DIY Moisturizers for Inflammation and Anxiety

Lots of research is showing the connection between increased inflammation levels in the body and increased anxiety. This makes reducing inflammation a great wellness strategy.

My colleague Trudy Scott is a nutritionist specializing in anxiety. Check out her blog for some great recipes using essential oils to create your own moisturizers for helping with inflammation and anxiety.

Click HERE to read more about recent research re: skin moisturizer reducing markers of inflammation, and also the role of inflammation on anxiety and other mental health conditions.

Click HERE for some DIY recipes with anxiety-reducing essential oils.

Can Anxiety Cause You to Go Crazy? Stop Catastrophizing

Extreme anxiety can cause you to think you are going crazy, losing it, having a nervous breakdown, or even dying.

People who suffer from panic attacks are especially prone to this sort of extreme thinking because the sensations of a panic attack are so intense. This extreme thinking is what we call catastrophizing.

When the emotional part of your brain becomes afraid of the worst case scenario, you can begin to tell yourself scary stories… in other words, you being catastrophizing. Of course, this only increases anxiety so the emotional part of your brain takes over even more.

Emotional brain vs. logical brain

From a neuroscience perspective, the emotional part of your brain is connected with the limbic system and the amygdala – part of the fight-or-flight part of your brain. This is part of the brain is often referred to as the cave man brain – programmed to watch out for danger. When it gets activated, it tricks you into believing that there is a sabretooth tiger about to eat you.

The newer part of your brain from an evolutionary perspective is the frontal lobe. This is the logical, rational part of your brain which controls higher cognitive functions such as logic and decision-making.

When the emotional part of your brain kicks in to protect you from that sabretooth tiger, it literally blocks some of the access to the logical, rational part of your brain. This is by design. If there really was a sabretooth tiger about to eat you, would you want to pause and make a pro/con list in your head before making a decision what to do next?

Catastrophizing comes from the emotional part of your brain. The emotional part of your brain increases anxiety while the logical part of your brain can reduce or eliminate anxiety.

To overcome anxiety, it is important to realize that you have access to both of these parts of your brain.

Fight fear with facts

Catastrophizing comes from fear and anxiety. Fear and anxiety are feelings. Feelings and facts are two completely different things.

Anxiety and overwhelm are feelings. Fear of going crazy is a feeling. It’s not a fact.

There is no such clinical condition as “going crazy.” The same is true for fear of losing control (of yourself), for fear of “losing it,” and fear of having a so-called nervous breakdown. Those are not clinical diagnoses. There is no such thing.

Catastrophizing leads to telling yourself scary “what if” stories of some dreaded unknown. These are the things of scary movies or horror films. Not reality. Not facts.

A common catastrophizing thought is that “l’ll go crazy and end up in a straight-jacket or in a mental institution.” Guess what? Those are just more scary stories from scary movies. The fact is that mental health treatment is not like that.

Debunk Catastrophizing Thoughts

In Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT), catastrophizing is one of many cognitive distortions. Anxiety triggers your emotional brain and causes distortions that can “trick” you into believing that something is true and factual when it really isn’t.

How can you get out of your emotional brain and use your logical brain to recognize that the imagined catastrophe is not factual or accurate?

Ask the logical part of your brain what does it really look like to “go crazy?” Literally, what does that mean? Document all the details in writing:

• If someone were observing you, what exactly would you look like?
• What would you be saying or doing?
• What would an observer notice about your behavior and actions?

Document behaviors and observations only – not your feelings. Remember, feelings are not the same as facts. Detail what you would be doing vs. what would you be feeling.

Each time you describe one action or behavior, ask yourself “What happens next?” Then write down the next action/behavior and ask yourself again “What happens next?” Keep drilling down until you can’t come up with any more answers.

This will help you debunk your fears, stop catastrophizing, and reduce anxiety and overwhelm.

Routines to Reduce Anxiety

Human beings are wired to crave routines. Our brains like the structure and predictability. It brings a sense of safety, comfort, and certainty to our day-to-day lives.

Even those of us who get bored easily still feel some comfort with basic routine and habits in our lives. Your routine does not have to be boring or dull. It just needs to be regular and repeated.

It does not matter so much what your routine is because regulating your daily actions is really about reducing the human brain’s instinctual fear of the unknown. Your brain likes knowing what to expect so it can relax.

In this way, routines themselves can help reduce anxiety. It is the fight-or-flight part of your brain (amygdala), aka the caveman brain, which instinctually likes to have things the same. If things are the same, it knows you are safe.

What if you need a new habit or routine?

To reduce anxiety, a change in routine is often needed. In fact, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy stresses the need to develop new tools, techniques and strategies for stress and anxiety reduction.

We often need to add stress-reducing or calming new habits into our routine to balance a “crazy busy” life and ease anxiety.

Knowing what to do and actually doing it are two different things.

You may know what you need to do to help reduce stress and anxiety (i.e. mindful belly breathing, meditate, exercise, sleep more, etc.), but because of that caveman brain you are likely to have a hard time doing it.

Don’t get down on yourself for this. It’s just your human brain resisting new habits. Also, old routines die hard due to that caveman brain and its bias toward keeping things the same.

Hacks that Help

Here are some hacks to help your brain interrupt its old routine in order to and create a new habit:

• Write down the new habit you want to create. Visual reminders are great! Try post-its on your bathroom mirror or steering wheel or nightstand.

• Keep it simple – create one new habit at a time instead of trying to make multiple changes at the same time.

• Add-on. Attach a new activity to an existing routine. Ex: Right after you brush your teeth, or before or after you pour your daily coffee, or before you get out of bed.

• Set alarms or reminders on your phone. Or download an app that rings a gentle mindfulness bell as a reminder.

• Plan ahead and block off time on your calendar for new activities. New activities will stick better through consistency and repetition so schedule them daily.

• Use the buddy system to get support. Maybe someone would like to create the same habit along with you, or someone may be willing to help you with reminders and accountability.

Allow yourself to be imperfect, as we all are. If you forget or miss a day, just get back on board as quickly as you can. Cut any negative self-talk.

ZZZZ-Zinc

Anxiety often causes sleep problems. According to Psychology Today, researchers are finding that having adequate levels of zinc can shorten the time it takes to fall asleep, increase the overall amount of sleep, and increase sleep quality.

Visit a Forest

Numerous studies in Japan have tested participants’ responses to viewing scenery for 15 minutes in either a forest environment or an urban area.

Forest environments were perceived as significantly more comfortable and soothing, and had noticeable positive effects on people’s moods compared with urban environments.

Those viewing the forested areas, reported significant decrease in negative feelings such as “tension, anxiety, depression, dejection, anger, hostility, fatigue and confusion.”

* Read the whole article by my colleague Trudy Scott! 

My Favorite Products for Sleep and Anxiety

This is the first time ever I am revealing my own personal Top Favorite products. This is Part 2 focused on products for sleep.

Anxiety and sleep problems go hand-in-hand so sleep must often be addressed in order to manage anxiety.

In addition to many effective things you can to do improve sleep, here are some of my favorite products that can help you sleep better.

If you missed Part 1 on my favorite products for anxiety and happiness, check it out HERE. 

Fitbit Alta HR

I can pretty much guarantee you are not getting enough sleep and/or enough quality sleep. Fitbit Alta HR is the best way I know to really find out.

Not all Fitbits are created equal when it comes to usefulness for improving sleep via detailed sleep tracking data. Fitbit Alta HR gives you better data than other Fitbits about your sleep stages and sleep patterns.

This data will help guide your troubleshooting process. It helped me make several improvements in sleep that make a real difference in my life.

I love, love, love my Fitbit Alta HR.

CBD products

It’s the biggest craze of 2019.  And for good reason.  It’s great for sleep and many other things (especially anxiety).  CBD oil and capsules are great for insomnia and can help with getting to sleep faster and staying asleep longer.

My favorite CBD product specifically for sleep is the CbdMD brand and the name of the product is “CBD PM Oil” which combines CBD with melatonin, as well as Valerian root, Passionflower extract, Cascade Hops, Chamomile flower and Lemon Balm. 

Learn a lot more in my recent CBD article and find out why I’m fan.

Sleep Stories with Calm App

Sleep Stories are meant to take you back to a simpler mental state and let your brain relax and transition from a busy day into time for deep rest, just like bedtime stories did when you were young.

Stories are read in a very soothing tone and carefully designed to ease and lull the mind. The free version of the app has a few stories about things like lavender fields or magical waterfalls, and the full version has more stories.

 

Coffea Cruda

Homeopathy is a natural system of supplements that has been around for at least 100 years. Homeopathic remedies are inexpensive, small pellets dissolved under the tongue.

Coffea Cruda is a homeopathic derived from the coffee bean. It is very useful for the person who has mind racing that gets in the way of sleep. I leave mine right on my nightstand.

This product and recommendations for use can be found at most health food stores.

Badger Sleep Balm

At bedtime I use this soothing balm made of organic Bergamot, Lavender and other calming essential oils. It works topically and I also put it on my lips, nostrils and under my nose for aromatherapy.

Guided Mindful Belly Breathing Meditation 

This product showed up on my favorite list of products for anxiety too.

It seems a little weird to list my own product as a favorite, but this Mindful Belly Breathing Meditation.  It calms the nervous system so well that many people swear by the guided audio meditation for use before bedtime to fall asleep.

My Favorite Products for Anxiety and Happiness

This is the first time ever I am revealing my own personal Favorite products that I use and recommend for:

1. managing anxiety
2. keeping my head on straight (i.e. being happy, peaceful and joyful!)

I see these products as adjuncts to having a toolbox of “what can I do” strategies which is the foundation of effective anxiety management. My blog is full of tools that can help you create your foundation.

On top of that foundation, here are a few of my current favorite products (not in any particular order):

Peace and Calming essential oil

I’m a big fan of therapeutic essential oils. This one by Young Living is particularly relaxing, while uplifting my mood at the same time. I diffuse it for aromatherapy, or blend with a carrier oil to apply topically.

“Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself”
By Dr. Kristin Neff

Being kinder to yourself can definitely decrease anxiety (which so often comes with harsh, negative self-talk that only makes matters worse).

I was blessed to attend training in Mindful Self-Compassion personally with Kristin. I predict Self-Compassion will be the new Mindfulness – you read it here first folks 🙂

BONUS Hot off the press: “The Mindful Self-Compassion Workbook: A Proven Way to Accept Yourself, Build Inner Strength, and Thrive.” Loaded with interactive tools and techniques. I just ordered it!

Guided Mindful Belly Breathing Meditation

It seems a little weird to list my own product as a favorite, but this Mindful Belly Breathing Meditation really is the most effective tool I know for anxiety, and I really do use the technique myself.

I get so much feedback confirming it is so much easier to do this kind of meditation and breathwork with my guided audio meditation.

It has helped many create a daily meditation practice, plus lots of folks have put it on their phone for on-the-go use in anxiety-provoking situations such as travel.

Epsom Salt

Great for calming the anxious nervous system and relaxing physical tension that often come along with anxiety. I love it in my Ultrabath

Oprah’s SuperSoul Conversations Podcast/App

Download this free app to feed your spirit with a fantastic selection of short interviews with thought-leaders, best-selling authors, and spiritual luminaries, as well as health and wellness experts.

Light Box 

Research shows the effectiveness of light therapy to help improve mood, reduce negative thinking and irritability, and increase energy levels. I use my light box all year round, but especially in winter.

I have 2 different lights: Philips goLITE BLU and Northern Light Technology Travelite.

*Be sure to read the instructions and warnings for the light box you choose. Light therapy is not recommended for those with mania or bipolar disorder, or those with various eye conditions

Read my full article about light therapy HERE

Gelsemium Sempervirens

Homeopathy is a natural system of plant-based supplements. Several different brands are available at many health food stores. Homeopathic remedies are gentle, inexpensive, small pellets dissolved under the tongue.

Gelsemium is commonly used for calming anxiety, and many of my clients get relief from it.

This product and recommendations for use can be found at most health food stores.

Power Thought Cards
By Louise Hay

I’m a huge Louise Hay fan! Each of these 64 vibrant cards contains a powerful affirmation on one side and a visualization on the other to enlighten, inspire, help you find inner strength and love yourself.

 

See a Functional Medicine Practitioner

If a doctor has ever told you that anxiety is “all in your head” or that “there’s nothing wrong with you,” it might be worth investigating a functional medicine approach.

Functional medicine is a different way of looking at wellness and health which focuses on resolving the root cause of imbalances rather than traditional medicine which focuses on disease and symptoms.

For example, a good functional medicine practitioner can help identify when there are physical conditions contributing to anxiety. This could include all sorts of things such as thyroid disorders, diabetes, Cushing’s syndrome, adrenal exhaustion, mitral valve prolapse, high blood pressure, Lyme disease, hypoglycemia, low blood sugar, hormonal imbalances and more!

P.S. I can highly recommend my own functional medicine nurse practitioner, Cherri Schleicher of C&S Holistic Family Health and Wellness.

Do You Enjoy Your Life?

Do you enjoy your life? It’s a deep question… and one very much worth asking. Enjoying life is one of the great antidotes for anxiety so figuring out how to enjoy your life more can transform your life in many ways.

Consider these related questions:

• Do you believe life is meant to be enjoyed?
• Do you believe you are meant to be happy, and deserve to be happy?
• Is there really time to enjoy your life?
• What is life really about anyway? Enjoying it?

What Gets in Your Way?

If you’re not enjoying your life as much as you’d like, consider whether any of these factors are keeping you from the happiness you seek.

1. Time.

Are you too busy to enjoy your life, and if so, why? Crazy busy is a common mode of operating these days, and even seems like a badge of honor at times. But without enjoyment, what’s the purpose of all the crazy busy?

All the time management strategies in the world will not create more time. Only you can create more time for yourself through conscious (albeit sometimes difficult) choices.

Become the master of your time instead of the victim of “not enough time.”

2. Beliefs about life and your purpose.

One of my clients finds herself busy at work, and then busy with more work that needs to be done at home. She’s got lists of work, work, work which leave her unfulfilled.

We discovered an underlying belief… she doesn’t really believe that life is meant to be enjoyed. It’s full of work and responsibilities and the expectations of others. So, she asked: “Who says that it’s okay for me to just enjoy my life?”

Maybe there’s a better question: Who says it’s not okay to enjoy your life?

Perhaps people in your life have expectations of you. Perhaps you “should on yourself” and feel guilty if you’re not doing for others. Perhaps you feel bad about yourself if you’re not busy being “productive.” Perhaps enjoyment seems frivolous.

You can give yourself permission to enjoy your life!

3. Not knowing what makes you happy.

Sometimes what stops us from making the time to enjoy life is that we don’t really know what would make us happy. So, we fill our time with To Do’s and distractions…at least we get some satisfaction from checking off a To-Do list.

Figuring out what it would take to enjoy your life is actually harder than just keeping busy. It is completely worth the effort! Create a better picture of your own version of happiness/enjoyment. Then you will naturally find motivation and the ways to make the time for it.

4. Too much of a good thing = a bad thing.

I have another client who is a great planner and also a very social person, so she’s very good at filling any empty spaces with seemingly fun social activities.

Each one is fun in the moment. But add them all up and she is running around too much, saying yes to everything, and feeling stress and anxiety. She winds up feeling like she is not really IN her life in order to enjoy it.

Mindfulness and conscious choices can help us all enjoy life more. However, the call to make conscious choices invites you to know yourself well and to know what truly makes you happy.

5. I’ll enjoy my life after I get my work done.

Get everything done first, check the list twice and then you can enjoy life. What a trap. Inherited midwestern work ethics may play into this, as well as inherited family values.

Are those inherited values really the values YOU want to choose?

6. Autopilot.

There could be MANY different things that keep enjoyment elusive: subconscious thoughts, beliefs, feelings, habits, inherited values, past experiences, and more. Left unquestioned and unexamined, those things can create a life on autopilot with little sense of meaning, purpose and enjoyment.

Don’t let those things run your life on autopilot. Explore your inner world, and you’ll find out if limiting beliefs and assumptions about life are keeping you from your joy.

7. Anxiety

Anxiety is often connected to the feeling that there’s too much to do, never enough time, and never an end in sight. There is a way out of that endless loop of anxiety. Check out my holistic approach HERE.

Ironic Solutions You’ve Been Avoiding

In our “crazy busy” culture that keeps moving faster and faster each day, most of us want to:

o Get more done
o Be more productive
o Get rid of stress and anxiety
o Generally “toughen up” (to do more of all of the above)

We get in an endless loop of more To-Do’s and multi-tasking. It all seems to result in more stress, less sleep and less sense of accomplishment.

Is there anything that can be done to reduce all that stress and get off the hamster wheel?

Do the Opposite

It’s quite ironic that your solution is actually the opposite of what you think it should be. The ironic solutions are sometimes quite obvious. Other times we chalk up the ironic solutions as ridiculous and avoid trying them.

Problem: Want more productivity and want to accomplish more?
Ironic Solution: Learn how to develop a slow gear

Instead of constantly focusing on speeding up, doing more, and checking things off the list…slow down. Disengage from technology and to-do lists and future-oriented thinking for a little while each day.

You will become more present and focused when you return to the work at hand. Your mind needs time to process all the inputs (i.e. stress) of the day. With a quieter mind and a state of mindfulness, you will naturally become more productive. Ironically, it happens more easily when we slow down than when we frantically try harder to be more productive.

Problem: Want to get more done in a day? 
Ironic Solution: Sleep more

Not getting enough sleep can cause:

• irritability
• lack of mental clarity
• reduced executive functioning in the brain leading to:
        o poor decision-making
        o poor prioritization
        o poor analytical ability
• forgetfulness or memory loss
• brain fog
• reduced time management skill
• reduced productivity
• reduced focus
• depression (worsens all of the above symptoms)
• anxiety (worsens all of the above symptoms)

It’s easy to see how staying up later to get more done simply does not work in the long run. Ironically, doing that repeatedly will lead to getting much less done in a day (along with increased frustration).

Problem: Want to stop procrastinating on something? 
Ironic Solution: Stop avoiding it and go face it

This sounds so obvious that it can sound irritating. Here are examples of some very common situations that cause anxiety and are often avoided:

Di Philippi, MA, LPC, Holistic Anxiety Therapist, Milwaukee• driving, especially on the freeway or during rush hour
• public speaking
• social events where you might be judged or be put on the spot
• new situations (creating fear of the unknown)
• crowded situations where you might feel “trapped”

The more we find something uncomfortable, the more we avoid it. Yet avoidance is the worst strategy. The situation will continue to have power over you the more you avoid it.

The ironic solution in psychology terms is called Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) or Exposure therapy. ERP is a part of Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT). It provides a very safe and systematic way to face those things that feel like demons. With avoidance, the demons always live on.

Problem: Want to be stronger and tougher in times of stress?
Ironic Solution: Learn and practice self-compassion

Do the opposite of what your inner critic says. Stop being so hard on yourself and demanding that you just “buck up” and “get over” the difficult and stressful parts of life.

An article in the Washington Post titled “Be Kinder to Yourself” explores this concept of self-compassion. It talks about a 2017 study that found that people who have higher levels of self-compassion tend to handle stress better. Other research confirms this.

So, ironically, being kinder and gentler to yourself actually does make you stronger in the face of stress. Self-compassion makes it easier to move through stress. Practice quieting your inner drill sergeant.