How often do you hear those around you using the word: stress?
“The kids are going back to school, I’m so stressed OUT ”
“ My boss is a bully, but I’m too afraid to say anything”
“I can’t go to work. I’m stressed.”
“I’ve got a stress headache.”
“I’m not getting on with my partner, I’m so upset”
These are statements you hear all the time You’ve probably even said one or two of them yourself. But what do people actually mean when they use this word, stress? Does everyone mean the same thing? Stress is a word that is so OVERUSED, that we have almost accepted it as a daily part of our busy full lives.
In natural medicine, we are always interested to understand what another person is actually experiencing when feeling stressed. . Of course, we can only understand by interpreting what we observe from their behavior, in addition to listening to them explain what their inner experience is using their own words.
When we do that, we find that each individual has quite a different interpretation of the word stress. For some it’s a feeling of anxiety, a kind of nervousness. For other’s, it’s primarily a kind of agitation. For yet others it’s a feeling of not being able to cope. For others, the stress is just produced physically/ shaking hands/ trembling/ sweating palms. In fact, there is a wide range of emotions and feelings associated with this word “stress”.
In most circumstances we feel stressed when dealing with extra pressure or change. However, clearly everyone will experience similar situations differently, some feeling utterly unphased. Even those who are experiencing a situation as stressful will have different thoughts and different sensations from each other.
As always, the natural medicine approach recognizes this individuation and therefore there is no single remedy for stress, or even small handful of remedies for stress. The most appropriate remedy will be the one which best matches the individual’s experience and characteristics. All stress is unique, and each person is unique, this is what makes our job as natural medicine practitioners so rewarding.
There are a number of ways to consider the specifics of stress. For example, we can consider the pattern of the person’s symptoms in a common stress inducing situation, such as anticipatory anxiety. A common situation in which to feel stressed is in the build up to a challenging task or event, such as an examination or a performance. Two of the most commonly indicated medicines here are Argentum Nitricum/ silver and Gelsemium/ jasmine.
Both of these medicines can be useful in reducing the effects of stress in situations where some kind of performance is expected. These remedies are helpful when prescribed for clients who had previously failed a driving test because of “nerves”.
What about the fact that many performers say they need stress in order to perform well? It’s true that most great performers not only feel very stressed as they are about to step on the stage, the track or the pitch, but they claim it benefits them; it gets the adrenaline flowing and without that their performance doesn’t go so well. This is a good example of how stress is a complex phenomenon. We often feel that disturbing or uncomfortable symptoms are just bad things and if we could have a life free of stress, then that would be a better life. If we listen to what the top performers say, then we’ll realize that such a view is simplistic. Stress has the essential value in preparing us to meet challenges and in strengthening our abilities to cope with them. Medication which removed stress might seem like an easy option , but if it impaired our ability to cope and to perform, it wouldn’t be doing us any favors. Sedative drugs like valium have this drawback. Not only do they cause drowsiness which makes it impossible to think or act clearly but they are highly addictive and people can find that once they’ve started them, it’s very hard to stop. Very hard to chill or calm down without the medication.
Natural medicines have a huge advantage over sedatives here. A remedy does not act in a chemical way, suppressing anything within the body. Rather it stimulates the natural mechanisms of healing, repair and resilience. In other words, the intention of taking a natural medicine is to improve the efficiency of your body and your mind. The remedy, therefore, reduces the distressing symptoms of stress only by enhancing your ability to cope with it.
The problem with stress is if left unchecked it becomes overwhelming. An amount of stress is good for us. It might stimulate us and tone us up to perform at our best, but when it becomes too much then it makes it hard for us to function at all. Instead of being motivated, we become paralyzed.
This same principle applies in many phobias. Think of someone who is unable to get on a bus, or who is so afraid of crowds that they can’t go into town to shops or restaurants. Whilst phobias are a more extreme form of stress, they do show how a situation which one person finds overwhelmingly stressful can be problem free for another. We are all so different. We are all unique.
The action of the of Argentum nitricum is predominantly focused on the lower bowel and the limbs. This is a common state. The bowel becomes noisy with loud gurgling and this overactivity manifests as diarrhea. The anxious, stressed exam candidate who has to keep dashing to the loo is a typical example. But it’s not just the bowels which become overactive. The limbs becomes tremulous /developing both a fine tremor of the hands and shaky legs. You can imagine how difficult this is if you are a musician about to perform in a major concert! They feel flushed and overheated, crave something sweet or sugary, which can then easily make them feel sick.
This is the classic stage fright remedy. There’s a theme of paralysis running through all its main features. It’s the pattern where the main focus is not so much the bowel but more the head and the limbs. The legs feel heavy and shaky, and there’s a foggy, dull feeling in the head. It can feel quite like certain kinds of flu. When about to get up on stage they find their legs just won’t take them, or they get onto stage and find that their voice has disappeared and they’re unable to talk or sing. Most professional performers who have these symptoms find that once they actually get going, once they begin to act or sing, then the symptoms disappear and they actually perform very well. In fact, that’s also the case with Argentum nitricum, where if they can get beyond the stressful symptoms, many of these people can deliver excellent performances..
The patient who responds well to Arsenicum album, for example, is usually quite an anxious, nervous type of person, someone who is very fastidious and likes everything in order. In fact, these are people who always arrive in plenty of time for an appointment because they absolutely cannot stand to be late. Time is a major stressor for the person in need of Arsenicum. Can never be late/ ever ever EVER.
In these economically troubled times Bryonia is an increasingly indicated remedy for stress. The main focus for the Bryonia patient is stress about their business or about money. These are people who are hard workers and whose work provides them with the money they need to live their lives. It’s not that they are necessarily ambitious or competitive. It’s more that they have a deep insecurity about not having enough money, a real fear of poverty. When such a person faces uncertainty at work, then their stress levels can go through the roof. The stress manifests itself most typically as physical pain or stiffness.
This is another common work focused remedy. People who need this remedy are good steady workers but they get especially concerned about being observed or stressed by being hurried towards a deadline of some sort. You can imagine that in difficult economic times, and as we are becoming more and more technological as employees come under increasing pressure to do more in less time, that the Calcarea carbonica patient will become very stressed. Another common feature of employment these days is appraisal. More and more, employees are being subjected to demands to demonstrate their work skills and performance. If you are a typical Calcarea carbonica type, then you’ll find the annual appraisal round an especially stressful event.
Other patterns are revealed by the kind of issues to which a person is sensitive. Unfairness, or injustice, is one such common issue. The Staphysagria patient, for example, will probably have experienced something which they feel has been unjust or unfair. “It’s just not fair!” is a common remark they’ll make. This is common in either school or at work where someone is being bullied. A remedy, of course, will not change a bully’s behavior, but if it enables the bullied person to feel stronger and less vulnerable, then they often find that they cease to be the target of the bully.
These natural medicines and more, are there to help us all to deal with our daily lives more effectively. If you are dealing with any of these major stressors, and just need an extra bit of help, let natural medicine be your first choice. The natural world has many ways to help us, on a day to day basis.
Good luck to all our clients with kids going back to school… deep breaths… you’vegot this