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Managing Stress - External Therapies

By Shaun Holt

It puts up your blood pressure, your heart rate, breathing rate, harms mental health etc. And whilst doctors can be good at treating specific conditions such as high blood pressure or depression, they’re not often great in helping a person deal with stress or suggesting therapies which can help with it.

In a previous article I’ve talked about supplements which can help with stress. These include lemon balm, B vitamins, kava kava, valerian root and passionflower. In fact, I’ve developed a formulation myself, Melrest, which includes honey, cherry extract to help with sleep, and magnesium and chamomile to help with stress.

But there are many natural therapies which can help with stress which do not involve ingesting a product. (Although there is no reason why you can’t ingest something for stress and also use some of the other therapies I’ll talk about briefly below.)

Some of my strongest suggestions for stress, which are worth trying and have good studies showing that they are safe and can be effective include:

Meditation - The Transcendental Meditation (TM) technique began in the 1950’s when Maharishi Mahesh Yogi introduced it first in India. It is a type of mantra meditation that is practised for 15-20 minutes a day. Often, TM is taught by a certified teacher who will follow a set seven-step course of instruction.

Massage - Records from ancient civilisations living in places including China, Egypt and Rome have mentions of massage performed by servants from as early as 2,700 B.C. Massage involves pressure and movement on your soft tissues such as muscles, tendons and ligaments. And you no longer need servants to do it, there are many good trained massage therapists!

Tai Chi - There are different types, but all forms involve movements which are slow, graceful and deliberate, and breathing is rhythmic and controlled. This relaxes the mind and the body, and is said to balance the forces of yin and yang. Practicing tai chi can lead to less tension in your body as well as decreasing depression, anger, and anxiety.

Practicing tai chi can lead to less tension in your body as well as decreasing depression, anger, and anxiety.

Aromatherapy - Essential oils are extracted from flowers, leaves, seed or fruit rinds and they can be effective treatments for many conditions including stress and anxiety. A study showed a 30% decrease in mental health symptoms and a better sense of well-being among people who used aromatherapy. Oils can be inhaled or applied to the skin. To inhale the scents effectively, you release them over steaming hot water and breathe deeply.

Exercise - Easy and free (apart from running shoes!), exercise is a great hobby to get into to reduce stress. Part of the benefit may be from having more exposure to sunlight. Walking is a great starting point for your exercise regime. It's free, easy, has a low risk of injury and can be done almost anywhere.

Yoga - Yoga can be learnt at a local community centre, a gym, or a yoga studio. Each teacher will have a different style, so shop around a bit until you find one you like. Practicing at home between classes will help you see faster improvements in your stress levels.