Finding Root Causes & Supporting My System: #ihaveanxietytoo
Anxiety's both a bitch and a friend. She's a constant teacher and a constant pain. She rattles me and she asks me to dive deep to figure out my body's processes and more my core needs. She keeps me on my toes. She reduces me to a tiny thing, causes my jaw to tighten and my skin to vibrate, and forces a retreat from the sensory world that rattles me further.
But I have learnt to invite her to tea, ask her what's up, and be kind to her, because shooing her away never works. She just comes back, after all.
I have written about anxiety before on the blockchain because when I was entering in the worst of it, I had no one to really explain to me what was going on and how I could begin to manage it. If you even mentioned anxiety at work or in social situations people would kinda back away slowly, unsure of how to deal with it. Broken legs and broken bones are visible and fixable - the brain is a hidden thing, and a frightening one. I've had conversations here about anxiety to people who have been too scared to tell their husbands because they knew they'd be percieved as weak, or thought there was something badly wrong with them, a character flaw that needed some serious medication or that they just needed to deal with it.
It's for this reason that I absolutely applaud @mountainjewel's hashtag proposal as part of @sndbox which you can find here. It's also in response to @naturalmedine's challenge about home remedies. Both challenges have liquid rewards so you want to get on board both if you can!
In the spirit of helping people lessen their own anxiety, to work with it, and to share with others, she proposes the hashtag:
Like me, @mountainjewel believes that sharing is caring - sharing about our experiences helps us avoid feeling alone. Like me, she hopes we can normalise anxiety and lessen it's taboo status. Like me, she's a big believer in the power of the Steem blockchain to unite us and help each other overcome challenges such as these.
You might need a good cup of calming chamomile tea to get you through this post
I thought I'd share a few of the things I'm dabbling with to work with my anxiety, because you absolutely cannot work against it.
BUT FIRST, if you'd like to hear a chill out tune whilst reading (I love listening to music when I'm steeming) here's one for you:
It really concerns me when I hear comments like:
- 'you just gotta swallow that shit brother, because bringing it up doesn't help you at all'
- 'you just gotta think positive'
- 'it's all in your head, so you just have to ignore it'
It's these beliefs that do more harm that good - one, repression, in the form of antidepressants or pure will, never works - it just bubbles to the surface, again and again.
Two, it's far more complicated to think 'positive' as an approach to anxiety because sometimes the pathway to your anxiety has nothing to do with this language based approach. Think about the original panic attack - say, you have a bad experience with spiders. Your response comes from the amygdala, part of your limbic system, and the hippocampus takes note and creates the same response for you in the future to protect you (this is why anxiety can be a friend - it's a survival thing). Your anxiety becomes automatic and instinctual, so no amount of brain re-wiring will help you in this instance. For example, my stress breakdown happened at work. I still feel anxiety at work, even though I know I have nothing to worry about and everything is fine and in fact more than fine, as I've cut my hours and have a whole heap of systems in place to stop that stress build up again. Telling myself to be positive just does NOT work on my limbic brain.
And three, yes, it's all in my head and all the various parts of my brain, but it's also stored in my body too - but it is impossible to ignore, as anyone who has experienced anxiety will know. In fact, if you haven't experienced anxiety, please don't say such things - be kind enough to do your research and find out more about it before saying such harmful things that can cause even more anxiety!
Zizyphus, useful for estless sleep, troubling dreams, anxiety and even concentration problems.
I can't tell you. I honestly can't. There's all different pathways to anxiety and all I can say is that you have to be brave enough to face it and find something that gives you relief and helps you find a way out. I'm just here to share what I've been doing and what has worked for me. I know it's possible, because I've experienced many breakthroughs, and know I can find a way to manage it.
The other thing is, it's not self-defining - my anxiety doesn't own me, and is just one of the things that make me who I am. And sometimes it's here, and sometimes it isn't - those around me have learnt not to tippy toe around me, but to relish all aspects of me and just be willing to listen and understand when I say 'boy, I'm anxious as hell right now!'
Adaptogenic substances are used in herbal medicine for to stablise, nurture and support. When you are experiencing intense anxiety you need to find some calm before you can even begin to do anything else, like rationally pick up the phone and call a therapist or not bite your husband's head off or burst into tears. And anxiety can make you really sick - wired and tired, a weakened immune system and all sorts of problems. So adaptogens help your body cope with all the hormones like cortisol that are flooding my body and making it feel like it does.
There's so many beautiful adaptogenic herbs in our beautiful natural world. I'm sticking to a herbal mix given to me by my naturopath at the moment, but I'm trying to work out what the best ones are for me to take at home as tinctures or teas without interfering with anything else I take! I'm grateful for my naturopath for giving me guidance, as it's really easy to feel swamped.
- Ashwagandha is one of my favourites. It helps decrease levels of the stress hormone cortisol, reducing depression and helps with sleep
- Rhodiola @naturalmedicine wrote this post on Rhodiola, which can help enhance memory and concentration and brain energy (brain fog with anxiety is super common) and increase general well being and improve sleep and help with mood stability too.
- Kava helps modulate anxiety and reduce it by influencing vagal heart tone
- Passionflower has calming, sedative, and hypnotic effect
- Zizyphus is for restless sleep, troubling dreams, anxiety concentration problems. This is also in a herbal sleeping tablet I take that has lavender and valerian in it too. All okay'd by my naturopath - don't worry, I'm not overdosing on zizyphus, although I'm sure someone might have something to say about this in the comments!
I also use lavender essential oil at night time - certain oils are adaptogenic too and lavender is one that works brilliantly for me.
There's also two teas I use at night time - chamomile and damiana. I've written a post on damiana before, where I explain:
It's reputation for being a nervous system tonic that I ordered it, and I know it's great for recovering from long term stress and when the nervous system is wired, like mine is right now. It's meant to be relaxing and uplifting, and useful for anxiety, mild depression and nervous exhaustion. Even though I have been kept together by good eating and other supportive herbs as well as magnesium, I needed damiana's kick to truly bring me out of this awful nervous tension this week. Brewed on the hob with some honey to mellow it's slightly bitter taste, and a dash of chamomile, I felt better than I had for days - my racing heart beat slowed, my jitteriness soothed and softened and I felt better than I have felt in weeks.
Oh wonders of the herb kingdom, I absolutely bow down to you for supporting me when I need it the most!
If I'm going to celebrate the herbal kingdom, I also have to celebrate St John's Wort. I'm just beginning to feel the effects of now, after a month of using it consistently. That's my problem you see - I had been on this before and felt pretty good so I stopped using it. Lesson learnt - I won't do this again!
St. John's Wort (hypericum perforatum) helps with anxious and depressed behaviors. Studies have found that it reduces symptoms of mild to moderate depression more than a placebo and similar to prescription antidepressants. It's active ingredients (hypericin, hyperforin, and adhyperforin) are meant to increase the levels of chemical messengers such as serotonin, dopamine, and noradrenaline which help lift your mood.
St John's Wort can also help you sleep
Like anything (and with any herb or remedy I've talked about here) there can also be side effects, but so far I haven't experienced any. It's really important you research to find out if this is right for you rather than blindly take it and can I just say this is true for everything I mention in this post. Natural does not necessarily meant it can't harm you!
Stress can really deplete our stores of magnesium, especially if we aren't getting it in our diets. Some even argue that this is particular to our culture - more stress and other factors with our diets lead to magnesium deficiency. Psychology Today argue that 'when you start to untangle the effects of magnesium in the nervous system, you touch upon nearly every single biological mechanism for depression'. They continue:
The stress-diathesis model of depression, which is the generally accepted theory that chronic stress leads to excess cortisol, which eventually damages the hippocampus of the brain, leading to impaired negative feedback and thus ongoing stress and depression and neurotoxicity badness...magnesium seems to act on many levels in the hormonal axis and regulation of the stress response. Magnesium can suppress the ability of the hippocampus to stimulate the ultimate release of stress hormone, it can reduce the release of ACTH (the hormone that tells your adrenal glands to get in gear and pump out that cortisol and adrenaline), and it can reduce the responsiveness of the adrenal glands to ACTH. In addition, magnesium can act at the blood brain barrier to prevent the entrance of stress hormones into the brain.
I use this brand, which also contains Vitamin C and Rhodiola!
Yoga, pranayama and mindfulness help me enormously as it helps me regulate my breathing and be aware of where the breath is landing in my body, as well as how it is landing - is it shallow and quick, suggesting anxiousness and nervousness or deep and slow? By using these conscious practices, I'm more aware of the sensations in the body and how my brain is reacting to them - all those feedback loops!
Breath is linked to the vagus nerve that wanders from the base of the skull to the heart and the gut helps regulate our heart beat and thus our stress responses. Breathing from the belly rather than those shallow breaths at the top of our lungs helps calm the parasympathetic nervous system and the action of the diaphragm pushing down onto the gut helps massage it and bring blood to that area, which is essential to gut health which in turn is linked to mental health. Think about it - when you're nervous, do you feel 'sick to the stomach' or queasy? I bet you do!
All the trillions of microbes in our gut play a role in many aspects of our mental health too. Some of the things that can be used to help that are a good dose of probiotics, drinking lots of water, and grapeseed oil extract, which is meant to help with gut inflammation. I'm yet to try this one, as I need to do a little more research. I think I've got pretty good gut health and I'm actually more worried with my husband with this one who suffers from some kind of IBS which worsens when he is stressed.
Yin and yang are about balance and to me, that's essential to me dealing with my anxiety. Too much stimulation and sensory input makes me irritable, anxious and wired. Yin to me is quiet, dark, soft, moonlight, cool, interior, gentle, soothing. Yang to me is hot, noisy, dry, fast. Whilst we can't exist without both yin and yang, I find I have less yin in my life sometimes than I'd like. Life gets demanding, fast paced. I am often in the spotlight in my job rather in the quiet background where I much prefer to be.
The foods I eat too certainly have a lot to do with this and I absolutely had to quit coffee, though if I'm feeling okay I might have one as a treat. Quiet activities calm me down too - gardening, cooking, gentle yoga, drawing. I've learnt to invite more yin into my life to balance the stress of yang. There's much to be learnt from Chinese Medicine here and I'm only just beginning to really delve into how this modality can help me.
This one has BLOWN me away. I'm not even entirely sure how it works, and there are plenty of experts on the blockchain that probably could explain it to you, like @eftnow.
I happened to stumble on a book called 'The Tapping Point' at my local yoga studio lending library and read through and tried a few exercises. I had more relief from it than almost anything I have tried so far, which absolutely blew me away.
"Tapping provides relief from chronic pain, emotional problems, disorders, addictions, phobias, post traumatic stress disorder, and physical diseases. While Tapping is newly set to revolutionize the field of health and wellness, the healing concepts that it’s based upon have been in practice in Eastern medicine for over 5,000 years. Like acupuncture and acupressure, Tapping is a set of techniques which utilize the body’s energy meridian points. You can stimulate these meridian points by tapping on them with your fingertips – literally tapping into your body’s own energy and healing power."
I'm really excited with this approach as it seems that it is tapping in (no pun intended) to the causes of my anxiety, and helping me work through them. It's been amazing what has come up for me and how much relief I have got from it and I highly recommend you look into it! @eftnow also provides Skype (or similiar tech?) consultations if you want to get in touch with him.