TENDING the TABLE

Treating Anxiety

Hello friends! I hope you’re having a great week and enjoying the sunshine.

I’ve had several people ask me about anxiety recently so I’ve decided to share my favorite tips and tricks with you here. I hope you find some of it useful or at least feel less alone knowing that anxiety is a prevalent issue in today’s fast paced, over stimulating world.

I’ve always been a sensitive person (you can read Renee’s insightful take on this here) but last year my anxiety got noticeably worse. After my sister’s suicide some long latent patterns emerged and I found myself suddenly experiencing panic attacks. Anyone who’s had a panic attack knows just how terrible they are. Your heart races and your chest feels tight, you often experience chills or sweating or both, your breathing becomes short and labored, your neck becomes stiff and painful and your nervous system rebells against you sending signals to your nerves that cause twitching and shaking. Panic attacks can come on suddenly without any apparent reason (they can actually be triggered by physical sensations that resemble panic attack symptoms, activating neural pathways in the brain and inducing an attack) and the effects sometimes last for hours. When the panic finally subsides you feel exhausted and totally depleted. They’re scary and can leave you feeling completely helpless. After experiencing a solid week of panic attacks I started experimenting with various herbs, supplements and techniques to help curtail the effects. Below is a list of my go to remedies. I hope you find them helpful and please comment with any additional resources, thoughts or ideas.

Herbs:

  1. This tincture contains kava, passionflower and lavender and is great at combatting anxiety quickly. I usually take a dropperfull in some water when I start to feel anxious and it calms me down right away without any sort of sedative effect.
  2. Ashwaghanda is an Ayurvedic herb used for balancing the nervous system and promoting strength and stamina. It’s an adaptogen and reduces cortisol. I usually take one tablet in the AM during particularly stressful times.
  3. This supplement has changed my life. It contains Taurine and B6 which convert GABA receptors in the brain and convert triptophan into seratonin. I take one capsule before bed to promote deep sleep when my nervous system is on high alert.

Diet:

  1. Licorice tea is great for soothing and calming. Even just sipping warm water sometimes helps to calm me down.
  2. Make sure to eat warm, nourishing, cooked foods and plenty of healthy fats to keep your nervous system happy (your neurons are coated in a protective sheath that is 70% fat).
  3. Avoid caffeine, sugar and  alcohol.

Meditation and Breathing:

These three methods are what I use any time I’m feeling panicky, anxious or having trouble falling asleep. I find that more often than not, the trick with anxiety is redirecting my attention away from whatever is making me anxious. Often times, simple mindful breathing does the trick.

  1. Yoga Nidra is a method of guided meditation and visualization that promotes super deep relaxation. This is my favorite one.
  2. This super simple breathing technique is wonderful to do first thing in the AM and just before bed.
  3. Nadi Shodhana or alternate nostril breathing balances the two hemispheres of the brain and calms the nervous system.

Exercise:

Getting regular exercise can really help calm the mind and body. I try to avoid strenuous exercise when I’m feeling stressed and anxious since over exertion can induce a flight or fight response in the body and make things worse. Walking and yoga are my go to forms of exercise.

Other tricks:

  1. Weighted blankets are a great way to sedate the nervous system when panic sets in. I often get shaky and having something heavy and comforting across my body helps calm the nerves and reduce the shaking.
  2. Warm baths and self oil massage also help calm the nerves. I typically run a warm bath in the evening, light some candles, and use generous amounts of untoasted sesame oil on my entire body, especially my head and feet. I like putting some sandalwood and rose essential oils in the bath too.
  3. If you feel a panic attack coming on tapping into the mammalian dive reflex can be extremely effective. The mammalian dive reflex is built into our physiology. When mammals dive into cold water, the heartbeat slows, blood moves from the limbs to the chest and breathing slows down. We can trigger this response without actually diving into water. Just fill a large bowl with ice and cold water and plunge your face into the ice bath for several seconds. Repeat a few times. Alternatively, place a cold ice pack over your eyes. It should be cold enough to shock your body and break the pattern of panic.
  4. Snuggling with a puppy or your loved ones always helps too. The benefits of skin to skin contact can’t be over stated.

Be well friends.

XO Sasha