Natural Remedies for Relaxation and Stress Control

One of the major causes of people experiencing more intense fibromyalgia pain and fatigue is stress. In fact, some research has referred to fibromyalgia as a stress disorder.[1] Therefore, it’s important to learn how to relax and relieve stress if you want to keep fibromyalgia symptoms as mild as possible or to hopefully prevent their onset in the first place. While it is true you can treat stress with prescribed medications, a better option is to learn how to control it and achieve a relaxed state of mind and body through natural means.

Natural Remedies for Relieving Stress

Natural remedies do not rely on medications to relieve stress. Instead, they use natural methods, activities and products that can promote relaxation of the body and mind without relying on chemicals. Though it may seem easier to use medication like sedatives, they can only be taken for a limited period of time for health reasons. Natural remedies can be used for a lifetime.

There are a number of natural alternatives that have helped people looking for stress relief. Following is a sample list of ideas[2]:

  • Relaxation therapy
  • Various forms of meditation
  • Enjoying a hobby
  • Joining a support group
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy
  • Massage therapy
  • Yoga, Tai Chi, or other gentle exercise programs
  • Taking time for yourself like planning a special day
  • Aromatherapy techniques
  • Making sure you include fun activities in your life

There are so many different ways to control stress without resorting to prescription medicines, but they do require making an effort despite the fibromyalgia. Managing your stress will help you manage fibromyalgia more effectively and prevent stress from making your symptoms worse than they would be otherwise. Moreover, taking part in something that not only lowers stress, but allows you to enjoy life and have fun, is one way to prevent fibromyalgia from becoming life consuming. In other words, these natural remedies are good reminders that your life is about much more than fibromyalgia.

Relaxation Tips

Relaxation therapy includes meditation, yoga, Tai Chi and breathing exercises. Of particular interest have been studies done concerning what is called Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR). Often combined with yoga or similar types of exercises, it introduces a specific type of mental control called mindfulness.[3] Mindfulness relaxation promotes an increased awareness of what is here and now – the immediate and present world and whatever has your attention at the moment.  Zen mindfulness encourages you to think about something like the pain in your body, but with calming acceptance. In other words, it teaches you to think about something that is bothering you but just so you can take note of it. You aren’t trying to change anything or to make whatever you are thinking about go away.

Mindfulness involves being aware of your present physical, emotional and psychological sensations so you don’t concentrate on events that have not even happened yet or may never happen. Your mindfulness is designed to help you take control of your thoughts, situation, or circumstances so that you experience less anxiety. It is particularly helpful for interrupting obsessive thinking about fibromyalgia and the associated negative thoughts that promote stress.

Massage is another method used to promote relaxation. You can enjoy getting a massage delivered by your partner which helps you both unwind. It also has the added benefit of promoting intimacy. Alternatively, you can visit a professional masseuse. This is a marvelous way to release stress and find total relaxation. Consider spending the day at a spa where you can be pampered in so many different ways. This is a great stress reliever and reminds you of the fact that life can be enjoyed even if you have fibromyalgia. The only caution is to make sure the masseuse understands the fibromyalgia syndrome and its impact on muscles and nerves.

Herbal Remedies

Certain herbs will help you to relax. They can reduce feelings of stress and, therefore, may help to alleviate some of the symptoms of fibromyalgia. Below is a table providing the most common herbs taken for stress reduction.[4]

Herb Form Action
Chamomile Made from flowers, it is  used in tea Sedative and calming: Helps you to relax and is also a useful sleep time herb
Ginseng Roots are made into powders, tablets and liquid extracts Adaptogen: Helps the body cope with stress
Hops Strobiles provide the basis for liquid extract, tincture, powdered extract, tablet and a tea Sedative: found to be effective in reducing stress particularly in combination with other herbs
Kava Kava Rhizomes are used to produce capsules, liquid or tea Sedative: used to relieve nervous anxiety and stress; helps reduce restlessness, agitation and tension
Passionflower Flowering shoots are made into a tea or a tincture Sedative: helps decrease stress and nervousness
St. John’s Wort The flower tops and petals are made into tea, tinctures, tablets and capsules Sedative: helps reduce stress; also effective against pain and depression
Skullcap Flowers and roots are used to make powder, liquid and capsules Sedative: used to decrease stress and nervous tension
Valerian Roots are made into tinctures, extracts, capsules, tea, extract Sedative: helps you to relax, is conducive to sleep and the reduction of anxiety as well as stress

Some herbal remedies work better alone. Others are best when used in combination. For example, Valerian, hops, motherwort and balm leaf combined together are a potent sedative and calmative.[5] If you decide to use herbs, be sure to talk to a medical doctor as well as a professional herbalist before you mix and match your herbs. Always check to see if there are any possible contraindications making herb use inadvisable. For example, certain medications should not be taken in combination with herbs.

Don’t Forget to have Fun

Though it can easily happen, you should never let fibromyalgia become all consuming in your life. Life should include some fun, and enjoying an event, activity or hobby is a great way to relax and reduce stress. Enjoying hobbies is particularly good because a hobby is something you enjoy over and over again unlike a one-time vacation.

Hobbies help individuals focus on something other than fibromyalgia. Any hobby like photography, collecting stamps and coins, bird watching, arts and crafts, reading and so on are helpful relaxation activities. Studies report that those who take on a new hobby, perhaps something they have always wanted to do, benefit more than those who do not.[6]

Hobbies are great for helping people focus on something other than themselves. Enjoying a hobby is also an excellent way of making sure you get out of the house and into the world. You may have to go somewhere to purchase what you need. You may want to attend a show or join a club. These activities keep you engaged in the world despite your fibromyalgia and that can help you manage symptoms.

Other Relaxation Techniques

Everyone relaxes in a different way. You may think that sitting in a chair listening to Mozart is relaxing, while someone else may find it tedious and anxiety creating as a result. Therefore, relaxation techniques don’t have to be traditional activities like aromatherapy baths. For example, you can take a class if you have always wanted to return to school, and that will give you something to focus on besides your fibromyalgia while giving you a sense of accomplishment.

Other relaxation strategies include walking, self hypnotherapy, enjoying time with friends and other simple but effective activities.

One more point should be understood about relaxation for stress reduction. Relaxation is not watching television or just lying on the couch. These activities have no purpose. True and effective relaxation techniques are intentional, mindful and purposeful. This is an important difference and why so many people continue to feel tired and stressed even after watching television (often shows they don’t even really enjoy).

There are many different ways to ease stress and relax. However, you have to find the ones that will work best for you. The payoff for your efforts will be less anxiety and stress which in turn can lead to milder fibromyalgia symptoms.

References

[1] Van Houdenhove, B;and Egle, UT (2004). “Fibromyalgia: A Stress Disorder? Piecing the Biopsychosocial Puzzle Together.” Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics,73(5): 267-275.

[2] Arthritis Foundation (2006). Good Living With Fibromyalgia. Atlanta, GA: Arthritis Foundation.

[3] Schmidt, S; Grossman, P; Schwarzer, B; Jena, S; Naumann, J; and Walach, H (2011). “Treating Fibromyalgia with Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction: Results from a 3-Armed Randomized Controlled Trial.” Pain, 152(2): 361-369.

[4] Boon, H; and Smith, M (2009). 55 Most Common Medicinal Herbs 2nd ed. Toronto, ON: Robert Rose, Inc.

[5] Heber, D (2005). PDR For Herbal Medicines 3rd Edition. Montvale, NJ: Thomson PDR.

[6] Wuytack, F; and Miller, P (2011). “The Lived Experience of Fibromyalgia in Female Patients, a Phenomenological Study.” Chiropractic and Manual Therapies, 19: 19-22.

This article was originally published on July 11, 2012 and last revision and update of it was 9/7/2015