As modern life seems to spiral further and further out of control, more and more people are turning to their doctors, asking for medication to help them beat stress and depression.
However, sleeping pills, anti-depressants and tranquillizers aren't the universal solution that many believe them to be. Their side-effects (such as nausea, insomnia, sexual dysfunction, weight gain and anxiety) can cause more problems than they solve.
Many side-effects last only a few weeks and then go away on their own, but side effects are still the most common reason why people stop taking antidepressants.
If you do experience side-effects to these, or any, drugs be sure to discuss them with your GP as some side-effects are serious. Your health professional may be able to adjust the dose to reduce the side-effects, but never stop taking the drug without medical supervision as this could cause health problems in itself. Your doctor can organize a schedule of gradual withdrawal.
As these drugs can quickly become addictive, it's important to only use them for a limited time. Although they can be helpful short-term, in a crisis, drugs do not solve your problem, only mask it on a temporary basis.
A better idea is to tackle the root causes of your stress and depression, addressing them without drugs.
Take some time to consider everything that is causing you stress Â? reflect on home, work, relationships, financial matters Â? whatever else you can think of.
List any issues, as precisely as you can. Is the stressor a particular person, is it because of time constraints, how frequently does the situation arise. How do you, and others, react? Run through the circumstances in your mind and make notes.
Now, be honest with yourself, and list all the actions you could possibly take to reduce each stress. If you cannot think of any action whatsoever, you have already learned something valuable that we'll consider in more detail below. If you have come up with one or more possible actions, which of these are you prepared to take? Define a precise, timed, plan of action to start doing everything you can do. Focus on how good you will feel on achieving each action.
What if you genuinely cannot think of any action you can take to reduce your stress? Or what if the only actions you thought of are impossible to contemplate? (And I do mean impossible, as in the sense of being illegal or immoral, rather than just challenging!)
If there is no possible action you can take to resolve a stressful situation it's time to consider accepting it, or looking for any positives in it. For example, a difficult partner may have redeeming features such that the relationship is still worth continuing.
To help you accept a stressful situation there are some very simple techniques to try. Look at it from a different perspective. How would someone else see the problem Â? someone who IS involved, and someone who has no connection whatsoever. Would they view it as seriously as you do?
Change the time perspective. How will this look to you tomorrow, or next week? Next year? In ten years time? Is it really worth the misery you are causing to yourself and others?
Many people's stress is cause by a poor self-image. They feel they are too fat, too thin, too stupid, too poor Â? the list is endless.
Looking at the steps above, can you change what it is that you dislike in yourself? For instance, by self-discipline, or by further training? If so, resolve to do it and set goals to work towards.
One important change you can, and should make immediately, is to stop reinforcing this message to yourself and others. Enlist the help of someone who cares about you. When you or this person hears any negative self-talk, be aware of it and stop it in its tracks.
Beyond that, in the unlikely event that you really cannot improve on nature, learn to accept your weaknesses Â? while looking for, and rejoicing in, your strengths. Perhaps you are a poor gardener, but a good cook? Minimise the gardening weaknesses and play to your strengths as a good cook.
Consider how a good friend sees you. You'll probably find that they remember the positives Â? such as the wonderful dinner party you gave, rather than the negative points you tend to dwell on Â? for instance the un-mown lawn.
And does it truly matter when the grass is mown Â? next week, next year? No, of course not.
The above technique for reducing stress by the power of your mind, rather than with drugs, is just the tip of the ice-berg. What is important is that a drug-free approach to reducing stress, such as the above, will be safer, and have less side-effects than medication. It may also be faster and longer-lasting.
About the author:Joy is a qualified nutritionist, specialising in migraine and stress. Subscribe, free, to her Anxiety Relief Naturally blog.
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