Lately we've been talking anxieties, knots in the tummy and how important it is to talk about these issues openly. We've explored the benefits of certain supplements, exercise and also what to avoid in your diet when it comes to the management of stress and anxiety.
And today we're going to look a little more into art of mindfulness, the wonders of belly breathing and my absolute favourite treatment for anxiety - acupuncture and acupressure.
Mindfulness is always worth talking about when we're talking about anxiety. Via the wonderful book and app that is Headspace (download it this second if you haven't. And actually, even if you don't find you suffer from anxiety, 10-20 minutes of this per day will bring you all kinds of clarity and focus), it's worth noting the following statistics, via headspace.com:
One recent study, published in the Psychological Bulletin, combined the findings of 163 different studies. These suggested that mindfulness-meditation practice had an overall substantial positive effect on improving psychological factors including negative personality traits, anxiety and stress.
Another study, conducted by researchers at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, taught mindfulness to a group of people with clinical levels of anxiety and found that...
90% experienced significant reductions in anxiety - and depression too.
I just find this an incredibly useful tool and something that makes your introduction to meditation a whole lot easier. There is lots more info on their website about how and why it works.
- Belly Breathing
This is also known as diaphragmatic breathing. Have you ever noticed how babies and kids breathe from their bellies? That's because at such an age, stress and anxiety has yet to really factor. Instead of breathing from your chest, which will see your chest rise and fall, try to change your breathing so that the breath comes right down into your belly.
When you engage proper breathing exercises, it's almost impossible for your body to feel physically panicked. Give it a try, your upper body should remain relatively still, and if you place your hand on your belly you should notice it contracting in and out as a wave of calm rushes over you. I now breathe with my belly more often than not and really notice the difference.
What many people don't know is that acupuncture is a wonderful aid for those suffering with anxiety. Most of us who've maybe only heard of acupuncture in passing will tend to think of it as an alternative pain reliever, but believe me, it's so much more than that. Here's what my own acupuncturist has to say on the subject of anxiety, in her essay entitled: Acupuncture & anxiety: A good match?
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) views Anxiety not simply as a brain dysfunction, but more as an inner organs dysfunction. In traditional Chinese medicine there exist zang and fu organs. These are not simply anatomical substances, but more importantly represent the generalization of the physiology and pathology of certain systems of the human body.
If getting to an acupuncturist proves difficult for you, you can begin to practise acupressure at home, by applying pressure with your fingertips to the following points, via herbalshop.com
- Inner Gate - on both side of arm
Location: In the middle of the inner side of the forearm two and one-half finger widths from the wrist crease. Benefits: Relieves nausea, anxiety, palpitations, and wrist pain.
2. Spirit Gate - on both side of arm
Location: On the little finger side of the forearm at the crease of the wrist. Benefits: Relieves emotional imbalances, fear, nervousness, anxiety, and forgetfulness.
3. Third Eye Point
Location: Directly between the eyebrows, in the indentation where the bridge of the nose meets the forehead. Benefits: Calms the body to relieve nervousness.
4. Sea of Tranquility
Location: On the center of the breastbone, three thumb widths up from the base of the bone. Benefits: Relieves nervousness, anxiety, chest tension, anguish, depression, hysteria, and other emotional imbalances.
- Supplements update
I spoke briefly in my last anxiety post about the importance of adrenal health. At the time I had been taking Dr Wilson's Adrenal Dynamite and almost vomiting every time I downed it (why? Because it tastes like vanilla fish guts, that's why) and said I'd report back with an alternative. I went back to my functional medicine physician - otherwise known (to me) as Super Woman, Dr Fionnula McHale of Invigorate Clinic - who thankfully swapped that out for a combination of rhodiola, ashwaganda and this thing called AD206. All natural nutrient supplements to support better adrenal function and keep your cortisol in its sweet spot (not too high, not too low).
It's really important to remember that a lot of what you're experiencing is physiological too, not just in your mind. So addressing any underlying imbalances is key and will likely give you many reassurances that you didn't just make it all up or 'lose your marbles'. Although, that being said, repeating the words 'but but but, I had a mental breakdown!' has gotten me out of doing lots of chores around the house. Apologies to my other half for that, I'll stop milking it now. ;)
Any more tips that you'd care to share below? And please remember this is just my experience, please seek medical advice if you are experiencing anxiety, panic attacks or any distress. They are there to help.