5 Things That *Really* Helped My Anxiety
I struggled with it for years before I knew what it was…
The racing thoughts and the feeling that my heart was skipping beats, the tension all over my body, the insomnia, the knot in my throat…
Oh, the knot in my throat.
And I just couldn’t figure it out. What the heck was wrong with me???
I visited naturopaths, chiropractors, and nutritionists looking for answers.
One naturopath actually said, “Maybe it’s all in your head?”
Yeah, I thought. One morning, I just woke up and decided to feel this way.
Finding a doctor who would actually listen to me and actually have tests run was step #1. If you don’t take away anything else from this post, please hear that.
Truthfully, anxiety is a tricky booger. It really makes you think irrational and totally stupid things…
Am I a hypochondriac?
Why isn’t so-and-so answering my text message? (As I proceed to replay the last conversation we had in my head to make sure I didn’t do something wrong.)
Am I seeking attention?
Am I supposed to do x or y or z? How do I know I’ve made the right decision?
What Anxiety Looks & Feels Like For Me
First, here’s what anxiety looks/feels like for me:
- knot in my throat
- tension everywhere, especially my neck, shoulders, and bottom
- heart palpitations
- constipation and bloating
- irritability, frustration, and easily angered
- irrational, racing thoughts
- indecisiveness and overthinking and over-analyzing EVERYTHING
After 5 or 6 years of living like that, without knowing what was wrong, I just had to find a way out. I was driving myself (and my family) crazy.
5 Things That *Really* Helped My Anxiety
I’m not going to pretend that these 5 things are a Magic Eraser and made it all go away.
I still have irrational thoughts sometimes. I still second-guess myself and struggle with indecision. There are occasionally nights when I can’t shut my mind off and go to sleep. And if something triggers me, I’ll still get heart palpitations and a knot in my throat.
I’m not living with these symptoms 24/7 anymore! That’s the difference! That’s why I feel comfortable sharing with you the 5 things that *really* helped my anxiety.
If my anxiety was a 9 or 10 before, it now hovers between 2 and 3 most days. On a bad day, it might escalate to a 5 or 6. That’s significant improvement!
I’m not offering a cure-all; yet I am offering relief. At least, this is how I found major relief from anxiety.
#1 — Oral Magnesium
Years ago, when I first heard about magnesium’s ability to calm stress and relieve anxiety and depression, I had only heard about the topical kind.
The information at the time said that the body wasn’t great at utilizing oral magnesium, especially in someone with compromised gut health (hello, 90% of the population).
Therefore, I used the topical, itchy magnesium spray… and it did nothing for me. I still wasn’t sleeping. And I still had major anxiety. If something doesn’t give me good results pretty quickly, I discontinue it.
(I still think topical magnesium is the best choice for leg cramps and Restless Leg Syndrome, however.)
So, last year when I started seeing a new naturopath and she strongly urged me to use this oral magnesium, I was a little surprised. (Be sure to check out my friend Megan’s article on why oral magnesium is more effective than topical.)
My naturopath advised me to begin with the dosage on the side of the bottle (2 teaspoons) and gradually increase my dose to bowel tolerance.
This means to take a bit more magnesium each day until the stool becomes too loose or like diarrhea. Once you reach that point, go back down to the dose that maintains normal bowel function. Continue that dose until the stool becomes loose again, then reduce again.
At one point, I was so magnesium-deficient, I was taking 4 teaspoons per day without any changes in my bowel function! This is 85% more than the “recommended daily allowance”!
So what did oral magnesium do for my anxiety?
After finding the right dose and taking it consistently for just a few days, many of my anxiety symptoms began to subside. The constipation and bloating were the first things to go. Then I noticed that it didn’t take me as long to fall asleep and I began sleeping without waking. Next, my heart calmed down.
Now that I’ve been taking oral magnesium daily for almost a year (and combined with the next 3 things I’m going to mention), I am no longer biting my nails. The knot in my throat that I would’ve put at a 9 on a scale of 1-10 now hovers around 2-3. And, best of all, I’m not a tense ball of nerves all the freaking time!
Magnesium isn’t the only thing that really helped my anxiety, however.
#2 — Lavela WS 1265: Clinically Studied Lavender Essential Oil
Also recommended by my naturopath, Lavela WS 1265 is a clinically studied lavender essential oil. Each soft gel contains 80mg of Lavandula angustifolia essential oil, and recommended dosage is one per day.
A total of 77 female (76.6%) and male (23.4%) subjects 18-65 years of age were randomized into groups. Participants were eligible for the study if they met the inclusion criteria of a HAM-A total score of greater than 18 as well as a score equal to or greater than 2 on both anxious mood and tension items. … In order for a participant to qualify as having a significant response to treatment they were required to have a reduction of at least 50% in the HAM-A total score during the 6 week trial.
The clinical results demonstrated that WS 1265 was comparable to the conventional approach. The HAM-A total score decreased by 45% in the WS 1265 group and decreased by 46% in the conventional group. At the conclusion of the 6 week intervention, 40% of the WS 1265 group and 27% of the conventional treatment group were determined to be in remission. The WS 1265 group had a response rate of 52.5% compared to only 40.5% taking the conventional option. Adverse effects in the WS 1265 group were uncommon and included nausea (5.2%), eructation (3.9%), and dyspepsia (2.6%). (Source.)
Personally, I experienced none of the adverse effects.
And the best way I can describe what Lavela is for me? All the benefits of Xanax… without the harmful, crazy side effects.
I felt my anxiety lessening within 3 days of taking Lavela. For about 6 months, if I missed a dose, my anxiety would be worse that day. But, in the last 3 months, I haven’t needed it daily!
Mostly, I use it on a maintenance level, rather than a therapeutic level. I take it with me when I travel because I do not sleep well away from home. And I take it during particularly stressful situations. That’s it!
#3 — Homeopathics
The first thing my naturopath wanted to address when I started with her was my anxiety. However, her angle wasn’t to focus on the anxiety itself. Instead, her opinion was that my anxiety was actually a symptom of something deeper — my liver.
Further blood tests and DNA testing revealed that she was right! I was low in several B vitamins, which are necessary for liver methlyation and detox.
Furthermore, genetically, I have many CYP (cytochrome P450) mutations — which are also related to how the liver metabolizes various substances, pharmaceuticals, herbs, and foods. (70-80% of pharmaceuticals are processed through CYP pathways, so it’s very important to know if you have any of these mutations, as it will affect if that drug does its job and how it reacts with other drugs and herbs.)
My body was very sensitive to these homeopathics, and it took a bit to get my dosage right. At 20 drops of each per day, I experienced kidney pain and really frequent urination — they were working to detox my liver via my kidneys, and it was just too much.
So, we reduced to 10 drops of each per day to provide support but not potentially cause a kidney or urinary tract infection.
I have since taken other UNDAs to support my thyroid and adrenals and continue to take a maintenance dose of #243, especially if I’m drinking alcohol. (I rarely drink, but when I do, my liver gets mad at me. 😉 #243 helps SO much!)
My ND also does Traditional Chinese Medicine and acupuncture, so she was very in-tune with my liver having physical, emotional, and mental effects. Her use of UNDAs to address this was genius and the first time I’ve ever heard of it, despite previously seeing 2 NDs, 2 nutritionists, and 2 chiropractors.
I would not recommend using UNDAs except under the special care of a practitioner who knows what she’s doing. I mention them here for educational purposes only.
And this leads directly into the next thing that *really* helped my anxiety…
#4 — Acupuncture & Traditional Chinese Medicine
The longer I took the UNDAs, the more my symptoms of anxiety lessened. I feel like the UNDAs addressed so much on an emotional level for me — which makes sense if you look at things from the perspective of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).
In TCM, the liver is responsible for the smooth flow of emotions and Qi (Life Force).
The liver function of ensuring the smooth flow of Qi also has an impact on the emotional state. If the liver is functioning normally, the Qi will be flowing and the emotional state will be balanced. However, if the Qi is obstructed, there can be anger, frustration, depression, and a feeling of being “wound up” as well as physical symptoms like hypochondriac pain, a sensation of oppression in the chest, a feeling of a lump in the throat and distension in the abdomen. (Source.)
So, I get acupuncture once a month, and each time, she focuses on the liver meridians. (She uses my pulse and tongue to determine other points and has done spleen, pericardium, heart, and womb points as well.)
Once, about an hour after leaving an acupuncture session, I was driving home and had a wave of emotion and memories related to my postpartum depression wash over me. It was so intense! But the acupuncture had opened things up in my body — physically and emotionally! I came home to share with my husband and felt like I was able to communicate my feelings better than I ever had in my life!
I know this may sound hokey… yet, I have since talked with others who have had similar experiences after acupuncture.
Immediately after acupuncture and for a few days afterward, I feel very relaxed and calm, but also energized. I *think* that’s what normal is *supposed* to feel like! 😉
#5 — EMDR Therapy
This last one isn’t a supplement; it’s a self-care practice that, in my opinion, EVERYONE on this planet could use at some point… especially if you’ve ever been through trauma (and who hasn’t?).
EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy.
EMDR is a psychotherapy that enables people to heal from the symptoms and emotional distress that are the result of disturbing life experiences. Repeated studies show that by using EMDR therapy people can experience the benefits of psychotherapy that once took years to make a difference. It is widely assumed that severe emotional pain requires a long time to heal. EMDR therapy shows that the mind can in fact heal from psychological trauma much as the body recovers from physical trauma.
When you cut your hand, your body works to close the wound. If a foreign object or repeated injury irritates the wound, it festers and causes pain. Once the block is removed, healing resumes. EMDR therapy demonstrates that a similar sequence of events occurs with mental processes. The brain’s information processing system naturally moves toward mental health. If the system is blocked or imbalanced by the impact of a disturbing event, the emotional wound festers and can cause intense suffering. Once the block is removed, healing resumes. (Source.)
Some studies have shown that up to 90% of patients of single-event trauma no longer have PTSD symptoms after just three 90-minute EMDR sessions (source). Although I have processed more than one trauma through this therapy, I can truthfully say that after my first session, I could physically and mentally feel a difference.
As I continue to go to therapy, my anxiety level continues to decrease.
Rather than feeling defeated by my anxiety, I now feel empowered to conquer it. Or at least, I’m no longer paralyzed by anxiety.
I totally believe supplementation is necessary for everyone, especially in people with illnesses like anxiety that strip our bodies of valuable minerals. And yet…
Anxiety is a mental illness. It must also be addressed on a mental level, not just biologically with good nutrition and supplementation. EMDR addresses anxiety on that deeper level.
A Holistic Approach To Anxiety
To summarize, anxiety is a biological illness that affects us on every level — mentally, emotionally, and physically. In helping and healing anxiety, you must take a holistic approach — a whole body and mind approach.
- Work with a qualified practitioner who truly listens to you.
- Eat whole foods that nourish your body.
- Take care of yourself emotionally by learning to set and stick to boundaries, especially in triggering or toxic relationships.
- Take supplements that support your liver, hormones, and mineral balance and also promote relaxation.
- Invest in a DNA test and have your raw data interpreted by someone who specializes in nutrigenomics.
- Use techniques like acupuncture to open your body and emotions for healing.
- Do EMDR Therapy to help reprogram the brain and remove those triggers.