Thursday, 17 May 2012

Anxiety: Stress hormone overload combat

By clicking on Anxiety Disorder on the Labels list in the sidebar, you will be shown my posts included in this series. I aim to write posts about my experience with anxiety, as a way of recording, a way of understanding and a way of hopefully helping others. 

You may have heard about the fight or flight response? This is the modern description given to the natural reaction of the body when exposed to threat or danger. When a person is stressed or anxious, this response kicks in, causing the release of adrenaline and cortisol hormones. This is the bodies readying to either fight or run. When the threat is gone, then things return to normal.

The body is not designed to have these hormones running around all of the time. So, when the body is under stress for an extended period, there is an overload of cortisol hormones. This can cause problems over time.
Things like:
  • short term memory and concentration can be affected
  • the brain chemical (serotonin) can decrease, affecting feelings of happiness and well-being
  • the thyroid may create less hormone, causing Hypothyroidism
  • desire for social contact is lessened
  • sexual desire decreases
  • bone density levels can be affected
  • the immune system can be less effective
  • negative effects on cholesterol levels
  • increase of inflammation in the body
  • increase in weight gain
  • negative effects on blood pressure
  • increased risk of stroke and heart attack due to increase in haemoglobin
As if you weren't stressed enough, without the added worry any one of the above problems can cause.

That is why it is important to take an active role in recognising and handling your anxiety.
And there are quite a few things that you can do to regulate the hormones, and restore some balance to your body and life.

Physical remedies
There are several activities that can stimulate the calming/relaxing response of the body. Massage, exercise, yoga, music, meditation, breathing exercises, dancing and the release of emotion through crying and laughing can all be useful for relaxing the body. I can personally vouch for all of these methods. All of these activities are accessible.
There are also other things that I find are relaxing for me, such as a hot bath, reading a book I can escape into, a peaceful scenery, and the sounds of nature.

Natural remedies
There are quite a few vitamins and natural remedies available that can be helpful to ease anxiety.
Vitamin B2, B6, and B12 can assist in decreasing stress, as can Valerian, Magnesium, Passionflower, and St john's Wort. These can all be found at the pharmacy or health store. Advice on taking any of these, and the recommended dosage for your situation is advisable. Folic acid is great for combating anxiety, so you should increase your intake of green, leafy vegetables. Green and black teas are said to reduce cortisol in the body, and making sure you are getting enough Omega-3 fatty acids is important to help the brain function well, which come in Fish Oil capsules.
I like to drink Camomile tea to de-stress. Also lavender is soothing as drops on your pillow or as a wash in the shower.

This is by no means a last resort. I believe medication has it's place in any disorder and/or illness. There are many different medications being used, and depending on your GP and your situation, they can make a difference in your new life with anxiety. I use a combination of medication and natural and physical remedies. I have tried using only any one of the three and found it not as effective for me.

It is important to remember that anxiety can be a broad topic, and you need to consult with your health professional to define your type, and what they recommend to try. You also need to discover what works for you and what doesn't.