How can we Treat Anxiety Holistically?

The paralysing anxiety trap.

The paralysing anxiety trap.

Anxiety is a multi-system response to an apparent threat. There may be variants in length of time from a few minutes or many years, along with the severity of symptoms experienced; perhaps a mild feeling of unease through to a full-blown panic attack.

Whilst it is perfectly normal to feel anxious from time to time, an anxiety disorder is a mental health condition. Holistic assessment of this multifactorial condition involves exploration of influences such as diet, environment, familial history, past and present health and medications.

Stressors from a young age can contribute to persistent modifications of the gut-brain axis, leading to mental health disorders in adolescence and adulthood.

Anxiety Impacts Behaviour and Cognition, Physically, and Emotionally.

Anxiety Impacts Behaviour and Cognition, Physically, and Emotionally.

Classified as a dysfunctional reaction to stressful stimulus or threat, an anxiety disorder comprises of interrelating cognitive, physical and emotional components. Anxiety disorder in children and adolescents is one of the most common mental health conditions. Several areas such as behaviour, cognition, physical and emotional are all affected, and there is an amplified jeopardy of co-morbid psychiatric conditions, along with a prediction of depression and anxiety in adulthood.

Insights into the causation of mental disorders are groundbreaking today and growing with rapid acceleration. Systemic inflammation, microbiome disparity, oxidative stress, nutrients assimilation and environmental past and present all having a role on neurotransmitter function and dysfunction.

Whilst it is normal to feel occasional anxiety, to suffer from a lifelong anxiety disorder can be debilitating, cause high psychological stress, insomnia, focus difficulties and social isolation.

There is no shame in seeking treatment from healthcare professionals for debilitating anxiety.

There is no shame in seeking treatment from healthcare professionals for debilitating anxiety.

Anxiety will manifest differently for all of us, we are after all individual in our own unique way. This is where holistic care can really assist, if necessary by working alongside other health professionals, there is absolutely no shame in seeking help for mental health. I have personally found the “stigma” aspect challenging throughout my journey studying my degree in Naturopathy where there were expectations of only utilising natural medicine. Compounded with a diagnosis of chronic depression and a traumatic life event, the anxiety I was experiencing was at times paralysing. Of course as a fresh Naturopathic student I wanted to be free of allopathic medications, however the trauma was too deep, the anxiety and depression so intense, bleak, black and heavy that I sought professional help. A health team comprised of a GP, counsellor, psychiatrist and naturopath all working together has helped me clear the clouds with a fresh perspective on life and the universe.

Could your gut health be contributing to your anxiety? Photo credit - Getty Images

Could your gut health be contributing to your anxiety? Photo credit - Getty Images

Many studies show the correlation between food, mental health and the gut brain axis. Ongoing research leans heavily to the gastrointestinal system, its reaction to oxidative stress and the inflammatory response and the role that these play in mental health.

Insights into the causation of mental disorders is groundbreaking today and growing with rapid acceleration. Systemic inflammation, microbiome disparity, oxidative stress, nutrients assimilation and environmental past and present all having a role on neurotransmitter function and dysfunction.

A combined approach using food as medicine, education on mindfulness, meditation, breathing and self-care can all be given in “prescription” form. Often the biggest challenge to self care is time, everyone is so busy in our modern world. However self care is absolutely paramount to living with anxiety and depression. Nutrient dense food with regular meal times, stress management, reduction of stimulants, support of adrenal function, practicing good sleep hygiene along with the ability to recognise potential triggers are some of the tools that can be employed.

Herbal infusions are an ancient way to relax an anxious brain. Photo Credit - Lisa Hobbs.

Herbal infusions are an ancient way to relax an anxious brain. Photo Credit - Lisa Hobbs.

Anxiolytic herbs such as Chamomile, Lemon balm and Passion flower may be incorporated into daily routine as a herbal infusion; the very act of preparing and giving ones self the space to sit and sip can indeed be very soothing in its self.

Perhaps you would like to make a list of some ways that you can practice self care to help soothe your nervous system from the ones listed here; getting out in nature, meditating, journalling your thoughts, gratitude list each night (however small), some form of exercise, listening to music that floats your boat, diffusing essential oils, massage, talking with a friend, listening to a guided meditation if your mind is too full of chatter, drawing, dancing and most importantly please do not beat yourself up over your feelings of anxiety and or depression. Become empowered by education and seeking assistance and remember you are not alone.

With grace and gratitude Samantha x

Samantha is a naturopath and founder of Your Holistic Voyage. You can find out more about Your Holistic Voyage and Samantha’s battle with trauma, depression and anxiety here.