Story and images by CLAIRE HILLARD
Take a long run or sit still with a glass of tea and feel the weight of stress drift away.
In the United States, a majority of people with anxiety either neglect their troubles or use pharmaceuticals to dull their anxious feelings. People do not have to suffer through anxiety nor do they have to use medications with negative side effects.
For some, natural remedies may be the answer.
Dr. Uli Knorr is a naturopathic doctor who practices in Salt Lake City. He received an education from the National College of Naturopathic Medicine in Oregon.
Knorr said something that many people with anxiety may like to hear — that anxiety has little to do with an individual’s personality. Most commonly, stress is caused by some hormonal imbalance in the body.
To some extent, humans need stress. However, too much stress can be detrimental. If the body is experiencing constant stress, it continues to act in a fight-or-flight state. “People who are very stressed are surviving, but they’re also perceiving life as life during war time,” Knorr said. This is not a healthy state to remain in long-term.
The method of stress relief that Knorr recommends above others is exercise. The many health benefits of exercise are well documented. Additionally, while exercise releases stress, it is also a type of stress itself. Knorr says that because exercise is a type of stress, it can help the body adapt to other types of stress in the future.
Mia Gallardo has found a passion in aerial — a type of acrobatics done while hanging from fabric. For her, this combination of physical demand and artistic expression is a major relief for stress.
Gallardo is an avid believer in natural medicines. Throughout her personal journey, she has used a number of natural techniques to reduce her stress. Many of her favorite stress-relieving techniques perfectly exemplify the practices that the two professionals recommend.
Knorr’s advice to anyone who struggles with stress is to not ignore their feelings of anxiousness, to participate in some form of exercise, consider taking a complete B vitamin and vitamin C, and consider herbs that may help. And if none of those things help, book an appointment with a health-care professional.
Over a piping cup of local, Native American tea, Josh Williams shared some of his thoughts on stress and ways to address it. Williams is a clinical herbalist who received his education from East West — an herbal medicine program in Sarasota, Florida. He currently owns an herbal shop in Salt Lake City called Greenthread Herbs.
Williams believes that the key to reducing stress lies somewhere in self-care. Whatever that means to each individual, self-care is a good way to approach good health.
For Gallardo, self-care is a big part of her stress-relieving practices. To reduce stress she is known to meditate, bake, spend time with loved ones, or read “Harry Potter” books. Taking time just to do something that makes a person happy can be incredibly therapeutic.
For Williams, he sees taking herbal medicines as a form of self-care. For example, he shared his love for tea. “Tea taught me how to slow down,” he said. Simply being able to sit in peace can do wonders for a person’s mental state.
While herbal medicine is less commonly used in the United States, the practices are used worldwide and throughout history. There are many herbs that for centuries have been used to help people manage stress.
Interestingly enough, Knorr, Williams, and Gallardo all mentioned “ashwagandha” in their interviews. Knorr suggested it, Gallardo takes it every night, and Williams said it is his “spirit plant.” Ashwagandha is a plant that is known for its many medicinal benefits — especially for soothing anxiety.
Plants like ashwagandha will not take the pain away. Instead, they aid the body in overcoming the stress it is under. While many people want a quick fix to their anxiety, using natural products may be beneficial in the long run by helping someone improve their ability to handle stress.
Using herbs helps the body get better at responding to stress, as opposed to simply ignoring or medicating for it. When referring to common pharmaceuticals for anxiety, Williams said, “Instead of learning how to deal with these stresses and learn from them, we numb out.”
In the same way that lifting weights helps people gain muscle mass, individuals can train their body to overcome stress. By experiencing stress in a calm manner, the body begins to adjust and approach it differently. Over time, individuals can feel calmer in the face of stress and train the body to respond accordingly.
This means overcoming anxiety as opposed to relying on numbing medication.
Many people struggle with high levels of stress every day and use different methods of dealing — or not dealing — with it. Wanting to make a change and knowing your options are two steps in the right direction.
Whether it be exercising, drinking tea, or adding a touch of herbal medicine to your daily routine, there are ways to reduce stress. Finding what works best for you is part of the journey.