Stress Management
By Steven Horne, RH (AHG) & Kimberly Balas, ND


Worry. Tension. Stress. In modern society, it's difficult to avoid stress. From debts and unpaid bills to traffic jams and deadlines at work, everyday we're faced with situations that can cause us to "tense up" or start worrying. It has been estimated that 75-90% of all visits to primary care physicians are for stress-related health problems. So, learning how to manage the stress in our lives is a major key to maintaining good health.

To understand how to manage stress, we first need to understand what stress is. When the brain perceives stress, it sends a chemical message to the pituitary via the hypothalamus, which triggers the release of the adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH). ACTH causes the adrenals to start producing hormones like epinephrine (adrenaline) and cortisol. Epinephrine is both a hormone and a neurotransmitter. It tenses our muscles, increases our heart rate and blood pressure, dilates the bronchials and speeds up our breathing, shuts down digestion and other functions not essential to immediate survival, and otherwise prepares the body for action.

Cortisol reduces inflammation, enabling us to cope with injury and pain. Although it's role in reducing inflammation is important, too much cortisol causes premature aging, depresses immune function and causes us to lose muscle and gain weight. These stress hormones also cause a rise in blood sugar levels and an increase in blood clotting factors.

With this understanding, it's easy to see how chronic, long term stress can become a factor in numerous health problems, including poor digestive function, constipation, tension headaches, neck and shoulder pain, low back pain, ulcers, high blood pressure, blood clotting, increased risk of infections, asthma, diabetes, excess weight, and even cancer and autoimmune disorders. In fact, it is probable that a large percentage of all the illness we experience have a stress component.

If stress can cause so many health problems, it's obvious that we need to learn how to reduce stress in our lives. We may not be able to eliminate the stressful situations in our life, but we can reduce the stressful effects these problems cause in our body. Here are seven keys to reducing the effects of stress on the body.

1. Breathe Deeply
One of the simplest things you can do to reduce your stress level, calm your anxiety and relieve the tension in your body is to just breathe. If you stop and notice what happens when you are feeling stressed, you will probably notice that you are either holding your breath or breathing very rapidly and shallowly. By concentrating on breathing slowly and deeply, will help reduce your stress levels. You can also try breathing in while thinking, I am," and out while thinking, "relaxed."

2. Practice the Relaxation Response
You can take the breathing a step further by utilizing what Dr. Herbert Benson dubbed "The Relaxation Response." In 1975, Dr. Benson published his book of that title showing how a simple, non-religious meditation technique could help patients with insomnia, heart problems, high blood pressure and chronic pain. Dr. Benson demystified the subject, showing that all one needed to do was consciously relax the muscles, breathe slowly and deeply, and find a repetitive phrase to keep the brain occupied (such as repeating the word "one" in ones mind).
Taking just 20 minutes a day for this process will dramatically reduce your stress level. Start by finding a comfortable place to sit or lie down. Consciously allow all the muscles of your body to relax. Start breathing slowly and deeply while counting your breath (in, one, two, three, four and out, one, two, three, four). Then pick a single focus for your mind, such as the word "one" or "peace" and simply repeat this word over and over again in your mind. This causes the "monkey chatter" in the brain to stop and quiets the mind.

3. Avoid Caffeine and Sugar
Have you ever noticed how attracted you are to junk when you are under stress? Sugar and caffeine may give you a quick "pick up," but they'll let you down just as fast. Even worse, they tend to further stress the adrenal glands, which eventually will tire and give you that "burned-out" feeling. To reduce stress, avoid sugar-sweetened, high carbohydrate snacks in favor of snacks high in protein and good quality fats (like nuts). If you feel tired without caffeine, consider taking Adrenal Tonics to rebuild your adrenals and increase your energy.

4. Hydrate
This may seem strange, but drinking more water can actually make your nerves feel calmer and help you sleep more soundly. Dehydration increases anxiety levels, so drink plenty of good water when you are under stress.

5. Exercise
What are those stress hormones for? They're gearing your body up to take physical action, and that's what makes modern stress such a big problem. The Stress hormones gear our body to run, fight or physically work to combat the problem, but our sedentary lifestyle doesn't allow us to burn off these stress hormones in physical activity. Exercise gives us the opportunity to "work off" those stressful feelings.

6. Feed Your Nerves and Take Adaptogens

Nerves, like any other part of the body, need nutrition. For starters, nerves need good quality fats like butter, coconut Oil, nuts, olive Oil, flax seed Oil and omega-3 essential fatty acids.

Vitamins are also important for nerve function. Many have found that B-complex vitamins help them cope with stress more easily. Vitamin C and pantothenic acid are helpful because they support the adrenal glands. Silica, found in horsetail and dulse, key ingredients in HSN-W, help the nerves become more resilient because it strengthens the myelin sheath.

There is a specific class of herbs that can greatly reduce the impact of stress on our health. These herbs are called adaptogens. Adaptogenic herbs modulate the signals that are sent from the hypothalamus and pituitary glands causing a reduction of adrenal output of adrenaline and cortisol, thus lowering overall stress levels. They help to break down the damaging fight-or-flight chain reaction patterns in which the body gets stuck due to chronic stress. By reducing cortisol levels, these herbs also help boost the immune system.

Eleuthero root was the first to be identified as an adaptogen. Russian studies proved it helps increase stamina, endurance and energy, improve concentration and stimulate male hormone production. It also helps the immune system.

Other single herbs that have been identified as possessing adaptogenic properties include Goru kola, American and Korean ginseng, suma and Schinndra berries. Use adaptogen formulas like Nervous Fatigue Formula, Suma Combination, Mineral Chi Tonic or Adaptamax to help reduce the output of stress hormones and calm your nerves.

7. Make Time for Rest and Relaxation
Telling someone to reduce stress is like telling them to avoid death and taxes. It just isn't going to happen. The good news is that one doesn't have to try to avoid stress to reduce its effects. It turns out that a pleasurable experience causes the release of hormones and neurotransmitters that counteract the effects of stress. And, a pleasurable experience creates more positive benefits than a stressful experience causes harm. so, instead of reducing stress, we should be deliberately creating pleasure and enjoyrnent in our lives.

It's likely that a major part of the reason anxiety-related disorders are epidemic in our society is because we are just too busy. We are constantly on the go, and take very little time for pleasure and recreation. Making sure we plan to do enjoyable things is very important to our emotional and physical health.

Many people feel they are too busy for this. Well, the truth is that the busier you are the more important it is for you to make time for rest and relaxation. If a -woodcutter doesn't take time to sharpen his saw or axe, he will find himself working harder and harder while becoming less and less productive. Rest and relaxation is "saw-sharpening" time; it makes you more productive with the rest of your day. If you are busy, you cannot afford to not take time for rest and relaxation.

Watching TV doesn't count. Generally speaking, TV is designed to be stimulating, not relaxing. Instead, look for activities that feel pleasurable to the body such as a warm bath, a soak in a hot tub, a massage, listening to relaxing music or taking a walk in the park. Find things that make you laugh and awaken a childlike delight in life. Slow down when you eat and really enjoy the flavor of the food. Remember that anything that brings a sensation of bodily pleasure counteracts the effects of stress and reduces anxiety.

Part of this is also making sure you are getting a good sleep. If you are not, look up Insomnia and follow some of the suggestions for getting a good night's sleep.

Practicing these principles of stress management will not only help you stay healthy, it will also help you heal more quickly if you are sick.

Below is a list of suggested products. Those in bold are key products for the health issue explained on this page.
For details and ordering simply copy a product's name in the search box above or click on the bold name.


Therapies: Stress Management helps deal With Mental and Emotional Stress, one of the root causes of disease.

Herbs: Eleuthero

Herbal Formulas: AdaptaMax, Nervous Fatigue Formula, Stress Relief, HSN-W, Stress-J and SUMA Combination

Nutrients: Herbal Trace Minerals

Nutritional Supplements: Nutri-Calm, Adrenal Support

Essential Oils: Lavender and Rose Bulgaria