Anxiety Reframe + Tools To Help

As time remains free of all that it frames,
May your mind stay clear of all it names.”

John O’ Donohue

MENTAL HEALTH SPOTLIGHT:

ANXIETY, OVERWHELM & PANIC

The theme this year for MENTAL HEALTH AWARENESS WEEK is Anxiety.

With the statistics showing 4.3 million people diagnosed with generalised anxiety disorder in the UK, it comes at no surprise this has been chosen by the Mental Health Foundation to be the focal point to provide resources and support for improvement.

We have put together this comprehensive guide to understanding anxiety along with tools for support, whether you yourself struggle with anxiety, a friend or family member please share this email far and wide with anyone you feel it could benefit.

Now, let’s begin by…

REFRAMING ANXIETY

Anxiety is a physiological protective mechanism that is activated in our body when we perceive OR experience high levels of stress, threat, or danger.

Our brain is a predictive organ. Meaning, it processes information received from sensory inputs which pass through our nervous system and takes actions based from previous experiences and recognised patterns.

Anxiety is a symptom of not feeling safe in our environment (internal or external).

It is a physiological state, NOT a psychological condition.

The brain is concerned with one thing only.

SURVIVAL

On a collective level; we are living in a world of rapid changes and uncertainty.

Climate change, Covid, increased living costs, war, artificial intelligence…

We are traversing through a lot of new terrain that humanity has never experienced before. And whilst an element of this will be and has always been true, never have we been faced with unknowns on such a huge global scale. It’s almost impossible for our brain’s to accurately predict what’s coming next.

RAPID CHANGE 

=  INCREASED THREAT

The main questions looping in our brain is:

IS THIS SAFE?

AM I SAFE?

When we experience anxiety, our sympathetic nervous system has been activated.

We have moved into a stress response known as the “fight or flight” response. It is important to know and remember that these responses happen on a autonomic level, they are reflexive, not conscious and are governed by the back part of our brain that controls our animalistic survival instincts.

In this stress or trauma response, our body is preparing to take action, which can absolutely be a healthy response depending on the situation. Yet, if we are experiencing chronic anxiety, this can be result of us not knowing what action to take, or having inadequate support or resources. Which can leave us in a place where we feel helpless or stuck.

Furthermore, anxiety in the present moment can be triggered by past events that are no longer actually a threat or we over-react to situations that are not actually threatening, purely because we have been in a state of hyper-vigilance or stress for so long that our system becomes more sensitive. This can lead to periods of freeze or immobilisation, we burn out, shut down and disconnect from ourselves and the world. Everything simply becomes “too much”. And the spiralling thoughts of “I’m useless / weak / not good enough” can create feelings of shame and fear which compound the whole situation.

Additional symptoms that often tag along with anxiety can include sleep disturbances, chronic tension or pain, gut issues, headache or migraine, compromised immune system, memory lapse, brain fog and sexual dysfunction.

Additional behaviours may present themselves as a need to constantly be busy; over-working or over-training due to the sympathetic activation, it simply does not feel good or safe to rest. Perfectionism, procrastination, racing thoughts, difficulty with holding patience with self and others, inhibited ability to be present are common signs of chronic anxiety.

FROM  PROTECTIVE 

TO  CONNECTIVE

The key to creating safety in the body is through creating awareness of our own unique nervous system, how it functions and what it needs to stay healthy and regulated. We are all different AND because our system is always changing it requires our regular attention. The way that our NS informs our brain’s responses will depend on many things including past experiences and current environmental factors. 

1. Start observing how your  BODY  is responding to sensory inputs from your environment. Becoming aware of what is moving you into dysregulated state (anxiety / overwhelm / panic) is the first step to taking action to rehabilitate your nervous system. eg visual (social media / news), auditory (vocal tone of others, loud / busy spaces)

2. The next step is gathering a healthy and effective TOOLS to support you in moving out of sympathetic activation back into a parasympathetic state where you can feel safe and present to experience joy, pleasure and mental clarity.

READ ON

to learn how you can start implementing some simple ways to regulate your nervous system and re-train your responses.

1. Fuel your Body

NUTRITION:

Drink Ceremonial Cacao

Switching out our morning coffee for a cup of ceremonial grade cacao can have a multitude of physical health and well-being benefits. But without falling down the rabbit hole, we’ll keep it relevant to the topic of anxiety.

Many people with anxiety will find that the stimulating effects of coffee have an adverse effect, making their anxiety symptoms worsen. The high levels of caffeine in Coffee increases the amount of cortisol that is secreted into the blood stream by the body, putting stress on the adrenal glands when overly consumed. Which is a trap many of us fall into because the effects of coffee only last a couple of hours before our energy is crashing and we are reaching for another cup. Too much cortisol in our system is TOXIC and causes a whole host of health issues, including weight gain and killing off neurons which increases anxiety related cognitive dysfunction. Although Cacao isn’t completely caffeine free, it contains a very minimum amount and instead contains high levels of Theobromine which has a half life effect in comparison to caffeine, providing energy and alertness for 5-6 hours, and can actually help reduce cortisol production.

Science shows us that when we are in the fight-flight stress response due to actual threat or perceived threat, sympathetic activation constricts arteries and arterioles around the heart, which increases vascular resistance and decreases blood flow. This explains why many people experience tightness or pain in the chest as a physical symptom of anxiety.

If we have been in a prolonged state of stress or threat, we can move into immobilisation otherwise known as dissociation. The amount of blood flowing to our main organs, including the brain, is inhibited as a protective mechanism to stop us from experiencing physical and emotional pain. This is one of the main causes why we experience numbness, fatigue and brain fog. The Flavonoids found in Cacao have a cardiovascular effect improving the flow of blood throughout the body, thereby improving mental clarity, presence and energy levels.

Cacao contains high levels of magnesium which calms and restores the nervous system to increase our capacity to handle stressful events. It promotes relaxation in the muscles, which tighten when we are in sympathetic activation. Magnesium plays a vital role in brain health, it has effects on the HPA axis, the body’s main system responsible for managing and responding to stress, by regulating stress hormones like the aforementioned cortisol. Magnesium acts like the brake of your nervous system, keeping it from being stuck in sympathetic activation.

Additionally, Cacao increases the levels of dopamine and serotonin released in the brain helping to move us out of  what we call in Scotland “doom toon” by improving our mood, motivation and outlook on life.

SOURCING CACAO

Sacbe Cacao is 100% pure Cacao from the north west jungles of Ecuador. Hosting a smooth flavour profile, making it perfect for those new to ceremonial Cacao or if you prefer less bitterness. With tasting notes of fudge, plum, caramel + pineapple, it’s a nourishing and delicious way to start your day.

This ceremonial Cacao comes in the form of buttons instead of a block, offering an easy and mess free way to prepare your morning cup of medicine.

Enjoy FREE SHIPPING on your Cacao order until 21st May. Use discount code MENTALHEALTH at checkout.

COMMUNITY CO-REGULATION

Facilitated by Luzura Peralta, a trauma-educated somatic spiritual guide and the founder of Third Eye and Sacbe Cacao.

This online sacred space offers the opportunity to slow down and receive the medicine of Cacao, alongside the support of community.

These journey’s are held monthly and are a safe place to be with our emotions, practice gratitude and learn tools to regulate and rehabilitate the nervous system to re-wire our behavioural responses to stress.

Our next circle is taking place this Sunday May 14th 9-11am BST and in the spirit of MENTAL HEALTH AWARENESS WEEK, will be focussed on easing anxiety by offering practices for nervous system regulation and resilience to widen our capacity of what we can hold. Offering eco-somatic and neuro-somatic tools which you can implement into your daily routine for improving nervous system health.

Open to all to join. If you do not have Cacao, bring your beverage of choice such as a cup of calming herbal tea.

2. Find your place

BODY WORK:

Moving Through Anxiety

Finding a place in nature, that feels peaceful and nourishing to you and visiting regularly is one of the most simple ways to vanquish overwhelm and be in the present moment.

Let yourself take in your surroundings and attune the senses; get curious about this environment and the other life forms which occupy this place. Learn what plants are edible / medicinal, and about responsible foraging practices.

What do you see?

What can you smell?

What sounds can you hear?

Notice the air on your skin, how does it feel?

Walking barefoot in your garden, park or beach is a powerful way of grounding into the present, especially when thoughts are racing. The novel stimulus on the feet works on our proprioceptive sensory system, helping us feel more aware of where we are in space. Especially useful when feeling “flighty” or panicked and you have that urge to run away and never return or like the walls are closing in on you and there is no way out. Explore different sensations; grass, sand, mud, shallow water… and notice how your body responds. If you are stuck at a desk, house bound due to illness / injury or disabled you can get similar effects by rubbing a soft cloth or something you like the texture of across the soles of your feet.

Aim for 20-30 minutes of “earthing” but even just as little as 10 minutes has been shown to have substantial positive effects on well-being and health. By improving quality of sleep through down-regulation of our autonomic nervous system from sympathetic to parasympathetic activation, which is known as our “rest and digest” state. Give it a go late afternoon and let the stresses of your day melt out of your body into the earth.

GO FOR GREEN

Research has shown benefits to wearing different coloured tinted glasses to regulate our brain’s autonomic response to emotional events.

GREEN  TINTED

SUN GLASSES

in particular can have a positive effect on reducing anxiety and managing pain, and especially useful for those who experience light sensitivity, migraine or fibromyalgia.

Check out our favourite style made by SUNGOD who have been voted as one of the best sunglasses brands by GQ, The Telegraph, The Independent and Runners World.

breathe it out

Finding a safe place in your body through breathing techniques is one of the most supportive ways to ease anxiety.

STRAW

BREATHING

A simple + effective breathwork tool you can utilise anytime anywhere when you feel anxious and overwhelmed. This not only supports you in the moments you need to find calm, but helps train your respiratory system to improve your quality of breathing overall.

Given we take up to 22,000 breaths per day, it is important we are breathing well to reduce any additional stress to the body.

TRY IT OUT

Use a bamboo straw or breathing whistle. The latter is great on the go as they come with a chain to wear around the neck. Typically these are made from metal or bamboo.

If you don’t have a straw to hand, you can do this breath by tightly pursing your lips on the exhale.

1. Take a comfortable seat and bring the straw to your lips, and if it feels safe / appropriate for your environment, close your eyes.

2. Inhale through the nose for 2 counts.

3. Slowly exhale from your mouth through the straw for 8 counts.

4. Repeat for up to 30 rounds.

You will notice your heart rate and thoughts beginning to slow down, along with a feeling of relaxation and groundedness. You may find you experience a somatic yawn; this is a signal that your body is unwinding tension + letting go of stress.

STOP if you experience dizziness or find yourself gasping for breath.

This practice can be adapted to do in a standing position or walking, which can be useful if you have a lot of anxious energy and sitting still doesn’t feel accessible.

Our next circle is taking place this Sunday May 14th 9-11am BST and in the spirit of MENTAL HEALTH AWARENESS WEEK, will be focussed on easing anxiety by offering practices for nervous system regulation and resilience to widen our capacity of what we can hold. Offering eco-somatic and neuro-somatic tools which you can implement into your daily routine for improving nervous system health.

Open to all to join. If you do not have Cacao, bring your beverage of choice such as a cup of calming herbal tea.

3. Feed your Soul

WELLNESS:

Doing What You Love

It seems obvious, but if we are crippled with anxiety putting our needs first before others, work, and all of life’s responsibilities and demands can feel difficult.

Over-achieving and people pleasing can be well-worn paths for many as a coping mechanism and adaptive trait for ensuring our survival and connection. It can be a way of making ourselves feel secure in our jobs, safe in relationships and maybe even more worthy of love and acceptance.

However, this comes at a huge cost to our health and well-being, leading to overwhelm and burnout, which can come with feelings of discontentment and emotional resentment, frustration and anger.

We need to find healthy ways of processing our emotions and expressing our desires in order to maintain a healthy nervous system to experience authenticity and have the full human experience. This may require setting boundaries with yourself and others, which can in itself feel scary and threatening to do for those not used to claiming time for themselves. Using breathing techniques or other practices that make you feel safe, calm and grounded BEFORE and AFTER setting boundaries is a good way to begin to shift things in a more balanced direction.

No matter how full our schedule is, it is possible to claim time to do something that you are passionate about, that truly nourishes you on that deeper level. Making regular small steps in the right direction can immediately reduce the amount of stress on your body and anxiety you experience. Doing what feels good and feeds your soul could be as simple as singing in the shower, dancing to your favourite music, allowing yourself to PLAY, creating art just for FUN, or volunteering in your community on a project close to your HEART,

WRITE IT DOWN

The parts of our brain related to memory has an impaired function when we are under high levels of stress or fear. Good news is research shows that having a journaling practice can improve cognitive function.

Cultivating a daily habit of journaling what you are thinking and feeling, is also just good old fashioned way of making sense of our experiences. Expressing how we are feeling in a safe way without fear of judgement can be really helpful for getting it all out, whilst also creating greater self awareness of what is triggering / perpetuating anxiety and overwhelm. This way we can empower ourselves to take positive steps to improving how we feel.

We can also re-wire the way that our brain perceives the world and ourselves through gratitude practice. Start by writing down each day 3-5 reasons to be grateful; what are you grateful for today?

GET GROWING

Scientific studies show that getting our hands into the earth triggers the release of serotonin in the brain, by having direct contact with a certain bacteria in the soil called Mycobacterium vaccae,

You can get your feel good fix  by tending to a garden, veggie patch or re-potting house plants. This is also a great way to beautify your environment, and welcome in a state of calm and connection through nurturing the space / land you occupy.

We like to think of this as Mother Earth’s way of saying thank you for connecting with her and encouraging us to return, because it not only supports our well-being but also strengthens our immune system.

IN THE WORDS OF MARY OLIVER:

“I saw that worrying had come to nothing. And gave it up. And took my old body and went out into the morning, and sang. “

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