I know that unrelenting stress is unhealthy. Stress hormones that drip continually into your system (instead of just occasionally, when they boost your heart rate and speed your breathing to help you deal with immediate emergencies) can suppress your immune system, disrupt your sleep, and trigger inflammation that plays into chronic diseases such as arthritis, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and gastrointestinal problems such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
Since I can't wish away my stress, I've decided to deal with it in a positive way. And since I made that decision, I've discovered that by simply admitting I'm really worriedand taking positive steps to lessen my fearsI feel better and more in control. Here's what I'm doing to help reduce the unhealthy effects of the current drama in my life.
Start with a long-term strategy
Rhodiola (Rhodiola rosea) is a Siberian herb that herbalists classify as an "adaptogen," meaning it helps your body normalize its response to stress. Other herbs that fit into this group include Asian and American ginseng, astragalus, licorice, cordyceps, and reishi, among others.
In a new UCLA study, 10 people diagnosed with general anxiety disorder (GAD) took rhodiola for 10 weeks. Five of them experienced at least a 50% reduction in symptoms, which included exaggerated worry and tension, headaches, fatigue, sweating, nausea, and hot flashes. Who knew you could worry yourself into hot flashes?
Alexander Bystritsky, MD, director of the Anxiety Disorder Program at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, cautioned me via email that his study wasn't conclusive because of its size and because rhodiola's effects weren't compared to a placebo. He hopes future studies will confirm his findings.