A Practical Guide to Treating Stress and Anxiety
Stress is a funny word. Loaded with the emotional bias of being a "bad" thing, the word stress can be quite deceiving, making it harder to handle than it needs to be. So I'll offer a new way to look at it—and very effective ways to address it.
As the field of healing arts grows, it's important to remember that there are four key domains in healing:
- Biochemistry. Including herbals, nutrition and medications.
- Structural. Including areas such as manipulation, surgery, breathing, exercise and ergonomics.
- Biophysics. For example, acupuncture, Chakra work, yoga, and NAET.
- Mind-Body-Spirit. Understanding how the body is a metaphor for what's occurring at a deeper level. For most illnesses, including anxiety and even cancer, complete healing is unlikely to occur unless this is also attended to.
You'll find that healing occurs best when all four of these areas are addressed. But no individual healer is likely to have complete expertise in all these areas. So as our new healthcare system evolves, and the current one heads to extinction, it's good to see health practitioners from diverse backgrounds communicating and working together more.
Let's look at how a Comprehensive Medicine approach works when addressing anxiety and stress. Since mind-body and biochemical domains are where my expertise lies, I'll focus predominantly on these aspects. For example, the herb AnxioCalm is remarkable at restoring a healthy calm state. In head on studies, taking two twice a day was as effective as Valium medications after six weeks, with no side effects or addictive issues!
Treating Mind-Body Issues
Stress isn't inherently good or bad. Stress, they say, can actually "force flowers to bloom." It can even be enjoyable—like the thrilling stress people experience when skydiving. The problem is when stress becomes chronic and no longer tolerable. This then contributes to chronic elevation of cortisol, the stress hormone, which then triggers anxiety. As excessive stress becomes chronic, cortisol levels go too low—which ironically also triggers anxiety by causing recurrent bouts of low blood sugar.
A simple way to tell if your stress is healthy is to just ask yourself how it feels. If it feels good, then it's healthy. Just remember that what's enjoyable for one person can feel terrible for someone else. For example I enjoy the stress of skydiving, while my wife would find it awful.
A Novel Treatment
The key to distinguishing healthy from unhealthy stress is to ask yourself how it feels. I'm deliberately repeating myself here because of how important this point is. Learn to say no to things that feel bad. Ignore the argument to the contrary coming from your brain. That misguided ball of gray in your head is the product of societal and family training. It simply feeds back to you what you were taught—that you should do things to make other people happy. Your feelings, on the other hand, tap into your own personal authenticity. So choose to focus on, and do, those things that make you feel good. Once you've determined what those things are, your mind can figure out how to make them happen.
And yes, it's perfectly OK to focus on what feels good to you in your life, without constantly battling against the things you don't like. When you're at a buffet, you don't have to lobby for removal of foods you don't want to eat, do you? Just ignore whatever's in your life that you don't like and embrace the things you do. By doing so you'll find that the things you don't like will soon stop appearing in your life. I suspect this is part of how free will works. It's like the remote control for your TV. Whatever you tend to focus your attention on—good or bad—will tend to be what keeps showing up on your screen, because you're the one clicking the remote.
But you might ask, is it truly OK to do only what feels good? Some might argue that heroin feels good. Others might argue how pleasing it would be to smack a 2x4 over the head of someone annoying them. This is why I add two caveats to the rule:
- Don't hurt others.
- Ask yourself "How is doing this thing that feels good working out for me?"
If you follow these caveats, you'll often discover that whatever anxiety you've been experiencing was a result of doing what you think you should do instead of what feels good to do. You've been doing what others want instead of what's authentic to you. Constantly feeling I should do this or I should do that is euphemistically called "should-ing yourself." I invite you to stop that toxic behavior.
My e-book, Three Steps to Happiness—Healing through Joy, can help guide you through the mind-body healing process.
Balance Your Biochemistry
Begin with ruling out and treating overt issues, including:
- Overactive thyroid. Consider this if your Free T4 thyroid test is even in the upper 20th percentile of the normal range.
- Low progesterone (women). Progesterone is like your body's natural Valium. Consider this if your anxiety is worse around the times of your menses and ovulation.
- Low testosterone (men). Consider this if your testosterone levels are in the lower quarter of the normal range.
- Adrenal fatigue (caused by drops in blood sugar). A key tip off of this is irritability and anxiety that triggers sugar cravings and improves after eating.
You should also optimize nutrient status, especially magnesium and B vitamins. Instead of blood testing, which is of questionable value here, I recommend most people (whether or not they have anxiety) take a daily dose of a high-potency multivitamin and mineral drink mix powder called the Energy Revitalization System (by Enzymatic Therapy). One drink replaces well over 35 vitamin and mineral pills and gives you optimal levels of most nutrients.
You should also decrease sugar and caffeine intake to see if this helps.
Herbals can also be very helpful. For example, narrow-leaved coneflower (Echinacea angustifoliae) produces a unique root extract that can be as effective as Xanax, but is very safe. This special extract stimulates one of the most abundant neuroreceptors in the body, the cannabinoid receptors. Many of you may recognize this as the marijuana receptor, and in fact many people use cannabis to self-medicate for anxiety. But what if you could get the same benefits without the sedation and side effects associated with stimulating cannabinoid receptors?
The good news is that now you can. Recent research showed that this special coneflower extract was more effective than the tranquilizer Librium, with none of the side effects. It also worked quickly, with effects building through continued use. This isn't the same component used for immune enhancement, and isn't found at needed levels in standard Echinacea. But it is available in a nutritional supplement called AnxioCalm (by EuroPharma).
A couple of studies of this unique extract demonstrated its potency:
- A study published in the March 2012 issue of Phytotherapy Research included 33 volunteers. All experienced anxiety, assessed using the validated State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI). The extract decreased STAI scores within three days, an effect that remained stable for the duration of the treatment (seven days) and for the two weeks that followed treatment. There were no dropouts and no side effects.
- Another study looked at higher dosages (40 mg 2x day) in a multi-center, placebo-controlled, double-blind Phase II study that involved 26 volunteers diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). Over a three-week period, the number of severely anxious patients (HADS-A scores larger than 11) decreased from 11 to zero!
For severe anxiety I recommend taking two tablets of AnxioCalm twice daily. After three weeks the dose can often be dropped to one 20 mg tablet twice a day (or simply use as needed). It can also serve as an excellent sleep aid.
Other helpful herbals include valerian, passion flower, hops, theanine and lemon balm. These can be found in a nutritional supplement called the "Revitalizing Sleep Formula," which can help lower anxiety during the day and improve sleep at night. I personally use both AnxioCalm and the Revitalizing Sleep Formula at night to ensure 8-9 hours of deep sleep.
The smell of lavender oil is also calming, and a small drop on the upper lip, or even having a lavender bouquet in one's room, can be helpful.
Structural and Biophysics
Simply going for regular walks in the sunshine, and doing yoga, Tai Chi, and meditation can be very helpful. A technique called "Centering" (an ancient visualization technique that teaches you to focus on the here and now) can help people feel that they are in the calm "eye of the cyclone" when panic attacks hit. In addition, some find that anxiety and hyperventilation is improved through using a technique of breathing exercises called Butyko breathing.
For PTSD or old emotional traumas, a technique called EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) can give near miraculous benefits in as little as 20 minutes. The technique may seem odd, but try it and you'll be amazed. Releasing old traumas through a simple "trembling" technique is also helpful, and you can do it on your own. It's easy to do and simple instructions can be found in the book "Waking the Tiger."
By taking advantage of the entire toolkit available within the field of healing arts, and not just using the "medical hammer," anxiety can now be effectively treated!
Jacob Teitelbaum, M.D. is one of the world's leading integrative medical authorities on fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue. He is the lead author of eight research studies on their effective treatments, and has published numerous health & wellness books, including the bestseller on fibromyalgia From Fatigued to Fantastic! and The Fatigue and Fibromyalgia Solution. Dr. Teitelbaum is one of the most frequently quoted fibromyalgia experts in the world and appears often as a guest on news and talk shows nationwide including Good Morning America, The Dr. Oz Show, Oprah & Friends, CNN, and Fox News Health.