10 unexpected (and natural!) ways to keep your stress in check

By Vivian Miezianko
Northwest Asian Weekly

Work, study, taking care of others, worrying about finance, and relationships…

For everybody, the list of stressors can go on and on. And the meager amount of sunlight in Seattle does little to help  brighten one’s mood or shove away one’s worries. Sleep deprivation and headaches can soon follow.

You may wonder, are there any simple home cures that can diminish the effects of stress? Can you combat stress without spending a fortune on side-effect-causing pills or rare herbs?
Yes and yes.

Here are 10 de-stressing tips that neither break the bank nor involve any pharmaceutical drugs.

1. Some foods are touted for their stress-fighting properties, and WebMD.com’s “Diet for Stress Management” slideshow lists some of them. Complex carbohydrates such as brown rice, whole grain bread, and cereal are some examples. Carbohydrates “prompt the brain to make more serotonin,” and complex carbs, which are digested more slowly, can ensure “a steady supply of this feel-good chemical.”

Vitamin-C-rich oranges also make the list. According to the website, “Studies suggest this vitamin can reduce levels of stress hormones, while strengthening the immune system.”

Another stress buster is fatty fish. The omega-3 fatty acids found in tuna and salmon “can prevent surges in stress hormones and protect against … mood disorders like depression.” Nuts and seeds are other sources of this nutrient.

And don’t forget the black tea that accompanies your dim sum. “Research suggests black tea can help you recover from stressful events more quickly.”

2. In an article entitled “Best home cures for your aches and pains” on the Today Show website, Brian Berman, MD, director of the Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, states that taking a short break and focusing “on an activity that requires repetitive motion — such as knitting or swimming laps” — is a non-drowsy cure to combat stress during the daytime. He notes that activities that “involve repetition and rhythm are especially effective at distracting you from work.”

3. Mona Fahoum, ND, of The University Health Clinic in Seattle, recommends putting an herb “like rosemary, thyme, or lavender in a pot on the stove with water and let[ting] it simmer.”

“These herbs are calming,” explains Fahoum. “[They] increase mental clarity and are easy to obtain.” Besides infusing your home with the aroma of herbs, Fahoum suggests picking up pre-mixed tea, such as Yogi’s “Relaxed Mind” or Traditional Medicinals’ “Easy Now” from grocery stores. Made of spices and herbs, they “help calm and de-stress the day.”

4. Are you one of those people who think there are not enough hours in a day? Fahoum has some suggestions for those of us whose stress, at least partly, comes from not having enough time to get things done. She has asked patients to “pick a weekend to focus on the to-do list” — cleaning out the closet or clearing up desk space, for instance.

“Then, while you’re doing that, set up a stress-free zone,” says Fahoum. It can be “a corner of a room” with “a pillow on the floor” or “a favorite chair.” Remove any clutter and simply make space for yourself “to sit, do nothing, breathe, think, or just have some quiet time reading.”

She often recommends this for harried mothers and hopes they get 5, 10, or 30 minutes of personal time daily.

5. Berman suggests foot rubs for treating headaches. He notes that acupressurists “use points all over the body to treat headaches, but the best results may come from massaging a third of the way down the sole of the foot, where the toes begin.”

6. In the same article, Gannady Raskin, MD. ND, former dean of the School of Naturopathic Medicine at Bastyr University, treats headaches with a foot bath “made from hot water and a few teaspoons of mustard powder” — the pungent seasoning on your spice rack, which gives your dinner a kick.

Hot water will “cause your body to redistribute blood from” your pounding head “and get it flowing all over,” he says. The essential oils in the mustard powder “stimulate the skin, diverting your attention from the pain.”

7. Stress causes insomnia. A night of poor sleep exacerbates stress, yet there are food cures to help you snooze. In his blog for Yahoo!, Dr. Maoshing Ni, a doctor of Chinese medicine based in California, lists some sleep-inducing foods.

First, say “yes” to grains at dinner. “Carbohydrates tend to make people sleepy,” since they trigger “the release of insulin.”

Then, have “a warm cup of milk” as a bedtime snack. Rich in “the amino acid tryptophan, [milk] can sometimes aid in deep sleep,” explained Ni. Otherwise, you may have a cup of “natural yogurt” an hour before going to bed.

8. On the other hand, you might want to “cut back on eating bacon, cheese, chocolate, ham, potatoes, tomatoes, and sausage” before going to bed. According to Ni, “These foods contain tyramine.” This “triggers the stimulating hormone norepinephrine” and can cause insomnia. Caffeine is a no-no if you toss and turn all night.

9. To reduce anxiety and induce relaxation, Ni suggests taking a bath with “a few drops of essential oil like lavender or vanilla.” You might also want to get scented candles made of vanilla, lavender, or green apple, as Ni mentions research has shown that these scents are “among the best” in this regard.

10. If your family makes Chinese soup, you may find jujube seeds in your fridge or kitchen cabinet. Ni recommends brewing a calming tea with jujube seeds, “a traditional sedative,” before bedtime for its ability to “soothe the mind and spirit” and “[facilitate] good sleep.” (end)

For more information, visit health.yahoo.net/experts/drmao, www.todayshow.com, and www.webmd.com.

Dr. Mona Fahoum is a naturopathic family practitioner at The University Health Clinic in Seattle. For more information, visit www.theuhc.com.

Vivian Miezianko can be reached at info@nwasianweekly.com.

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2 Responses to “10 unexpected (and natural!) ways to keep your stress in check”

  1. Sridhar says:

    I’m going to come at this from the other direction, from soneome who makes videos:There’s a rule I use to tell when to make a video or not from legendary animator Chuck Jones: One shouldn’t be able to tell what was happening on screen if you’re only listening to the audio. Or in other words show, don’t talk. If talking about it gets the idea across (or better yet, printed words that I can read faster or just skim) then do not make a video. When I do make videos I assume that no one wants to watch them or will watch them begrudgingly. I also assume they might watch them without audio. (At work, etc.)This means:a) Duplicate as much of the video as possible on a web page somewhere. Don’t make a video as a time saving way of doing a blog post. A worth-while video is a supplement to the main content and will take additional effort to make. (I found it kind of infuriating that you didn’t post any text with this video, though I know you did it for effect. You -made- me watch the video and I kind of resent that. I’d like to have the option.)b) Don’t try to do everything in the video, just the stuff that needs demonstrating. It’s a teaser and if soneome wants more information they can visit the **** web page which will have longer text and photos. c) Make it as short as possible. Edit as tight as possible. Cut out anything that isn’t necessary to the video. They can watch it twice if they need to, but don’t make everyone else drag through it. If you have a big monologue either demonstrate what you’re talking about or summarize and put the rest on a web page. I shoot for 3 minutes max, depending on the subject. I’m not saying don’t do video, because there have been times when a short video has completely enlightened me in ways that photos and text didn’t. Bill Hammack’s Engineer Guy Videos are great examples of all of these. He gets to the basic, correct explanation quickly and uses videos to demonstrate, what words alone would be difficult to get a cross. But of you want the full explanation buy his book.(I’m not an online video expert yet, but I have close to 2 million views between YouTube and Vimeo which is hopefully worth something.)


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