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Christmas is one of the most testing periods of the year. It can be stressful but also challenging for our digestive system. We are excited but also anxious about organising the festivities and celebrations, whilst at the same time agonise about what presents to get for our friends and family. Being the end of the year we are also preparing to ‘wind down’ and regenerate for the New Year.

 

‘Tis the season for Flu and Colds’

Changes from autumn to winter means that the period prior to Christmas is full of flu and colds. This can carry on well into the spring. Frequent travel both local and distant exposes us to different cold viruses. Minimise your risks by maintaining a healthy immune system so you are more able to fight off any viruses. Eating a healthy diet, getting enough sleep and not smoking will help. More about flu supplements.

 

 ‘All I want for Christmas is Food’ 

Food and drink is a large part of Christmas. We must remember to stuff the turkey, but not ourselves. Food is always plenty at Christmas, turkey, nuts, chocolates, cheese, pudding, mince pies and cheese straws.  One Christmas dinner can add up to 3000 calories, between 500 -1200 calories more than the average adult requirement.  This does not include what we eat the rest of the day. Slowing down the speed of eating and savouring each bite will help to make the meal more satisfying. Remember that it takes our brain 20 min to register that the stomach is full.  A huge meal will give us indigestion and make us tired, thus contributing to weight gain. Be mindful about what you eat, and decide if it is something you really want before popping it into your mouth. Don’t eat it just because it is there.

 

‘Keep calm and say Ho, Ho, Ho……’                                                         

Don’t stress about making sure Christmas is Stress-Free. Most of us will be working through long lists of shopping, cooking and cleaning and visitors, so try to keep things manageable. Plan ahead and try to be organised. Shopping online can make things easier and if you are terrible at wrapping presents use gift bags.  It’s not a disaster if everything is not perfect and the mashed potatoes were a bit lumpy, or that the top of the Christmas tree you bought is not perfect – it’s what makes Christmas memorable. You could think ahead and consider organising some therapeutic treatments in the New year. Complementary therapies work really well for stress relief.

 

Peace, love and Joy’ 

Catching up with family and friends is a big part of the Christmas spirit. Instead of the usual salutatory wishes in a festive card, consider instead a photo card or a few sentences updating them about you and the family.   We have little choice in who we are related to, so there will always be a critical mother-in-law or a disapproving relative.  Prepare yourself for what is to come, but remember it is only for one day and you still have the rest of the year without them.

 

‘Silent night’

Make sure you rest and renew with plenty of restful sleep. Despite the time off work, late night celebrations from Christmas to the New Year will disturb our normal sleep pattern. Sleep hugely influences our physical and mental wellbeing. It is when our body heals and recovers from our waking activities. Try to return to your normal sleep pattern as soon as possible. Further about the benefits of sleep here.

 

‘Don’t get Ho, Ho, Hammered!’ 

During Christmas, alcohol is free flowing, mulled wine, bucks fizz, brandy, wine and even alcoholic punch. Don’t just indulge, decide what your limits are and then keep tabs on how much you are drinking. Mix non-alcoholic drinks in between and it will make it much more enjoyable. Excess alcohol can affect others. Be aware that although it can lift your mood initially, it is also a depressant and in some people can bring out unsociable and aggressive behaviour.  There is a considerable rise in the number of assaults and drink driving over Christmas and New Year. Added to this is increased incidence of alcohol poisoning.

 

Happy New Year! 

Let’s be honest, most of us spend the entire year not thinking about our health. Review the past year and consider if your health needs some attention. If you have had more frequent flu and colds, developed an allergy or skin condition, tend to get tired more quickly, fatigued most of the time, bones and joints ache, have a brain fog or spend time feeling frustrated and depressed, then it is time to make a plan to do something about it. It is more important than ever to get out the vitamins and minerals, consider having some therapies or book a doctor’s appointment.

 

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year !

Happiness can be one of the most elusive things to achieve, whilst in today’s world being stressed, anxious, depressed, confused and tired is easily done. It is almost ‘acceptable’ to be stressed, tired or have Brain Fog. If we decide, then we can be unhappy about everything, including ourselves. So much of it is a matter of choice. Do we decide to be unhappy about our……. weight, size, hair, money, job, home, weather and much more ?, or do we decide that we can be happy despite everything ?

Happiness is not a secret, it is a state of mind, and our mind is never constant but there are things we can do to help ourselves, and tilt it in our favour. Finding happiness can be quite simple; if you know where to look, but conversely is can be very elusive if you are focusing in the wrong places. People find pleasure and joy in different places, so the best way is to identify habits and things that give you satisfaction and enjoyment – and then make them a part of your everyday life. This could be restful long walks or invigorating running or swimming sessions, creative crafts, cooking or baking for pleasure, mindful meditation, relaxing music, singing or dancing, playing an instrument, or connecting with friends and family. Regular, small doses of pleasurable moments are much more fulfilling, rather than once in a life time holiday that lasts only for 2 weeks.

What do other people think about happiness?

Here are a few quotes

 “Happiness lies in the joy of achievement and the thrill of creative effort.”   Franklin D. Roosevelt

  “Happiness does not come from doing easy work but from the afterglow of satisfaction that comes after the achievement of a difficult task that demanded our best”.   Theodore Isaac Rubin

 “If you wants others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, Practice compassion.”  Dalai Lama

 “Happiness is a choice. You can choose to be happy. There’s going to be stress in life, but it’s your choice whether you let it affect you or not.”     Valerie Bertinelli

“My greatest beauty secret is being happy with myself. I don’t use special creams or treatments – I’ll use a little bit of everything. It’s a mistake to think you are what you put on yourself. I believe that a lot o how you feel about yourself and your life. Happiness is the greatest beauty secret”.    Tina Turner

Start your happiness mission today!

Today is the day you start being happy-  Now is the right time- This is the moment you change things and start being happy. Don’t wait till ‘later’ or ‘tommorow’ !

“Happiness is not something you postpone for the future; it is something you design for the present.”     Jim Rohn

Make a Happiness plan

  1. Self-awareness: Be aware of who you are and identify things that you get pleasure from regardless if it is big or small.
  2. Being physically active: Choose a regular physical activity, whether is walking or swimming Physical activity releases endorphins (feel good chemicals) and boosts your emotional wellbeing. You might feel sore or tired after but you will have a sense of satisfaction and feel good.
  3. Be Creative: Harness your creative genius and express your thoughts and emotions. You will gain a huge sense of satisfaction from your creation e.g. art, crafts, drawings, decorating colouring.
  4. Complete a challenge or a difficult task- especially something you have always wanted to do.
  5. Connect with others: make sure that you spend time talking to your loved ones, in particular with your partner and children. Communication is key to all relationships.
  6. Socialise and enjoy time with family and friends.
  7. Appreciate and be grateful for all that you have, and what others do for you. Make a list of all that you are grateful for.
  8. Expressing gratitude is beneficial for our emotional health, and studies have shown benefits for better sleep and lower risk of depression.
  9. ‘Make someone else happy’- making someone else happy will make you happy. Start volunteering or help a friend or relative.

Remember, you are in control of your own happiness.  Start your happiness plan Today !

 

It’s not uncommon for the proponents of conventional and of holistic systems of medicine to feel that they inhabit competing camps in the war to alleviate human suffering. In fact, Western and Eastern medicine are essential branches on the great tree of scientific knowledge.  Many of us are working towards the ideal of a continuum of care that provides the very best treatment to all patients. Western medicine has achieved remarkable triumphs.  Vaccination against many infectious diseases has greatly reduced their incidence; science has eradicated smallpox and come close to doing the same for polio.  It has saved millions of children from the scourges that once prevented so many from reaching their fifth birthday.

The specialties of surgery and emergency medicine save countless lives every day.

After decades of clinical practice I still wonder; Where does Western medicine fall short?  In the promotion of lifelong wellness; in the diagnosis and treatment of complex disorders; in the unnecessary or excessive use of pharmaceutical drugs; in safe, effective, ongoing pain management.

We’re certainly making progress in bringing these two branches of medicine closer, for example;  acupuncture has been proven to offer effective pain relief and increasingly accepted in medical pain clinics, and it doesn’t carry the risks associated with drug-based analgesia. Integration of auricular acupuncture in addiction clinics is another measure of its success. There is worldwide recognition of acupuncture for anxiety and stress particularly in cancer treatment, post traumatic stress disorder amongst veterans, and its potential value as anesthesia during surgical procedures.

I have always found that it is necessary to treat the whole person, and not just deal with an immediate crisis or what presents as their most significant symptom. I wanted to share this story (to ensure anonymity names and certain details have been changed).

Ria’s Story-  “Please… I Just Want the Pain to Stop”.

In the hospital waiting room Ria’s stomach churns and twists once again sending shooting pains throughout her body, followed by a cold sweat.  Over the past six months, she’s seen six different doctors; has endured repeated blood tests and other procedures.  No one has been able to offer her a definitive diagnosis. After each visit, she’s sent home with different prescriptions but no effective treatment for the repeated, alternating bouts of diarrhoea and constipation, sometimes nausea too.  Pain medication doesn’t bring any relief.  Her husband Pete feels equally anxious and frustrated.

Visits to six different doctors, blood tests and investigations all have proven to be unhelpful – there is no definitive diagnosis. Each time she is sent home with new meds, pain medication doesn’t work, one tells her that she is stressed and emotionally disturbed and prescribes her antidepressants another says there is some inflammation in her spleen, but nothing else. Ria is desperate, her symptoms are worsening.

Ria is beginning to doubt herself; wondering if it really is “all in her mind.”  She’s afraid to eat because everything just makes her feel worse, and she’s now two sizes smaller.

After yet another round of tests, Ria’s new consultant is also perplexed by her symptoms.  His examination of her shows nothing significant.  He’s ruled out cancer or other serious disease; all her other results are relatively normal. But fortunately for her, this doctor takes the time to listed to her and has a positive view of complementary therapies; he understands that functional disorders often underlie a patient’s stress and anxiety.  He knows that food intolerance is increasingly common and is often very hard to properly pinpoint. He asks her if she would be willing to accept a referral to a holistic physician.  Ria has always had an interest in complementary therapies and gladly agrees. He also gives her advice on juicing and enrolls her on to a mindfulness course.

As a holistic practitioner, I see Ria’s physical and emotional distress to be strongly interrelated, but requiring individual attention, with this in mind I begin acupuncture treatments. Almost immediately, they help to ease her distressed state and bring some relief for her stomach pain.

Over a period of months I guide Ria to make changes to her diet.  Together we develop a plan to identify problem foods. She learns about carbohydrate intolerance and how the FODMAP diet can help.  Ria finds the mindfulness course very effective in relieving her anxiety.  She began to realize her physical and emotional distress began years before the manifestation of painful bowel dysfunction.

Six months after starting treatment, Ria has made great progress.  She knows it will take time to regain the good health she thought was out of her reach, but she is no longer frightened and discouraged.  She is starting to take pleasure in eating again.  She and her husband are now enjoying what they thought might never be possible again–everyday pleasures.

 

Having depression comes with the feeling of being helpless when medication is your  only option. Thankfully, you are not limited to this and there are a number of therapies that can be used. These therapies can do a lot to fight back and they range from direct effects on brain chemicals responsible for mood, mind-body and physiological changes. Not all therapies are suitable for everyone, but most people will find that there will be some that will work for them.

Life Style Changes: Eating well, physical activity and getting sleep are crucial to good mental and physical health. Trying something new and set (realistic) goals for personal achievement.

Laughter Therapy: Develop a good sense of humour and laugh. Laughing gives you an instant hit of dopamine, a chemical in the brain that controls feelings pleasure and reward. Of course, laughing by yourself may be hard to achieve, so you can try to use a laugh phone app. One study by Loma Linda University researchers found that even the anticipation of a jovial laugh reduces the levels of stress hormone cortisol, which increases when you are anxious.

Planned rest and relaxation:  A planned period of relaxation “Time for myself” has profound benefits. This can be anything from 3 mins of quiet contemplation or 30 min of meditation, yoga, walking, tai chi, or anything you find therapeutic and relaxing e.g. reading, dancing, gardening or singing. Researchers have found that after a period of relaxation, shy men with social anxiety had lower heart rates after they interacted with people.

Essential Oils: Essential oils like lavender, chamomile, ylang ylang and bergamot are good for treating depression. Lavender has a calming effect and can be safely used in the home. A drop on the collar bone or on the chest, or gently rubbed into either side of the temple.  The odour is extremely relaxing and studies have shown that it induces calm.

Grounding: In the event of an anxiety attack  “do something tangible” to distract your brain e.g. pick up a pen and run your fingers along it, hold a ball or a paper weight in your hand. This works because your brain cannot be in two places at the same time and it will shift negative catastrophic thoughts.

Planned rest and relaxation:  A planned period of relaxation “Time for myself” has profound benefits. This can be anything from 3 mins of quiet contemplation or 30 min of meditation, yoga, walking, tai chi, or anything you find therapeutic and relaxing e.g. reading, dancing, gardening or singing. Researchers have found that after a period of relaxation, shy men with social anxiety had lower heart rates after they interacted with people.

Acupressure: Stimulating acupuncture points are known to make positive changes to pain and stress, as well as promoting relaxation. It also deactivates the ‘analytical brain’ which controls anxiety and worry. Research also shows reversal of stress related behaviour changes and biochemistry. Applying finger pressure, with tiny circular movements for a few minutes will stimulate the points. Stimulating these points can also be used as a grounding technique. Some useful points are; Lu 1, P6, LI4.

P6 acupoint.jpg Lu1 point Li4

Yoga: Research has found that yoga boosts levels of the amino acid GABA are higher in those that carry out yoga. GABA is essential for brain function which helps promote a state of calm in the body. Low levels of GABA is associated with anxiety and depression. Here is a video on yoga breathing techniques to reduce anxiety.

Tai Chi and Qi Qong: Tai Chi and Qi Qong is a form of mind-body exercise that originated from China. It is a form of ‘mindful exercise’ using slow meditative movements and breathing. Beneficial effects include; lowering of blood pressure, greater physical functioning and more likely to have reduction in depression symptoms. Here is a tai chi video you can try.

Tea: Chamomile is a good anti-anxiety tea with mild relaxing effects. Green tea is rich in L-theanine amino acid which lowers heart rate, blood pressure and ease anxiety. Lemon Balm has sedative effect therefore calms the nerves, but also beneficial for digestion.

Face the fear: Sometimes it helps to confront your ‘fear’. Understanding what you are scared of can best way to allay your anxiety. Talk to a friend or a mentor.

Supplements: There are a variety of supplements that can help anxiety and depression disorders. These include; multivitamins, essential fatty acids, B-complex, L-Theanine, GABA, 5-HTP and St John’s Wort. It is important to remember that supplements can interact with other medication therefore consulting a knowledgeable health professional is essential.

It does take effort to help yourself, but once you get started it becomes easier and gradually you will start to have Fun. when you reach this just remember “don’t stop” !

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