I'm in a good place right now but there have been times of stress. We all have those times. And some days just seem to more stressful than others. Hopefully they are fleeting but for some it seems a permanent state. I don't like how stress feels in my body, my mind, and my spirit so I do what I can to embrace it, move with it or through it. Keys to managing stress are a good support system is it family or friend(s). Having just one person you can vent to who listens without judgment or trying to fix the problem really helps. Journaling, blogging, painting, gardening, cooking or some form of creative outlet helps. Taking time for oneself without feeling guilty is a big step. Just five minutes of deep breathing, walking in nature or locking yourself in the bathroom to quiet your mind can help. Remembering all that you have to be grateful for can change your outlook. Some days this is harder than others but the little things do count. And what do we do to support our physical bodies during this time?
Try to eat nourishing food, drink plenty of water, exercise and get a good night sleep. Sounds simple but it is much easier said than done some days. This is when I turn to my tea cabinet. Oat straw, valerian, chamomile and nettles, and lemon balm spring to mind. Ashwaghanda starts to become my night cap. Just the act of making the tea can be calming.
When I refer to tea it is in the traditional sense, the act of making an infusion of herb and water, not a tiny bag filled with black tea. Put the kettle on, bring the water to a simmer, pour over the herb and let steep for three to four minutes, strain and sip. Add a little honey or lemon if you like.
Oat straw (Avena sativa) - Most are familiar with the grains that we use as a cereal but the straw can also be used as a tea. Both are mildly antidepressant, gently raising energy levels and supporting an over stressed nervous system. They can be used to treat insomnia in those suffering from nervous exhaustion. A decoction (put herbs in a saucepan of water and simmer gently for 20 - 30 minutes then strain) of the herb can be added to the bath with the added benefit of soothing itchiness and eczema. (Chevallier, 1996, p. 175)
Valerian (Valeriana officinalis) – For most people valerian works as a relaxant but for a rare few it has an opposite effect. Valerian reduces mental over-activity and excitability for those times when you just can’t “switch off.” It is perfect for when that causes insomnia. It has a calming, rather than directly sedative, effect on the mind. It is used for many symptoms of anxiety, including tremors, panic, palpitations and sweating. (Chevallier, 1996, p. 148)
Chamomile (Chamomilla rectita) – I think of this herb first for helping with colic and children. It is used for a variety of digestive problems including Crohn’s disease and irritable bowel syndrome. It eases tense muscles and menstrual pain. It can relieve irritability and helps sleep, especially in children. (Chevallier, 1996, p. 80)
Nettle leaf (Urtica dioica) – This seems like an odd choice by most for stress. It is not relaxing, calming or any of the qualities you would think of as helping. I add this to the list because it is a tonic, nourishing the body. It is cleansing and detoxifying. It is high in potassium content and increases urine production and the elimination of waste products. (Chevallier, 1996, p. 146) It is nourishing as it is high in vitamins, minerals and protein. (Soule, 2013. p. 170)
Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis) – Lemon balm has long been revered for its ability to enhance memory and circulation to the brain. It also eases stress, anxiety, panic attacks, insomnia and general nervousness. It has been used in the treatment of ADD and ADHD. It works well for children and adults who easily become overwhelmed or who are considered highly sensitive. Fresh leaves with have more of a lemon taste than the dried. (Soule, 2013. p. 167)
Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) – This root has many medicinal values. One being that it is calming and strengthening to the nervous system without being over stimulating. It is great for anxiety, nervous exhaustion, impaired memory, insomnia, ADHD, stress-induced ulcers and chronic debilitation that are the result of physical and mental overwork. It calms the mind and promotes a deep, restful sleep. Unlike the herbs mentioned above this is not used as an infusion. Each night warm 1 tsp. root powder with 1 cup of milk (cow, goat, oat, nut or seed) sweetened with honey or molasses. It is a powdered root so it will have a little bit of texture but it is a wonderful bedtime ritual. Ashwagandha is rich in iron and can be used to treat iron-deficient anemia when taken this way. Avoid if you are sensitive to plants in the nightshade family, you have hemochromatosis (excess iron), or you have hyperthyroidism. It can enhance or increase the effect of barbiturates. (Soule, 2013. p. 146)
Chevallier, Andrew. Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine: The Definitive Reference to 550 Herbs and Remedies for Common Ailments.
A Dorling Kindersley Book, 1996.
Soule, Deb. How to Move Like a Gardener.
Rockport, Maine: Under