Anxiety: a generalized feeling of uneasiness and foreboding; a fear of the unknown; fear without a subject (e.g. she feels anxious and fearful all the time for no apparent reason).
When we’re feeling stressed, our bodies naturally enter into a state that’s often referred to as the “fight or flight mode.” In this state, a chemical reaction in our bodies makes sure that more blood is pumped into our arms and legs than into our forebrain. This is our body’s ancient strategy to ensure we can use our optimal strength to either run or fight. Unfortunately, this same reaction limits our capacity to think and make well-thought-out decisions. And nowadays, that’s often the opposite of what we need when we encounter a stressful situation.
What STOPS happening in the body when we are under stress?
- Digestion is stopped while the perceived danger is present.
- Higher thought processes halt and are reverted to primitive survival responses.
- Any repair, replenishment or regeneration processes our body is engaged in is interrupted and resources are conscripted to the survival imperative.
Anxiety is an emotion characterized by an unpleasant state of inner turmoil, often accompanied by nervous behaviour such as pacing back and forth, somatic complaints, and rumination. It is the subjectively unpleasant feelings of dread over anticipated events, such as the feeling of imminent death. Anxiety is not the same as fear, which is a response to a real or perceived immediate threat, whereas anxiety involves the expectation of future threat. Anxiety is a feeling of uneasiness and worry, usually generalized and unfocused as an overreaction to a situation that is only subjectively seen as menacing. It is often accompanied by muscular tension, restlessness, fatigue and problems in concentration. Anxiety can be appropriate, but when experienced regularly the individual may suffer from an anxiety disorder. Stress hormones released in an anxious state have an impact on bowel function and can manifest physical symptoms that may contribute to or exacerbate IBS.
Anxiety is a normal response to stress or a dangerous situation and it’s often referred to as the “fight or flight” response. It’s also the most prevalent mental health condition. Anxiety becomes problematic when it is constant or in reaction to inappropriate circumstances, which over time can negatively affect your day-to-day life.
Causes of anxiety include:
- traumatic life experiences
- thyroid problems
- dysfunctional serotonin
- hormone imbalance
Although, anxiety is characterized by excessive worrying and tension, other physical and psychological symptoms of anxiety include:
- muscle tension
- chest tightness
- heart palpitations
- high blood pressure
- digestive problems
- panic attacks
- difficulty concentrating
- inability to socialize
– Ashwagandha: can significantly reduce the symptoms of anxiety, and has been shown to improve cortisol levels by resetting adrenal-associated stress, overall reducing your predisposition to anxiety. In a systematic review that assessed data on the effectiveness of ashwagandha as a treatment for anxiety, researchers found that most studies concluded with significant improvement in anxiety symptoms with ashwagandha therapy.
– Reishi Mushroom: is in a class of herbs called adaptogens, that help us to adapt to the stresses and demands of modern life without getting stuck in chronic “survival mode.” They gently and effectively regulate the body’s stress response via their tonic actions on the adrenal glands. This medicinal mushroom is particularly calming and relaxing and is one of the best herbs for anxiety (and specifically one of the best adaptogens for anxiety), as well as anxiety that prevents you from sleeping, for which it can be taken just before bed. This is safe to use while breastfeeding.
– Kava Root: can be used to treat anxiety because it’s a nonaddictive and non-hypnotic anxiolytic. Kava is used to improve mood, ease anxiety and boost sociability. It works by stimulating dopamine receptors and inducing euphoria. Do not consume alcohol if you are using kava and be aware of the most common side effects, including headache, drowsiness and diarrhea.
– L-theanine (or geen tea) : they say Japanese Buddhist monks could meditate for hours, both alert and relaxed. One reason may have been an amino acid in their green tea called L-theanine, says Mark Blumenthal, of the American Botanical Council. Research shows that L-theanine helps curb a rising heart rate and blood pressure, and a few small human studies have found that it reduces anxiety. In one study, anxiety-prone subjects were calmer and more focused during a test if they took 200 milligrams of L-theanine beforehand.
– Omega-3 fatty acids: there is some evidence that omega-3 fatty acids may ease symptoms of anxiety disorders and lift your mood by lowering levels of stress chemicals such as adrenaline and cortisol in the body. Canned fatty fish, such as tuna and salmon, walnuts, and flaxseeds are all great sources of omega-3 fatty acids. An Israeli study found that students given fish oil supplements as natural remedies for anxiety had less test anxiety as measured by their eating and sleeping habits, cortisol levels, and mental states.
– L-lysine is an amino acid and one of the building blocks of your brain’s chemical messengers called neurotransmitters. Studies have shown that people taking L-lysine supplements as natural remedies for anxiety had reduced symptoms of anxiety and reduced levels of stress hormones. L-lysine is commonly found in meat, fish, and beans, and is also sold as an oral supplement.
– Magnesium: helps to relax your muscles and calm the nervous system. Also, it’s vital for GABA function and for regulating certain hormones that are crucial for calming the brain and promoting relaxation. Magnesium is commonly used to combat anxiety, poor digestion, muscle spasms and trouble sleeping. Look for magnesium in citrate, chelate and chloride, which are forms that the body absorbs better.
– Vitamin B6, in particular, serves as a natural remedy for anxiety because it works to boost mood, balance blood sugar levels and maintain a healthy nervous system. In fact, symptoms of a vitamin B6 deficiency include anxiety, irritability, depression, changes in mood, muscle pains and fatigue.
– Physical activity: exercise decreases stress hormones like cortisol. It also increases endorphins—your body’s ‘feel-good’ chemicals—giving your mood a natural boost. Physical activity distracts you from negative thoughts and emotions. Physical activity can take your mind off of your problems and either redirect it on the activity at hand or get you into a zen-like state. Best options would be Yoga, Pilates, Tai Chi, running, high intensity training.
– Meditation: helps by quieting the overactive mind. Instead of buying into your fearful thoughts, you can start identifying with the silence that exists between every mental action. Through regular practice, you experience that you’re not simply your thoughts and feelings. You can detach yourself from these to rest in your own being. This involves remaining centered, and if a thought or outside trigger pulls you out of your center, your meditation practice allows you to return there again.
– Forest bathing: shinrin-yoku practitioners say the benefits of forest bathing are reduced blood pressure, reduced stress, boosted functioning of the immune system, improved mood and sleep, increased energy and ability to focus as well as quicker recovery from surgery or illness. Forest bathing research suggests that people who spend time in nature “report being more energetic, in good overall health, and have more of a sense of meaningful purpose in live”. A chemical released by trees and plants, called phytoncides, was found to boost the immune system. As more research highlighted the benefits of shinrin-yoku, the Japanese government incorporated it into the country’s health programme. A regular practice can lead to clearer intuition, increased energy and life force, a deeper connection with others and the world around us as well as an overall increase in the feeling of happiness. Gary Evans, who set up the Forest Bathing Institute in the UK last year, said: “People initially think they’ve been doing this all their lives: going for a walk in the woods. But it might be a brisk walk, or you might be worrying about where the dog has got to.“A better way to frame forest bathing is mindful time spent under the canopy of trees for health and wellbeing purposes. One UK study, carried out by King’s College London and published in January 2018, found that exposure to trees, the sky and birdsong in cities improved mental wellbeing. The benefits were still evident several hours after the exposure.
– Energy medicine: many of our most fundamental energy systems go into coping mechanisms when we are stressed or anxious. This is often expressed by these systems actually doing the exact opposite of what they are designed to do. Thought processes leave the frontal cortex of the brain where higher, rational thought occurs. This includes our ability to think strategically, logically, objectively, constructively, creatively. These more sophisticated thought processes shift to the primitive back brain which is concerned solely with aspects of survival: heart beat, respiration, running, fighting, etc. Our brains also go on auto-pilot. There is a tendency for our systems to work from habit — it saves a lot of energy. This can be great in many instances, but not with stressors.
Following are some really easy and effective ways to ease ourselves out of the fight-or-flight stress response.
– The Gamut Point is a really effective technique when there is a sudden stressor or shock. Tapping or rubbing the Gamut Point can quickly dispel upsetting emotions before they get stuck in our psyche.
– Calming Triple Warmer Neurovascular Points: neurovascular Points are acupressure points with the very speci c purpose of bringing blood and energy from the primitive back brain to the reasoning forebrain. Holding these points for even a few minutes can help us move from stress to relaxation. They are also a great way to help ease into sleep at bedtime.
– Triple Warmer Smoothie: triple Warmer meridian is the energy medicine equivalent of our physiological fight-flight response. In the same way that all physical resources are conscripted to the survival imperative when there is a threat or stressor, Triple Warmer will usurp all energetic resources to the survival imperative as well. Keeping Triple Warmer calmed and out of its chronically over-active state will go a huge distance to overall stress resilience and adrenal health.
– The Hook-Up: the Hook-up a powerful tool for centering yourself. It creates a connection between your central meridian (which sends energy up the front of your body) and governing meridian (which sends energy up your spine), bridging the energies between the front and back of your body and between your head and torso. It strengthens your aura, increases your coordination,has immediate neurological consequences.
– Neurovascular Points/ Frontal-Occipital Hold: again, neurovascular reflex points are acupoints that bring deep calm to the nervous system and emotions. They do this by encouraging blood to flow from the primitive back-brain, which is solely concerned with survival, to the cognitive forebrain where we can think through our problems. Holding the Main neurovascular Points with one hand and the occipital ridge with the other is an easy way to engage the neurovasculars and calm yourself down. This is also a really nice way to ease into sleep. Just prop your elbow up on a pillow so you can relax into the hold.