Tag Archives: Anxiety

Eating right and feeling calmer…

Can you tell that managing stress is really up there for me at the moment?

stressed comic

I know it seems like I keep harping on about it, but I am really aware that January is a stressful month for many people.  In my life at the moment, I am desperately attempting to get organised so I can cope if I go back to work, plus I am preparing for a job interview and I am painting the hallway in the new house.  I need as much help as I can get in managing those stress levels right now.

Getting stressed and anxious is less about what is happening outside, but more about the reaction inside.  But managing the stress levels and anxiety is not just regulating your reaction; what you eat can have a major impact on how you feel when confronted with those ARGH moments that we all get from time to time.

no sugar

The bad news is that the things you might think would work a treat (sugar, chocolate, chips) are precisely the things you should avoid.  They actually stress your nervous system and therefore should be avoided at all costs.  The good stuff though, the stuff which supports your nervous system, is the stuff you know you should be eating.  Ideally you should be eating alkalizing foods like fresh sprouts, high quality protein, whole grains, green leafy vegetables, root vegetables and cultured milk products such as yogurt, kefir or buttermilk.  Lemons are good as well as grapefruit, nuts and seeds.  If you want to have a healthy nervous system, then you need energy, and these foods will provide that.

The other things you need to do is to add calcium to your diet.  You need calcium to have healthy nerve function, and this is what we are aiming for.  If you have too little calcium in your blood, then you might be nervous, irritable, get muscle spasms, get muscle cramping, be hyperactive and probably not sleep very well.  Thankfully getting calcium in the diet is fairly simple.

green leafies

Obviously dairy products helps.  It helps more if they are cultured.  Plain milk has surprisingly little calcium in it, so choose yoghurt instead.  You can also eat lots of green leafy vegetables such as spinach. chard, broccoli, turnips greens, kale, beet greens and parsley.  Surprisingly large amounts of dietary calcium can be found in seaweed as well.  To be honest, taking in calcium rich foods is going to have very little effect unless you also have adequate levels of Vitamin D.  Either get out into the sunshine, no matter how cold or watery it is at this time of year, or take a supplement.  I take a supplement with added calcium in it.

If you are feeling like things are all getting on top of you and you are struggling to cope, then you might want to consider making a high quality calcium tea.  You take 1 part horsetail, 1 part nettle and 1 part oats.  Combine the herbs, pour boiling water over them and leave to steep for 5-15 minutes, depending on how strong you like it.  Strain the herbs and add honey to taste and then drink it all up.  If that doesn’t sound appetising (and to me, it really doesn’t!) consider taking some herbs with high quality calcium in them.  Chickweed, Amaranth and Dandelion Greens are good sources, must so are Mustard Greens, Horsetail, Nettle, Oats and watercress.  A lot of those will be easier to get hold of come the spring!

Still, there are a lot of lovely foods to choose from.

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How is 2015 treating you so far?

Most people I know went back to work on Monday.  Most people I know felt like they hadn’t been away by the back end of Tuesday.  For myself, because I don’t work in an office environment, I have spent the first week of 2015 attempting to get myself organised.  I am not sure if it has worked, but I do feel as if I have been chasing my tail all week.  In fact, I have that feeling that I might meet myself on the way back, if you know what I mean?

chasing tail

Don’t get me wrong, everything I have been doing has been important and necessary work.  But goodness me, there is so much of it.  As soon as I organise one bit… I need to rush off and organise another bit.  If this is the way the year is going to go… I can imagine myself being something of a stress bunny by the end of March, let alone December!

And add into the mix the chance that I might actually be heading back to the world of work (I have an interview next Friday!).  Hello stratospheric work stress levels.  I am going to need some herbal assistance methinks.  So, I headed off to my new herbal bible to see what Rosemary Gladstar has to say on the matter.

stress management

Ms Gladstar is very sensible actually.  She points out that a lot of people get depressed after going through long periods of stress, and that if you treat the symptoms of the depression, rather than the root cause of the stress, then you are not going to get to the bottom of the problem.  She points out that relaxation is the best way of getting rid of stress, so whatever your favourite method is, use it.  It could be hot soaky baths.  It could be praying to your deity of choice, or for us Catholics, spending time at Adoration.  It could be drinking a cup of herbal tea.  It could be knitting, sewing or crocheting something.  It could be reading a book.  It could be digging a border or bed in the garden.  It could be planting seeds.  Whatever that makes your shoulders come down from around your ears, do it.

There are some herbs which can help though, some of which are known as nerve tonics.  Really what they do is to help rebalance the nervous system, and of course stress is one of those things which makes the nervous system get all whacked out of line anyway.  That “fight or flight response” doncha know.   One of the recipes in this section is a Valerian tea blend.  I am all for a tea blend without chamomile in it.  Chamomile and I do not really mix – the last time I had it in a tea form I was ill for HOURS afterwards.  I would rather my relaxation herbal tea didn’t have that kind of violent emetic effect.

licquorice roots

So the recipe here contains a half part liquorice root, 2 parts lemon balm and 1 part valerian root.  All these things can be sourced online or at a good Herbal supplier.  Now, the liquorice root is kind of hard, so you first need to make a decoction of it.  So, place the root in a small saucepan and cover it with cold water.  Heat it slowly and simmer, covered, for about 15 minutes.  Take the pan off the heat, add the lemon balm and valerian root and infuse for 45 minutes.  Strain and then you can drink as much of it as you want, as often as you want.  I would be cautious though, the liquorice root can have a laxative effect.  You have been warned.

Have a relaxing weekend!  I am starting on the next house renovation project – painting the hallway.  Hopefully I will find that a relaxing activity!

Nervousness and Anxiety and what you can do about it…

Sometimes, a few nerves are a good thing.  When you are performing in front of an audience for example.  When I sing solo at Church, something I have done most Sundays for over 20 years now, I STILL get nervous.  Properly nervous, with wobbly knees and shaky legs and that sort of thing.  Interestingly, I rarely shake or wobble before I perform.  I get scared afterwards and THEN shake like a leaf.  I know, I am odd.

nervousness

However… if you feel like you have suffered more than 4 panic attacks (and you will definitely know the difference between nervousness and a panic attack), then it is not a good thing at all.  In fact, it is a very bad thing indeed.  Why?  Because your system is saturated with Adrenalin and your body is living in a constantly stressed situation, never knowing whether to fight or to run for the hills.  This was great when you happened along the odd sabre toothed tiger… but not so great when you are just need to get the laundry done or go to the supermarket.

If your anxiety disorder is of a very high level (like the “I am not going out of the house ever again” level) then please, please, please get professional help.  I am not a mental health worker in any way and would not want to lead you astray with any advice.  If however, you get scared at the thought of speaking to a lot of people, or entering a crowded room, or you are worried what will happen if something or other happened, then perhaps I can help.

public speaking

Usually, if you do feel nervous, then that feeling will go away when whatever was causing the nerves goes away.  If it does not go away, then please see a mental health professional.  There is no stigma, at least not in my mind, in seeing someone who knows what they are doing.  I have done it, and it has helped me immensely.  So if you are struggling, then please, do what you know is right.

My book of choice this month, “Home Remedies from a Country Doctor” has something to say on this topic.  Here is how you will know if you are suffering a panic attack – you have moments of terror, with breathing trouble, chest pains, a heart that is racing, the feeling of choking or chills and hot flashes.  You can also experience dizziness, or a feeling that the room is closing in.  I am lucky enough to say I have had perhaps one of those in my life.  Only one.  I have no wish to repeat the occasion, but if it is only one, then I have nothing to worry about.  For an occasional bout of nerves though there are some things that you can try.

planning

Planning ahead (which is one of my favourite occupations, because it usually involves lists) is a really good way of getting over nerves.  Effectively you are telling your subconscious that it is okay, you know what is coming, and it might keep your emotions on an even keel.

If your nervousness is caused by a phobia of some kind, then perhaps exposing yourself to what causes your fear is a good idea.  If you are horrified of spiders then I do not countenance a few minutes is a glass tank with a tarantula and their extended family, but if you are afraid of flying, then actually going on a flight can really help with that phobia.  There are courses run by several airlines to help passengers who are scared of flying, so look into it if you want to stop being scared.

panic attack

Another bit of good advice is what to do if you are having a panic attack.  You need to remember the acronym AWARE.  A stands for Awareness – label your feelings and your panic as just that.  You are not dying, you are not having a heart attack, you are panicking.  W stands for watchfulness.  You need to watch your own symptoms and as all panic attacks have a pattern, you can sometimes watch the symptoms come in waves.  Surf the symptoms as if they are a wave.  Wait for it to pass.  The second A stands for Action.  Stay active when you are panicking.  Don’t freeze to the spot, or retreat to a broom cupboard or something.  Staying active keeps the mind busy and may lessen the panic attack symptoms.  R is for Relax.  You can practice a lot of techniques which can relax you and also lessen the symptoms you are feeling.  They may include breathing exercise, distraction or biofeedback processes.  Have a look on line for relaxation techniques that might work for you.  And finally… E stands for Enjoy life.  Panic attacks happen.  Don’t let them rule your life.  Just deal with them as they arise and keep on doing the things that make you smile.

What a morning…

Hubby and I had a meeting with the social worker this morning and it was one of our more stressful occasions in this adoption process.  Needless to say at the end of things I feel kind of anxious and really pretty dreadful.  It got me thinking.  Is there anything herbal which can help address anxiety and panic attacks?

panic

I am very lucky, because I have never had a proper, full on panic attack.  People report different symptoms, but often shortness of breath, the idea that you are going to die, feeling like the world is piling in on top of you in about one second flat, are all reported as symptoms.  That does not sound enjoyable in the slightest.  I usually just get anxiety attacks.  For me, these are characterised by me thinking the absolute worst about everything all the time and getting stressed about things that are totally outside of my control.

chamomile

According to my research, there are some natural things that can help with anxiety and panic attacks.  The first of these is Chamomile.  Without doubt it is far and away the best herb to deal with anxiety.  A cup of chamomile tea is just the ticket, but you can also use lavender aromatherapy oils in a burner, or St John’s Wort as a supplement, or Valerian root as a tea as well.  However, one word of caution.  If you are already on anti-anxiety medication be sure to check for interactions just to be on the safe side.  It also goes without saying that you shouldn’t just stop your ongoing medication either.

 

Research has found that Magnesium is necessary in the body to dissipate the effects of traumatic stress that can occur as a result of intense fear or anxiety.  It also helps to undo the bad programming in the brain from previous attacks and can help to create a new brain response to triggering issues.  If you think you might be magnesium deficient, then see if you can get a blood test to make sure, but if you want to keep those levels up, eat lots of green leafy vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds.  All of these are excellent sources of magnesium.

oily fish

Our old friends the Omega 3 fatty acids are back again.  They can reduce the effects of stress and anxiety by nearly 20%.  You can either eat more fatty fish or you can take supplements.  It can also help with systemic inflammation over the whole body which can also result from extended periods of stress or anxiety.

 

In addition, change your diet to one full of vegetables with less meat and dairy, reducing fat and sugar as you go, and you can give your GABA levels a boost.  GABA stands for Gamma-amnobutyric Acid, and apparently it helps to calm the firing nerves in the central nervous system.  If you don’t have enough of it, you can experience manic behaviour, alcoholism, anxiety or restlessness.  Also, try and cut out a lot of caffiene from your daily routine.  It is one of the main food triggers for anxiety along with Glutamine.

broccoli

Isn’t it strange?  When feeling anxious, don’t reach for the chocolate.  Reach for the Broccoli.  Anyone got any spare?

Depressed? Don’t pop pills! Meditate instead!

January. One of the most depressing months. Not only has Christmas been and gone, with all the stresses and strains that entails, but also it is a time to take stock of finances, goals, personal achievements, all kinds of things which can prompt people to feel less than great. And I haven’t even mentioned the weather!!

From metro.co.uk

From metro.co.uk

I noticed this morning that a couple of papers have reported on a review of medical studies which states that meditation can help people with depression. Not only that, but that the benefits are similar in size to those of people taking anti-depressant drugs. What absolutely fabulous news!

I don’t know if any of you have had experience of taking anti-depressants. I have, and they made me feel most peculiar. It was not a pleasant experience, but I needed them to recover from my depression which was quite pronounced.  I would never counsel anyone who was using these means to control their depression to stop them and only use herbal remedies.  It would cause more problems than it solves.  However, if you are feeling down, perhaps moderately depressed, meditation might very well be a way for you to control your feelings and get back onto an even keel.

Interestingly, the article in the Medical News Today (www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/270824.php) states that the evidence appears to show that best results come from “training in present focused awareness or mindfulness” rather than transcendental or mantra meditation.

The review found that 52% of study participants were better using meditation than the depression control group, 44% were better than the anxiety control group and 31% reported and improvement in pain.

So what herbal remedies can be used for depression, anxiety and pain relief?

For Depression, St John’s Wort is well known to help.  It is available as a supplement from health shops if you wish to take a pill, but there is also evidence to suggest that exercise is a powerful anti-depressant.  Some would suggest vigorous aerobic activity is the best form, but to my mind, just getting out into nature (assuming the weather is playing ball and is not so cold that it is dangerous to do so) really calms the mind and emotions.  Even when it is raining.  Never underestimate the power of jumping in puddles!

Another great way of helping depression is to eat lots of coloured fruit and vegetables.  It is the antioxidants contained in those colourful fruit and veg which appear to help.  Plus, I can’t help but smile when I am eating a rainbow!

For Anxiety, well known herbal remedies include chamomile or green tea.  Compounds within Chamomile bind to the same brain receptors as drugs like Valium, without the potential side effects.  It is believed that an amino acid called L-theanine is what helps people if they drink Green tea according to the American Botanical Council.  Personally, I can’t stand Green Tea, but I do love Chamomile.

chamomile

Pain is trickier to treat, because it does depend why the pain is happening.  However,you can get herbal topical treatments for pain and inflammation including lotions made with chilli peppers or ginger.  Tumeric is also very useful.  However, diet is also key and one containing fish oils and low in animal fats may very well help.  And don’t forget exercise.  I am fully of the opinion that you should use it or lose it.  So a gentle stroll, a slow swim, an easy cycle is better than sitting on the sofa grimacing.  Also, T’ai Chi is fabulous for getting movement going, and it is also a martial art!

I hope you have found this interesting, and please, leave your comments if you have used these remedies, or have other tricks you use which might help others.