Supporting Mental Health Part 3 (Anxiety)


Last week we talked about panic and panic attacks, and this week we want to talk a bit more about anxiety.  While the two can be very similar, anxiety can present different symptoms and challenges for people. Did you know that anxiety is the most commonly diagnosed mental health condition in the world?  Did you also know there are different types of anxieties such as generalized anxiety, social anxiety, and conditions such as PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) and depression that can also influence anxiety?  In the uncertain world that we live in now it’s no surprise that anxiety and depression are on the rise.  However, this post is meant to give you some hope – our naturopathic doctors have a variety of tools that can help you to manage your anxiety.  Let’s explore them.

First, before we get into naturopathic options, we want you to have an idea of what anxiety means and does.  The term can be used in many contexts, but what does it actually mean?  Anxiety can arise from a sense of fear or apprehension.  Our fear or anxiety can be so strong that it can take over the part in our brain responsible for reasoning and logic, and can create a stress response in our body (fight or flight). Some of the symptoms that we experience with a panic attack can be very similar to our body’s response to stress such as rapid breathing, increased heart rate and inability to think and focus.  We breathe faster to get more oxygen in to prepare to flee, as our heart pumps harder to deliver this oxygen to where it’s needed most.  Our inability to think and focus is actually an old adaption from our hunter and gatherer days where blood was shunted to the back of the brain that is responsible for coordination (preparing to flee), and is directed from the front of our brain that is responsible for reasoning and logic.  So, while the symptoms can seem scary, it is actually our body preparing to help us fight a stressor.

We asked Dr. Steyr what he would recommend for patients with anxiety and this is what he said:

“At Greystones Health we take a very mind/body approach.  Which might be something you encounter with a psychologist or a psychotherapist, but we focus a bit more on the body.  For example, a lot of research is pointing to inflammation being a key factor in mental health.  Now that makes sense because inflammation is actually the body’s way to heal from damage.  So if there’s a lot of inflammation the body has a lot of damage and that high amount of damage triggers the brain to go into fight or flight, anxiety and danger mode.  Sometimes the anxiety isn’t felt as the fight or flight, but can also be experienced as the freeze – the sense of paralysis or being trapped.  So if we don’t find where that damage is coming from, in my opinion, no amount of counselling or logic will stop that process.  This is a biological issue.  So we have to really do some great detective work to find out if and why this is happening to you.  The mind part of this mind/body approach comes from building a healthy lifestyle.  Now we might think of diet and lifestyle, but I take a more positive psychology approach.  We look at your personality, who you are in essence and rather than talking about what triggers, problems or what makes you ill, we focus on how to build joy, build health and generally build well-being.  We focus on moving forward, rather than looking backwards.  I believe the combination of the biological and the positive psychology is extremely powerful and is why we have so much success at Greystones Health.”

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