Saturday, July 28, 2012

Barefoot For Anxiety Treatment

On a recent trip to the beach I was reminded again why I am such an advocate for the practice of earthing. Earthing is the act of coming into contact with the earth without wearing shoes in order to release negative energy. With the advent of rubber or plastic soled shoes many of us have lost the benefit of being "grounded."  Within a half an hour of being barefoot on the shore I felt like a new person.

There are studies that report the neuromodulative health benefits of earthing, from positive effects on blood viscosity and oxygenation to lowering of cortisol levels. In our world of stress and anxiety, we have lost touch with many practices that could help our bodies organically self correct, and I believe earthing is one of those. 

When a client comes into my practice complaining of symptoms of anxiety, I take a thorough history, paying special attention to what that client does to "recharge their batteries." One of the first recommendations I make is to get out in the sunlight for twenty minutes a day (for the benefits of vitamin D and the effects on neurotransmitters and hormones such as melatonin). This practice alone can cause wonderful benefits on mood regulation and sleep. The addition of being barefoot during this process seems to really augment the benefits for anxiety. I direct them to visualize the anxious feelings being absorbed by the earth and dissipating from their bodies. I have had clients report a dramatic reduction in anxiety just from this simple intervention. 

Anxiety can be seen as anxious energy flowing through our bodies, and it is insidious in its effects on our health, our relationships, our productivity and our spirits. The long term effects of unaddressed anxiety can be debilitating. Anxiety is considered a problem when symptoms interfere with a person's ability to sleep or otherwise function. Men and women can manifest the symptoms differently. Teenagers are particularly susceptible to symptoms of irritability produced by anxiety. Physical symptoms are usually related to the heart, lungs, nervous and gastrointestinal systems. Left untreated anxiety can take its toll on our bodies, and our quality of life.

In our rat race culture we must take the time to care for our bodies, our minds and our spirits if we are to experience life in a meaningful manner. Running on empty trying to function is no way to live. If we want to have the levels of productivity that our lifestyles demand we must invest time in maintaining our mental and physical health. If you are unable to address your anxiety symptoms alone, there is nothing wrong with reaching out for help. Consider it an investment in obtaining the level of functionality you desire. More than that, consider that you function in this busy lifestyle in an attempt to create a rich life in which you can thrive. If you are not thriving, something is not working. Please take steps today to achieve a life that works. Everything that you do depends on it!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

What am I going to do?

What are you afraid of? What is causing you to feel anxious and stressed? Many times when I ask clients what is causing them to feel anxious they are unable to identify the source of the feeling. I have heard it described as a rushing feeling of "what am I going to do?" but when asked "about what?" they can't pinpoint anything that is wrong. This is called generalized anxiety.

In my observation, there are a few things that seem to occur along with generalized anxiety. Being very busy seems to accompany it on many occasions. I have found that busy people can lose touch with a few basic needs. I believe that if we stop and examine these few things we can begin to calm the anxiety that seems pervasive in our society.

When focused on everything that "needs to be done", and over-extending ourselves, it is easy for us to forget to breathe. Really? Too busy to breathe? Absolutely! Take a slow, deep breath. Really focus on drawing oxygen deep into your lungs. Feel the gift of the nourishment it brings to your body. When is the last time you really noticed how wonderful it feels to really BREATHE? A few sessions a day of being really present with the breath can make a world of difference in how you feel.

Another thing that I notice is that people who report generalized anxiety don't seem to be able to identify the things they do that nurture their spirit. They lose sight of what brings them joy. Is it taking a bubble bath and lighting a candle? A walk in the woods? A few minutes spent playing with a pet? Pinpointing and actually doing these things can cause anxiety levels to lower naturally.

The last thing that I see in people with generalized anxiety is a burdensome sense of responsibility. I am not suggesting that you abandon your obligations, however when I sit down with clients to distinguish the "musts" from the "shoulds" it is very enlightening. People with generalized anxiety seem to have a sense of having to take care of everyone and everything. I propose that there are things that you have to do and things that you may chose to do. Just because you can do something doesn't mean that it is always in your best interest to do it. Mindfully choosing things to commit to above and beyond your obligations is a way to significantly reduce your overall anxiety level. 

Anxiety does not have to rule your life. Begin examining how you are living to see if there are things you are doing or not doing that are contributing to your uncomfortable feelings. Take back your power by implementing a few simple steps that can increase your quality of life immediately!

Saturday, July 7, 2012

A State of Disconnection

Last weekend, Rob and I escaped for our "babymoon" to Seagrove Beach, Florida. We've found the perfect little cottage down there for relaxing, recharging, reconnecting, and rejuvenating our spirits and our relationship.

In the midst of turquoise waters, whitewashed sands, and friendly townspeople, I was struck by a sad realization.

On Friday night, we chose one of the local restaurants there for dinner. We were escorted to our table on a rooftop deck overlooking the Gulf of Mexico. With the wind blowing through our hair, we smiled at each other just to be in that wonderful place together at that moment. As we settled in, I surveyed the scene of people around us. Close to our right was a middle aged pair with sour expressions on their faces. The man gazed off into space while the woman. . . wait for it. . . checked her Facebook feed on her phone! Yes, you read that right. I quickly made the assumption that they either must have been fighting, or were perhaps on a first date, the kind set up over the internet that just wasn't going as well in person as either party had hoped. That is, until the woman looked up from her phone to inquire about the contents of my growing belly (quite the cornerstone of conversations these days), and when we were due. She went on to explain that she and her husband there had 4 children together and were down on vacation for a week with the whole family. We were meeting them on their "date night," their chance to get away from the kids while her mother watched them. She seemed much more eager to talk to me than to her husband, and it took a couple of tries to pry away from her and back to my own "date night." 

On our left was a young laughing couple enjoying a couple of beers together. My smile returned, as did my faith in romance and the human ability to appreciate the beauty of a night on the beach until she too brought out her phone. At first the girl tried taking pictures of her beau, which was somewhat endearing to me, and as I could tell, to him as well. As the evening progressed, however, I watched her spend more and more time with the phone, and less and less with her boyfriend; soon his expression matched that of the middle aged man to my right. Again, in voyeuristic fashion, I speculated. Having clearly observed the lack of wedding bands on this young couple's hands, I secretly hoped that the boyfriend would run for the hills, or at least stand up and walk away from the table in response to his date's preoccupation. It couldn't be a good sign in the early stages of a relationship that whatever was on the girl's screen was more interesting to her than him sitting there in front of her. 

Now, I have to admit, I have my phone with me most of the time while I am in Atlanta. And, as part of a bustling city, I don't think much of it that most people around me do the same. Personally, being that I practice psychotherapy, and am the owner of a business,  I want to be available both  for my clients in case of emergency, as well as for potential new business inquiries. I also want to be available for my husband. But sitting on a rooftop overlooking the GULF OF MEXICO with the love of my life. . . I had absolutely no need or interest in my telephone or in anything Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or Foursquare had to offer.

As the weekend progressed, Rob and I noticed this same phenomenon over and over- people drawn away from the present moment and from the living, breathing people right in front of them and the events unfolding where they stood- by the trap of technology. I witnessed adults look more like robots, or awkward teenagers with their faces buried in their Nintendos, that like real people living real lives.

So how long has this disconnection from reality and from each other been present? Is it that I have been so disconnected from my surroundings, myself, that I just haven't noticed this before? Or was it the sharp contrast of the technology against the backdrop of natural perfection and promise of human connection that brought this sad reality to my attention? By the end of the weekend, I wanted to walk up to people, rip their phones out of their hands and tell them to "look around! See what's going on in the world that's right there in front of them!" I wanted to shout at people to stop the madness and plead with them not to let their relationships numb out and glaze over like they were doing in front of their screens! As I type, I recognize how wonderful technology can be. But doesn't it have it's place? And shouldn't that place be limited? Shouldn't we create some internal boundaries for ourselves in order to live more mindful and connected lives, and not let time and experience pass us by while we're tweeting about it?

I could go on and on, but I have probably written too much for a blog post already. Clearly I am passionate about this issue and it's overall effect on our health and wellness- mentally, emotionally, physically, and relationally. Are you?

Logging off,