Does this describe you? You have a sense that something is "going to go wrong." You worry about money, about family, and about health. You wake up at 4 am with racing thoughts about work or about that argument from the night before. Your heart races for no reason and you just can't seem to calm down.
What do you think? Sound familiar? If so, you're not alone. I'll repeat that. You're not alone. It seems that a lot of us these days are dealing with some level of anxiety and its impacting our health. So what can we do about it? Well every person is unique and different approaches will work well for some people and not as well for others. Fortunately, Naturopathic medicine has many tools! So here are my 8 tips for dealing with anxiety.
1. Heal your gut - Your digestive system is 21 feet long and has the surface area of a tenis court. All along this tube you have immune systems cells, good bacteria, and cells that make neurotransmitters. In fact, the small intestine makes 80% of all of your serotonin (the "feel good" neurotransmitter)! When we eat poor-quality, highly processed, and sugary foods, we create an unhealthy environment in our gut. In this situation, yeast (specifically candida) and unfriendly bacteria can thrive. Many of my patients see a significant improvement in their anxiety symptoms when we improve their bile flow, strengthen their digestions, and clear out candida.
2. Balance your blood sugars - Often we become anxious when our blood sugars drop too quickly. To support proper blood sugar balance, I recommend always eating protein for breakfast, snacking on nuts, seeds, and protein between meals, having something to eat every 3-4 hours, and eliminating processed grains (like chips, cookies, crackers, etc) from your diet all together.
3. Find a healthy outlet for your emotions and feelings - For many people, anxiety is related to suppressed emotions and feelings. Instead of expressing feelings and emotions as they come up, they are squelched for a variety of different reasons. Over time this stuck energy builds up and may result in anxiety. Healthy ways to move your emotional energy include: exercise, crying, and screaming into a pillow. Each person will have unique needs here, so explore what works for you.
4. Work with a qualified therapist - Getting support and helpful tools from a qualified mental health practitioner can be a great experience. There are many different types of practitioners, including clergy members, counselors, social workers, and psychologists. I know some wonderful people doing this work, so don't hesitate to ask for a referral.
5. Complete your day - Before going to bed each night, I recommend that you "complete your day." What I mean by that is to create a ritual where you consciously acknowledge what happened throughout your day and leave it. When our day is not completed and we try to fall asleep, there is so much going through our heads that we can't fully rest. We go from one thing to the next all day long and then we try to fall asleep and stay asleep, only to be jolted awake at 4 am by the thought of the email that we didn't send, or the parent-teacher meeting we have the next morning. To complete your day, simply sit quietly for 5 minutes and allow all the thoughts and emotions from the day to come up. As they do, visualize them as white light draining out the bottom of your feet. There is no perfect way to do this, so play around with it. You will feel calmer, your body will be in a much more relaxed state, and it will be much easier to sleep without all those anxious thoughts.
6. Get out into nature - We have a deep connection with the earth that is extremely healing, so there's good reason why we feel better at the beach or in the woods. When we're in nature, we are in touch with the earth's magnetic field. This magnetic field is very measurable and within it, all life exists. In fact, this magnetic field is what keeps our cells alive! Nature-Deficit Disorder, while not a formal medical diagnosis, is describing what happens when humans do not have adequate connection to nature. It appears that children are impacted the most and many of them may develop attention disorders and mood and anxiety disorders. By acknowledging the importance of nature and by spending time connected to the earth, we all will become much more balanced and healthy.
7. Homeopathy and herbs - Specific herbs and homeopathic remedies can also be very helpful to support cases of anxiety. I use a unique and powerful form of homeopathy called "UNDA numbers." These remedies are prescribed based on individual needs, matching the remedies to the patient.
8. Amino Acids - Certain amino acids are often out of balance in people with chronic anxiety, and correcting these imbalances can have a profound impact on the experience of life. Check out Stephanie Small's Boost Your Mood with Supplements and Food Program for more information about this great intervention.
Anxiety can be very troubling and it can seem that there is no way out. There is a way out though, and while there are no quick fixes, there are many things that can be done. These tips are not meant to substitute for medical care, so make sure to see me or another practitioner for your unique situation.
I'll end with a quote from Dr. Bruce Lipton, author of Biology of Belief: "We have the capacity to consciously evaluate our responses to environmental stimuli and change old responses any time we desire...once we deal with the powerful subconscious mind. We are not stuck with our genes or our self-defeating behaviors!" Wow! We're more powerful than we know.