Natural Ways to Manage Stress and Anxiety
Ann Charlotte Valentin, NMD
Stress and anxiety are common conditions in today’s society. Our brain is wired for our own protection, and the feelings are for the most part normal. Sometimes we experience too much stress or anxiety, which can lead us to a point where we need some extra help to cope.
Stress is something most of us experience on a daily basis and is the body’s response to a real or imaginary threat. When the body is under stress, it responds by releasing stress hormones, such as cortisol, epinephrine and norepinephrine. Whether someone is experiencing stress from having too much work on his or her plate, or juggling family or other demands, the body responds with the “fight or flight” response. The body isn’t very good at distinguishing between mental and physical stress, so it reacts the same way each time, regardless of what type of stress is being experienced. When under chronic stress for a long time, it disrupts many bodily functions and contributes to heart disease, a low immune system, sleep problems, reproductive issues, skin and weight problems, as well as thinking and memory problems.
Anxiety is something that is felt in our body and demands our immediate attention. It typically causes worry, nervousness, apprehension and fear. We all experience anxiety on and off during our life, such as worrying about giving a presentation, taking a test, or having a medical or dental procedure. When anxiety starts to interfere with a person’s daily life, it can be debilitating. If the anxiety doesn’t go away or increases over time, the person may have an anxiety disorder. There are many different types of anxiety disorders, and it can sometimes be difficult to assess if someone has typical anxiety or if it is related to a disorder. Anxiety disorders are typically divided into three main categories:
- Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)
- Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)
- Trauma- or stress-related disorders
GAD is characterized by a constant sense of worry and fear that interferes with daily life, whereas OCD involves symptoms of obsessive and intrusive thoughts, resulting in repeated activities, such as washing hands several times instead of once or having to touch objects before putting on one’s shoes. These activities are performed in an effort to stop the intrusive thoughts. Trauma- and stress-related disorders are typically related to accidents, death of a loved one, moving, divorce or other major life changes.
Some people may experience anxiety around events, people or places and may not understand why they have a fear or anxiety about this particular event, person or place. This fear or anxiety may not even be the result of a person’s experiences but have been passed down from previous generations. In a research article published in the Biological Psychiatry journal, titled “Holocaust Exposure Induced Intergenerational Effects on FKBP5 Methylation,” the researchers proved that trauma can be passed down from earlier generations via DNA. When the ancestor experienced a traumatic event, their epigenetics (the software that runs the genes) changed the expression of their genes and the trauma was passed on to future generations. It has been shown that traumatic experiences can be passed down at least for three generations.
Managing Stress and Anxiety
There are many different tools that can be used to help alleviate stress and anxiety. Daily practices of meditation and visualization can change the way our epigenetics express. A study by the University of Wisconsin revealed that after only eight hours of meditation, there were clear genetic and molecular changes that took place in the body and also decreased pro-inflammatory genes that then allowed study participants to more quickly recover from stressful situations. Grounding exercises, like meditation and visualization, help us get into the present moment, instead of replaying the memories in our brain.
If you are experiencing any of the symptoms discussed in this article, it is always best to be evaluated by a professional. There is no stigma attached to mental health issues, and by finding the correct treatment for your symptoms, it is possible to improve your health and the quality of your life.
There are easy take-home kits available to test your neurotransmitters, for about $220, that involve collecting your urine four times in one day.
For more information about these at-home test kits, call Ann Charlotte Valentin, NMD, of Center for Integrative Medicine, at 602-888-2320 or visit cinmed.org. Valentin works in integrative medicine and family health care utilizing her training in botanical medicine, nutrition, intravenous therapy, acupuncture, homeopathy and pharmaceuticals. Her focus is on healing the patient and finding the true cause of his or her symptoms and illness. She has postgraduate education in bioidentical hormones. Valentin treats thyroid problems, digestive issues, allergies, anxiety, depression, and many other chronic conditions.
Tools for Dealing with Stress and Anxiety
- Repeat a prayer, mantra or special safe phrase you have created for stressful situations or when experiencing anxiety.
- Carry a favorite picture with you and take it out and look at it to refocus your mind.
- Play games by yourself.
- Remind yourself you have control of your body by noticing your breathing.
- Notice every step you are taking.
- Do grounding exercises, such as taking off your shoes and feeling the earth beneath your feet (this will give you negative ions, which are calming).
- Use essential oils.
- Touch objects around you to redirect the focus into the present.
- Get a massage and improve your self-care.
- Play your favorite music.
- Go outside, as this increases serotonin and melatonin production.
- Writing and journaling can help release traumatic events, as well as anxiety and stress.
- Forgive yourself and others.
- Love and accept yourself.
- Acupuncture treatment.
- CranioSacral Therapy to balance the central and peripheral nervous system.
- Herbal supplements.
- Vitamins and minerals.