Write Down Your Deepest Thoughts and Feelings

writing-stencilJournaling a few times a week has been linked to increased health and overall wellness.

Research study participants who were assigned to write about meaningful things – their deepest thoughts and feelings – showed these results for several months after the study:

• reductions in physician visits
• improvements in immune function
• increases in psychological well-being

I suggest setting aside 15-30 minutes a day to write for a couple days each week. In addition to the benefits above, I always feel better right in the moment when I finish putting my thoughts and feelings onto paper.

Floatation Therapy for Anxiety and Stress

If you’re as old as me, you may remember old TV commercials with the slogan “Calgon, take me away” as someone is floating along in a bubble bath. I loved that slogan. I could imagine all my stress floating away.

floatingawayIn 2016, floating now has a whole new meaning. Floatation therapy is an emerging relaxation treatment, with research supporting its effectiveness for stress, anxiety, sleeplessness, depression, muscle tension and more.

Float centers are popping up like hotcakes all over the US. We now have three in the metro Milwaukee area. I love floating and I float at A Better Me Spa in Menomonee Falls (more about my float experience below).

Your Senses Deserve a Break Today (R.E.S.T.)

Another old commercial slogan used to say “You deserve a break today.” What we all really need these days is to give our senses a break.

Our busy, 7*24, technology-filled world gives us constant stimulation of our senses of sight, sound, and touch. Constant sensory stimulation negatively affects the nervous system and contributes to anxiety.

Floating gives your nervous system 60 minutes of R.E.S.T. (Restricted Environmental Stimulation Technique), sometimes referred to as sensory deprivation. In the most positive way, floating creates a very peaceful, sensory-limited experience.

The Float Room

Your senses of sound, sight, and touch are calmed by a warm, quiet, dark floating environment. Some float centers have float tanks or pods, while others have float rooms (which I love).

float_poolA float room (I think of it as a float pool) is approximately 8 feet long * 5 feet wide. It holds about 10 inches of water with about 1000 lbs. of dissolved Epsom Salt, which enables you to float automatically. Epsom salt is made of magnesium which has many health benefits as well. 

Water is heated to an average skin temperature (93.5F) which reduces the sensation between body and water. All light and sound can be eliminated to allow your brain and body to relax completely. Often there is ambient light and/or relaxing music available if you prefer.

Backed by Scientific Research

In the 1970s, Peter Suedfeld and Roderick Borrie began to explore the therapeutic benefits of floating. A study in the late 1990s found that more than 90 percent of people experienced feelings of relaxation. A 2014 study found that twelve 45-minute float sessions over seven weeks reduced anxiety, stress, and depression.

brainwaves-theta-stateResearch suggests the effects of a one hour float session are equivalent to eight hours of sleep! Floating quiets your brainwaves from the active beta and alpha waves, to theta brainwaves which are more calming, meditative, and restorative. 

Brain imaging shows calming effects in the brain (the amygdala calms down – that’s the fight or flight part of the brain). Blood testing shows reduced levels of cortisol (one of the primary and problematic stress hormones).

In addition to all of the above findings which show how floating can be great to help reduce stress and anxiety, floating is also good for pain, muscles, blood pressure, circulation and more!

Check out this Time Magazine article about floating and find a lot more floating research HERE .

My Floating Experience

floatingabettermeI float at A Better Me Spa in Menomonee Falls, the only float center in the area which has float rooms.  There’s a very comfortable, private suite that includes a changing area, shower and the float pool itself.  

 

floatsuite

From the shower, you open a door and step right into the float pool. Lay down and you will automatically float because of all the Epsom salt. Adjust (or turn off) the lights and music, and float for 60 minutes.

During my first float, I found it “strangely relaxing.” Strange because it is such a unique experience, and also because I wouldn’t have expected it to be as relaxing as it actually is.

My husband said it was the most relaxing thing he ever did!

Finally, a break from all the stimuli, multi-tasking, to-do lists, and interruptions of a typical day! Permission to relax…

At first I found myself full of thoughts about the float itself: how do I move around and what is most comfortable, do I like the music or not, do I like the neck pillow or not, what am I supposed to do now, how many minutes have passed, etc…

After a short time, my brain slowed down and I reminded myself to relax. I focused on my breathing, let go of body tension, and became meditative. At the end of 60 minutes, a dim light goes on to signal completion. Then you step right into the shower. Ahhh… I felt amazingly relaxed.

Floating is like pressing a “Reset” button for both mind and body. Another calming, self-care tool to add to your wellness toolbox!

How Anxiety Can Help You

anxiety-magnifying-glass-istock_000013887814xsmallAnxiety is not all bad. Everyone who comes to see me for anxiety treatment hates their anxiety (and yes, it is a problem)… however, at the same time anxiety can pop up in your life to help you.

Anxiety is a Messenger Telling You Something is Wrong.

We tend to think that anxiety itself IS the problem. But anxiety can actually alert you to the fact that there is something else important in your life that is going wrong and needs to be addressed.

Anxiety as a Coping Mechanism

You hear a lot about managing anxiety and developing coping strategies. In fact, my holistic anxiety treatment does include many tools, techniques, and coping strategies.

But ironically, anxiety itself can BE a coping mechanism (albeit an unhealthy one!) to avoid other difficult things. Your mind sometimes creates distracting anxiety symptoms or panic attacks as a shield from other sources of pain or hurt.

Rather than face the reality that you’re not really happy with your life, or that your marriage is miserable, or that your career is going nowhere… anxiety can pop up to cover up the real distress.

It gives you another problem to focus on. In this way, anxiety can be a coping mechanism to shelter you from the pain of other underlying problems.

The problem is that as long as the underlying problems still exist, then anxiety still exists as well.

Helping You See Other Things

Anxiety symptoms frequently seem to come out of nowhere. This can happen because we don’t realize that we are avoiding dealing with difficult situations in our lives.

My mom had the first panic attack of her life while she was undergoing cancer treatment. I think it happened because she wasn’t dealing with a lot of scary feelings about cancer and fear of dying.

Time and time again I see clients’ anxiety symptoms begin to disappear as soon as they begin to deal consciously with previously hidden stressors and problems. Research supports this.

Dealing with those things that you would rather avoid lowers anxiety and also causes real physical changes such as:

• lower heart rate
• lower blood pressure
• less stress hormones in the bloodstream
• less headaches
• less digestive problems
• less muscle tension

Anxiety as Symptom Instead of Diagnosis

Our traditional medical system has created a lot of clinical diagnoses, medications, and therapies for anxiety. This makes us think that the anxiety itself is the problem.

Of course, anxiety does present problems (like fear, sleep problems, worry, rapid heart rate, high blood pressure, sweating, etc.). But once we can reduce those symptoms with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), we can discover what else is really going on.

Young woman with hands on eyes sitting depressed in car

• A bad relationship
• A job you hate
• Low self-esteem
• Lack of purpose
• Feeling like an inadequate parent or wife or person
• Living with a chronic illness
• Realizing you are getting older and will die one day
• Loss of a loved one
• Being hurt or betrayed
• Negative self-image
• Feeling like a failure
• Old pain or hurt that was never dealt with

In healing those things, you can start to see that anxiety was just a symptom of something deeper.

When you deal with the underlying problems, the anxiety symptoms can simply disappear.

50 Signs of Stress and Anxiety that May Surprise You

warningsign_istock_000004940205xsmallAll to often, we are unaware of how our stress is affecting us. Here are 50 signs to help you get a better understanding of how YOUR stress affects not only your health but also your life.

1. Frequent headaches, jaw clenching or pain
2. Gritting, grinding teeth
3. Stuttering or stammering
4. Tremors, trembling of lips, hands
5. Neck ache, back pain, muscle spasms
6. Light headedness, faintness, dizziness
7. Ringing, buzzing or “popping sounds
8. Frequent blushing, sweating
9. Cold or sweaty hands, feet
10. Dry mouth, problems swallowing
11. Frequent colds, infections, herpes sores
12. Rashes, itching, hives, “goose bumps”
13. Unexplained or frequent “allergy” attacks
14. Heartburn, stomach pain, nausea
15. Excess belching, flatulence
16. Constipation, diarrhea
17. Difficulty breathing, sighing
18. Sudden attacks of panic
19. Chest pain, palpitations
20. Frequent urination
21. Poor sexual desire or performance
22. Excess anxiety, worry, guilt, nervousness
23. Increased anger, frustration, hostility
24. Depression, frequent or wild mood swings
25. Increased or decreased appetite
26. Insomnia, nightmares, disturbing dreams
27. Difficulty concentrating, racing thoughts
28. Trouble learning new information
29. Forgetfulness, disorganization, confusion
30. Difficulty in making decisions
31. Feeling overloaded or overwhelmed
32. Frequent crying spells or suicidal thoughts
33. Feelings of loneliness or worthlessness
34. Little interest in appearance, punctuality
35. Nervous habits, fidgeting, feet tapping
36. Increased frustration, irritability, edginess
37. Overreaction to petty annoyances
38. Increased number of minor accidents
39. Obsessive or compulsive behavior
40. Reduced work efficiency or productivity
41. Lies or excuses to cover up poor work
42. Rapid or mumbled speech
43. Excessive defensiveness or suspiciousness
44. Problems in communication, sharing
45. Social withdrawal and isolation
46. Constant tiredness, weakness, fatigue
47. Frequent use of over-the-counter drugs
48. Weight gain or loss without diet
49. Increased smoking, alcohol or drug use
50. Excessive gambling or impulse buying
(Source: stresstop.com)

Learn more about stress here!

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

Busy and Productive are Not the Same Thing

Di Philippi, Wellness Counseling Milwaukee; Busy creates overwhelm and anxietyAre you so busy that it causes you stress or anxiety? 

You try so hard to get it all done. 
You’re going non-stop. 
You multi-task, trying to maximize every minute. 

Always More To Do

There’s just more and more to do these days.  Most of my clients complain that they are so busy “DOING” that there is no time to rest or play.  There is no such thing as “Me Time.” 

Too much “DOING” and BUSY-NESS eventually wears you down with fatigue, low energy, sleep problems, illness, anxiety, irritability, and dissatisfaction. 

If you wake up the next day and go right back to push, push, push…the quality and productivity of your work goes down.  In the end, you actually get less done.

High Intensity Interval Training

Di Philippi, Wellness Counseling Milwaukee; Work Hard-Rest Hard to reduce anxietyWork smarter not harder with High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT).  This is a concept used in fitness and athletics.  Interval training means alternating intense periods of exercise coupled with adequate recovery/rest time. 

  1. Work hard – really give it your 100% effort and focus for a short interval
  2. Rest!
  3. Repeat Steps 1 & 2

In the fitness world, this ultimately maximizes productivity of time spent working out because it makes most efficient/productive use of your energy and muscles.  Athletes don’t lift weights while trying to simultaneously trying to do two other things.

Busy and Productive are Not the Same Thing

You can apply this High Intensity Interval Training to your life and to your To Do Lists.  You cannot do everything at your 100% all the time without some recovery time.  It’s not humanly possible.

Busy and productivity are not the same thing.  Busy all the time leads to feeling anxiety and overwhelm, which makes it harder to get things done.  Productivity means alternating “DOING” with recovery time, which reduces overwhelm and anxiety and ultimately makes it easier to get things done.  You’ll feel better about yourself too.

To use HIIT in day-to-day life:

  • Don’t multi-task – either work hard or rest hard
  • Take a 5 min recovery period for every hour of work
  • Don’t multi-task during your recovery period
  • Value your recovery time as much as your “DOING” time

No Multi-tasking during Recovery Time

Holistic Anxiety Treatment with Di Philippi, Milwaukee, BrookfieldThe old thoughts that told you to keep pushing more and more will tempt you to do something while you’re resting in order to “make productive use of that time.”   You will have to remind yourself that the reverse is actually true!

Even neuroscience research is now showing that multi-tasking is really a misnomer.  In the brain it is considered “switch-tasking”, with the brain constantly switching back and forth so fast it appears to us to be simultaneous.  Switch-tasking actually uses more brain energy than doing one thing at a time.

Recovery time is downtime — no “doing” but instead resting.  Many people have told me they are so used to running around like a chicken with their head cut off that they forgot how to rest and relax.   So here are a few reminders: 

  • Sit (and do nothing else!)
  • Do Mindful Belly Breathing
  • Take a nap
  • Do a quick meditation
  • Sit or play with your pet
  • Mindful eating (Note to Self: eating while on your computer or phone is not recovery)
  • Have a cup of tea
  • Go for short walk
  • Listen to relaxing music
  • Listen to Happy music
  • Stretch
  • Read a book for fun
  • Call a friend

Apply HIIT Interval Style to Your Overall Week

Schedule in recovery time into your overall week or it won’t happen.  There may be a day that requires you to push at your 100% all day with long hours.  This is life.  But please don’t fool yourself into thinking you can do that every day and still be at your 100%

Sprinters give it their all.  But they couldn’t do this if they continued jogging for the rest of the day.  Running yourself ragged is not the answer!

Is It You or Your Hormones?

wcmheader-2_Holistic Solutions for AnxietyLadies, have you ever noticed:

  • Anxiety that comes and goes along with your monthly cycle?
  • Anxiety that’s manageable throughout the month but gets unmanageable before your period?
  • Sudden increase in anxiety at mid-life?
  • Anxiety before or during pregnancy?

These anxieties are all very common…and they are no coincidence!  (And no, it’s NOT all in your head!)

Hormones Work Together as a System

When women complain of symptoms that coincide with our cycles, doctors are quick to declare a problem with the sex hormonal balance (estrogen and progesterone).  But our hormonal systems are more complicated than we are led to believe.

Imbalance in our stress hormones (cortisol, adrenaline and others) disrupts and causes imbalance in our sex hormones.

All of our hormones work as a SYSTEM.  Our hormonal system is intricately interrelated and interdependent, much like a symphony, so an imbalance of one causes a cascade effect on the others.

The Big Problem: Imbalanced Stress Hormones

The stress hormone cortisol is a very big culprit in hormonal imbalance.  More and more research is helping us understand how cortisol imbalance can lead to serious health problems such as:

      • Anxiety
      • Insomnia
      • Sex hormone issues related to mid-life, pregnancy, and PMS
      • Thyroid dysregulation
      • Blood sugar dysregulation
      • Suppression of the immune system

 The Big Solution: Rebalance Stress Hormones

When stress and anxiety get your stress hormones out of balance, your sex hormones get imbalanced too.

The good news is that the reverse is also true: reducing stress and anxiety allows ALL of your hormonal system to rebalance, including stress hormones AND sex hormones. So it’s time to take stress and anxiety reduction seriously.

Do any of these common sources of stress and anxiety apply to you?

  • Insufficient or poor quality sleepanxietywordsaroundhead-dreamstime_xs_23159798
  • Illness or pain, especially long-lasting or chronic
  • Feelings of anxiety, depression or despair
  • Deadlines
  • Arguments
  • Emotional loss: breakups, loss of family, friends, pets
  • Financial loss
  • Feelings of guilt, shame, unworthiness, or self-hatred
  • Moving
  • Changing jobs or careers
  • Responsibility without control
  • Feeling out of control/loss of personal power
  • Not enough downtime or “me” time
  • Childhood abuse of any kind
  • Historical stress from family relationships and childhood experiences

* List adapted from Marcelle Pick, “Is it Me or My Hormones?”

Reducing these sources of stress and anxiety will go a long way toward rebalancing your stress hormones AND your sex hormones.  See if you can identify the root cause(s) that may be contributing to your hormonal issues so you can return back to balance.  And please give me a call if you’d like to see how I might be able to help.  I’d be happy to offer you a free phone consultation to talk about it.

GABA

GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) is a nutrient that can be helpful for anxiety, physical tension, overwhelm and panic attacks.  Technically it is an amino acid but it functionally acts like a neurotransmitter in the nervous system.

neural-pathways-istock_000006935562xsmallJulia Ross, a pioneer in the field of amino acid therapy and the author of “The Mood Cure” says GABA relaxes the nerves in the muscles in the body, and that it often provides an immediate sense of calm, both physically and mentally.

Some integrative doctors use it to help patients taper off of benzodiazepines (such as alprazolam/Xanax, lorazepam/Ativan, and diazepam/Valium) which have addictive properties. 

While GABA levels can be raised through taking supplements, consult a knowledgeable practitioner before taking any supplemental amino acids, especially if you take any prescription medication.  Contact me for a referral  to a practitioner I really trust.   Research also suggests that yoga and improving your stress management skills increase GABA naturally!

Drink More Water

New research is showing that dehydration affects important neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine… which can contribute to anxiety, hyperactivity, lower concentration and focus, and increased tension, headaches, and fatigue.
 Water in a glass  
Drinking more water and staying hydrated can give serotonin and dopamine a boost that helps balance brain chemistry. 
 
How much water we need is another matter because experts disagree.   You hear lots of guidelines such as:  drink eight glasses of water a day; or drink half your body weight in water a day.   I follow these two rules: 
 
 
1) If you’re already thirsty, it’s too late, you’re dehydrated
2) Urine color when well hydrated should be colorless or light yellow

Calm Anxiety with Magnesium

greatideaMagnesium is a natural soothing mineral which can help reduce stress and anxiety, as well as balance your adrenal glands.

If your magnesium is low, your adrenal glands (which require a lot of magnesium) can be triggered quite easily. This leads to adrenaline surges when you are under stress or when your blood sugar is low. If that sort of adrenaline surge happens repeatedly over time, it can contribute to anxiety attacks and panic attacks.

I take a magnesium supplement daily. I also take Epsom salt baths because Epsom salt is made of magnesium. For more information, read “The Magnesium Miracle” by Dr. Carolyn Dean. It’s amazing!