Info Provider: Mental Help
Excessive stress can cause a number of health threats:
by: Harry Mills, Ph.D., Natalie Reiss, Ph.D. and Mark Dombeck, Ph.D.
Because stress manifests as a function of the body and brain, both of which are essentially chemically driven systems, a wide variety of medications can be used to aid in the process of stress relief and prevention. There is no one specific family of medicines that is used to decrease stress. Instead, physicians may prescribe a range of medications to address specific stress-related symptoms. For instance, sedatives (also referred to as tranquilizers, hypnotics, and/or anxiolytics), antidepressants, and beta-blockers have all been used to help people cope with stress.
A note of caution is appropriate with regard to using medicines for stress relief. Many of the medications that are useful for stress relief are also addictive. Serious behavioral and health problems are possible and even likely to occur as a result of using such substances unless care is exercised. All of the medicines described below (addictive or not) have the potential for side effects and health risks and should only be used as prescribed by a responsible and licensed physician.
Sedative (CNS depressant) medications
Sedative medications depress (slow down or inhibit) the activity of the central nervous system (CNS: comprising the brain and spinal cord), causing a sense of relaxation, reduced anxiety and tension, sleepiness, and slowed breathing. In higher doses, these medications can cause slurred speech, an impaired ability to walk around, poor judgment, and slowed reflexes. It is possible to overdose on such medications, with potentially lethal effects (although some types of sedatives achieve lethal doses more easily than others).
One of the most commonly prescribed group of sedatives is the Benzodiazepines which include alprazolam (Xanax), clonazepam (Klonopin), diazepam (Valium), lorazepam (Ativan), triazolam (Halcion), temazepam (Restoril), and chlordiazepoxide (Librium). As CNS depressant drugs go, benzodiazepines are relatively safe substances with a relatively low lethality potential. An older class of CNS depressant drugs, the barbiturates, are less safe to use (as a rule) than are benzodiazepines. As a result, barbiturates are less commonly prescribed today. Alcohol (the active ingredient in liquor, beer and wine) is also a sedative.
Benzodiazepines, barbiturates and alcohol produce their calming effects by activating (or 'agonizing') a naturally occurring neurotransmitter substance commonly found in the brain called GABA. GABA is an inhibitory neurotransmitter whose function is to slow down brain activity. By activating GABA, benzodiazepines, barbiturates and alcohol all function to inhibit brain activity and thus slow and calm down the body.
Other commonly prescribed drugs with sedating effects include antihistamines (medications typically used to decrease allergic reactions such as Atarax or Vistaril), and sleeping medications (e.g., glutethimide (Doriden), methyprylon (Noludar), and ethchlorvynol (Placidyl). Most sedative medications have the potential to cause physiological and psychological dependence (addiction) when taken regularly. Users of such substances who become dependent may experience withdrawal symptoms, including potentially severe restlessness and insomnia and even death if they do not continue to take their medication. Combining multiple sedatives (or taking sedatives together with alcohol) can lead to coma or death.
BuSpar is an anti-anxiety medication that is not chemically related to the benzodiazepines, barbiturates, or other sedative/anxiolytic drugs. BuSpar is used to treat the physical symptoms of anxiety, such as bodily tension, dizziness, racing heartbeat, etc. This medication is typically prescribed as a short-term remedy for anxiety (i.e., patients use it for no more than 4 weeks at a time). Therefore, it is not a good option as a long-term stress reducing strategy.
BuSpar does not exert anti-convulsant (anti-seizure) or muscle relaxant effects, and is non-sedating. Although it's not entirely clear how this drug works, some research suggests that BuSpar affects Serotonin and Dopamine (other chemical messengers in the brain and nervous system that impact mood) receptors. BuSpar is not addictive, and people do not develop a tolerance (i.e, require increasing amounts of the medication to achieve the same effects) to this medication.
The main disadvantage of BuSpar is that it takes about 1 to 3 weeks before people experience relief of their anxiety symptoms. Also, many people report that BuSpar does not work as well as benzodiazepines for controlling their symptoms.
Serious, life-threatening side effects can occur if people take BuSpar within 14 days after using an MAO inhibitor (e.g., phenelzine (Nardil), rasagiline (Azilect), selegiline (Eldepryl, Emsam), or tranylcypromine (Parnate), which is an older medication that is sometimes prescribed to treat depressive symptoms. Grapefruit and grapefruit juice may also interact with BuSpar and lead to potentially dangerous side effects.
Antidepressant medications derive their family name from their function. They are used primarily to treat Major Depression and related conditions. However, these medications also have anti-anxiety properties, and in many cases, can also be used to treat symptoms of stress. These days, a particular family of antidepressants known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), which includes Paxil, Prozac and Lexapro, are the most commonly prescribed antidepressant medications for this anti-anxiety, anti-stress purpose.
The SSRI medicines are named for their work at the neuronal level of the brain. Neurons (the primary cells comprising the brain and spinal cord) talk with one another through the use of chemical messagers known as neurotransmitters. One of these neurotransmitters, Serotonin, is thought to play an important role in creating susceptibility to depression and anxiety conditions.
During the process of neuronal communication, a sending neuron releases a neurotransmitter chemical into a space between neurons known as the synapse, where it makes contact with a receiving neuron and stimulates that neuron into action. Having completed its communication job, the Serotonin gets sucked back up by the sending neuron in a process called reuptake. When reuptake happens too quickly or efficiently (as seems to be the case in depression and anxiety), the net effect is that not enough Serotonin is present to properly do it's job, and mood regulation problems can result. SSRIs and similar drugs slow down the process of reuptake so that Serotonin stays in the synapse longer. Increased Serotonin levels can, in part, improve a person's mood and decrease anxious feelings.
SSRI medications are not addictive in the classical sense, but there are negative side effects associated with their use, such as nausea, dizziness, dry mouth, sleep disturbances and a wide range of sexual arousal and climax problems. For more information about SSRI medications, please consult this article in our Major Depression topic center.
Beta blockers are medications that are typically used to control high blood pressure and treat certain heart problems. For some people, these medications can decrease stress symptoms. Beta-blockers such as Inderal (propranolol) and Tenormin (atenolol) block the action of the neurotransmitter and hormone norepinepherine in the arteries and the heart muscle, causing arteries to widen, slowing the action of the heart, and decreasing the force of contraction. The most common negative side effects of beta-blockers are cold hands and feet, tiredness and sleep disturbance (i.e., nightmares). Less common side effects of beta blocker use include impotence, dizziness, wheezing, digestive tract problems, skin rashes and dry eyes.
Various nutritional supplements, including Kava, Passion flower, Valerian, 5-HTP; and the herbs Skullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora), Chamomile (Anthemis nobilis), Hops (Humulus Lupulus), Motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca), and Oats (oat straw) (Avena sativa) are in common use as stress and anxiety remedies.
Though most of these substances occur naturally (e.g., are harvested from plants rather than created in a laboratory) this does not mean that these substances are harmless! In certain doses and certain combinations, such supplements can exacerbate medical conditions and/or interfere with the effectiveness of prescription medications. It is always advisable to consult with a physician trained in complementary and alternative medicine before using any of these herbal or nutritional substances in order to find how how these various substances work, as well as their potential side effects.
Info Provider: PPT & Fitness
Coping with Stress
It seems that stress is becoming a bigger part of everyone’s lives lately. Whether it be driving the kids, cleaning the house, working harder, or sleeping less, is it any wonder that we all feel as if we are aging faster than ever.
There are many strategies for coping and alleviating stress. Here are a few that are in no particular order are: medication, meditation, counseling, overeating, denial, caffeine and sugar. Each provides various levels of stress relief. But the most effective, safest, and possibly easiest method is EXERCISE! Now, there are many ways to use exercise as a stress reliever. I will assume that do not always have access to fancy equipment, so I will give you some common situations in which you can incorporate a little exercise that will make you feel better!
Situation #1: ‘Are you kidding? I am driving kids all day!’
Solution: Ok, this is easy. First of all, angle your rear view mirror up by about ½ inch. This will make you sit taller, and with better posture. You are already breathing better. Now, squeeze your shoulder blades together and hold it there for a period of time. (Perhaps it is the distance between 2 telephone poles, or the time that your kids are talking out loud). Now, only when you are fully stopped, turn your head to the left and right as far as possible. Then bring your right ear to your right shoulder, followed by you bringing your left ear to your left shoulder. Now shrug your shoulder up fully and slowly, and down fully and slowly. (You get additional stress relief knowing that you are embarrassing your kids.)
Situation #2: ‘Hey, if I have any time, I am going to clean the house, not exercise’
Solution: Another easy one. No one said that you need to do all your exercises at one time to get stress relief. Do 1 set of exercise before, during, or at the completion of a cleaning task. For example, dust the living room, then do some sit ups. Load the dishwasher, do some push ups. Put the broom across your shoulders and side bend to each side to stretch out your torso. Finished cleaning the bathroom? Stand with your back against the wall, slide down halfway by bending your knees, and hold it for 10 seconds. Feeling really stressed? Hold it for 30 seconds!
Situation #3: ‘Hey, I work at a desk in front of a computer all day’16px
Solution: Set a timer to go off every 30 minutes. When it goes off, you get up. No exceptions, unless you are on the phone with your boss, although you should already be standing in this situation. Now, walk over to the doorway, put each arm along the frame, and slowly stretch your chest and shoulders as you lean through the thresh hold. Hold for 10 seconds. Next, go put your back against the wall, raise both arms up over your head, trying to reach the wall with your arms. Push your hands overhead into the wall and engage those muscles between the shoulder blades that have been under tension while on the computer. So, as you can see, even sneaking in a little bit of exercise into your hectic, fast-paced life is doable for almost everyone, and can go a long way to make you feel better and look better!
We hope you found this information useful!
Info Provider: Psychology Today
"Stimulate your parasympathetic nervous system because this relaxes the mind and the body. There are several ways to do this, such as breathing from your diaphragm. My favorite method is to lightly run one or two fingers over my lips. Parasympathetic fibers are spread throughout the lips, so touching them stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system. It's remarkable how this simple gesture produces an immediate sense of calm in the mind and the body." - Toni Bernhard, J.D.
"I go outside. There's something about natural light that's tremendously soothing to me. Any weather will do, except maybe pouring rain. But sun, clouds, snow...all good. I try to be mindful of my surroundings, noticing the trees against the sky, grackle on a lawn, the patterns of clouds. It just takes the edge of." - Sophia Dembling, Psychology Today Blogger.
"First take a deep breath, or two. Remember, even if you can't control the event causing the stress, you do have some control over your response to it. As an old Yiddish saying goes, "You can't control the wind; but you can adjust your sails." - Mindy Greenstein, Ph.D.
"One of the most effective tools that I prescribe in alleviating stress and anxiety is progressive muscle relaxation (PMR). PMR works exceptionally well in combating the somatic symptoms associated with chronic worry and many physiological symptoms (such as gastrointestinal problems) that are endemic to social anxiety. Also very portable." - L. Kevin Chapman, Ph.D.Interpersonal
"My most effective stress relief comes from speaking with friends, but only the ones I know have my best interests at heart. They are great listeners, supportive, and almost always come up with strategies to cope with the stressor or, at the least, put it in perspective for me. If nothing else, they point me in a better, less stressful direction." - Susan Newman, Ph.D.
"Don't rush into problem-solving mode. Whenever you feel the need to go faster, think of that as signal to slow down." - Barbara Markway, Ph.D.
"Learn to sit quietly, and listen to yourself. Listening to yourself helps you to get to know yourself. Knowing yourself is the first step to managing yourself, and your stress" - Lynne Soraya, Psychology Today Blogger.
"When you are exhausted you may have a tendency to push yourself harder when you need to recognize that tendency and do opposite action." - Nancy Rappaport, M.D.
"When you become aware that your stress level is high, immediately slow down whatever you're doing by about 25%. Whether thinking, surfing the Internet, cleaning the house, doing errands—change your pace so that you're now moving in slow motion. You'll feel the stress slide right off your body and out of your mind." - Toni Bernhard, J.D.
"Get regular exercise, and vary your exercise routine to prevent boredom." - Stephanie Sarkis, Ph.D.
"Music is a great tool for stress relief. Pop in your headphones and listen to something that will transport you somewhere else. And if you can, learn to play a musical instrument and use that as part of your own personal therapy program." - Art Markman, Ph.D. Cognitive
"My best tip for dealing with stress is first to decide if I am the source of the stress or if the stress is caused by an external situation. If the latter, I try to speak up about the help I need or set a boundary by being assertive (described here). If I am the source of the stress through creating hurtful imaginary dramas, for example, I try to make my self-talk more compassionate in a process I describe here: I find that the more I can surround my negative thoughts with compassion, the easier it is to dissolve them and move on." - Meg Selig, Ph.D.
Source:http://www.flickr.com/photos/pinksherbet/2907565020/ photopin CC
"You may not be able to change the situation that caused your stress, but you can change your reactions. Looking for the silver lining, seeing humor in your predicament, or regarding the situation as a test of your faith are all ways that you can manage your emotions and get through even the most stressful hassle." - Susan Krauss Whitbourne, Ph.D.
"Remind yourself that you’re doing what you can right now given the circumstances and your resources. Practice flexibility so that you can take advantage of opportunities for change." - Fran Vertue, Ph.D.
"There is only the present moment. If you fill your cup with past regret and future anxiety, there is no room for anything else; you only end up robbing yourself of the joy found in every breath with which you are blessed. Empty your cup—if you are safe in the present moment nothing can hurt you unless you allow it." - Michael J. Formica, MS, MA, EdM.
"When experiencing day-to-day stress I find it helpful to focus my attention on my immediate surroundings. For example, I may focus on the particular colors and shapes of objects in my environment. Doing this can help shift attention away from "hot" thoughts to "cool" (emotionally neutral) thoughts, to induce a calmer mental state." - Scott McGreal, MSc.
"A great way to get stress relief is to learn to recognize when you're in rumination mode. Ruminating while in a low mood impairs problem solving. People often believe that overthinking will lead to problem solving insights. It generally doesn't. If it's hard to stop overthinking, use some of the previously suggested tips for reducing your physiological stress relief or shifting your attention." - Alice Boyes, Ph.D.
For easy following, I have made a Twitter list of all the stress relief experts who contributed to this article.
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