treating stress

  • A Practical Guide to Treating Stress and Anxiety

    A Practical Guide to Treating Stress and Anxiety Jacob Teitelbaum MD

    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 we will offer a new way to look at it—and very effective ways to address it.

    As the healing arts grows, it is important to remember that there are four key domains in healing:

    1. Biochemistry. This includes herbals, nutrition and medications.
    2. Structural. Including areas such as manipulation, surgery, breathing, exercise, and ergonomics.
    3. Biophysics. For example, Acupuncture, Chakra work, Yoga, and NAET.
    4. Mind-Body-Spirit. Understanding how the body is a metaphor for what is 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 will find that healing occurs best when all four of these areas are addressed. No individual healer is likely to have complete expertise in all of these areas. As our new healthcare system evolves, and the current one heads to extinction, it is good to see health practitioners from diverse backgrounds communicating and working together more.

    So let's look at how a Comprehensive Medicine approach works when addressing anxiety and stress. I will focus predominantly on mind-body and biochemical aspects, as these are where my expertise is.

    Treating Mind-Body Issues
    Stress is not inherently good or bad. In fact, stress can be used to force flowers to bloom, and this analogy applies to people as well. The problem is when stress becomes chronic, and is no longer enjoyable. This then contributes to chronic elevation of the stress hormone cortisol, directly triggering anxiety. As the excessive stress becomes chronic, cortisol levels then go too low—ironically also triggering anxiety by causing recurrent bouts of low blood sugar.

    A simple way to tell if stress is healthy? Simply check in to see how it feels. If it feels good, it is healthy. What is enjoyable can vary markedly from person to person. For example I enjoyed the stress of skydiving, while for my wife it would feel awful.

    A Novel Treatment
    The key stress antidote? Check in to see how things feel. This is so important, that I am being purposely redundant. Learn to say NO to things that feel bad. Leave your brain out of it. Our brain is the product of our societal and family training. It simply feeds back to us what we were taught that we should do to make others happy. Our feelings, on the other hand, tap into our own personal authenticity. So choose to focus on, and do, those things that feel good. Once you've determined what feels good, then your mind can figure out how to make it happen.

    And yes, it is OK to simply choose to focus on what feels good in life, without being in constant battle mode against things you don't like. Like food choices at a buffet, we don't have to protest for the removal of those foods we don't choose to eat. Simply ignore them and pick those things you like. You will find that the rest will soon stop appearing in your life. This is part of how I suspect “free will” works. Our focus is like the remote control on our TV. What we focus on keeps showing up on our screen. This is why our constant “Wars on…” just seem to create more of what we are attacking.

    Is it truly OK to do what feels good? Some will make the argument that “Heroin feels good, and perhaps also smacking that person who makes me angry over the head with a two-byfour.” This is why we add two caveats:

    1. Don't hurt others.
    2. Ask yourself “How is that working out for me?”

    Doing this, people will find their anxiety is often coming from their choosing what they think they should do over what feels good (i.e. doing what others want, instead of what is authentic to them). Notice if you are constantly feeling, “I should do this, or I should do that.” This is euphemistically called “Shoulding on yourself.” I invite you to change that toxic behavior.

    If hyperventilation is present, one will usually have buried feelings that are bubbling to the surface during periods of relative calm. Counseling to help them learn to feel their feelings helps over time. Also, as panic attacks often leave people feeling like they are going to die, understanding that the symptoms are not dangerous helps. Simply being told this may not be enough to reassure you though. You can confirm hyperventilation is the cause by breathing rapidly for up to 30–60 seconds and seeing how it amplifies your symptoms. Unfortunately, this can also precipitate a full-blown panic attack, so be forewarned, and pick a safe time and place to do this test!

    My e-book, “Three Steps to Happiness—Healing through Joy,” can help guide you through the mind-body healing process.

    Balance The Biochemistry
    Begin with ruling out and treating overt issues, including:

    1. Overactive thyroid. Consider this if your Free T4 thyroid test is even in the upper 20th percentile of the normal range.
    2. Low progesterone (women). Progesterone is like our body's natural Valium. Consider this if anxiety is worse around menses and ovulation.
    3. Low testosterone (men). Consider if testosterone levels are in the lower quarter of the normal range.
    4. Adrenal fatigue—caused by drops in blood sugar. A key tip-off? Irritability and anxiety that triggers sugar cravings and improves after eating.

    Also optimize nutrient status, especially magnesium and B vitamins. Instead of blood testing, which is of questionable value here, I simply recommend (for most people—whether or not they have anxiety) a high potency multi powder called the Energy Revitalization System (by Enzymatic Therapy). With this, one drink replaces well over 35 pills, optimizing levels of most nutrients. Also have the person decrease sugar and caffeine intake to see if this helps.

    Herbals can also be very helpful. For example, there is a unique extract, which 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 their anxiety. But what if you could get the benefits without the sedation and side effects?

    The good news is that now you can. Recent research showed that a special extract of the roots of the narrow leafed coneflower (Echinacea angustifoliae) was more effective than the tranquilizer Librium, with none of the side effects. It also worked quickly, with effects building with continued use. This is not the same component used for immune enhancement, and isn't found at needed levels in standard Echinacea. It is available though as AnxioCalm (by EuroPharma—20 mg per tablet).

    Let's look at a few studies of this unique extract.
    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 2 x day) in a multi-center, placebo-controlled, double-blind Phase II study involving 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!

    So I begin with two tablets of AnxioCalm 2x day for severe anxiety. After three weeks, the dose can often be dropped to one 20 mg tablet twice a day. It can also simply be used as needed, and serves as an excellent sleep aid.

    Other helpful herbals include valerian, passion flower, hops, theanine, and lemon balm. These can be found in a combination called the “Revitalizing Sleep Formula,” which helps anxiety during the day and 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 can help people feel that they are in the calm “eye of the cyclone” when panic attacks hit. In addition, it is helpful to explore a technique called Butyko breathing, which can be very helpful for anxiety and hyperventilation.

    For PTSD or old emotional traumas, a technique called EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) can give near miraculous benefits in as little as 20 minutes (see EFT.Mercola.com). It may seem odd, but try it and you'll be amazed. Releasing old traumas through a simple “trembling” technique is also helpful, and the person can do it on their own. It is easy and simple instructions can be found in the book Waking the Tiger.

    By having the entire healing arts toolkit available, and not just using the “medical hammer,” anxiety can now be effectively treated!
  • Self Care and Stress Reduction

    Self Care and Stress Reduction Elson Haas

    Caring for our selves and finding ways to handle our stresses are clearly important practices for assuring our long-term health. They are definitely key aspects of Preventive Medicine, Along With the right nutrition and exercise programs for our body, getting proper sleep, and maintaining a positive attitude toward our self, others, and the world. Learning the individual lifestyle path that generates health rather than disease is really the finest art of medicine and personal development, and an extremely important process in which to invest. Let's look at ways to protect our body and heart from the negative effects of stress and to create better health.

    A self-inventory
    One of the first steps in stress reduction is an honest inventory of where we are. Ask yourself:

    • What is my biggest life challenge now?
    • Is anything very out of balance in my life? If so, what is upsetting me?
    • Why don't I feel fully relaxed, happy, and able to sleep well?
    • What do I need to do to restore balance?
    • Is there anything I can do something about?
    For most of us, the key life challenges are in areas of:
    1. Health–how we care for ourselves and the result we hu-manifest,
    2. Career–what we share with the world and the support that is returned, and
    3. Relationships–how we give and receive love.

    If we can master these three primary areas of life, some might say we're near enlightenment.

    Expectations
    One of the sources of stress is inner tension between what we expect of ourselves and what actually happens. Often these expectations are quite unconscious. It's important to identify unspoken expectations or attachments. Sometimes we need to work a little harder to bring reality in line with our expectations— and to really go for our dream.

    Letting Go
    At other times, we need to develop more detachment to let go of counter-productive thoughts or desires. In this effort, a meditation practice can be very valuable. All the major religions of the world include some type of meditation or prayer. Your practice can be aligned with your spiritual beliefs.

    Types of Stress(adapted from the Anti-Stress Program of Staying Healthy with Nutrition textbook)

    Stress comes in many forms. For example, many of us are surprised to learn that intense joy is a source of stress, but since it requires more of our body and mind, it genuinely qualifies as stress (with an increased heart rate and the manufacture of certain neurotransmitters, such as adrenaline). Exercise can also be a stressor even though it is great for us. This is because of the repetitive movement in certain areas of the body, and because we create and release more free radicals and toxins into the blood and tissues. This biochemical process can best be handled by being sure you drink enough water and take antioxidant nutrients, such as vitamins A and C. According to researchers on stress, the most optimal combination for vitamin C is to pair it with the bioflavonoid, quercetin.

    The various types of stress and some of the factors that contribute to them include:

    • Mental—high responsibility; financial or career pressures; working long hours at mental tasks, perfectionism, anxiety, and worry
    • Emotional—attitude toward self; issues or imbalances in our relationships; anger, fear, frustration, sadness, betrayal, and bereavement
    • Psycho-Spiritual—issues of life goals; spiritual alignment, imbalance, or lack of spiritual nurturing; general state of contentment
    • Physical—exercise and physical labor; pregnancy and giving birth; developmental or life changes (adolescence, menopause, and aging)
    • Traumatic—infection, injury, burns, surgery, and extreme weather and temperatures
    • Biochemical—deficiencies of vitamins, minerals, specific amino acids, protein, or fats and fatty acids; food allergies; genetic errors in metabolism that can result in alcoholism, other addictions, or mental illness
    • Toxic—environmental pollutants such as pesticides, cleaning solvents, and other toxins; non-organic foods with additives; and the use of chemicals such as prescription and OTC drugs, in cosmetic and hair products, and overuse/abuse of sugar, alcohol, caffeine, or nicotine

    What is Stress?

    Please realize that stress is not dictated by situations or incidents themselves; rather, real stress comes from the way we react to the issues of our lives. For stress to negatively influence our health, we must experience something as danger. If we experience a threat as stress, we may go into fight-or-flight mode, which shifts us into the sympathetic (adrenaline) side of our nervous system. That means our body actually prepares to battle or run, i.e. "fight or flight." Our circulation slows and there may be greater muscle tension; our digestion slows down, heart rate goes up, and we begin using up important nutrients. Often immune function is affected—our level of T-cells may even be depressed. And clearly then, we are more prone to become ill or "catch whatever's going around."

    Sometimes there's no way around stress. For example, when a child falls on the playground, or we're putting out a fire, our body prepares us for the emergency so we can respond immediately. That's the way it should be as this level of response/reaction allows us to be more alert and ready for action.

    But sometimes stress is subtler—and it may be more psychological or emotional. When there really is no physical danger, our body may still react as if there is. Then, if there's no physical activity to provide an outlet for the increased internal activity, the response may remain inward and play havoc with our physiology and organs, as well as with our emotions and our mind. At that point, we run the risk of exhausting the adrenal glands and flooding our body with metabolic toxins, such as damaging free radicals (associated with the aging process and diseases such as heart disease and cancer). This example also shows the reason why "a walk to cool down" really is a good idea.

    When we're under emotional or mental stress, and still stay in a relaxed mode, we can respond more calmly and experience less emotional and biochemical wear-and-tear. Then our body doesn't shift into full battle mode and begin pouring out the chemical signals that we're in danger and must react. This relaxed approach usually leads to a better outcome as well.

    Anti-Stress Nutrients
    Many anti-stress formulas are based on the B-complex vitamins and vitamin C because these important nutrients are all significantly depleted by stress. In addition, stress-related problems may be compounded by deficiencies resulting from generally poor nutrition. All of the B vitamins are important here—especially pantothenic acid (B5). B5, folic acid, and vitamin C are essential for the functioning of our adrenal glands. The adrenals carry perhaps the greatest load when our body is under stress.

    The B-complex vitamins are ideally taken two or three times a day, particularly when we are under a lot of stress. This is especially important if the stress lasts over a period of months— for example from a big project at work or a challenging job, a chronically ill child or parent, unemployment, divorce—any of the life events that tend to deplete us over time. It's best to take the B-vitamins before dark so that we don't become over-stimulated when it's time to wind down and relax. I do suggest more minerals in the evening, as they tend to help with relaxation, especially a calcium and magnesium supplement. However, most vitamins and minerals are best assimilated if they're taken with a meal.

    Note: Prolonged stress or lack of sleep can lead to a myriad of health problems. If these issues do not resolve with home treatment, you may need to see your doctor or other health professional.