There Is No Such Thing As Stress
by Mark J Kaylor
That’s right; “There is no such thing as stress.” Now before you decide to line your litter box with this article, please bear with me for a little while. But let’s first clear up your concerns. Am I some New Age guru denying that there is stress? No. Am I so stoned all the time that I just don’t ever feel stressed? No. Am I just saying this to grab your attention? Errrrrr, yes and no. But I do mean it.
So what is it that I mean when I say “there is no such thing as stress.” I am suggesting to you that there is no “thing”.
The emphasis is on thing, not stress. Stress is not something that exists on its own, outside of you. The stress that we experience (and yes I do experience stress) is not a result of some external force or “thing” but is part and parcel of who each of us is, and is totally dependent upon our reaction, how we chose to react to any given situation. Hans Selye, the discover or inventor of stress put it much more succinctly and precisely when he wrote “there is no such thing as stressful situations, only stressful reactions.”
The Cure for a Stressed Out Life
We need to be very clear on this as we explore the path to stress free. What is being suggested here is by no means about blame, denial, or trivializing yours or anyone else’s feelings related to stress. In fact this path is one of accepting responsibility for our own emotional state and well-being. It is an empowering process rather than one of disenfranchisement for if you are fully responsible for your stress, then you have the ability, the power, to change how you react to these situations or conditions.
We usually accept stress as a given, an inherent element in the moment, but this process places the power and the healing outside of ourselves, which could not be further from the truth. While it undoubtedly may not feel this way when we are in the midst of feeling stressed or anxious, the simple fact is that when it comes to the imbalance we know as stress, we have the power. Please remember, and this cannot be emphasized enough, it is our response to the event that is rousing the disturbance; it is not, the event itself.
This being the case it is without a doubt, and by a large margin, that the most effective, thorough and healthiest “cure” for stress is learning to manage and control our reactions. This is truly the only way to get at the root or primary cause. Admittedly this may be easier said than done, but it might also surprise you at times at how readily available this stress remedy orientation is. It is only through this reframing of the moment that we can truly prevent the stress and strain, otherwise we will forever be merely managing the stress rather than remedying it. (Please see “Path to Managing Stress” below for some lifestyle stress medicines)
Mother Nature’s Stress Relievers
Stress is a huge, complicated, layered and multi-faceted topic and one that in order to be fully discussed and treated, needs at least one big thick book written on it. So for the sake of this article I want to focus on a handful of herbs that can support you as you work on re-orienting your relationship to stress; that help decrease the biological (and possibly other) sorts of damage it causes, and build and balance aspects of your body to make you stronger, healthier and more resilient.
So while preparing this article I originally planned on listing the signs of excessive stress and the resulting adrenal burnout. Then, I realized, we are all, already, probably way too familiar with how it feels to be stressed out. So this list seemed unnecessary when what we all are really looking for is stress relief. Also considered for inclusion was a description of the biology of stress – how it actually affects so many parts of our body. But when it comes down to it, do we really care what hormones are doing what in our body when we are in the middle of yet another stressful day. So again this idea seemed superfluous when we are seeking practical and impacting remedies. What I will say, with regards to the biology of stress, is that it impacts directly or indirectly every system, organ, and cell in your body. Now here comes some relief from Mother Nature’s herbal allies.
Mother Nature’s Amazing & Wondrous Stress Fighters
While the word “stress” may be of recent invention (thank you Hans Selye), the emotions and physiological responses of stressful times and events is nothing new. I imagine that there must’ve been fairly high levels of concern and stress as early man walked through the forest while trying to avoid being someone else’s dinner. Because of this we can be thankful for a wide array of herbal stress relievers that are available to us today, including Panax ginseng, Holy basil, Ashwagandha, Green tea, Schizandra, and Gotu kola, to name but a few. In honor of making it an easier, and less stressful choice, here are two favored healing partners to assist in the mêlée known as stress.
Eleuthero, previously known as Siberian Ginseng; this “medicinal” cousin of Panax ginseng is the ultimate stress tonic. As an adrenal aid it reduces the activity of the adrenal cortex in response to stress and inhibits the alarm phase of the fight or flight reaction. Studies demonstrate how it can help the body withstand higher levels of stress both mentally and physically. Eleuthero can increase vital energy, improve sleep quality, and benefit mental alertness, work output and work quality. Systemically it undoes the damage cause by stress while supporting the central nervous and endocrine systems. If stress is your concern then Eleuthero should be at the top of your list.
Reishi, a medicinal mushroom that I refer to as the “tonic for the 21st century”. This remedy builds cumulatively with long-term use fostering a sense of peacefulness, well-being, while strengthening nerves that can become frazzled by chronic stress and our 21st-century lifestyle. Reishi is said to impart greater willpower, certainly a useful tool as stress cries out for another candy bar or bag of chips; and increase wisdom, useful in all situations. Fundamentally it helps us to adapt to life’s changes and ebbs and flows. First and foremost Reishi is about balance, on any level, mind, body, or spirit.
There are a few herbs that offer more specific uses with stress. Motherwort is a member of the mint family and while it works for both men and women it is best suited for the female gender. If you are feeling imbalanced by external stressors, anxious, restless, over excitable and having problems sleeping then you might want to consider this herb. It is also one of the best natural remedies for heart palpitations associated with anxiety. Cordyceps is a wonderful medicinal mushroom for strengthening and rebuilding not only the adrenals but also the whole endocrine system. It can also help maintain energy levels and overall wellness while confronted with chronic stress. Next up is Wild Oats or Oat grass as it is also known. A healing tea of this makes a nourishing tonic for a depleted and rundown central nervous system. It is particularly useful for those feeling overworked, agitated, and frayed around the edges. Lastly, instead of reaching for that beer or scotch at the end of the day to relax and unwind, trying making tea with some or all of these herbs: Chamomile, Lemon balm, Passionflower, Skullcap, and/or Wood betony.
“…Stress is the Common Cold of the Psyche.” (Andrew Denton)
I realize that I started this article a bit flippant and too light-hearted for this topic. I do not, by any means, want to suggest that stress is something to be taken lightly – although, a sense of humor is a powerful stress killer. Stress is a leading cause of doctor visits, disease and emotional disturbances. We all know either from personal experience or from someone close to us, how damaging stress can become if not dealt with.
Stress can easily and often become overwhelming in ones life. Stress needs to be taken seriously. Far too often we just accept the reality of all the stress in our lives as “just the way things are”. So be proactive, work on your perspective and attitude in the areas you are stressed, make the changes if you can, get help and support, laugh, breathe deeply and smile. And don’t forget to take your adaptogens!
Mark J. Kaylor has been exploring holistic health and healing for close to four decades. He is the founder and director of the not-for-profit Radiant Health Project. Mark welcomes you comments and questions and can be contacted at his website: www.RadiantHealthProject.com or on facebook at www.facebook.com/RadiantHealthProject
Disclaimer: All information and results stated here is for educational and entertainment purposes only. The information mentioned here is not specific medical advice for any individual and is not intended to be used for self-diagnosis or treatment. This content should not substitute medical advice from a health professional. Always consult your health practitioner regarding any health or medical conditions.