Finding Calm by Jaunita May, ND
Now more than ever we need to find our calm and inner peace. This article is dedicated to those feeling overwhelmed and uncertain of their future, for those who feel more anxious or low-mood around the festive season and every one of us in general who experiences anxiety.
From April to March 2021 the ABS conducted a survey relating to COVID-19 and the impact it had on households. The survey included 3,414 participants. Key findings for emotional and mental wellbeing included 1 in 5 adult participants (20%) experienced very high levels of psychological distress with one in three (30%) aged 18-34 yearsalso experiencing very high levels of psychological distress.
Do you suffer anxiety? Do your family members suffer anxiety? And do you know people who suffer anxiety? In my clinical and personal experience it affects everyone at some stage in their life. The good news is there are many ways to manage anxiety and the most successful measures include a holistic approach that includes body, mind (spirit) and environment.
What drives anxiety and what happens to our physiology (body/mind) when we experience it?
Fear is the driver of anxiety it is an automatic neurophysiological response that cognitively causes a state of alarm warning the body of present or imminent danger.
Imminent danger includes real danger and also what we PERCEIVE as danger.
Anxiety can be triggered when we overestimate a perceived threat or danger, which leads to the overstimulation of our sympathetic (fight and flight) nervous system.
Our thoughts alone can drive anxiety, as mentioned these are things that we fear.
Traumatic events are another causative factor for anxiety as well as Post Traumatic Stress.
Physiological symptoms of anxiety: heart palpitations or increased heart rate, rapid breathing, shortness of breath, chest pain, dizziness, diarrhoea, upset stomach, chills, hot flashes, trembling, shaking, tingling or numbness in arms and legs, weakness, unsteadiness, tense muscles, dry mouth, nausea, sweaty, choking sensation.
Affective symptoms include: nervous, tense, wound-up, frightened, fearful, terrified, edgy, jumpy, impatient and frustrated.
Anxiety disorders: separation anxiety, selective mutism, specific phobias, social anxiety, panic disorder (panic attacks), agoraphobia (fearful of public or open spaces and concerned they will have a panic-like episode), generalised anxiety (excessive worry), substance/medication induced anxiety (substance intoxication or withdrawal of a medical treatment), anxiety disorder relating to medical condition - hypothyroidism, hypoglycaemia, cardiovascular disorders, congestive heart failure, respiratory illness, metabolic disturbances, neurological illnesses.
Circuit breakers for anxiety:
Exercise to snap our of stressful thinking:
Step 1: Stop/pause - STOP MIND/STOP THAT THINKING NOW
Step 2: Take a deep breath in through the nose out through the mouth - 3 times
Step 3: Change your thinking - I can……eg: get through this, I must….eg: look at this situation accurately, I will ….eg: change the way I perceive this, so I can feel better.
Upgrade your thoughts, with practice new neural pathways will take shape and like exercise building muscle making you stronger, your pathways will build a stronger mind, gifting you with more calm and inner peace.
(Source: The Health Retreat, Maleny)
Go for a walk in nature, practicing 4-7-8 breathing technique
4-7-8 breathing technique: completely empty your lungs exhaling with a whooshing sound out of your mouth. Close your lips inhaling through your nose and count to four. Then hold your breath for seven seconds. Exhale whooshing breath from your mouth for eight seconds. Practice this for four full breaths.
Have a shower and turn water completely to cold and immerse your whole body under for as long as you can.
Have a hug - grab a family member, friend or pet and have a long warm hug, the release of oxytocin will snap you out of your anxious state.
Meditation - lie on a yoga mat on the floor with cushions placed to make you comfortable and consider using Headspace App or simply clear your mind and practice gentle breathing.
“Where your attention goes the energy flows and then that thing grows” - Huna Wisdom
Healthy lifestyle practices to reduce anxiety:
Avoid stimulants such as caffeine, nicotine and alcohol.
Avoid over-consumption of processed foods and sugar.
Practice good sleep hygiene: eat before 7.30pm, no stimulants before bed including exercise, keep a well ventilated room, regular bedtime aim for 8-10 hours sleep, journalling to jot down your worries, to-do-lists or write what your are grateful for.
Limit screen time swap for quiet time, creative activities and relaxation.
Share consistent affection with family/friends.
Eat slowly and mindfully and share meals with your family/friends, avoid eating in front of television.
Enlist the support of a counsellor or psychotherapist.
Post affirmations around your home - help change your beliefs to change your behaviour.
Practice relaxation - whether it is meditation, walking in nature, yoga, lying on the ground and earthing, having a sauna, going for a swim, canoeing, fishing, have a massage or a cup of tea whilst reading a good book. Relaxation offers us a profound moment in time to truly be our authentic self.
“Tension is who you think you should be, relaxation is who you are” Chinese Proverb
Affirmations for an anxious mind:
I can handle this, I have time for all the things I wish to enjoy
I lovingly nourish my body and mind all throughout the day
Life is always on my side, this is tricky but with time, I’ll get there
I take loving responsibility for cultivating positive energy within and around me
Calming thoughts relax and nurture me
I am empowered by calm communication
We can all get overwhelmed at times, with practice, communicate with yourself calmly and gently. Relax and reflect on where you’ve been and where you want to be. It’s the little steps in the right direction that will start making small positive changes to your life each and every day (Source: Relax, A little book of calm, Meredith Gaston).
Nutrients for anxiety (please also consider help from a registered Naturopath or Nutritionist)
• B vitamins (especially B2, B3, B6), taurine, tryptophan, zinc, magnesium, SAMe, inositol, calcium, L-theanine.
Herbs for anxiety (please also consider help from a registered Herbalist or Naturopath)
• Bacopa, Californian Poppy, Oats Green, Hops, Kava, Lavender, Mexican Valerian, Passionflower, Valerian, Withania, Zizyphus
The big message here is don’t let fear change who you are. Who you are is incredibly special and unique and anxiety is only something we experience. Let calm and peace be your focus, anxiety does not have to define you, it’s a state of being that with time you can change. If you are concerned with your mental health, visit your GP for a mental health assessment, or book in with a counsellor/psychotherapist. Natural health practitioners can help you with dietary, lifestyle and herbal or homeopathic remedies to further support your mental health.
Take care of you and each other, Love and light ~ Jaunita May, Your Family Naturopath