Anxiety, the master of disguise.
Before we get started, I’d like to make a point that I am no Clinical Psychologist, nor do I claim to be. This article is intended to provide complimentary tools to reduce stress in the body, mind and spirit.
So let’s chat. Anxiety. Let's talk about it for a minute. Anxiety isn’t a dirty word. It’s not something to be embarrassed or keep quiet about. It’s there and it’s real. Anxiety has its purpose in the biology. Unfortunately in our current world though, most mild daily anxiety isn’t triggered by what it was 'designed' for.
Designed for you ask? Well here’s the deal:
You live in the caveman era. You look for shelter, you search for food and you are on the lookout for your safety. A saber tooth tiger comes at you and your body instantly raises cortisol, your body tenses up, your heart races and your energy rises high. Your brain opens up to allow information about your surroundings in and you make a decision quickly. You choose either fight or flight. Your digestive system slows and even seizes - your colon holds tight. Then you run. You run from the tiger. The rise of the adrenaline allows you to run like Usain Bolt and slow your digestive system - slow bowel movements means that it would be hard for the predator to track you.
That’s anxiety, and in its original form, it saves your life. It was used in moderation. When it was REALLY needed.
Now, in this life and realm - anxiety lies to us. It stays. It stays looking for the saber tooth tigers that aren’t there, as it needs to find its use. It makes us fear things that aren’t a matter of life and death. Most of the dangers from where anxiety originated from don’t exist any more. Now, we are afraid of what the world creates for us. No money. No friends. A lost job. A scenario created in our head. A dis-EASE. We make up our own horror stories so we can give anxiety some use. And our body becomes so use to the biological sensation and unconscious reaction that it THRIVES on it. We've become so used to the hyper vigilance that certainly, brain chemicals have been affected.
And guess what. It kills us. From the inside. Literally. An acidic flow through the body and the raise of cortisol strips good gut bacteria. Without a healthy gut, we can’t generate enough immune cells. Our gut is so tense that it needs to open up the intestinal villi to allow nutrients to absorb through, but now the pockets are big enough to send toxins through. Leaky gut coming at us. Toxins flow through the body and create all sorts of conditions and disease. The gut hormones are trying to keep us alive so they signal other hormones to help counteract the damage and our hormones go haywire. Cortisol raises blood sugar via spiking insulin. We hold onto fat to absorb some of the toxins caused by all kinds of stresses so that our organs are protected.
I’ve been there. I’ve felt all of it. Every. Single. Symptom. So when I say I understand – I REALLY understand. I have in the past had to rely upon conventional medication for a short time. But it for me, had to be only temporary. Even though it may perhaps mask the symptoms, it certainly doesn’t take the problem, the root cause away. Our mind needs to do that. We need to re-train our body and it’s responses. We need to nourish ourselves accordingly. The principles I share below I still use today.
So here are my top 10 tips to reducing anxiety:
1. Overhaul your Diet. This is huge when it comes to gut, mental and all round health. Given that approximately 90% of your serotonin and 50% of your dopamine is created in your gut then sent to the brain as well as good gut health and diet can help increase GABA – then it is a HUGE step in your road to reducing anxiety. On top of that, about 80%+ of your immune cells reside in your gut and illness can only cause an increase in stress, which in turn effects all the gut and entire body cells sending inflammation to the brain. The gut and brain has a HUGE connection and work together. They affect each other. Eating the right foods can optimize your adrenal health also and reduce fatigue. Feel free to jump on one of my online Healthy Gut, Healthy Mind workshops.
2. Learn To BREATHE deep. When we constantly live in a state of fight or flight, unfortunately that trains our respiratory system to only use a small capacity of our lungs, diaphragm etc. In an anxious, nervous or stressed state, we often stick with ‘high’ breathing: small breaths coming in and out, keeping it in the upper chest and not exhaling out stale air. Start practicing and training your body to breathe deep into your lungs, expand your ribs and into your belly. Breathe slowly and hold for a few seconds at the end of both the inhale and the exhale. The more you can practice it (daily preferred), the more your body will start to lower its stress baseline. You can also use breathing when in a state of anxiety to calm down your nervous and cardiovascular systems.
3. Challenge your thoughts. Often thoughts come up that allow us to thrive in a negative way, or we use the ‘dismissing’ strategy. Unfortunately when we dismiss a thought, our unconscious mind takes that as a message that we aren’t ready to deal with that right at that time, so stores it for later and it manifests with every little bit of information that comes in to your headspace that can be relatable to it. One simple tool you can use is when a negative thought, limiting belief etc comes up to pop out its rear ugly head is to acknowledge it. Thank your unconscious for bringing it up and reminding you and then select an opposing thought to challenge it or make it feel at ease.
This isn’t to be mistaken for not FEELING emotion as, feeling allows the body to release its stored emotion. This too, is essential.
4. Master your morning & evening routines. Did you know that the first 15 minutes of your day could depict your energy and emotion for your day? Also what you do before sleep determines what your unconscious mind goes to sleep hearing and what it does with that information can affect your mental health? True story. So putting into place some morning and evening practices is essential to set up your mind in a positive space and free it from any worries. Some suggestions would be meditation upon waking (meditation is proven to have an abundance of health benefits), filling out a gratitude journal and really feeling the gratitude in every cell in your body (it raises vibration and attracts abundance), setting an intention for the day so your unconscious knows where you are going. At the end of the day you could read some pages from a personal development book or something positive (no horrors or thrillers before bed), listen to some music and process all the positive things that happened for you that day in your mind, and/or meditate before falling asleep.
5. Get into Nature. We are animals like any other and being in our true environment brings peace and has a lot of health benefits. Grounding allows your energy to shift and develop a sense of inner peace. The sun promotes an increase in Vitamin D (Low vitamin D levels have been proven to be connected to depression and anxiety). The air is fresh and we can breathe that clean air into every cell in our body. Connecting with nature also brings a sense of gratitude.
6. Exercise. Aside from the physical benefits such as increasing bone density, lowering blood sugar levels and blood pressure just to name a few, moving your body has LOADS of benefits when it comes to your mental health. Exercise releases feel-good chemicals such as serotonin and endorphins and can help you to get out and feel less isolated. It also helps to pump blood to the brain so that you can think more clearly, and increases the connections between nerve cells and the brain. Over-exercising can cause negative effects and put the body under unnecessary stress, so ensure that your exercise is a combination of gentle, strength and cardiovascular fitness - 40 min 3-5 times per week. I recommend that where possible, you exercise your moderate-high intensity in the morning when your cortisol is at the highest, or for some, early afternoon. Add the gentle exercise (such as a slow walk, yoga, stretching) later in the day to calm the nervous system ready for sleep. Too much high intensity close to bed time may mean we have trouble falling asleep.
7. Be creative. Being creative opens up your mind to a whole new world of mindfulness. It allows your brain to flow freely and being in flow and achieving successes (big or small), in turn releases dopamine. Opening up the creative part of your brain has a calming effect and allows for you to bring out your inner you, without limitations or beliefs that have been embedded by society. It can also help you release or express any negative emotions in a way that allows you to truly feel, rather than suppress. We live in a society where often the belief is creativity isn’t an easy way to make a living (which is bollocks by the way), but opening up this creative side allows us to move towards a healthier, happier, expressive life.
8. Give yourself daily self-care time. I’m a mum so I get it when people say – “Self care daily? Ain’t nobody got time for that!” Here’s the deal though – we CANNOT serve others to our best, whole, loving self if we cannot care for ourselves first. Fact. Self-care raises your vibration to a more abundant, loving and higher vibrating positive emotion as you learn to love YOURSELF more. Whether it is a bath with some essential oils (lavender, frankincense are a win for anxiety), a walk in nature, a space where you can sit for 5 minutes and breathe deeply (cause hey, for Mum’s even toilet or shower time can be interrupted time)… it all counts. Do something daily for YOU that makes you feel good. Blow-dry your hair, sit in the sun with a herbal tea (lemon balm is a HUGE recommendation, along with Chamomile) or veggie juice, just being still or even put some music on and feel it. Colour in. Paint your nails. Whatever you choose. Our unconscious brain’s number one priority is to keep us ‘safe’ so ultimately we need to show love and care to our heart and mind first, so we can ooze love and compassion out to others. Therefore, it comes from a place not of selfishness, but of selflessness.
9. Supplement. Often our body is lacking in certain vitamins and minerals that can affect both physical and mental health. The health of your gut also determines your vitamins and minerals absorption rate, so ensure you overhaul your diet (as per step 1). It is common for people that are feeling anxious to have lower levels of vitamin D, B12 and/or Magnesium and getting from foods isn’t always enough. Vitamin D is essential for your immunity, energy and mental health as is B12 for your nervous system. Magnesium is the mother vitamin and can help with the absorption of other nutrients.
Ensure your supplements are designed for maximum absorption so that you get the most out of the product. There are many supplements, such as adaptogen herbs like ashwagahnda or medicinal mushrooms that are always a great idea to add to your wholesome diet (if you are on medication, check with your specialist as some herbs can interact with medication). We need to ensure that our body is taking in amazing nutrients that have been depleted from our soils and depleted from our foods. In order to check on the levels of some of the key vitamins though, I always recommend that you get your blood levels tested through your healthcare practitioner to determine if any specific extras are needed.
10. Sleep. Aside from the physical health benefits of a good nights sleep, sleep can affect your mental state and performance. A good nights sleep gives your unconscious mind a chance to process and filter through information as well as heal, just like your body does all its cellular rejuvenation and repair when you are asleep. Sleep appears to flush toxins from your brain - inflammation in the body and brain has been linked to mental health issues. I recommend a MINIMUM of 8 hours of good sleep per night.
BONUS TIP: Make it a practice to only watch and listen to things that put out positive messages and vibes. Switch off the news. Our brain takes in at an unconscious level many messages that you aren’t necessarily consciously hearing (so even background news is not a good idea). Ensure that the messages you are feeding it are positive.
There are many other things that people utilise to eliminate or reduce anxiety. Seeing a practitioner, or that works within the unconscious and the body as a whole is an awesome start on your road to healing, or addition to what you may currently be doing.
Note: If in crisis, please call your local mental health crisis team. None of these tips are meant to be a replacement for any conventional medication you may be taking - NEVER ever aim to remove yourself from medication without the guidance of a professional.
To make an appointment with me if you feel aligned with what I offer, fill out the contact form or send me an email!
With Health and Happiness,