In the previous article we looked at the effects of stress, and a simple approach involving the 3 As: Acknowledge, Assess and Act.
Once you have pared down the necessities and decided to act on the problems, have a look at your attitude. Make yourself a ‘gratitude list’ and write down all the things that you are grateful for. It need not be anything big, simply things that you can appreciate. At the end of each day think about what was nice that day, perhaps the sun shone, or your child gave you a hug; learn to appreciate life’s smaller joys!
Make time to relax and do something enjoyable every day, perhaps by taking ½ hour to walk the dog or simply going for a walk alone, you can take some time to meditate. Even if it is just sitting down with a cup of coffee, do take the time, you will be more productive afterwards. Remember that simply stroking a pet is known to reduce blood pressure, so pat the dog instead of kicking him!
Learn from your mistakes. If you are stressing over a badly handled situation, consider what you could have done differently, and learn from it! We cannot change the world, so at times we must accept imperfection.
Don’t be too critical of yourself or others; perhaps the shop assistant who was so rude has her own difficulties to deal with! Try to forgive as you would wish to be forgiven and accept and enjoy life’s strange quirks!
Live a healthy lifestyle, ensure that you are eating properly, getting enough sleep, and try to reduce your consumption of alcohol, cigarettes and sugars. Also try to be aware of your body. Many people tighten their shoulders when anxious, and this leads to tension headaches. Practice relaxing your jaw, neck and shoulders and do some deep breathing. – If you smile you must relax your jaw!
If your problem is health related, there may be a support group for that problem. To share a stress is often a great relief, and you will be with like-minded people who are experiencing similar troubles to yours. You can Google the subject, or try LifeLine: http://www.lifeline.org.za or 0861322322
EFT or emotional freedom technique is an auto suggestion technique which has proven very useful in helping people overcome chronic stress, including post-traumatic stress syndrome. It is easily learned and can be done by anyone at any time. learn more about it here: http://www.eft-sa.co.za
Other treatments include prayer, yoga and meditation which help people learn to relax.
What other treatments are available?
If you go to your GP and he diagnoses stress, he may advise you how to learn to manage it, perhaps by referring you to a psychologist or other counsellor. He may also prescribe medication. This may be tranquillisers or antidepressant medicines.
Tranquillisers such as Ativan, Valium etc do have an occasional place, but are highly addictive even when taken for only 4-5 days, so should be treated with care. They are useful for acute situations such as the death of a loved one, but I really don’t think they should be used for long except in exceptional cases. Antidepressant medication is somewhat overused, and the effects have been questioned in the literature; how much is truly effect and how much suggestion? Certain kinds have been shown to be dangerous in teenagers, with an increase in suicides noted. The most useful medications for stress are low dose tricyclics e.g. Amitryptilene, to help with sleep. While the antidepressant dosage for these old friends is 75-100mg, they can be taken at a dose of 10-25mg at night to help sleep, and to aid the management of chronic pain. I find that helping someone to sleep well often enables them to tackle what previously seemed insurmountable when tiredness was adding to the stress.
Sulpiride is a mild antidepressant that is non-sedating and can be very useful in taking the edge off stress. It is often used for post-natal depression as it can stimulate milk production, and is safe in breastfeeding mothers.
There are times, of course, when no matter how hard you try, you feel overwhelmed, and need some extra help. This is when many make the mistake of turning to readily available comforters such as food (usually carbohydrates), alcohol and cigarettes. Please try to avoid these as they simply create more problems without solving any! There are several over the counter herbal medications that are very effective:
Kava kava is a root from the Pacific Islands which has been shown to have anti-anxiety effects equivalent to Valium. It is nonaddictive and not sedating, but there are concerns about liver toxicity, so it should not be used long term or by anyone with liver problems or who drinks too much alcohol. Combining passionflower with kava can help some worriers get some much-needed sleep.
St. John’s wort is known to be an effective anti-depressant. It may cause some sun sensitivity, and can react with some prescription medicines, so please check with your pharmacist.
Valerian root is a natural sedative, and very helpful for insomnia. It has very few side effects.
Rescue Remedy is a well known ‘emergency’ treatment for acute anxiety and shock.
Vitamin B co and vitamin B12 injections can be helpful to give you a boost.
Stressvite made by nrf is an effective supplement containing calcium, magnesium, and B vitamins.
When to worry
If you find yourself unable to contemplate any of the above suggestions and feel overwhelmed, please go and get help; talk to your GP, a sympathetic friend, a church leader, or phone Lifeline at 0861322322. Remember that no matter how alone you feel, you are not alone, and help is available.