Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Relax!

This article will also be available on the Total Cleanse website

Relax!
Sarah Reid, RHNC
Anxiety disorders are more common than you might think – in fact, it’s the top diagnosed psychiatric disorder type in the Western world. Regardless of the specific diagnosis, anxiety disorders share a common bond – sufferers endure periods of irrational, unrelenting fear. 1 in every 1000 Canadians develop this condition, costing $30 billion in direct treatment, lost earnings and work time, and other associated expenses including drugs and psychotherapy. Degenerative disease and eating disorders can also arise from untreated anxiety.

However, the daily stresses of simply living does not mean living with a lifetime of panic and anxiety attacks. Identification of your day-to-day anxieties and taking immediate actions to spot-correct them will go a long way in improving your overall well-being and your adaptability to change. Locating the root and exacerbating causes of your high stress levels, exercise, laughter, eating well and being able to forgive yourself (and others) are all steps that you can take to tackle anxiety head on once you realize it’s a problem in your life. How do you know it’s a problem? Take a look at your social life and willingness to socialize, your ability to work in groups, working against a deadline, your eating habits, energy and sleep patterns. If you see a lot of antisocial activity, avoidance of high pressure situations to a point where it’s affecting your performance at work or school, over- or under-eating and chronic exhaustion, it’s time to take action before it’s too late.

Finding the root cause of your anxiety can be as simple as making a list. Choose the major thing that is making you anxious in your daily life (or make a note of your major stressor every day for a week and choose the most common one), then journal every fear you have about that one item. For example, if it’s money, you might write down what would happen if you lost your job. Highlight the absolute worst thing that could happen in that situation, then score the rest of the items 1-10 – 1 being highly unlikely to happen, 10 being very likely. You’ll likely be surprised at how few items rank above a 5. However, if something does rank higher than a 5, treat it as a call to action that you can channel that anxiety into.

Exercise, as well as being good for your heart and waistline (and any health or body image issues), releases endorphins into the bloodstream, which promote feelings of happiness, relaxation and general wellbeing. It also deepens breathing, bringing oxygen to your cells and brain which promotes rational thinking. Sharing a joke with others or having a good belly laugh has the benefit of providing instant relief from overwhelming stress – if you don’t laugh, you might just cry! Laughter not only stimulates endorphins, the social connection you get while spreading the feeling of happiness makes the good feeling last. Laughter helps you relate to those around you on a deeper level (even if you don’t know them – like watching a comedy in a dark theatre).

Eating well is, of course, integral to anxiety reduction. Stress is a major toxin to the body and it’s crucial to support the cleansing systems with proper nutrition. The most vital elements to focus on and even supplement if necessary are the B-vitamins B6, B12, B2, and folic acid, important for managing energy levels, mood, and producing serotonin in the brain. Magnesium is one of the most powerful muscle and nerve relaxants in existence, without risk of dependency. One warning: excess amounts act as a laxative! Zinc is also mandatory for the production of serotonin and maintains the health of the immune system so you don’t feel “worn down” or fall ill during high-stress timeframes. Raw foods and fresh juices are intensive sources of these nutrients and also help the liver eliminate the stress hormones in the bloodstream. Many individuals in office jobs find benefits from short-term, “fasting” style cleanse protocols like juicing or raw-food vegan diets, which also give them the feeling of control over tackling the situation. Greens, berries, avocado and pumpkin seeds are great starts.

If you need a plan to detach from yourself and your worries, yoga or tai-chi are a great practices to get into. Without the price tag and time commitment attached to an organized class, I recommend the following yoga savasana practice every night about 1 hour before bed:

Lie down on the back, palms up. Let the feet fall out to either side.
Taking 3-4 deep, “belly” breaths, then let the breath occur naturally.
Beginning with your toes, contract and relax each part of your body, working up towards your face. Start to detach from any active thought, focusing on your inhale and exhale. Let the body feel heavy.
Centre yourself in each moment that passes – for example, feel your head upon the pillow, the back of your hands and heels on the bed or floor.
Focus on who you are, what you want to be and how you want to feel.
To come out, begin to the deepen the breath, then slowly move the fingers and toes, awakening the body.
Bring the knees into the chest and roll over to one side, keeping the eyes closed for about 20-30 seconds.
Slowly bring yourself back up into a sitting position.


It should be noted that this hour before bed (as well as the last hour of your workday) should be a “conflict and serious conversation-free” zone – don’t book meetings, discuss finances or work after this “cut-off” time, and above all, keep arguments out of the bedroom.

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I started my "working life" as a holistic and allopathic nutritional consultant with a love of cooking. Teaching the value of wholesome meal choices to families became close to my heart after I battled a long history of struggles with weight and health, and the passion for teaching led me into where I am now. My blog, which focuses on "bringing good taste to healthier food" through creative use of whole grains, fresh produce and acknowledging the importance of the occasional treat, also features a wealth of "specialty diet" friendly recipes for gluten-, egg-, dairy- and sugar- tree nut-free items that everyone can enjoy without alienating those who need them.

Overall, I want to bring back the desire for good quality, homemade, (mostly) healthy food into the hearts and kitchens of families so that the next generation will be less box-reliant than mine. I firmly believe that any “homemade” food, even when labelled as "naughty", is a more wholesome treat than pre-packaged, cookie-cutter junk. With the knowledge of good food (and how to cook good food) as a base, a healthy lifestyle can follow, and then anything is possible!

Today, my love for teaching is branching out even further - I'm in Montessori training to solidify my love for the system and working with children and families!