Do you find that your thoughts drift away from the task at hand and wander onto something else? You’re not alone. A popular Harvard study found that people’s minds tend to wander over 50 percent of the time and usually focus on unpleasant topics. You may drift off thinking about things such as paying bills, work stress, traffic, and family problems, which boils down to your high-stress lifestyle making you think negative thoughts. This prolonged negative mind wandering contributes to a host of other potentially harmful health effects. Stress and worrying aren’t only bad for our brain, but also are risk factors for digestive disorders, cardiovascular issues, a weak immune system, and loss of ability to concentrate and focus. Luckily you can use several natural botanical extracts (herbs) and make lifestyle changes to calm down, recover from stressful events, and even improve our ability to concentrate and focus.
The first herb comes from the specific South African succulent, Kanna or Sceletium tortuosum, now available under the name Zembrin. Scientists learned about Sceletium from indigenous people known as the San Tribe. The San people have chewed certain succulent leaves for hundreds of years to relieve pain, stave off hunger, and enhance mood during long hunting trips. Yes, you can stay calm, relaxed, and focused without feeling drowsy. Research has shown that it takes only one small dose (25 mg) of Sceletium in the morning to achieve these benefits.
As an added bonus, that same small, morning dose can help you sleep better at night. You can feel it working in as little as 2 hours. I learned about Sceletium a little over a year ago and now work with the company that brought this ingredient to the US.
A second herb, rhodiola, originated in Siberia. The native population has used rhodalia for centuries to help cope with the physical and mental stressors of living in the harsh environment of Siberia. Rhodiola works as an adaptogen, meaning that it acts in nonspecific ways to increase resistance to stress, without disturbing normal biological functions. A number of studies have shown that rhodiola can reduce mental and physical fatigue under stressful conditions by increasing the body’s energy levels. Rhodiola can take a few weeks for you to notice the effects, so stick with it for at least a month.
Last, look at the passion flower. Local tribes in Polynesia and the Aztecs in Central America have used this herb for centuries. Use of passion flower for insomnia and hysteria continues through today. One caveat: Passion flower can cause drowsiness, and therefore you need to use it with caution. In fact, I often associate its effects on the body as being similar to the effects of drinking a cocktail. Just like after an alcoholic beverage, you may get drowsy and not be as sharp. My favorite uses for passion flower include instances where stress creates trouble falling asleep. It does work quickly, and if taken 30 to 45 minutes prior to bedtime, it can often help you fall asleep. Keep in mind though, that its effects can last until mid-morning, which means you may have difficulty waking up or being functional at work. I suggest trying this herb for the first time on a night when you don’t have to get up in the morning or drive so that you can see and feel how your body reacts to it.
In addition to these herbs, several other strategies can help relieve stress and contribute to improved, overall health. A quick list includes:
Prayer or mediation. In those moments that you catch yourself focusing on things you shouldn’t, try praying about or meditating on things in your life that make you feel thankful or grateful. This technique teaches you to identify times when your mind wanders or focuses on negative things and helps reprogram your thoughts in a positive light.
Exercise. Science has shown that increased exercise has multiple health benefits. Stress management and mental-health relief represent two of the most prominent. I suggest 30 minutes of brisk walking per day.
Diet. You are what you eat. Avoid processed foods—boxed and canned primarily —and focus on whole foods. Good choices fuel your body and brain to be more adaptable to stress. Most of all, avoid caffeine and alcohol at all cost. You may feel better in the short-term, but these two are bad choices for those with stressful lives.
Time management. Help yourself to learn a new lifestyle by using your reminders app or your calendar to schedule specific times to pray, meditate, and exercise. If you don’t have a smartphone, leave notes around your work and home environments to remind you. Be willing to say no to friends, family, and coworkers so your day doesn’t become hectic.
Sleep. Make sure you get enough rest each night. The average person gets about 6 to 7 hours per night, which isn’t even close to the 8 to 8.5 hours you really need. As you can see, several lifestyle changes and supplements can help you decrease the stress you feel and keep your mind from wandering. Remember that it may take you some time to learn new habits, and in the meantime, the use of supplements like Sceletium, rhodiola, and passion flower can help.
David Foreman RPh, is a pharmacist, author and media personality known to consumers nationwide as, “The Herbal Pharmacist.” Well versed on the healing powers of herbs, vitamins and other natural supplements and how they interact with pharmaceutical drugs, Foreman’s career as a registered pharmacist gives him the foundation to now impart his expertise in physiology, pharmacology and integrative medicine to educate consumers on cutting edge approaches to natural health and healing. His shift from traditional pharmacist to herbal pharmacist was based on his belief that education is the key to understanding that natural health plays a vital role in mainstream medicine and he has dedicated his entire career to educating consumers about the benefits and power behind natural herbs, supplements and functional foods. Foreman is a graduate of the University of South Carolina College of Pharmacy, currently serves on Organic & Natural Health Association’s Scientific Advisory Board and is author of, “4 Pillars of Health: Heart Disease.” For more health tips: www.herbalpharmacist.com, facebook.com/TheHerbalPharmacist or follow at @Herbalrph.