Natural cures for anxiety would fall into a few natural categories, exercise, nutrition, sleep, stress management, and certainly learning about the physiology and emotional components of anxiety.
Interestingly enough, those roughly parallel the pillars of brain fitness which we have been reading so much about in the last year and one-half.
So natural cures for anxiety can result in increased neurogenesis and neuroplasticity?
I say we get started.
A most effective and natural cure for anxiety is deep breathing. Ever watch a baby breath? Our littlest ones know how to breath deeply routinely, but we adults have unlearned attention to our breath and also our feelings.
We get rewarded for thinking as we grow up, and we forget the natural connection between relaxation and opening the higher perceptual centers of the brain.
But please do not take just my word for it. Simon Evans,Ph.D. and Paul Burghardt,Ph.D. who are neuroscientists at the University of Michigan, have written a wonderful book called
Brainfit for Life from which the following information is quoted in regards to anxiety antidotes;
Anxiety disorders are both common and debilitating. Exercise can reduce anxiety after a single session. It appears that both aerobic and anaerobic types of exercise have the ability to improve feelings of anxiety. How this works isn’t exactly clear. It may be related to an opportunity to release pent-up frustrations (positive use of excess energy) like we discuss later in this chapter. It may also be related to the chemicals that our brains release during exercise, like dopamine or endorphins (our body’s self-made morphine) that helps to relax. No matter how it works, it works and we should be willing to use it.
Another intriguing possibility is that, for people with an anxiety disorder, exercise may provide the opportunity to have control over some of the feelings they have during an anxiety attack.
Studies show that individuals with generalized anxiety disorder experience lower levels of anxiety after a session of aerobic or resistance type training. Interestingly, both exercise and panic attacks activate parts of the sympathetic nervous system. These include increased heart rate and blood pressure, flushing and sweating, increased rate of breathing, and so on. The idea is that because exercise exposes people to many of the same sensations they feel during a panic attack they become familiar with them and aware of their control over them. They can regulate how often and how hard they exercise, ultimately allowing them to exert control over sensations that arise from a subconscious cue during a panic attack. The idea of control is very important for both depression and anxiety disorders as is the ability to effectively cope with stress.
Coping With Stress
Many people view stress as a psychological state conjured up by annoyances that life brings our way. Situations at work, home, or major life events (chronic illness of a family member) can certainly be sources of stress. For some time now, researchers have adapted a much broader definition of stress, and it would serve us all well to begin to think along these lines. For a deeper look at stress, you can read Neural Nugget #4, Stressing Out. In a very broad sense, stress is the disruption of physiological balance (eustasis). Anything that alters your balanced state is a stressor that your body and your mind must attend to in order to return you to balance. You rely on your physical balance to stand and walk without falling over. You don’t really have to think about that, because you ‘practice’ it all the time..."
Evans and Burghardt go on to talk about how the body responds to stress and some of my stress response can get better with practice.
Ok, so exercising is a natural cure for anxiety and it is the most important pillar of brain fitness, and if you look a little further down the page, I will link you to an program you can do with your mate at home, which is economical, fast, and stimulates deep breathing even for folks in their '80's.
But before I do that, I want to introduce you to another way to manage what Evans and Burghardt call your eustasis.
About fifteen years or so ago, researchers discovered that your heart has a brain of its own, a very sophisticated nervous system that has a tremendous impact on every cell in our body.
That means the heart has enough neurons in it to learn and make decisions independently of any other brain I have, and researchers were able to develop a biofeedback software program called Heartmath which teaches that brain in my heart to respond to a breathing and thinking pattern which can help me sustain a coherent heart rate variability or eustasis heart beat by heart beat.
I have used Heartmath since 2001 and I love how it feels, and I cue the coherence every five minutes for a couple of heart beats because I can.
Couple Heartmath with exercise, deep breathing, nutrition, and sleep, and I am on my way to natural cures for anxiety.
Since Heartmath is a biofeedback tool, the learning is permanent. In other words the brain in my heart will return me to my eustasis when I give it the cue thought about breathing deep and whom I want it to love. The heart's brain is cooperative and affiliative by the way.
If you click on the link below, there is a video demonstration so you can get a feel for the tool.
Evans and Burghardt are really writing about brain fitness, which we now know can be enhanced just like my bicep, if I lift weights.
The pillars of brain fitness are exercise, nutrition including omega 3 fatty acid, stress management (Heartmath), sleep, (Heartmath impacts sleep too), and novel learning experience.
I promised you information about a fast and economical yet challenging exercise program that you can do at home, which works for 88 year old Bill and 82 year old Pat. This program has been created by Scott and Angie Tousignant, and you will see Bill and Pat doing their high intensity interval training about half way down the page you link to. At 61, I am looking out to folks like Bill and Pat to keep me going in my own exercise program, so that I can feel more eustasis, while I am working on the last pillar of brain fitness.
One of the things I can get anxious about is alzheimers, and now there are some computerized brain fitness programs with excellent results.
I enjoy practicing with these as much as I do my heartmath.
When the brain fitness folks talk about this last pillar of brain fitness, novel learning experience, they are referring to the kind of novel learning experience involved in learning a language or a new instrument.
While I would love to do either of those, I do not have time for either, but I can use the Posit Science Brain Fitness Program, which was the subject of the IMPACT study published in April of 2009, or the Lumosity Program, or the Mind Sparke Brain Fitness Pro, which increases IQ. Really.
So anxiety about alzheimers is wasted time, as long as I am doing my novel learning experience, and taking my omega 3 fatty acid, which is so important to brain fitness.
Evans and Burghardt report in
Brainfit for Life that omega 3 fatty acid is a key player in mood and attentional styles. The best source of omega 3 fatty acid is fish, which may conjure up anxiety about mercury poisoning, so a
supplement may be your best omega 3 fatty acid option.
Brain Fitness The new standard for total wellness. Mind Sparke Brain Fitness Pro - Software that makes you smarter
When I was beginning my personal growth journey, a wise person told me that when I was feeling resentful or afraid or sad, that I should remember the phrase "gratitude is the attitude" when I was ready to feel better. That phrase has helped me feel better tens of thousands of times.
Would you share what you are most grateful for? Your story could be just what another person is searching for to renew themselves? Thanks.