Coping with stress
By Jan de Vries
“I’m stressed out!” – how often have you heard that? I hear it all the time. It seems to me we are a stressed out nation.
This is something I think about a lot because it is very worrying. We are all born with an instinctive stress response and in the past this was crucial to staying alive.
In a potentially dangerous situation stress hormones are released, bringing about physical and mental changes to help us escape from danger. These days, however, we don’t usually encounter lions or tigers on the loose. The common dangers nowadays are an extra workload, relationship problems, financial problems, awkward situations, difficult meetings and so on.
Most of us exist in a heightened stress-response state, trying to cram more and more into our already busy lives. Instead of relying on our stress hormones to help us in times of emergency, we abuse them and have to endure the negative effects of prolonged stress.
The real danger is that we eventually become unable to cope with even the simplest of day-to-day tasks and we drain the body physically and mentally, resulting in ill health.
It’s often just not possible to escape from the stress triggers, so we need to look for coping strategies.
I always ask patients to write out a list of all their problems and worries. Do this over the course of a few days with a notebook at hand. If you wake at night worrying, note down the cause of that particular worry.
Once the list is complete you can start to deal with each item on it. You will probably find that a lot of the items are fairly easy to deal with. And once you have a plan for coping with major stressors, they often don’t seem quite so bad. There is nothing worse than doing nothing about problems and hoping they will just disappear.
Positive self-talk is very important. You are constantly giving yourself mind messages and listening to the thoughts going around your head. Listen to them. They should be positive and encouraging. One of the most effective methods of turning negative self-talk into positive messages is to mentally say STOP each time you have a negative thought. This will act as a command and also a distraction while you come up with a positive thought.
It is impossible to avoid stress completely. In fact, think how boring life would be without a bit of excitement. But we must learn how to deal with the hurdles that inevitably lie ahead.
I always urge patients to learn relaxation techniques. There are some very simple ones which can easily be used throughout the day almost anywhere. Simple abdominal breathing, for instance. All you have to do is lie or sit comfortably, place your hands on your abdomen, and take slow deep breaths exaggerating the swell of your stomach with the breath. Just a couple of minutes is all it needs to centre you and restore a bit of balance.
Diet and exercise are also extremely important. During stress our immune systems are under immense pressure and optimum nutrition is required. It is a good idea to top up your B vitamins and take extra vitamin C to help the body cope.
Exercise provides its own mood enhancers and provides a mental break from worries. An absorbing hobby is also highly recommended.
There are also a number of natural remedies, which can help during particularly stressful periods. Elthea, made from the amino acid L-Theanine, is especially helpful to keep you calm as it enhances the brain’s calming alpha waves.
The herb, Holy Basil balances mind, body and spirit, and is useful during difficult times or when grieving. It is one of the most ancient of all Ayurvedic remedies used in the treatment of anxiety, and has been used for thousands of years in India. But it is only recently that Indian researchers have carried out clinical studies and shown that it reduces the symptoms of stress and anxiety.
My own Jay Vee tablets are a gentle natural formula to tackle stress and contain zinc, valerian, hops, lemon balm, hawthorn berry and passion flower.
We must remember that taking a tablet is just going to help us to cope. It is not going to take away the root cause. No problem is insurmountable, so look for a pen and start writing that list.
From the Jan de Vries archives
We hope you enjoyed another fascinating article from Jan de Vries himself! I always think it’s so important not to underestimate the power of positive thinking when it comes to problems like stress or anxiety, so it was great to read Jan’s thoughts on this.
If you're feeling like you're struggling to cope with stress at the moment, then don't forget to check out Jay Vee; Jan's own formula and his favourite nerve tonic!