Coping With Stress: Stress and Natural Healing

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Coping With Stress: Stress and Natural Healing

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by Christopher Hobbs, LAc

Interweave Press, 201 East Fourth St., Loveland, Colorado 80537-5655 USA, phone 970-669-7672

Softbound, 225 pp., 1997, $16.95

Stress and stress-related disorders such as depression, anxiety, insomnia, and physical disorders have reached epidemic levels. Some people find relief in meditation and relaxation techniques. Many others use stimulants (nicotine, caffeine, sugar, and drugs) or sedatives (alcohol, sleeping pills, and pharmaceutical drugs). Christopher Hobbs, LAc has written a book that focuses on the physiological effects of these substances and on more healthful, natural alternatives: Stress & Natural Healing. Hobbs, a fourth-generation herbalist and botanist, founded Rainbow Light Herbal Extracts and practices acupuncture and phytotherapy in Santa Cruz, California. He draws on his knowledge of Chinese Medicine to suggest dietary, herbal, physical exercise, energy practices, and attitude shifts that support the nervous system and conserve vital energy.

Hobbs explains that stress comes from many sources. Physical stress, the overuse of one area of the body, is the simplest to remedy. Environmental stress from pollution and noise is a more complicated form of physical stress, affecting the psycho-emotional state as well as the physical body. Hobbs discusses two other stress-mongers that work at the psyche-emotional level and, thereby, affect physical health: job stress and childhood stress. In addition to the demands, frustrations, and responsibilities of any job, many people carry stress because they fear losing their source of income. Another unconscious or unacknowledged stress that people carry comes from deeply-felt and unresolved, negative childhood experiences. Add the challenge of dealing with life events -- birth, marriage, job and residence changes, personal and interpersonal conflicts, death -- and, depending upon one's personality, genetic factors, and coping skills, the stress load can become burdensome and lead to health problems. Attitude -- how one views such challenges -- greatly defines whether a stress is positive and growth-enhancing or negative and health-threatening.

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To cope and maintain their hectic and stressful pace, people often turn to stimulants, caffeine being the most popular. A September 1987, Consumer Report survey found that over 1,000 over-the-counter products, including bottled water, contain caffeine. Unfortunately, consistent use of stimulants exhausts the body's energy supply, resulting in a backlash of chronic irritability, insomnia, and fatigue. Instead of forcing oneself to maintain an unnatural energy level with coffee and chocolate, Hobbs suggests taking a 15-25 minute nap between 1-4 pm. Hobbs says that "[n]apping is a time-honored way of allowing the body the rest it needs during the day." Napping relieves stress, prevents illness, eases migraine and stomach distress, and boosts the performance and productivity of employees. Napping and getting adequate rest is only one of the many suggestions for coping with stress that Hobbs offers in his chapters on "Relieving Stress Naturally" and "A Complete Plan for Health." Using his knowledge of TCM, he gives diet and herbal suggestions for each constitution but, food and botanicals are just the beginning. Releasing physical tension through yoga, conscious deep breathing, and bodywork or massage are also recommended. Another aid involves modifying one's behavior to include positive coping skills (a sense of humor, good communication skills, honesty, and a friendly manner) instead of relying on coping mechanisms that add to one's stress burden (alcohol and drug abuse, overeating, and refusing to communicate). Doing inner work that resolves old hurts and conflicts is another important means of reducing stress. Finally, a spiritual practice that brings a sense of meaning to one's life and fosters a commitment to living life well helps people maintain health even in the face of tremendous stress.

In addition to these basic tools for managing stress, Hobbs includes a chapter on "Natural Healing of Selected Stress-Related Disorders" that offers natural therapies for painful digestion (dyspepsia, indigestion, irritable bowel syndrome); anxiety, nervousness, depression, insomnia, fatigue, illnesses, muscle cramps, high blood pressure, and addictions. Included in this section are procedures for quitting smoking, eliminating sugar, and a program for patients who, with the aid of their physicians, want to stop using pharmaceutical antidepressants.

"Protecting ourselves from stress requires first that we directly face the stress and examine it deeply," says Hobbs. Stress & Natural Healing helps the reader understand the nature of the beast and offers healthful suggestions for dealing with it.

Townsend Letter for Doctors & Patients.

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By Jule Klotter

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