Help with anxiety
If you suffer from anxiety, you are not alone. According to mentalhealth.org.uk:
In 2013, there were 8.2 million cases of anxiety in the UK. In England women are almost twice as likely to be diagnosed with anxiety disorders as men.
It seems we live in the age of anxiety.
Anxiety can have many causes, elevated stress levels is one. To learn how to be less affected by stress and how to slow down, can help greatly to reduce anxiety.
Try this exercise.
This exercise can be done anywhere at any time.
First, become aware of your breathing. Do not judge it just observe how you breathe. Is it fast or slow, shallow or deep? Initially, when you learn this exercise it will help to sit down and place one of your hands on your belly. Now, take a breath in. Do you feel your belly rise when you breathe in? Now breathe out. Do you feel your stomach flatten out again? If not, you might be breathing too shallow into your chest and your belly does not move at all. Or, you might find that your belly actually flattens out when you breathe in. In either case, imagine the air you breathe in goes right down into your belly, where your navel is. Or imagine you are breathing into your belly and it inflates like a balloon when you inhale and deflates when you exhale. You can also try actively pushing out your belly when you breath in to get a feeling for the movement. Practice this until you find that your stomach is rising, when you breathe in and flattens out again when you breathe out. When you feel you got it, do this for a few minutes and notice how this affects you.
Practice this type of breathing daily or whenever you notice that you are starting to feel anxious or nervous. When you have a full-blown panic attack, this might not work so well.
What you are doing here is relearning our natural way of breathing. Look at babies and how their bellies go in and out with every breath. This is called diaphragmatic breathing. The more anxious or stressed we get the shallower and faster we breath. Because our minds and bodies are interactive, consciously reverting your breathing to deep and slow breathing signalises to your brain that you are relaxing. After a few minutes you begin to feel calmer. This exercise also takes you into the present moment and out of your head. Your awareness is on your belly and your breathing. This in itself can lead to a feeling of reduced anxiety.
Depending on the reasons for your anxiety the following things might be useful:
These things can and will help you to manage your anxiety to some degree, but they will not help you to stop being anxious. For that you have to understand and deal with the underlying cause/s of your anxiety. Learning how to become mindful might be a great way for you to do this. I offer mindfulness courses on a regular basis in Stirling. Have a look at my courses!
If you suffer from sever anxiety, you might find that none of these things will make much of a difference. In this case working with a counsellor might be your best choice. And if you have suffered from chronic anxiety for a long time, I believe, the best way forward is to explore your anxiety with a counsellor. If you live in Stirling or Stirlingshire, I offer a free initial session! Get in touch! my contact details are at the top of this page.
And finally here are a couple of books that I think are really good:
1) Susan Jeffers: Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway
This is a great book to help you to overcome fear and anxiety. There are many good exercises in there to help you.
Here is a link to her books and her website.
2)Trudy Scott: The Anti-anxiety Food Solution
I am a great believer in the power of food and nutrition. If you want to find out more about Trudy Scott and her take on nutrition, have a look here.
Help with depression
Depression often gets split into three categories, mild, moderate and severe depression. Moderate and mild depression is more likely to respond to the things I suggest below. Severe depression is a terrible thing and working with it will take time and determination. It might lift slightly, if you try some of the things mentioned below, but it is more likely that you will need to take some antidepressants to lift you enough out of your depression to then be able to respond to what I suggest below. I do not think that anybody should be on anti-depressants long term, i.e. more than a year. However, in the short term, they can be useful to help you become functional enough to start addressing the underlying reasons for your depression.
Are you depressed?
Ali Taylor a specialist in brain function suggests that men and women have different symptoms associated with depression. She thinks, this explains why so many men go undiagnosed for a long time. Their symptoms are not the classic symptoms associated with depression and therefore men do not seek out help for depression. They are not aware that this is what is going on for them.
Symptoms of depression for women:
Sleep too much
Loss of boundaries
Self-medication (food, alcohol)
More likely to self-harm
Symptoms of depression for men:
Not enough sleep
Breach of boundaries
Libido low, sexual performance problems
Self-medication (sex, alcohol, food)
Distract themselves through using TV, movies and the internet
More likely to commit suicide
If you have suffered from a loss or a bereavement you might suffer from what is called Situational Depression. This type of depression will fade over time. It heals itself and does not require anything apart from your willingness to experience it and to process the meaning of what has been lost. This natural healing process might still take a significant amount of time, especially if the loss is capital, like the loss of your health, your livelihood, a loved one, or a dear pet. These type of losses take their own time to heal as they require of us that we first and foremost accept the loss of who or what was precious to us; secondly letting go off what we have lost and finally re-adjusting ourselves to a life without what we have lost. But unless you suffer from complicated grief, or the loss has caused some trauma, the intensity of the depression will decrease over a period of time. If you continue to feel really low or angry after six months or more, it might be a sign that you might not be able to get out of the loop. This then leads to the second type of depression: Clinical depression.
This type of depression is not necessarily bound to a loss in the present though that can be a trigger. Clinical depression can come seemingly out of the blue and hit us hard. Or it might be with us for years on end dulling our experience of life and our sense of fulfilment and purpose, dragging us down further and further into a black hole of misery. This might be to do with past experiences that we have not processed and detached ourselves from, our childhood or even our predisposition to depression due to epigenetics. The things that I suggest below can make a difference to this type of depression. However, I would also want to encourage you to think about finding a good therapist who can help you explore the psychological reasons that will underly your depression.
Appreciation, a powerful antidote to depression
Have you noticed that you tend to become very focused on the negative aspects of life, when you feel depressed. It's as if our mind wants to confirm that it is right in being miserable. This negative bias is part of the reason why depression can so easily escalate from a mild depression into something really serious. Our mind takes us down a negative spiral and we forget that life is not just doom and gloom. As with all mental wellbeing what you think and how you perceive and interpret the world has a massive impact on how you will feel about yourself, the world and others. Research has shown that you can counteract and reverse the trend of getting less and less depressed by using appreciation and praise. Learn to see the extraordinary in the ordinary and your life will transform!
Here is a mind exercise you can do to help yourself foster joy and positivity. It comes in two parts. The first is to help you learn to appreciate yourself more deeply and acknowledge that you do things well. The second one is about appreciating the good things that surround us and happen to us every day. You need a notebook or a diary for this. You can do this either first thing in the morning, thinking back over the previous day, or in the evening, reflecting on what your day has been like.
Think back over the day and write down at least three things that you have done well today, the more the merrier! This can be anything. It does not need to be anything big. For example, you might have made a nice cup of tea this morning, or you smiled at somebody in passing. Whilst you are writing. Bring this to mind as vividly as you can and savour the experience again. Acknowledge consciously and as wholeheartedly as you can, that you are doing something well. Notice that you will have voices coming up that might minimise or dismiss your accomplishments. Try not to listen to their objections, especially those who compare you unfavourably with others.
Think back over the day and write down at least three things that made you feel good today, the more the merrier! When you remember a good thing happening take a moment and really savour the feelings that are coming up. Employ all your senses to bring back these memories as you will give your nervous system a great boost when you do this. Again this is not about big, dramatic things, like winning the lottery, but about the small things in life. For example, the sun was shining when you got out of the door, your favourite song was on the radio, somebody smiled at you in passing. Life is full of goodness, all we need to do is to be open and receptive to what is there for us, no matter how small and seemingly insignificant in the greater scheme of things. A lot of small things add up to a great deal!
Do this exercise daily for at least a month and notice how it changes your outlook and your mind. On bad days, when you feel really rotten and you cannot see anything good in yourself or the world, look back at your previous entries and boost your moral by reliving past events that you have recorded as good.
Food to lift your mood
Have you ever heard the expression, we are what we eat?
I am a strong believer in this. I think that what we eat, how we eat and in which contexts we eat all play a vital part , not only in our digestion and but in our emotions. Deficiencies in vital vitamins and minerals can cause our moods to become very painful indeed.
Have a look at the table below and see, if you can improve your diet to lift you out of depression. At first glance you might think that this is too much information, too many foods to chose from. But if you look more closely, you will find that many of the foods listed contain more than one mineral or vitamin.
Supplements for depression
You might not feel much like cooking or you just don't like fresh food. But wether you do or don't there is some evidence that our food these days does not contain enough minerals and vitamins anymore to actually give us the amounts we need - especially if we are already depleted and suffer. Therefore I have added this section which will help you make informed decisions on what supplements might be good for you to try.
Most of the following information is based on Trudy Scotts book: The Anti-anxiety Food Solution
If you suffer from depression, especially longer-term and clinical depression your brain-chemistry will be out of balance. You might want to try taking supplements to help this.
We are awash with chemicals. Our whole body, our emotions, our ability to function is regulated by and through hormones and neuro-transmitters. When we are suffering from depression or anxiety, some neurotransmitters and hormones - or more to the point the lack of them - could be at the heart of your experience of depression.
One is Serotonin. Serotonin is our ‘feel-good’ chemical. Any time you exercise your body produces serotonin. That’s why we feel a high or at least feel a bit better after exercising. A simple walk around the block can do you a lot of good. However, when you are depressed the idea of doing exercises is usually beyond what you feel capable of. You might feel getting out of bed is already a major challenge. In that case taking supplements might be useful.
Have a look at the list of symptoms below to see if you might benefit from boosting your Serotonin. As an aside, most anti-depressant are based on the assumption that you have a Serotonin deficiency. What they tend to do is to improve the serotonin uptake in the brain, by stopping it from being re-absorbed too quickly.
Ok, here are the symptoms for low Serotonin levels (based on Trudy Scott’s book):
Panic attacks or phobias
Feeling worried or fearful
Obsessive thoughts or behaviours
Perfectionism or being overly controlling
Anxiety that’s worse in the winter
Winter blues, SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder)
Low self-esteem and poor self-confidence
PMS or menopausal mood swings
Sensitivity to hot weather
Anger and rage
Pain syndromes like Fibromyalgia or TMJ
Difficulties getting to sleep before 10 pm
Insomnia or disturbed sleep
Afternoon/ evening cravings for carbs, alcohol, or drugs
If you check 6 or more of these symptoms then you might want to try out supplementing with Tryptophan or 5- HTP. Use Tryptophan if you feel wired but tired or if you suffer from sleep problems and insomnia. 5-HTP can raise the levels of the hormone Cortisol, which therefore will disrupt your sleep.
Here are Trudy Scotts suggestions how to supplement. Use only one regimens at a time:
1. 500 to 1500mg of Tryptophan twice a day, mid-afternoon and at bedtime (take between meals)
2. 50 to 150 mg of 5-HTP twice a day, mid-afternoon and bedtime (can be taken with food)
3. For symptoms that occur early in the day, 50 to 150 mg of 5-HTP on waking and midmorning, and 500 to 1500 mg of Tryptophan mid-afternoon and at bedtime
Depression can also be an expression of low levels of Catecholamites. These are hormones. The most abundant of them are adrenaline, noradenaline and dopamine. Because these get depleted during stress, supplementing with their precursor amino acidTyrosine can improve mood, memory and your ability to tolerate stressful situations. Symptoms of low levels of Catecholamites include:
depression with apathy
lack of energy
lack of focus
lack of drive or motivation
ADD (attention deficit disorder)
Procrastination and indecisiveness
Craving sugar and carbs, alcohol, caffeine or drugs for energy
If you have three or more of these symptoms you might want to try supplementing with Tyrosine. Take 500-1500mg one to three times a day. Start with one before breakfast and if you take more take the others between meals. Do not take it later than 3pm if you suffer from insomnia. In conjunction with taking Tyrosine you would want to increase your Vitamin D3 levels and Omega 3 fatty acid intake as they contribute to the production of Catecholamites. Tyrosine can increase anxiety. If this happens you might need to take GABA, 5-HTP or Tryptohan to you increase your levels of calming neuro-transmitters.
Try this website for more information on supplementation for depression.