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Seeking Anxiety Relief in Trying Times

For many of us, these past few months have brought unprecedented challenges. Our lives have been radically rearranged in ways that we couldn’t have predicted or prepared well for, even if we had seen it coming. Losses of jobs, routine, income, stability and, most tragically, losses of life have made this time painful and anxiety-producing. For some, their entire lives have been turned upside down. When we face such challenges, we are asked to adapt with creativity, positivity and grace, the best we can. Despite our resilience, though, depression and anxiety may arise and the light at the end of the tunnel may seem dim or unreachable.

With any challenge comes opportunity. During any time of loss, confusion, angst or suffering, the best we can do is to embrace the difficulty as a door to transformation. Through the years, I have experienced a not-so-common amount of grief – most particularly from my younger life and my years as an HIV specialist at the height of the AIDS epidemic. I have learned a few things.

Above all, take the time to take care of yourself. Focus your attention on what you have control over – your health, diet, exercise and how you spend your time and energy.

Sleep is a tonic for resetting the nervous system. If you aren’t doing it well, start with better sleep hygiene and prioritize the non-pharmaceutical help you need to fix it.

Avoid caffeine, if it worsens your anxiety. Even dark chocolate can present a problem for those who tend to get jittery from caffeine.

Breathing is good. A few deep breaths can be enough to reduce cortisol levels and begin to return your body to balance and homeostasis. When you notice tension in your body or mind, stop and take five deep breaths. Focus on gratitude or a source of joy and begin anew.

Practice loving kindness. Compassion is not overrated. Start with loving yourself (see the first bullet) then extend your loving kindness to those around you. The more we focus on how we can help or serve others, the less likely we are to suffocate in our own suffering.

Embrace uncertainty. Emotional anxiety most commonly arises out of fear of the unknown. If we imagine that the unknown is really the existence of infinite possibilities, then our perspective is turned completely upside down and we can free ourselves from fear.

Remember who you are. Your strength and resilience have gotten you this far. Times of adversity allow us the opportunity to connect with our best qualities and richest resources.

Pause. What a pleasure. During moments of anxiety or distress, find something pleasurable in that moment or an opportunity in your circumstance. Everywhere we look, there are simple joys to be found and ways to reconnect with genuine happiness. Find it in one moment at a time.

Choose gratitude. To develop a disposition of gratitude, start by choosing a singular positive focus each day and pull your attention to it when things seem bleak. Big or small, the gifts around us are endlessly abundant.

Connect with community. A burden shared is a burden halved. A joy shared multiplies many times over. Be a friend and receive the love in return.

There are diet and lifestyle factors that can create or lessen anxiety. Eating a diet free of sugar and simple carbohydrates, rich in fiber, healthy fats and clean-source protein stabilizes blood sugars and decreases the frequency and severity of anxiety. A paleo diet that eliminates grains, sugar, beans and dairy fits the bill. If you do not want to go full paleo, start with the elimination of dairy, sugar and refined carbohydrates and eat a generous amount of the healthy fats. If dips in your energy occur throughout the day, try increasing your fat and protein intake and eat smaller meals more frequently.

Supplements provide additional support to mitigate anxiety. A full complement of B vitamins, glycine, GABA, fish oil and phospholipids such as phosphatidyl serine and choline, power and soothe our brain chemistry. Lithium Orotate blunts cortisol spikes and nourishes the brain, effectively decreasing stress and anxiety, improving sleep and cognitive function.

Botanical (plant) medicines can be effective and indispensable in addressing stress and anxiety. Chamomile, lavender, passionflower, valerian, magnolia and lemon balm are some of the most commonly relied-upon herbs. Used singularly or in combination, they can be an easy addition to our day in the form of tinctures, capsules and teas.

For guidance with diet, lifestyle changes, supplements and herbs, and for a comprehensive approach to anxiety, depression, sleep disorders and cognitive function issues, I am here to help.

We rarely control the world around us, but there is one thing we can change: ourselves.

I hope this finds you well in these challenging times. Please be safe.