Loving and Connection Reduces Stress and Anxiety

Last month I invited you to make February the LOVE month for yourself. Did you accept the invitation? If not, you can always start now! Click here if you missed the article.

This month let’s explore how loving and connecting with others helps reduce stress and anxiety, and how it impacts your health.

Oxytocin: Why You Want It

Oxytocin is the hormone of love and bonding. It helps us to feel trust and connection. It helps us to empathize and be caring and generous with others.

Oxytocin is also extremely effective at lowering cortisol (your body’s main stress chemical) and therefore can help lower the effects of stress and anxiety. The more oxytocin, the better able you are to handle life’s stressors.

Other benefits of oxytocin:

• stimulates dopamine (the feel-good hormone) and serotonin, for elevated mood
• balances out your nervous system and builds the parasympathetic nervous system which reduces anxiety
• decreases feelings of loneliness
• increases self-esteem
• reduces depression
• reduces fear and PTSD
• improves digestion
• builds the immune system
• decreases pain and inflammation

Oxytocin quite likely plays a role in why pet owners heal more quickly from illness, why couples live longer than singles, and why support groups work for people with addictions and chronic diseases.

Connect More to Get More Oxytocin

Your amazing body naturally produces oxytocin when you feel loved and connected. Here are some ways to get that feeling:

• hugsdiwithcat
• touch
• massage
• cuddling, even with a stuffed animal
• laughter
• connecting with others
• petting your cat/dog
• showing compassion
• random acts of kindness
• helping others in need
• not only giving, but receiving and letting love in
• accepting help from someone
• relaxation practices that help you feel connected to the world/people/animals around you

When we allow ourselves to connect with others in these ways, both people benefit from a boost of oxytocin!

huggingguys-stencilHug More to Reduce Stress

We have long known that human touch is calming and triggers the body’s relaxation response. Modern scientific research about oxytocin helps explain what our ancestors knew instinctively.

Hugs are a great way to increase oxytocin and activate the parasympathetic nervous system to reduce stress and anxiety.

Virginia Satir, a famous family therapist said: “We need four hugs a day for survival. We need eight hugs a day for maintenance. We need twelve hugs a day for growth.”

How many hugs a day do you give and get?

The average hug is under 10 seconds long. It doesn’t take long, so be proactive in looking for ways to increase your hugs per day, per week, per month.

Connect More = More Oxytocin = Less Stress and Anxiety

Technology that can help you Manage Anxiety

greatideaMy friend and colleague Jamie Durner is an Ayurvedic Practitioner, Wellness Educator, and Yoga Instructor.  She found a whole bunch of online resources (many are free!) for mindfulness, meditation, calming, and relaxation.

Take advantage of technology for apps, videos, and downloads to help manage stress and anxiety.

Some of these guided meditations and other tools can be helpful in as little as 2 minutes!

Check  them out in Jamie’s blog post


greatideaAromatherapy is the practice of using essential oils to enhance well-being on all levels: body, mind, spirit, emotions, and energy. Essential oils are highly concentrated formulas of natural substances. Look for 100% pure essential oil.

Try these essential oils which are often used for stress relief:

Jasmine: Enhances mood and can help reduce anxiety

Lavender: Helps reduce production of cortisol, a key stress hormone

Tangerine: Relieves stress and fear, and helps calm the nervous system

Chamomile: You’ve heard of the tea, but try the essential oil for increased calm, peace and patience

Bergamot Orange: Energizes and helps reduce fatigue and cortisol production

Can Spirituality and Prayer Reduce Stress & Anxiety?

When new clients come into my office, I always ask what things they’ve already tried for reducing their stress and anxiety.  Usually they’ve already tried multiple things… with varied success.
Would it surprise you to know that PRAYER is one of the most common responses I get?  And that it is usually used with success?
Prayer = Anxiety Reduction Tool?
handsPeople don’t usually think of it that way. I know prayer is much more than that, but it sure does seem to help with the anxiety.  That’s according to many of my clients, plus some scientific research on prayer and spirituality.
It doesn’t matter what your spiritual or religious beliefs are.  Any faith in a Higher Power, energy, God, Spirit, Universe or whatever you may call it can bring peace, comfort, and patience.  It’s more about connection with yourself and with others, development of your personal value system, and your search for meaning in life.
Anxiety often includes feeling like things are out of your control, and a natural human response to that is to try harder to control things (which paradoxically creates more anxiety).  Prayer and spiritual beliefs can remind you that you are not alone, you are divinely guided and protected, and that there may be a bigger plan than you are currently aware of.
Today I was feeling anxious about some details relating to my move to my new office.  I wanted to accept that certain details are simply out of my control at the moment, trust that all is well, and know that things will work out in the end even though I’m not sure how.  I found comfort repeating (actually singing) this common prayer:
Serenity Prayer
God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

Scientific Research

Some interesting findings in recent studies…
At Harvard-affiliated McLean Hospital, one study of those from Jewish and Christian faiths found that those with higher trust in a caring God reported lower levels of worry and more openness to uncertainty.  [Inability to tolerate uncertainty is associated with higher levels of anxiety.]
In a second study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology, participants were randomly assigned to one of 3 groups:  a spiritually integrated treatment (SIT) group, a progressive relaxation group, and a control group.
The SIT participants received daily teachings and spiritual exercises designed to increase trust in God.  The progressive relaxation group was taught techniques for body relaxation.  The control group received no intervention of any kind.
Results showed that after 2 weeks, the spiritually integrated SIT group had significantly higher levels of trust and lower levels of intolerance, worry, and stress.  On the flip side, people who mistrusted God showed higher levels of worry, stress and more intolerance to uncertainty.

How Spirituality Can Help
church-stencilThe Mayo Clinic says spirituality has many benefits for stress and anxiety relief and overall mental health. It can help you:
  • Feel a sense of purpose. Cultivating your spirituality may help uncover what’s most meaningful in your life. By clarifying what’s most important, you can focus less on the unimportant things and eliminate stress.
  • Connect to the world. The more you feel you have a purpose in the world, the less solitary you feel — even when you’re alone. This can lead to a valuable inner peace during difficult times.
  • Release control. When you feel part of a greater whole, you realize that you aren’t responsible for everything that happens in life. You can share the burden of tough times as well as the joys of life’s blessings with those around you.
  • Expand your support network. Whether you find spirituality in a church, mosque or synagogue, in your family, or in nature walks with a friend, this sharing of spiritual expression can help build relationships.
  • Lead a healthier life. People who consider themselves spiritual appear to be better able to cope with stress and anxiety, and heal from illness or addiction faster.

The Calm-Down Playlist

Check out these tunes that are designed to relax, calm and bring peace of mind… 
“Makambo,” by Geoffrey Oryema
“By Your Side,” by Sade
“Pachelbel Meets U2,” by Jon Schmidt
“Shadows Fall,” by Michael Hoppé
“Diamonds in the Sun,” by Girish
“Méditation,” from the opera Thaïs, Act II
“High and Dry,” by Radiohead


A while ago, I attended a Silent Meditation & Yoga retreat.  While the meditation and yoga during the retreat were wonderful and very healing, the silence was the most profound part of the experience. 

Meditating - Di Philippi, Holistic Anxiety Therapist, Wellness Counseling MilwaukeeWe have such loud and busy lives that it’s no wonder the “monkey mind” is always going, going, going.  I challenge you to create some periods of silence.  Silence means no input – no phones, computers, books, journals, movies, TV.  Silence the busy-ness of the mind.  Silence means no doing.  No doing the laundry or working out.  A human BEING instead of a human DOING.

Could you find just 15 minutes and sit in complete silence doing nothing but being?  It actually takes the mind much longer than that to silence, but if you find your mind busy in those 15 minutes occupy it with nothing but repeating “I am well, I am happy, I am peaceful.”  Let me know how you do!

Homeopathics for Better Sleep


Homeopathy is a natural system of medicine based on the principle that you can treat ‘like with like’… meaning that a substance which causes symptoms when taken in large doses, can be used in small amounts to treat those same symptoms.  Homeopathic remedies are inexpensive, small pellets dissolved under the tongue.

My friend and colleague Cherri Schleicher, APNP is a holistic nurse practitioner with a homeopathic specialty. She recommends the following homeopathic remedies to improve sleep, and my clients report that they really work!

Homeopathics for Better Sleep

  1. woman-sleeping-in-bedCoffea Cruda: This is a homeopathic derived from the coffee bean. It is very useful for the person who has mind racing and cannot quiet down for the evening. The typical dose is 15C 5 pellets under the tongue before bedtime.
  1. Gelsenium: This is a flowering plant that works very well for anxiety. 30C 5 pellets at supper time or before bed is beneficial.
  1. Ignatia: This homeopathic comes from a plant. It is for the individual who is sensitive and has an excitable nature. They have a mild disposition and are usually quick to perceive. The nervous individual who has difficulty falling asleep. 30C 5 pellet’s at dinner or bedtime is typical.

Reiki for Natural Healing

What is Reiki?

Reiki is a natural healing technique which promotes balance of the body, mind, spirit and emotions, providing stress reduction and relaxation as well as many other healing benefits.
Reiki is a Japanese word roughly translating to “Universal Life Force Energy.” Reiki is a form of energy healing (or energy medicine) developed by Dr. Mikao Usui, a Japanese Buddhist, in the early 1900’s. It is a simple, natural and safe method of healing and self-improvement that everyone can use. 
Reiki is a holistic therapy – an easy and natural way to help bring yourself back a peaceful state of health and wellness.

How does Reiki work?

Reiki in Japanese

It is based on the idea that there is a “life force energy” flowing through all living things. This vital energy of life is called “ki” or “chi” or “prana” in various Eastern traditions. It is the “ki” that brings life energy to the body’s organs and tissues. When this “ki” is balanced and flowing freely through us, we can experience a happy, healthy state of well-being. However, blockages or imbalance in the body’s energy system can lead to pain or “dis-ease.”

Reiki works on the Chakras to ensure that the flow of energy throughout the body is balanced and free-flowing.

Chakras are a core part of our energy system. Chakra is an ancient Sanskrit word that translates as “wheel” or “disc.” Chakras are not seen in the physical body because they are fields of energy.

What is a Reiki treatment like?

After receiving a Reiki treatment, virtually everyone feels deep relaxation, relief from stress, and a sense of peace and well-being. You typically lay on a massage table, wearing comfortable clothing. With a light touch and a very relaxing process, a Reiki practitioner will lightly place his/her hands on your body, assisting your life force energy to flow in a free and healthy way that supports your highest good. Sessions usually last about 45 minutes. 

It’s easy to learn how to do Reiki yourself

Many people learn Reiki just to use on themselves for stress relief and natural healing. Everyone can learn and use Reiki. Reiki classes include an “attunement,” which is the process by which you receives the ability to give Reiki treatments to yourself or others. During the attunement, the Reiki Master will touch the students head, shoulders, and hands and use a special breathing technique. This adjusts the student’s energy pathways and connects the student to the source of Reiki.
reiki-treatment-istock_000009029668xsmallMy Reiki classes also include training in the Chakras, how to give yourself Reiki, and how to give a Reiki treatment to others (pets love it too!). Plus plenty of time for hands-on practice. It is a relaxing day of self-care and learning. 

The Spiritual Aspect of Reiki

The “Universal” aspect of Reiki (as in Universal Life Force Energy) brings a spiritual nature to Reiki. It is not a religion. There is nothing you must believe in order to learn and use Reiki. 
Reiki encourages a way of living and acting that promotes harmony with others and recognizes the universalities that connect all of us.
It usually blends well with one’s spiritual or religious beliefs. Many people find that using Reiki puts them more in touch with the experience of their spirituality rather than simply an intellectual concept of it.

Favorite Quote

laughandbehappy-stencilAll is well, and you will never get it done. Life  is supposed to be fun. No one is taking score of any kind, and if you will stop taking score so much, you will feel a whole lot better — and as you feel a whole lot better, more of the things that you want right now will flow to you. You will never be in a place where all of this things that you are wanting will be satisfied right now, or then you could be complete — and you never can be. This incomplete place that you stand is the best place you could be. You are right on track, right on schedule. Everything is unfolding perfectly. All is really well. Have fun. Have fun. Have fun!

                                — Esther and Jerry Hicks, Abraham-Hicks Publications

Earthing for Stress Relief

When I was in the mountains of Peru on my recent vacation, little did I know that my laying around on the grass or meditating while sitting on huge rocks was actually “Earthing.”

Di Philippi - Earthing in PeruMost people intuitively know that spending time in nature is good for you – it feels good, feels relaxing, helps us calm down. Native American and other indigenous cultures (like the Incans in Peru) have known forever that Mother Earth has healing energies and properties.

Now an emerging field of research called “Earthing Science” is showing how direct contact with the Earth can help with stress and anxiety reduction, sleep problems, and lots of physical health problems.

What is Earthing?

The simplest form of Earthing is to walk outside barefoot, or to sit or lay on the Earth. Conductive surfaces include sand, dirt, gravel, grass and concrete. Wood, vinyl, asphalt and painted concrete are not conductive.

Connecting to the Earth can also be achieved through man-made conductive materials. The goal is to allow electromagnetic connection to the Earth’s surface. Earthing tools for consumer use are rapidly being developed.

Earthing concepts are not new. We know that when working with electronics we need to prevent build-up of static electricity. This is often achieved with grounded electrical outlets, or grounded desk mats, shoes or wristbands. In operating rooms, patients are grounded to protect inner electrical workings of the body from outside electrical interference.

We’re Short on Earthing

Earthing researchers believe that lifestyle changes in that past 100 years (and especially since the 1960’s) have disconnected us from the natural healing and calming benefits of the Earth. Earthing researcher Clint Ober notes that “little more than 100 years ago, 90% of homes still had dirt floors.” Now, our rubber and plastic soled shoes, multi-story buildings, and indoor lifestyles keep us separated from the Earth.

Earthing, Stress and Cortisol

Cortisol is a stress hormone involved with chronic stress, anxiety, sleep problems and other health issues. A pilot study in 2004 showed that test subjects who slept on an Earthing mattress for 8 weeks had improvement in cortisol levels and reported better sleep and less stress.

A study last year suggested that Earthing may help balance the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. Most of us in this busy day and age have an imbalance (“sympathetic dominance”) and most stress management treatments involve improving this balance.

Earthing Research

Earthing research is new and is based on the understanding that all life on the planet functions electrically, and that our optimal functioning is dependent on an electrical connection with the ground.

You can check out Earthing research at The Earthing Institute

Better yet, maybe you want to try your own research. ‘Tis the season in Wisconsin for Earthing. You can experiment by connecting with the Earth on a regular basis…then pay attention to how you feel.