It’s true, we live in the age of anxiety.
But did you know that physical disorders can trigger anxiety, anger, irritability, mood swings, depression, irritability, and the like?
Medical doctors who attribute an unexplained illness to being “all in your head” are often wrong. It’s not always your head causing the problem, but biochemical reactions in the body wrecking havoc on the brain.
Organic brain syndrome is the most strident form of physical illness causing full blown mental health issues. But, chances are, there’s a whole range of mild to moderate emotional chaos that can occur on a chronic basis due to physical illness without serious mental illness ever coming to pass.
Physical illness and anxiety
Dr. Mariana Castell’s, the eminent mast cell researcher from Brigham and Women’s Hospital, found a high proportion of mixed organic brain syndrome among patients with mastocytosis. In mastocytosis, there’s an overabundance of mast cells that are spontaneously triggered by a range of foods, drugs, environmental substances, and environmental conditions. The repeated release of chemical mediators – like histamine – from mast cells eventually impairs brain function.
Another example is the anxiety and depression that often co-occur with environmental sensitivities. According to a review of the research presented by the Canadian Human Rights Commission, anxiety and depression are typically not the cause of chemical sensitivity, but are actually the result of the biochemical processes that take place when one is exposed to triggers.
My own experience has demonstrated how anxiety can gradually build-up due to delayed IgG sensitivities to foods and inhalants. If you are not aware of having sensitivities – like most people – it can be very confusing and overwhelming. Anxiety can compound the physical symptoms that result from constant exposure to unknown triggers.
Treat the illness to reduce the anxiety
When physical illness is triggering anxiety, the secret is not necessarily psychotherapy but rather treating the physical illness, reducing stress, and retraining the nervous system. For example, anti-histamines and mast cell stabilizers can help to reduce the physical symptoms as well as the anxiety that can occur in mastocytosis and mast cell activation disorder, although some individuals may also need specific anxiety medication. Stress needs to be addressed because it exacerbates the physical illness. Often our alarm system has been turned on and won’t turn off. So retraining the nervous system may also be essential.
My magic potion for diminishing anxiety
I’ve noticed how anxiety has diminished in my life. When my husband recently flew back from Europe a few weeks ago – hopping on 3 different planes in total – I was delighted to find I didn’t think about it for a moment. In the not too distant past, I would practically kiss the ground when he arrived.
My startle reaction has also subsided. There’s an abundance of gekcos and anoles in Hawaii. You find them inside the house all the time. They suddenly dart about at lightning speed – from around a corner or hidden place. For awhile, I would just about jump out of my skin each time one popped up. I’m not afraid of the creatures at all, but my body responded as though I am. Now, I hardly notice them.
What’s making the difference? Here’s my personal potion for for diminishing anxiety.
1. Meditation and alternate nostril breathing
Meditation itself is an effective means for reducing stress and anxiety. About four months ago, I added alternate nostril breathing to my daily meditation. Alternate nostril breathing balances the right and left hemispheres of the brain, soothes the nervous system, improves sleep, and calms the emotions. It’s so easy to do and the results are highly beneficial.
I thoroughly enjoy my weekly yoga class – one especially designed for the less than limber. I also practice a few times a week on my own. My body is gradually changing for the better. Regular yoga improves physical health and calms the mind as well.
3. Taking responsibility for my stress patterns
I am a big fan of the Amygdala Retraining Program with Ashok Gupta. The amygdala is a part of the brain that is thought to trigger the flight or fight stress response. Gupta’s program focuses on Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia, but the approach has been adapted for use in related illnesses like Multiple Chemical Sensitivity, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and Gulf War Syndrome. Watching the DVDs had a tremendous impact on me – like a switch flipped in my brain and in my being. Recognizing and working with stress patterns is one element of the program that has helped me tremendously. I actively use my favorite methods for reducing stress every day and make sure I carve out time for simply being.
4. Befriending impermanence
What is the fundamental basis of anxiety? I believe it’s a fear of change and death. Gently reflecting on the truth of impermanence each day – really taking it in and learning to accept it as a natural part of life – has given me more ease. The practice is gradually helping me to learn to let go, appreciate the present moment, use my time wisely, and celebrate the miracle of life.
5. Understanding high sensitivity
One in five people are highly sensitive due to genetics. They are born with a more sensitive nervous system. I finally realized that I am a highly sensitive person and always have been. Most of my life, I’ve pushed my limits and disregarded warning signals from my body. Now I’m accepting my sensitivity, tuning into my body, understanding my threshold for stress, and respecting my limits.
6. Avoiding triggers
I suspect that IgG delayed hypersensitivities to foods and inhalants are far more common than anyone realizes. Medical doctors do not acknowledge or treat them at all. Most people are not aware that delayed hypersensitivities can cause or contribute to a wide range of health problems. You may be suffering for years needlessly even though a simple IgG Antibody Assessment could help you identify your triggers. The physical effects of delayed sensitivities can contribute to anxiety and other forms of emotional turbulence. Avoiding my known triggers is key to my well being.
7. Alternative treatment for allergies and hypersensitivities
I’ve been trying out NAET – Nambudripad’s Allergy Elimination Techniques. This is an alternative form of treatment for allergies and hypersensitivites that reprograms the autonomic nervous system and strengthens the immune system. The treatment seems to work extremely well for some people, but not necessarily for everyone. It’s too early to form a conclusion in my case.
8. A good diet
I eat a simple, healthy diet. Sugar, junk food, caffeine, alcohol, artificial flavorings and preservatives are not part of the menu. If you are prone to anxiety and also eat sugar and junk food or drink caffeine and alcohol, you are just shooting yourself in the foot. Some people find a histamine restricted diet helps reduce physical and emotional symptoms as well.
This is the magic potion that works well for me. Maybe some of these tips will help you too, but in the end we each need to find our own secret formula. Getting to know your body, brain and emotional patterns, taking responsibility for your health, and learning as much as you can are keystones to improved health.
How do you work with anxiety when it rises?
Of course, if you have serious anxiety you need to seek medical attention. I’m not a doctor and am only sharing research and what has helped me.
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