Natural Support for Anxiety and Sleep ChallengesAug 03, 2014 03:39AM ● By Lisa Singley
Stress and anxiety are a part of everyone’s life and these days it seems even more so. Our days are filled with so many activities and obligations that we rarely have time to relax and unwind. We are constantly doing something, going somewhere and often doing multiple things at the same time. The stress response is a normal reaction that helps us survive. However, when stress becomes chronic or the amount of stress is more than we feel we can handle, it can become overwhelming. This can lead to frustration, nervousness and anxiety.
Anxiety is a feeling of fear, unease and worry. The source of these symptoms is not always known. Anxiety affects people physically, mentally and emotionally; the way it manifests is different for individual people. Some people have an upset stomach, others have a stiff neck or back. Others feel shaky inside and cannot sleep.
Children are also highly affected by stress and anxiety. Although their stressors are different from adults, they are just as real and debilitating. Children often have not developed the skills to understand the impact of stress and to articulate their feelings of frustration and fears. Often these feelings will manifest as bullying other kids, being argumentative or defiant, or being more withdrawn, quiet and isolated.
Helping children naturally cope with stress and anxiety often requires working with their parents to review diet and sleep habits. It is hard to be healthy if there are unhealthy eating habits. If most of the diet consists of highly processed food, high in sugar and salt with minimal vegetables, fruits and healthy fat, you are not going to have a healthy, well-balanced child.
Eating regularly scheduled, balanced meals with protein, fiber and healthy fat will keep blood sugar stable, energy levels high and moodS more even. Addressing food allergies and removing additives, colorings and preservatives are also highly beneficial for everyone in the family.
Sleep is critically important for growing bodies. Turning off electronic devices and allowing everyone to relax and unwind at least an hour before bed time can help everyone fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer. Giving your child an Epsom salts bath can promote relaxation; adding lavender oil can also help. Some herbs that can improve sleep are passionflower, chamomile, lemon balm and skull cap. These can be prepared as a tea or taken as a glycerite.
Staying physically active, an important part of a healthy lifestyle, has many health benefits. Aside from maintaining a healthy weight and keeping muscles and bones strong, it also helps support cognitive skills, boosts self-esteem and improves sleep. Yoga has been shown to increase gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), which is a calming neurotransmitter. You can take GABA, or GABA precursors, or you can do yoga and let your body make more GABA by itself. Also, a variety of breathing exercises can quiet an over-active mind and help ease anxiety and manage stress.
Adaptogens are a group of herbal medicines that help the body handle stress. They do this by supporting the endocrine system, nervous system and immune system, allowing them to respond more appropriately to stress. Ashwagandha is one that can be very calming. Siberian Ginseng, which comes as a solid extract, can be combined with other herbs as needed to fit the individual needs of the child. Herbal glyercites are great for kids because they are liquid, have no alcohol and taste pleasant.
Theanine, another supplement useful for anxiety, is found in green tea. It eases anxiety, improves mood and promotes a more restful sleep. It can be taken as a capsule, and some companies manufacture chewable forms for children.
Another type of treatment is the castor oil pack. This treatment involves taking a piece of cloth and soaking it with castor oil. The cloth is placed on the body; the abdomen, in this case, is then covered with a sheet of plastic wrap (to protect clothes from absorbing the oil). A hot water bottle can be applied on top, if desired. This is great before bed because it is very soothing and can help with relaxation, digestion and sleep.
Lisa Singley, ND is Director of the Natural Health and Wellness Center located at 2103 Main St, Ste #2, Stratford. The center offers comprehensive natural solutions to prevent illness and maintain optimal health for body mind, and spirit. For more information, call 203-874-4333 or visit nhawc.com. See Community Resource Guide listing, page 72.