Anxiety & Stress
We live in a time where we are in a constant state of "go". With technology today, our work comes home with us and we are non-stop connected to news and information. Processing all of this input takes more time than we have and this can lead to increased levels of anxiety. Anxiety is just one manifestation of the stress that is put on our body.
Anxiety is the emotional component of stress. It includes worrying, ruminating, an anticipating. in relation to a real or imagined stressor.
Want to investigate the root causes of your anxiety? I'm here to help you. A naturopathic approach to anxiety may include:
Acupuncture (treating anxiety energetically using Traditional Chinese Medicine)
Herbal medicine (including lavendula, passiflora, hypericum, and many others)
Dietary modifications and/or nutrient supplementation
Functional assessments of adrenal glands, thyroid and other hormones
CBT/meditation/mindfulness therapies for stress reduction
Consider your body's ability to cope with stress as a cup, and when that cup is overflowing, then you are no longer thriving. Stressors come in many forms, including your workplace/school obligations, your family/relationships and your environment (including air pollution, toxins, and diet). Physical exercise is also a form of stress on your body. Too big of a stress load will negatively impact your health.
Inflammation is a stress response by your body and chronic inflammation is an indicator that your stress load is too high (for more, see "Brain Health")
The adrenal gland is a primary player in your body's stress response. It pumps out epinephrine (aka. adrenaline - acutely) and then cortisol (reactively) to help your body mobilize and act. This is what I call the "run away from the bear" response (valuable in that instance). The problem is when our body sends the "bear" signal when there is no bear at all. Or when there are just too many bears. We need some quiet time in our caves to recover too.
Reducing the stress burden on our bodies is a great way to improve health for the long term.
Not sure where to start with stress reduction? I like to start by optimizing these 3 pillars, in this order:
a healthy amount of exercise (maybe more, or less!).
How do you find more happiness?
How do you take control back from your anxiety or depression?
Make a list of the things in your life that you love.
If this is difficult, start small - think of (or imagine) a place that brings you peace and then describe what you would see, smell, feel, hear and taste. Maybe you enjoy eating a fresh fig, or breathing a gust of sea air. Or colouring. Or chatting with an old friend.
From that list, work to bring some of those things into your life in creative ways. Or try spending 5 minutes daily thinking of this scene. This is a form of meditation - an effective tool to address both anxiety and depression.
Meditation can help us to let go of negative thought cycles through observation and activation of the parasympathetic nervous system. Chronic stress is connected to the over-activation of the sympathetic nervous system and cortisol dysregulation.
For some people, moderate exercise can help rebalance the stress response. For others, struggling to find the time to exercise may cause more stress or you may be simply too exhausted already to imagine exercising.
Consider this for your next shower - alternating hot and cold during your shower (always end with cold) can help your body to become more stress resilient. If you can't find the time to exercise, try adding in 2-3 cycles of cold in your next shower.
There are many more ways to rebalance your nervous system. Start with whatever speaks to you and is simplest to implement. Consider:
Sleep: try getting to bed by 10pm
Diet modifications: does eating "__" always make you feel crappier?
Exercise: move daily - especially if you sit all day
Meditate: start with 5 min daily
Journalling: before bed, or on waking to set the day's intentions
Schedule: plan meals/events/rest time in advance
Believe it or not, you can appreciate and experience the peace and joy that already exists in your life.