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19 Holistic Treatments for Stress & Anxiety

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I can’t take any credit for this post. My cousin Michelle Waddell (full credits at the end) did all the research for a presentation she gave entitled, The Reality of Stress, Anxiety, and Depression in the NICU…Is it Real? Best Practices for Nursing Self-Care.

She was generous enough to share her research with a group of us—friends, family, and essential-oil enthusiasts—because she knew it applies to anyone experiencing stress, anxiety, or depression for any reason, not just challenging nursing. I at once realized it could be an amazing post for my blog about caring for someone with dementia. Because caring for someone with dementia IS stressful. And sometimes it’s not even about your interaction with the person who has dementia. It’s about stressors in your daily life—traffic, long lines at the grocery store, the balance, or lack thereof, in your checking account, inconsiderate people—that can seem exacerbated when you are already tired, pressed for time, on edge, or just plain at the end of your rope.

So What Is A Stressed-Out Caregiver To Do?

Well, you can down a few prescription sedatives, crack open a fifth of whiskey, or run naked into traffic. I don’t recommend any of those. There are many safer, healthier ways to make yourself feel better when it feels as though the world is crashing in. And there’s science behind many of them.

  1. Chamomile Tea – binds to brain receptors like Valium
    1. Calms muscle spasms (muscles tense during stress)
    2. Relaxes the intestinal lining (gut/brain axis)
    3. Sleep aid for insomnia
    4. Has been studied since 1980—has similar anxiety-reducing properties as some anxiety medications
    5. Recommendation dosage is 1 to 4 cups per day
  2.   L-Theanine (Green Tea) – helps reduce elevated heart rate and blood pressure
    1. L-Theanine is an amino acid known for reducing stress and relaxing body and mind. A 2012 study in Japan showed college students taking L-T experienced decreased anxiety when confronted with physical or psychological stress
    2. Can be taken in hot tea form or as an oral supplement
  3. Valeriannatural sedative
    1. Better taken in the evening
    2. Works well with chamomile tea and lemon balm
    3. The German government has approved it as a treatment for problems with sleep
    4. Recommendationed 300 to 600 mg of Valerian root 30 minutes to 2 hours before bedtime
    5. Works best after 2 weeks of continuous use
    6. For tea, steep Valerian root in 1 cup hot water for 10 to 15 minutes
  4. Hops – the bitter herb, not beer! Sorry!
    1. The part used is the female part of the plant (resembles a small pine cone)
    2. Contains methylbutenol
      1. Works effectively on the central nervous system as a sedative
  5. Lemon Balm – (Melissa) considered one of the most powerful medicinal oils in aromatherapy
    1. Used for anxiety, reducing agitation, insomnia, stress
    2. May be combined with Valerian in low doses. Too much may cause increased anxiety
    3. Recommended dose of lemon balm is 300 mg
  6. Exercise – regular exercise, 30 mins of movement of any type per day
    1. Biggest benefit is that it helps dissipate worrying about illness and poor health
  7. 21 Minute Cure – exercise for 20+ minutes to reduce anxiety
  8. Passion Flower – sedative (Germany has approved its use for nervous restlessness)
    1. DO NOT use this herb or any of the others if taking prescription sedatives
    2. Only take one herbal sedative at a time unless prescribed differently by a physician
    3. Do not use passion flower for longer than one month
      1. Does have some side effects. Make sure you understand them before you use it.
    4. Comes in tincture, tea, pills, spray, inhalation
  9. Lavender – the “Swiss-Army Knife” of essential oils
    1. Known as an emotional anti-inflammatory
    2. In a German study, a special lavender pill (not available in the USA) was shown to decrease anxiety as effectively as Lorazepam (Ativan)
    3. Inhalation, topically, tea, in water, sprays
  10. Hold Your Breath – 4/7/8 breathing technique used in yoga created by Andrew Weil, MD, (Internal Medicine and Integrative Medicine) 
    1. Exhale through your mouth
    2. Inhale through your nose for a count of 4
    3. Hold your breath for a count of 7
    4. Let breath out through your mouth on a count of 8
    5. **Repeat twice daily**
  11. Eat Something-Quick!! – hunger can trigger anxiety due to low blood sugar
    1. Have walnuts or dark chocolate on hand along with water or hot tea
    2. Eat a diet of whole foods, leafy greens, some meats and seafood, and phytonutrients (antioxidant and anti-inflammatory) fruits, veggies, whole grains, tea, nuts, beans, spices, CBD oil
  12. Eat Breakfast – EVERYDAY!!
  13. Eat Omega 3’s – (Dr. Axe)
    1. Mackerel, salmon fish oil, cod liver oil, walnuts, chia seeds, herring, Natto (fermented soy), Alaskan Salmon, flax seeds, albacore tuna, sardines, anchovies, and egg yolks
    2. Or by supplement
  14. Get Hot – sauna, steam room, time in the sun, or Jacuzzi after work
  15. Stop Catastrophizing – “This is the worst thing that has ever happened”
    1. The the worst day ever, the worst co-worker ever, the worst family ever, dementia sucks!
    2. Take a few deep breaths, get away from the stressor (go to another room, take a quick walk outside if possible, even if it’s only out the doors and then back inside)
  16. Forest Bathing – walking in the woods for 20 minutes decreases stress hormone levels more than a walk in an urban area
  17. Mindfulness Meditation – pay attention to the present moment intentionally
    1. Stop, slow down, breathe, quiet your mind, step away from where you are feeling stress for 2 minutes
  18. Breathe and Question – Go to a comfortable place
    1. Close your eyes
    2. Focus on breathing
    3. How does that breath feel coming in and out of your body?
    4. Ask yourself questions:
      1. What am I grateful for?
      2. Where is my happy place?
      3. Who makes me happy?
  19. Give Yourself Credit
    1. Being aware of your emotional state is the 1st step in decreasing anxiety
    2. Give yourself credit for being aware you are having anxious thoughts

**I am not a medical professional and I am not here to diagnose, treat, prevent, or cure any disease or ailment. Be educated about your personal choices and make sure you do your own research as it relates to the use of any holistic therapy.**

Michelle Waddell, RN, BS, RNC-NIC, is an award-winning, neonatal nursing leader recognized nationally for subject matter expertise. She is sought-after as an educator and speaker on the topics of neonatal neurodevelopment, Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome, and leadership fundamentals. She has worked in the field of neonatal nursing since 1988.

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