The term stress implies any condition that harms the body or the mind. The most common disorders associated with stress are heart disease, diabetes, headache, and peptic ulcer.
Causes and Symptoms
The body and the mind react to any stress factor. A large number of physical changes take place when a person is under stress. The brain and nervous system become intensely active; the pupils of the eye dilate; digestion slows down; muscles become tense; the heart starts pumping blood harder and faster; blood pressure increases; breathing becomes faster; hormones such as adrenaline are released into the system along with glucose from the liver; and sweating starts. All these changes take place in a split second under the direction of the nervous system. If the stress factors are removed immediately, no harm accrues and all the changes are reversed. Stress in its earlier and reversible stage leads to poor sleep, bad temper, continual grumbling, domestic conflict, repeated minor sickness, accident proneness, a feeling of frustration, and increase in alcoholic intake.
Stress may be caused by a variety of factors both outside the body and within. External factors include loud noises, blinding lights, extreme heat or cold, X-rays and other forms of radiation, drugs, chemicals, bacterial and various toxic substances, pain, and inadequate nutrition. The factors from within the body include hate, envy, fear, or jealousy.
Holy Basil: The leaves of holy basil have been found beneficial in the treatment of stress. They are regarded as an anti- stress agent. Recent studies have shown that the leaves protect against stress significantly. It has been suggested that even healthy persons should chew twelve leaves of basil twice a day, morning and evening, for preventing stress.
Sage: The herb sage is considered valuable in stress. A tea prepared from the leaves of this plant should be given in the treatment of this condition. This tea is prepared by pouring a cup of boiling water over one teaspoon of dried sage leaves. The water should be covered and infused for several minutes. It should then be strained and sweetened with honey, if desired. In the case of fresh leaves, a tablespoon of coarsely chopped sage leaves should be used and tea prepared in the same way.
Nutrients: Certain nutrients have proved beneficial in relieving stress. These are vitamins A and B; and minerals such as calcium, potassium, and magnesium which reduce the feeling of irritability and anxiety. Vitamin A is found in green and yellow vegetables. Some of the valuable sources of vitamin B are cashew nuts, green leafy vegetables, yeast, sprouts, and bananas. An element of vitamin B complex, pantothenic acid, is especially important in preventing stress. It has a deep effect on the adrenal glands and the immune system; an adequate amount of this vitamin, along with vitamin A, can help prevent many of the changes caused by stress.
Potassium deficiencies are associated with breathlessness, fatigue, insomnia, and low blood sugar. Potassium is essential for healthy heart muscles. Nuts and whole grains are good sources of this mineral. Calcium is a natural sedative. Deficiencies can cause fatigue, nervousness, and tension. Dairy products, eggs, almonds, and soya beans are rich sources of this mineral. Magnesium is known as nature’s tranquilliser and is associated with the prevention of heart attacks. It is found in many fruits, vegetables, seeds, dates, and prunes.
Other Foods: There are many foods which help in meeting the demands of stress and should be taken regularly by the patients
These include yoghurt, blackstrap molasses, seeds, and sprouts. Yoghurt is rich in vitamins A, D, and the B complex group. It relieves migraine, insomnia, and cramps associated with menstruation. Blackstrap molasses, a by-product of the sugar-refining process, is rich in iron and B vitamins. It guards against anaemia and is good for heart disease. Seeds such as alfalfa, sunflower, pumpkins, and sprouts are rich in calcium and quite effective as deterrents of listlessness and anxiety.
In dealing with stress, the lifestyle of the patient needs a complete overhaul. He should be placed on an optimum diet, and be encouraged to take regular exercise and adequate rest. If this is done, many diseases caused by stress can be eliminated. Diet plays an important role in the prevention and healing of stress- induced diseases. Certain foods associated with stress and anxiety should be scrupulously avoided. These foods are caffeine in coffee and many soft drinks, salt, sugar, cigarettes, and alcohol.
Regular physical exercise plays an important role in the fight against stress. It not only keeps the body physically and mentally fit, but also provides recreation and mental relaxation. Recreation and rest are also important. The patient should set a definite time for recreational activities, and should take a holiday at regular intervals. Above all, he should simplify his style of living to eliminate unnecessary stress.