Dr. Kassam Holistic Approach to Stress and Anxiety

Holistic Approach to Stress and Anxiety

Written by: Dr. Saira Kassam

 

      What is Bell Let's Talk Day? It is an amazing program designed to break the silence around mental illness. It gives people who silently suffer a platform and a reason to speak up. This initiative was started in 2010 and has since ignited an open discussion about mental illnesses while offering new ideas and solutions for combating it nationwide. Bell Let’s Talk raises awareness surrounding these 4 pillars: (1) Anti-stigma (2) Care & Access (3) Research (4) Workplace health.  

        Many people suffering from a serious mental illness not only endure the symptoms of the disease but also from the stereotypes and misconceptions surrounding it. Rates of stress and anxiety disorders have skyrocketed over the last couple of years. 20% of Canada’s population lives with a mental illness. Two-thirds of people who are living with it don’t seek help because of the associated stigma and negative stereotypes. Stereotypes like, “People with mental health illnesses are dangerous” only present as a barrier, limiting opportunities for things like getting a good job or receiving a quality education. As a community, we need to be involved in the process of recognizing mental health illnesses and educating ourselves. For this reason, this week’s article will parallel Bell Let’s Talk Day where I shed a bit of light into conditions like anxiety and stress.

       Stress and anxiety are commonly linked but they are quite different in actuality. Stress is an unavoidable part of life and can negatively impact health in many forms. Stress is a reaction to something that is happening in the present vs. anxiety, which is constant even once the stressor has been removed. With stress, we know exactly what is causing us to worry but with anxiety, we become less aware of what we are anxious about. Chronic stress can alter the hormonal balance in our bodies leading to an imbalance in our Digestive tract, Cardiovascular system, Reproductive system and even Immune health. 

      Long-term stress raises cortisol levels and can actually lead to anxiety. Anxiety is defined as the feeling of worry, nervousness or unease about something with an uncertain outcome. Occasional worry and situational anxiety are completely normal. The problem arises when it becomes chronic and begins to interfere with daily activities like work, school and/or sleep. There are many types of anxiety, like Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), Social anxiety, Panic disorder, Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). Symptoms can range from mild to debilitating like:

  • Feeling nervous
  • Breathing rapidly
  • Panic attacks   
  • Increased heart rate
  • Sweating
  • Trouble concentrating

      It is important to recognize the differences between stress and anxiety to really combat the root causes.  Healing can only begin once we understand what is causing the problem. This will help to develop effective treatment strategies for various mental health conditions. Naturopathic Medicine addresses both the physical and emotional aspects of stress and anxiety. 

Stress is totally manageable by incorporating the right tactics into your daily lives. Below are some holistic treatment approaches for stress:

  • STRESS MANAGEMENT TECHNIQUES – It is best to dismiss thoughts of doing everything together at once – multitasking! We all love to do it. It is important to let go of the notion that you can change everything at once. Accept what you cannot change and focus on the things you can.
  • PHYSICAL EXERCISE – This is one of the best ways to reduce stress and balance hormones that are associated with worry!
  • VITAMINS AND MINERALS – The B vitamins and Magnesium are needed as co-factors for processes happening in your body during times of high stress.
  • ADAPTOGENIC HERBS – Ginseng, Rhodiola, Ashwagandha can help the body adapt and cope with stress better. They have shown to increase physical and mental energy by stabilizing the stress hormone, cortisol.

Anxiety is highly treatable, but most people choose to live with it or take prescription drugs. Below are some basic holistic approaches to anxiety:

  • DIET – An anxiety attack can be triggered by low blood sugar, an improper ratio of simple carbs to protein and fats. Thus, it is important to be eating adequate amounts of proteins like nuts, soy, fish, white meat, eggs etc.
  • STIMULANT CONSUMPTION - Assess the frequency of stimulant consumption.  Green tea is a great alternative to coffee. It does contain some caffeine but also has L-Theanine, which is an amino acid used to combat anxiety and induce relaxation.
  • MEDITATIONEngaging in meditation can evoke deep relaxation with both your mind and body. If sleep is an issue incorporate 10-15 minutes of any meditation practice before bed.
  • HERBSNervines like chamomile and passionflower can help to balance neurotransmitters in the body.
  • SUPPLEMENTS Things like L-theanine, 5-HTP and GABA can help to modulate the release of several key neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine that are associated with calming. Some products have a combination of herbs and amino acids that work great in unison.   

      The stigma around mental health conditions need to be addressed and recognized just the same as physical ailments are. It is just as important to take care of yourself mentally as it is physically. Just because not all mental health issues are visible to the naked eye, does not mean they do not exist. Help alleviate the stigma around mental health by choosing your words carefully, educating others and supporting those around you who need it. If you want to learn more about mental health conditions and how to recognize them, mental health first aid is a great option. It is a training program that allows people to gain the knowledge and skills to assist people in a crisis. Check out the Bell Let’s Talk website for other tools and ways to help. Change is only possible if you speak up. Fight the stigma!

 

 

**Disclaimer

The advice in this article is for informational purposes only. It does not replace the care of a Naturopathic physician