Saturday, April 4, 2020
From 'Wow, this year is flying by' to 'When will it be over?'
I thought it might be nice, as a diversion, to discuss strategies for maintaining your sanity, mood and ability to think straight whilst adapting to uncertainty and seclusion.
This graphic is a depiction of the neural pathways related to anxiety and proposed neurotransmitter imbalances.
While this blog post is not intended to diagnose or treat or substitute for work with a practitioner, I hope that you can add some tools to your toolbox to improve your mood and lessen your worries and fears.
So, in general, anxiety is associated with too many excitatory neurotransmitters, called catecholamines. So there are lifestyle and nutrition strategies to balance catecholamines. There are also supplements with herbs and vitamins designed to balance catecholamines.
Since I am a Functional Medicine doctor, I use lifestyle and nutrition to address the 'root cause' of chronic disorders like anxiety. When I see patients with anxiety, I like to run tests to see if there is an underlying endocrine or toxicity or pathogen associated with the anxiety. I might also do stool testing, organic acid testing and neurotransmitter testing. If genetic testing for psychiatric medications hasn't already been done, I might do that as well.
In general, without these diagnostic tests, most patients would benefit from an anti-inflammatory, low toxicity, Mediterranean-type eating strategy. Since red meats can potentially increase your excitatory neurotransmitter tone, I generally have patients avoid these until we've finished our diagnostic testing.
If you'd like a more detailed handout with specific dietary recommendations, message me via my website millerfunctionalmedicine.com and I can send you one. (For legal purposes I have to tell you this doesn't establish you as a patient or create a doctor-patient relationship.)
For lifestyle strategies I recommend regular movement. I like to dance so I started an 80s dance playlist the other day and danced for an hour. It all started with an earworm of Axel F from Beverly Hills Cop! Go ahead, listen to it and see if you don't get up and dance (or maybe that's just me - like my momma, may she be dancing in heaven right now - I love to dance).
Find some movement that speaks to you. I also do daily yoga (my studio moved to online classes a few weeks ago) and I try to get out and walk our dog regularly. I also enjoy energy yoga and was missing my sweet teacher when I got her email about an online video class. Check her out - many of the moves - the tapping and meditative breathing - are all beneficial for releasing pent up emotions.
Get at least 8 hours of sleep each night. Don't stay up binge-watching The Morning Show. (I was definitely not doing that last night, ahem).
Practice mindfulness. There are many apps to help you out here. I like Stop, Breathe & Think and Insight Timer but have patients who have also mentioned Head Space and Calm.
If you like books, I love Jon Kabat-Zinn's Wherever You Go, There You Are and Luminous Mind - Meditation and Mind Fitness by Joel and Michelle Levey.
Do an activity with your friends or family that you enjoy. (If you enjoy your family. If not, do something you like without your family!) My son and I did a project this week. Behold.
We already had brushes, sandpaper and painter's tape. I called Sherwin Williams and they were taking orders 'to go' so I stood outside the store and confirmed the paint chip and waited a few minutes for them to mix up a primer and paint. There were two other customers waiting and we all stayed at least 6 feet apart!
Painting or an adult coloring book are ways to focus the mind on a single activity and disengage from unruly emotions and stress. Doing a puzzle or reading a good book (see my friend Moe's excellent book here) are also options.
Finally, for supplements there are multiple options. If you feel stress levels rising, theanine is one supplement that helps lower cortisol. It occurs naturally in green tea, which may also help improve intracellular zinc which helps your body fight viruses. Win-win!
I like this treat (-->>) which also happens to have 200mg theanine in it. It also has dark chocolate, another stress buster, and coconut, which has beneficial fatty acids for the brain. You can get these on my Fullscript page.
Other supplements that may also help include magnesium (found in kale, spinach, Swiss chard, pumpkin seeds, almonds, cashews, black beans and dark chocolate). Try to get 300-400mg daily. I like Natural Calm by Natural Vitality. You can find it on Fullscript but also at Sprouts and Whole Foods.
Other supplement options for unrelenting anxiety include Catecholacalm by Designs for Health (on Fullscript) and CBD drops.
Right now you can't find CBD on Fullscript but I hope to have some good organic options available on my website soon. Stay tuned! Meanwhile, try Joy Organics - they are having a 15% off new customer special. Veritas Farms is another excellent option, they list the COA (Certificate of Analysis which checks for quality and contamination) for each batch. Their website says they are offering a 35% off special right now to new customers. Stock up!
In general, get the lowest dose full spectrum drops and start at either 1/4 dose or 1/2 dose (usually a 1/4 dropper or 1/2 dropper) under the tongue for 30 seconds.
Drops have a faster onset than capsules for faster relief but only last 2-4 hours so they are convenient if you need situational relief (hosting a big online meeting? Wondering how to safely get your groceries?)
The Catecholacalm supplement has vitamins, minerals, amino acids (including L-theanine) and adaptogens like Ashwaganda and Valerian (from whence Valium was derived) to help balance your neurotransmitters and help create calm and improve adrenal health. The adrenals can become dysfunctional with catecholamine imbalance so this can also help the adrenals get back in balance.
If you plan on getting some supplements from my Fullscript, wait until Friday - I'm having an Easter weekend Spring Sale Event. Everything 10% off.
Finally, finally! I like to relax after dinner with a warm cup of tea like Pukka tea's Relax or night time tea. If I need extra relaxation, I do a foot bath with either Epsom salts in hot water or my Ion Cleanse to detox from the day's toxin exposures (car fumes, gas fumes, paint fumes, off gassing from appliances - the list goes on!).
So take care of yourselves out there in Quarantineland. Don't watch too much news. Stay safe. Stay home. Save lives.