Anxiety is multifaceted and I can't stress enough that herbs and supplements are tools that compliment a protocol that is tackling the root cause! This blog is not meant to diagnose the root cause of your anxiety as every single person is unique, but is to encourage you to seek out support in finding a practitioner who will help you find the root cause to compliment symptom management.
Many of those who suffer from anxiety may attest that they have "tried everything", leaving them still feeling anxious with little hope of relief. The challenge being, symptom management is not a long term solution whether you are utilizing supplements or pharmaceuticals. You see your anxiety is not due to a deficiency in clonazepam, ativan or valium, nor is it due to a deficiency in valerian root, ashwaganda or passionflower.
Everything is cause and effect, therefore addressing the cause is the solution to the effect. This doesn't mean that you do not seek out support to manage the symptoms, it will just leave you in a continual cycle of symptom management.
At this point, you are probably waiting for the punch line, solution, anything to just end the pain, but there is no "one size fits all" approach, so here are the facts that can guide you to some of the potential root causes and some tools to help manage the symptoms:
The digestive system is much like the foundation of your house, responsible for supporting the structure of the body, and creating balance. Your gut is the hub of fuel for the body, that then gets broken down, assimilated and distributed to other bodily systems. If digestion is hindered, the fuel to the body is hindered. A car out of gas, isn't going to get very far, just sayin'!
Interestingly, 95% of your serotonin, your happy neurotransmitter, is produced in the gut (1). In fact studies have shown, serotonin is produced by certain gut microbe species, or good bacteria, meaning the importance of a balance of bacteria in the gut is integral to the state of your happiness (2)(3)(4). If your gut isn't happy, you're not going to be happy.
Continual stress is one of the top causes of gut imbalance depleting digestive enzymes, and good bacteria. Stress triggers the bodies fight or flight response, shutting down digestive processes. Back in our hunter gather days, if a bear was chasing after us, the fight or flight response would trigger, shutting down digestion and sending all energy into the bodies mechanisms that would help us run away. The trouble is we do not have bears chasing after us anymore, but we have bear like stressors that are keeping us in this fight or flight response. We continue to eat in this state of stress, when digestion is shut down and in doing so foods are not broken down properly, causing inflammation throughout the body.
As mentioned above there are things that we can do to support both the foundation of our body and the symptoms at hand. Here are some remedies to get you started:
The balance of our gut microbiome is dependent upon supporting the good bacteria. Supplementing a probiotic is one way that we can largely support the potential physical imbalance contributing to our anxiety. A personal favourite is Garden of Life's Dr. Formulated Mood+ Probiotic, targeting specific strains of bacteria known to support mental health, with the addition of ashwaganda, an adaptogenic herb used to help with stress management. For more info on how to pick a probiotic read more here.
Theanine is an amino acid found in green tea and is also available as a supplement.
Shown to alter brain waves, l-theanine increases alpha activity and when maintained can lead to a relaxed state, mental clarity and a sense of calm.
Commonly found in matcha, this green tea has been shown to reduce cortisol and is a great way to support your body in conjunction with a full healing protocol.
B-vitamins aid in the bodies ability to be able to handle stress and anxiety. Interestingly, stress depletes your b-vitamins leaving you moody, with low energy, weakness and brain fog. Taking a b-complex supplement will help with a healthy balance of each b vitamin.
Food sources of the b vitamins include meat, whole grains, potatoes, bananas, legumes, nutritional yeast and molasses.
Magnesium relaxes tension in muscles and helps to calm the nervous system. Note that high doses of magnesium can cause diarrhea. If this occurs, reduce your dose.
There is no supplement or prescription that can take away your stress. Only you can do that! The last thing I wanted to hear when I was at my very worst point of anxiety was this,
You might relate to feeling out of control, out of solutions and nearing a breaking point. This quote comes with much compassion and the moment I took responsibility for how I was percieving the world and the events that I thought were happening to me was the moment I set myself free. I realized I was waking up and looking for and creating my anxiety. I realized the world wasn't happening 'to me' it was happening around me and I chose to take it on.
The fact is, you cannot heal unless you are grounded. When you are in anxiety, you are not grounded. Your only task at that point is to ground yourself. Seeking out a counsellor who can guide you through grounding and healing triggers is essential to healing the body, mind and spirit. Here are a few to get you started:
Meditation is one of the most powerful things you can do for yourself. I often get remarks, like "oh, I can't meditate". Yes, you can, you are choosing not to. You don't have to be "good" at it, you just need to practice it. It doesn't need to be 1 hour long, you can start with 5-10 minutes, but not 5-10 minutes once a month or once you are in anxiety. It needs to happen every single day! Without question, studies show that mindfulness meditation can ease psychological stresses like anxiety, depression, and pain (5). What's more painful than having to meditate everyday? Sitting in the pain, so hop to it!
Activity: Start with guided meditations to help guide your mind into grounding and relaxation. My favourite meditation app is "Guided Mind", full of guided meditations on varying topics including anxiety.
Living in the NOW!
Working with what is right now, in this very moment is a great way to get out of anxiety. Anxiety is a reel of 'what if's' for the future or thoughts dwelling in the past that are all rooted from fear, NONE of which are a reality of this very moment.
For example: If your fear is not having enough money, you may have created this ball of anxiety of worry that you are going to run out, which will lead to you loosing your home and if you don't have a home, then you probably won't be able to eat and if you can't afford to feed yourself or your kids, you might loose your kids etc. You see how the story quickly elevates into circumstances that will likely never come to be, which is why "this too shall pass", because it is not a reality.
There is no denying that there is a potential reality occuring. The reality is you might be getting low on money, but in this very moment, you have a roof over your head, you have food on the table and you are safe. THAT IS the reality. Anxiety prevents us from seeing reality, which is why it is so important that we work on living in the present moment.
Activity: Repeat after me: In this moment, this very moment, I am safe!
Activity: When you are in anxiety, identify the following:
It is important to remember that when we are in a fragile state that we are gentle with our bodies, including the foods we put in our mouth. Eating easily digestible foods, like my Warm Soothing Smoothie, during times of stress and anxiety will help reduce the burden on the digestive system and will help support absorption of needed nutrients.
Warm Soothing Smoothie
2 cups almond milk
1.5 tsp matcha
3 tbsp hemp hearts
1 tsp coconut oil
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup spinach
In a medium pot, warm almond milk.
Gently whisk matcha into almond milk.
Once hot, but not boiling, transfer to a blender and blend remaining ingredients.
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