This past year, we’ve all experienced some form of anxiety in reaction to the many stressors of 2020. But I want to talk about YOU and only you. What shows up for you when you’re just starting to relax for the night? Does a little spark of worry creep in just as you’re about to fall asleep? Do you experience the jitters during certain social situations? Does stress feel seemingly unbearable?
If you are like me and millions of other people around the world, you can relate to what I’m talking about. You understand the debilitating feeling that anxiety can bring on. Words often cannot correctly describe the insidious feeling of overwhelm and panic or the physical reaction like shortness of breath or muscle pain.
The emotional and physical reaction of anxiety can be unique to each person that experiences these feelings, but anxiety is always, at the very least, challenging.
Once anxiety is initiated, there are many tools to redirect the energy or change its course, but it takes time, energy and a plan to exercise this kind of fortitude against the wave emotion that seems too big to conquer.
Anxiety is an emotion that is often thought to be a mental health issue, but my patients are often relieved to know that anxiety has many different causes that are actually physiological; meaning they stem from an imbalance in your cells that has triggered this emotion.
If your nervous system is in an excitatory state (there are only two volumes of the nervous system: excited or inhibited) for too long without reprieve, you can get a depletion of the neurotransmitters (body’s little messengers) that keep you calm. That depletion can lead to anxiety. Also, if your body is in fight or flight overdrive and making too much cortisol in response to stress, or alternatively, if you aren’t making enough cortisol to manage stress on a cellular level you can get anxiety. Women also have two major sex hormones, estrogen and progesterone, that must stay in balance or else (wait for it…) you can get anxiety. All of these scenarios are common and can be resolved easily IF we know the cause.
I generally recommend to my patients that have anxiety to get tested to see which circumstance may be dominating their cellular function and triggering the emotion. There are great blood and/or saliva tests that can be used to determine imbalances and show a cause for the anxiety.
Knowing that anxiety can be initiated because of your cells not working quite right can be a comfort because it shows a tangible trigger and, often, a real treatment solution. It can also be relieving to know that the anxiety is not “all in your head.” However, if you haven’t had the opportunity to get tested there are many methods to prevent or turn the tide of anxiety. See my pro tips below:
- If you are under significant stress, take time to decompress your system and get out of the fight or flight mode. Read my Six Ways to Manage Your Stress blog.
- Make self-care (exercise, massage, facials, time alone) a priority every day so that you can relax and allow your nervous system to be uninhibited. Create at least 30 minutes for yourself each day to do something just for you, no matter how small it may seem.
- Breathe. Use breathing exercises throughout the day to calm your nerves. Cycle of 4 breathing exercise: Breathe in for 4 counts, hold for 4 counts and exhale for 4 counts. Repeat 3 more times and complete the breath cycle 4 times each day.
- Menstruating women should track their anxiety in reference to their periods and ovulation. If anxiety is occurring prior to or during those times in the menstrual cycle, then imbalanced hormones can be the cause. Vitex is a progesterone-supporting herb that can be used from ovulation to menstrual period to help balance the hormones and decrease anxiety. Consult your doctor to check blood levels of estradiol and progesterone on day 21 of your cycle to see if hormones are optimal. Women who are in menopause or not having regular periods can often still relate their anxiety to hormones if the anxiety is occurring at similar times each month.
- Talk to someone about the issue. Anxiety is hard. It can be incapacitating and occur at any time. Having support around anxiety is essential to learning the cause and finding a solution that works for you.
Our DHB Zen Tea and Anxiety Formula are formulated with botanicals that calm the nervous system and support the stress response. Use them in conjunction with all of the above methods to quell anxiety and keep calm.