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Alternative Approach to Stress Management

Fear and depression as symptoms of our troubled times

© Kat Morgenstern 2003

At this terrible time of war and horror, fears are running high. In fact, fear is a selling factor that helps to force people into submission - but that is another story and shall be told another time. What we want to talk about here, is how to deal with those fears and symptoms that have emerged as the signs of our times.

First of all, if you are feeling depressed or frightened about what is happening in the world right now, rest assured, you are not alone, and you have good reason to be concerned. Taking a happy pill (e.g. prozac) might temporarily change your mood, but the causes will not go away. This is a time when we need to face reality and mentally, physically and spiritually prepare ourselves to deal with it.

Apart from the real dangers that are facing us today, such as SARS, the extremely virulent pneumonia virus that is making its rounds, or possible Anthrax attacks, or a host of other ails, there is also a great amount of what psychologists have termed 'free-floating anxiety', a sense of some immanent danger, or impending disaster, fear of the unknown or apprehension about the future. It is a good idea to confront these feelings and to search for their basis in reality. What exactly are we afraid of? What do we really fear and what chances are there that this awful thing will really happen? While the current times are certainly dark, most of the time these fears turn out to be nightmarish fantasies, which shrivel to little more than shadows of our imagination once we turn the light of reason on to them. Sure, s*** happens. Sometimes really bad s*** happens, but fear and anguish will not prevent that. Be vigilant, cautious, and sensible and be prepared for anything. Common sense is a better defence than paranoia.

It is also a good idea to take the time for quiet contemplation or meditation each day, to tune into a higher mode of consciousness, which lets us gain a more transpersonal, timeless perspective. This will not make the issues disappear, but it will help us deal with them, ... things change through the way we look at them, worrying about them does not change anything by one single iota, it only leaves us feeling disempowered and at the mercy of forces beyond our control.

To deal with emotional stress and worries on a physical level, there are a number of plants that may come to our aid:

Stress always manifests first by way of the nervous system. If you find yourself tensed up and unable to relax or can't get to sleep or suffer from nightmares, you can try Chamomile, an old standby remedy, but nevertheless an effective soothing herb. Or try a mixture of Sage, Peppermint, Yarrow, Linden flowers and Fennel to alleviate fear and anxiety. It will also help to settle a queasy, nervous stomach. Don't use this mixture during pregnancy, though. Valerian (best taken as a tincture), Passionflower, Skullcap and Vervain are also wonderful relaxant herbs.

For raised blood pressure and irregular heartbeat due to stress, Motherwort, Hawthorn or Mistletoe can be used, or you might like to try Olive leaf extract (see herb of the month..

Depression is primarily an emotional problem, but there are herbs that can help: Lemon Balm, St. Johns Wort, and Californian Poppy soothe the emotions and lift the spirit. St. Johns Wort should not be taken in conjunction with certain other medications, especially anti-depressant medications. Please consult your medical practitioner if in doubt.

For those who prefer homeopathy, you can try Pulsatilla D4, or Nux Vomica D4 for anxiety.

Aromatherapy, the therapeutic use of essential oils, is famous for its effectiveness in treating emotionally based symptoms of stress, tension and anxiety. Good oils to experiment with are Rose, Frankincense, Cypress, Lavender, Bergamot, and Lemon Balm. Remember though, that essential oils are highly concentrated substances that should never be used directly on the skin or be taken internally. A good way to benefit from them is to use them in a specially designed diffuser lamp or to mix them with a base oil, such as almond, coconut or olive oil to make relaxing and fragrant massage and bath oils. Investigate all essential oils thoroughly before attempting to use them, as some may cause allergic reactions or could be harmful during pregnancy. Never use essential oils internally.

Bach flower remedies are also well known for their effectiveness when it comes to symptoms of emotional stress: Rock Rose, Aspen, Red Chestnut, Vervain, Sweet Chestnut, Star of Bethlehem may be some of the remedies that could prove useful - however, do your own research to determine which remedy is most suited to your particular emotional state.

What may prove most healing and soothing, however, is to spend as much time as possible in nature and to reflect on the things that are truly essential to our well-being.

For questions or comments e-mail

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This Article was originally published in the Sacred Earth Newletter. The Newsletter is a FREE service containing articles, news and reviews on all things herbal and/or ethnobotanical, with an approximate publication cylce of 6 - 8 weeks. If you wish to subscribe, please use the subscription box to submit your e-mail address.


Please note that although all the references to edible and medicinal herbs are tried and tested, their efficacy cannot be guaranteed and has not been approved by the FDA. Furthermore, everybody responds differently to various plants, and adverse reactions cannot be ruled out. Historical information regarding poisonous plants is included for educational purposes only and should not be tried out at home. Everybody uses herbs at their own risk and thus must make themselves fully aware of their potential power. Any information given here is educational and should not replace a visit to the doctor should this be necessary. Neither Sacred Earth nor Kat Morgenstern accepts responsibility for anybody's home experimentation. Links to external sites are included as pointers to further resources - we do not endorse them or are in any way responsible for their content, nor do we thus verify that their content is accurate.