelling lavender can reduce stress levels. Use an oil diffuser with a few drops of lavender essential oil to allow the calming fragrance to fill an entire room. Scent your car with lavender by putting a drop or two under the seats and breathe deeply and slowly while you drive. Another effective product is Dr. Bronner’s Lavender Soap (see Resources). Take a long, hot bath with some of Dr. Bronner’s Lavender Soap. Pour 2 or 3 tablespoons in the tub as it is filling, then close the door and lock it, lower the lights, and ease in for at least 15 minutes. Breathe deeply and slowly and let your muscles relax into the warm, scented water. Water itself is relaxing, especially warm water, and the lavender increases the relaxation effect. You can also follow the instructions for an herbal steam treatment as given below for chamomile; simply substitute a few drops of lavender essential oil for the chamomile flowers, or use them in combination.
Steam Treatment: Chamomile
Chamomile calms and relaxes, helps the nervous system to slow down and the whole body to relax. Use about 1 cup of fresh chamomile flowers or about 1/2 cup of dried. Fill the bathroom sink with very hot water, gently crush the flowers and stir around for a moment in the hot water. Throw a soft towel over your head so that it drapes down on either side of your face, then lean over the hot water and breathe deeply. Give yourself about 3 minutes to breathe in the chamomile, then drink a big glass of cool water.
Supplements: Valerian, Passionflower, St. John’s Wort
Several herbs are known for their calming properties and ability to relieve stress. Among these are valerian, passionflower, and St. Johns’s wort. Valerian is a mild sedative and is usually considered safe, but in some it has the opposite effect and causes increased nervousness rather than increased relaxation. Passionflower contains flavanoids which are thought to reduce stress and tension, relieve panic, and have a sedative effect on the nervous system. There are no noted side effects for passionflower. St. John’s wort has long been revered for its natural anti-stress effects. It seems to work by increasing the amount of time seratonin lasts in the brain. Low levels of seratonin are often linked with depression. It does not have any serious side effects, but it can interfere with prescription drugs taken simultaneously.
Drink It Up: Lemon Balm, Chamomile
A hot cup of tea, sipped slowly, is often enough of a psychological boost to ease the edge from a hectic day. But while you’re at it, go ahead and increase the effectiveness. Lemon balm and chamomile are great herbal teas that can calm and relax you. Additionally, you can find many anti-stress blends that include either valerian, passionflower, St. John’s wort or a combination. Make a strong cup before bed and ease into a restful sleep.