Anxiety Tool Box: A Holistic Guide

 
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If you've been reading this journal for a bit, you know I struggle with anxiety. As do most of the people I know and meet. You probably do as well. It's a pervasive - dare I say, unavoidable? - condition in our fast-paced, stimulus-overload society. Especially for us highly sensitive empaths. After a debilitating series of panic attacks a few years ago, I began exploring the holistic measures, adjustments, and products that I could incorporate into my life for greater emotional support and resiliency. There's a fair bit of trial and error involved, as with anything, to discover what works for your individual needs, but it's with so much joy that I share these explorations and tools that have helped me restore balance to my mind + body, and live a really full, happy life.

In a very large way, this ongoing exploration is how Solful Health came to be. I feel very strongly about illuminating and normalizing the conversation around mental health, and even the work I do with nutrition and yoga clients is geared towards elevating + supporting this realm of wellbeing. As you peruse this handful of my favorite, tried-and-true holistic tools for overcoming anxiety and bolstering mental health, it's my hope that some of these discoveries resonate with you as well. None of them are quick-fixes, and each requires a bit of work and commitment on your part, but I have found every last one to be incredibly effective, fast-acting, and with long-lasting effects. Even if you aren't navigating anxiety, these tips and tools will benefit your health and moods immensely. 


EARTHING | 'Earthing' or 'grounding' involves placing the soles of one's bare feet on the earth as a way to offset stress, reduce free-radical accumulation, and cancel-out a surplus of inflammation- and anxiety-causing positive ions within the body. The simple act of physically connecting with nature is on it's own incredibly grounding, on an emotional and energetic level, helping to soften and dissolve the frenetic, neurotic energy we feel during bouts of stress and anxiety. But beyond that, when our feet (the most absorbent parts of the body) make prolonged contact with the Earth, the strong negative charge of the Earth quite literally grounds the positive ions of the body. Research research has found 'earthing' to regulate the endocrine and nervous systems, reduce mood and emotional imbalance, reduce body-wide inflammation, relieve chronic pain, promote more restful sleep, protect against the effects of stress, normalize cortisol levels, improve memory, and promote cardiovascular health. I do my best to ground my feet in the grass or sand for 20 minutes daily, and always feel the difference when I do. 

BODY CONNECTION | I say this often to my yoga students: the emotional and psychological suffering we regularly experience is usually nothing more than the result of a disconnection from the body. We live almost entirely in our heads, lacking a mindfulness of what's going on within our physical and energetic bodies, and as a result have little connection to or awareness of our body and it's messages and signals. Take my situation for example: my body must have been signaling to me for years that things were imbalanced, but it wasn't until I had my first full-on panic attack that I finally listened. Yet, had I cultivated a bit of awareness beforehand, I would have realized that something was very wrong, and avoided a very miserable, debilitating few months. I now make space several times each day to stop what I'm doing and consciously move my awareness from the mind back into the body. I just get quiet, and listen. Our bodies possess a wisdom far beyond that of the conscious mind, but it's communication system is far more subtle. Meditation and simple, grounding breathwork are always a sure way to tap into this state. Usually with one hand on my heart, the other on my belly. Yoga and more rigorous exercise, if practiced mindfully, are also powerful tools here as well. The process as a whole is incredibly simple, free, and easy to implement, but is without a doubt one of the most profound practices for creating both short- and long-term emotional shifts.

REDUCE ANXIETY-PRODUCING FOODS | Sugar, caffeine, alcohol, refined carbohydrates, and processed foods are powerful anxiety-producers. When I feel myself slipping into anxiety, I cut these foods out entirely. In way of caffeine, I substitute my usual green or black tea with a blend of energizing adaptogenic herbs and mushrooms (cordyceps, maca, rhodiola, schisandra) and brain-boosting fats (coconut butter, coconut MCT oil, homemade nut/seed milk) for an elevating but mood-supporting tonic. And in regard to the rest of my diet, I get back to basics: lots of greens, high-fiber fruits and veg, pastured animal protein, and high-quality fat sources. Blood sugar stabilization plays an incredibly large role in how we feel on an emotional level, so ensuring you eat regularly, limit your sugar intake, and increase your consumption of fiber, fat, and protein is a must for balance in this realm. 

BREATH | This past year, I've shared a bit about my exploration of breathwork and how transformative I've found it to be. I have a fabulous breathwork guide based in LA, who regularly hosts online workshops (which come highly recommended) and virtual sessions, and I'm constantly referring friends and clients to her work. My experience has been so profound that I have actually begun weaving large amounts of breathwork into the yoga classes, workshops, and sessions that I offer. In way of using this tool to reduce anxiety, it goes back to creating that grounded connection with your body. Breathwork immediately gets you out of your head and back into your body, while working on a physiological level to activate the calm-inducing parasympathetic nervous system. My go-to breathwork techniques for emotional support (that are each impossibly easy, quick, and effective) include: alternate nostril breathing, humming bee breath, and one minute breath. I simply set a timer on my phone (anywhere from two to ten minutes) and get at it.

HERBAL INTAKE | I rely heavily on herbs for optimal mental and physical health. In regards to emotional support and anxiety-reduction, there are a number of standouts that work incredibly effectively by nourishing the nervous and endocrine systems, thereby regulating our physiological reaction to life stressors and stimuli. An overstimulated, undernourished nervous system results in greater emotional sensitivity and reactivity, so by strengthening this system we increase our threshold for stress- and anxiety-provoking stimuli. The endocrine system controls the release of our hormones, which of course play a dramatic role in how we feel on virtually every level. A few of my favorite adaptogenic herbs and supplements, specific to anxiety, include: ashwagandha, wild milky oats, reishi mushroom, he shou wu, mucuna pruriensCBD oil (which I elaborate upon here), and this divine anxiety-reducing concoction. I also drink infusions of nettle leaf, tulsi, and red raspberry leaf throughout the day. 

FLOWER REMEDIES | I recently began implementing flower remedies into my daily routine after being introduced to Alexis Smart and her line of Dr. Bach-inspired flower remedies via my breathwork guide Lauren. Flower remedies, or flower essences, are herbal infusions made from the flowering part of wild plants, and are used to address the emotional and mental realms of one's health. With a number of remedies designed to target anxiety and panic, these botanical medicines, taken under the instruction of Alexis, have become a beloved part of my emotional support regime. More on this to come soon, but I've been enjoying these too much not to include here. 

SLEEP | I truly believe there is nothing that a few solid nights of sleep can't fix. This is our body and brain's time to process through the day's happenings, heal and support areas of concern, and bring balance back to our systems. It's imperative that we make a serious commitment to rest. I personally aim to get nine hours of sleep each night, because that's what helps me to feel my best. For those of you who struggle with achieving restful sleep, this is my very favorite all-natural sleep aid, taken alongside a spoonful of coconut butter