Saturday, July 16, 2005

Age of Stress - Preface by Dr Kamath

Life is infinitely more stressful today than it was just a decade ago. Every passing year life’s demands are becoming more complex and harder to meet. And it is bound to get worse in the fast-paced twenty first century. Your choices are few: Learn all you can about stress and turn it to your advantage. Or, ignore it and pay a heavy penalty with your emotional, physical and financial health in an era of soaring health care costs.
However, it is not that easy to learn anything new about stress these days. Year after year we have heard from a variety of sources - newspapers, weekly magazines, television shows and how-to-cope books- all kinds of nonsense about stress management. And now the public does not know what to believe any more. The moment we hear or read the word “stress”, words such as exercise, relaxation, meditation, hata-yoga, jogging, walking, hot-tub baths, fishing, massage, deep breathing and the like pop up in the mind. The erroneous belief that these essentially useless activities somehow help us deal with everyday life stress is so ingrained that it is almost impossible to convince most people, including medical professionals, otherwise. Every year more and more so-called experts are adding even more bizarre remedies: Eat a carrot a day; raise dogs; ride bicycle daily; sniff your spouse’s armpit, and the like.
The word “stress” has become quite common in our daily vocabulary. People often glibly use the word in phrases such as, “I feel so stressed-out!” If someone asked them, “what exactly do you mean by stress?” their response probably would be one of complete bafflement: “Oh! Let me think. Um! Uh.... Ah… Stress means.... Ah ... It means ..... Gee! I don’t know! What the heck is it anyway?”
Essential to coping with stress is to understand how the mind works, and that the mind and the body are a highly integrated single unit. This could be made much easier by developing a simple model of the mind. To explain functions of various body organs doctors often compare them to certain commonly used objects: the heart to a four- chambered pump; the kidney to a highly selective filter; the lung to gas exchanging sponge, and the like. What model could we possibly use to explain brain's essential function we call the mind? Extremely complicated as it might seem to us at first blush, the mind and its function could still be easily explained by using some familiar objects that we use everyday. In this booklet I have built, step by step, a simple model of the mind to explain the phenomenon of stress. Where applicable, I have given brief anecdotes to illustrate the point I have tried to make.
All the information given in this book is based on my personal observations of over thirty thousand patients during my thirty-four years in the field of psychiatry. All opinions herein are mine alone. I have not based this guide on any “studies” or “investigations” or “papers.” Commonsense, not convoluted theories, is the basis of this little guide. Welcome to the fascinating world of stress!

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    You do not have to own a garden to tap into the benefits of plants, roots and herbs. A few herb pots located by a sunny window are enough to get you started. Then, all you need are some essential oils and you are ready to go.

    For therapeutic purposes, only the purest oils will do. It is possible to be fooled into thinking that you are purchasing a pure oil. Often, a lesser quality blend of several oils is used to mimic the properties of the pure oil. Blended oils are acceptable for fragrance purposes such as for perfuming a room, but pure oils are a "must" for medicinal purposes.

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    Usually, pure essential oils cannot be applied directly to the skin and must be mixed in a base oil to reduce their strength. Base oils such as almond oil or wheatgerm oil are commonly used for this purpose. Base oils are generally derived from seeds, nuts or vegetables and allow you to create essential oil remedies that can be massaged into the skin.

    So, what do you need to get started with essential oils and natural remedies?

    Without a doubt, Lavender is one of the most useful and desirable oils. Not only does it work wonders on cuts, bruises and burns, it also aids sleep and helps with relaxation.

    The Tea Tree and Eucalyptus oils are useful for treating a variety of respiratory ailments. These are excellent for the treatment of colds and coughs. They can be massaged into the chest or burned in an oil burner to help clear the airways and prevent congestion. Tea Tree oil is a natural antiseptic and can be dabbed on cuts, bites and stings. It is often used to treat spots and pimples and when diluted with water, acts as a mouth gargle (keep in-mind it should never be swallowed).

    Another basic antiseptic is Geranium oil. With its distinctive perfume and pain relieving properties, it is a necessary inclusion when starting out.

    Peppermint oil should also be purchased as it treats digestive complaints and may be used in preparations for freshening breath.

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    The herbs, Thyme and Rosemary can be grown in pots and used when needed. To create essential oils from herbs, stew some large amounts in pure water, collect the steam and cool it. The oil will rise to the top of the drained water and can be collected with an eyedropper. Alternatively, a "flower still" can be purchased to make the job easier. Thyme and Rosemary are both antiseptics and can be used in skin care preparations. They are also delicious when used in cooking.

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    Citronella oil is perfect in summer to keep the insects at bay. Another natural repellent is Garlic. Fleas will not bite a dog that has been eating garlic, so a few garlic capsules in the dog food are a cheap solution to your pet's flea problem. A soft collar soaked in Citronella will also do the job.

    Garlic also helps to promote a healthy immune system when the weather turns cold and viruses begin to circulate. In fact, most of the oils and herbs listed above are effective in helping to prevent many common winter illnesses.

    Whether you are looking for remedies or nature friendly products to use around the house, the oils and herbs suggested above should help get you started. You will be ready to make some healthy changes in your way of life!

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