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Entries in Anxiety (2)

Thursday
Jun072012

Should you go on anxiety meds? 

One thing that comes up in my work as a nutrition coach is that I see so many young women (20s and 30s) who are on anti-anxiety meds. It seems to me they are being prescribed like candy. In fact, 1 in 4 women are on medication for a mental health condition (far more than men).

As with many Western pharmaceuticals, I am sure there is a time and place when they are appropriate, but also believe they are being over-used. In my work with patients, we end up helping a lot of people get off these medications.

I want to share some of my personal thoughts on this, some questions to consider yourself and discuss with your doctor before making this decision.

1. Drugs have side effects. They all do, there's no getting around it.

2. Drugs have main "desired" effects. The anxiety meds are altering your brain chemistry. Are you ok with that?

3. How long will you be on the drugs? Is this being prescribed as a temporary salve, or a long-term solution? How hard is this medication to get off of? Would you have to taper off and for how long? Are they safe during pregnancy, should you want to get pregnant at a later date? Remember the pharmaceutical companies want you to be on these drugs for life, that's how they make money. How long do you want to be on them for?

4. Are you open to trying alternative remedies? We tend to "prescribe" yoga, meditation and a clean diet, and those make a big difference for people. Acupuncture is helpful as well. Exercise is tremendously helpful, and so is spending time in nature. Here's a recent post called Coping with Anxiety.

Starting a yoga or meditation practice requires a greater commitment than taking a pill. But with the commitment, comes a possibility for growth and healing. An opportunity to cultivate skills for handling anxiety that will benefit you for the rest of your life. (Because more stressors will surely come your way!) 

What worries me about the prescription drugs is that we get into a mind-set that it's not possible to fix our problems any other way. I worry that this closes doors, it shuts out opportunities for healing. We learn not to trust ourselves. The solution is "out there" and cannot be cultivated from within. The message is that we don't have the ability to handle our anxiety in this moment, nor is it possible for us to develop the ability. That's not an empowering message, and that's why I have taken care to avoid these meds even when they've been recommended.

The anxiety symptoms are a message from our body that something is out of balance. Can we acknowledge that message, address it, tap into our emotional strength and heal?

5. Seeking advice. I think it's important to discuss these concerns with your doctor. In addition, is there a trusted person in your life who you can consult with? They may offer some perspective, see a blind spot you're not aware of, and be able to support you through a difficult time. Talking about your anxiety may feel uncomfortable or taboo, yet it may be helpful to share and get support.

For further reading this is a great overview about anxiety from womentowomen

Please share - have you had success with managing your anxiety or getting off anxiety meds? 

Love and grace,
Kerry

"Praise and blame, gain and loss, pleasure and sorrow come and go like the wind. To be happy, rest like a giant tree, in the midst of them all." - Buddha

Friday
Apr132012

Coping with Anxiety 

Two weeks ago, I had an encounter with anxiety.  Here's what happened: my breathing was very shallow, it was like tightness in my chest where I couldn't take a deep breath and was constantly aware of trying to get a deep breath. Like I wanted to put my head between my legs or breath into a paper bag. Very annoying! It lasted about 2-3 days. 

Now, I don't often have anxiety, but I do have a bag of wellness tricks so I tried a few things:

- Meditation
- Shoulder stand (yoga pose)
- I dabbed some calming peppermint oil on my neck and wrists
- And Dr. Andrew Weil's 4-7-8 Relaxing Breath

When these didn't get me back to normal, I took a powerful step -- I reached out for help. (I'm reaching out for help and support more & more lately, and it is awesome!) I asked some of my health coach friends if they had suggestions to help with anxiety and I was touched with their thoughtful responses.  I have collected them here in case they can help someone else.

Holistic Remedies for Anxiety


1. Breathing: Deep belly breathing -- putting your hands over your navel and focusing on pushing your belly out when breathing. Alternate nostril breating is also helpful. 

2. Acupuncture: to calm and balance the system

3. Supplements: Sam-e and L-theanine to calm the nerves (please talk to your doctor about these)

4. Nature: Fresh air in the lungs, exercise, and go barefoot outside

5. Guided Relaxation: here is a guided relaxation exercise that was recommended

6. Diet: One woman pointed out that she became anxious on a strictly vegan diet and felt better incorporating meat, eggs and 'grounding' root vegetables such as carrots, parsnips, sweet potatoes and squash into her diet. Good for me to pay attention to, as I am a vegetarian. Another mentioned that salt is very grounding, and recommended umeboshi plums to bring the energy back down.

7. Herbs: passionfruit, chamomile and skullcap are some that are great for anxiety

8. Flower Essences: I am a big fan of flower essences myself. I love the Lotus Wei essences, in particular there are Quiet Mind and Inner Peace that are good for anxiety. I am also experimenting with the Bach essences, which are available at my Whole Foods. I am taking Mimulus, which is good for shyness, anxiety and fear. I'm also trying the Bach Rescue Remedy.   

9. Yoga: Standing poses like Mountain pose and inversions (like a backbend) are helpful.

10. Get Grounded: The anxiety can be a message that you need to get grounded or create stability. Cleaning, paying attention to finances, spending time with animals (hi Coconut!), rubbing the feet, and walking barefoot in the grass (literally putting feet in the ground) can be helpful. 

11. Look to the underlying reason: Yes, it's important to look deep for the underlying reasons for the anxiety. For me, morning pages is the most powerful tool to re-connect with myself, figure out what's happening deep down. Don't see the anxiety as "annoying" but tap into the anxiety and realize there is a message to listen to and learn from. Use the opportunity to slow down and take really good care of yourself.

Of course, I couldn't do all of these things at once, but was able to use my instincts and choose the ideas that resonated most for me in that moment. I love how so many of these suggestions are low-tech ... you don't need any equipment or to spend money to do some deep belly breathing, journaling, get out in nature, clean, rub your feet or do some yoga poses. Beautiful!  And I'm happy to report that I'm feeling much better now.

Coco getting 'grounded' in the mud of Central Park. Can't stay anxious for long with this muffin!
Please, chime in and share your suggestions if you have any remedies for anxiety.

Love,
Kerry