A number of elements determine our personal levels of stress, anxiety and fear. A body and brain approach incorporating potential benefits of therapy, medication, exercise, and nutrition is the most effective path toward restoring balance.
Like the mastery of any new skill - how to surf or play the guitar - therapy is a learning process. Therapy for anxiety remodels your brain, teaching it new ways to respond to stress. Specific phobias like fear of public speaking respond quickly to a cognitive behavioral focus: a gentle progression of targeted goals. Stressful conflicts with a spouse or a co-worker benefit from an interpersonal focus: highlighting communication strategies. Long-standing patterns of avoidance, self-sabotage, or anxious discontent respond to a dynamic approach to strengthen sense of self and connection to others. The focus of therapy is a collaborative decision aligned with your treatment goals.
Sometimes the brain gets caught in an anxious, fearful state. Instead of processing information in an objective way, it applies a negative, threatening quality to new experiences. When this happens, sometimes a medication can help to return the brain to its natural state and provide a bridge back to the healthy self. Using an evidence-based approach to medications, I integrate traditional, complementary and holistic therapies to find the best fit for you to restore balance. Many people prefer to try therapy, exercise and diet before considering medications and I strongly support this path to health. I avoid use of medications associated with a risk of dependence.
The benefits of regular, aerobic exercise (running, biking, swimming, etc), cannot be overstated with regard to treatment of anxiety. Exercise builds what is known as parasympathetic tone... the aspect of the human nervous system that calms, quiets, and returns the body to its resting state. For many people, regular exercise proves superior to use of medication for anxiety. Exercise can be prescribed in a regimen specifically targeted to treat anxiety, whether or not you consider yourself an athletic or active person.
We're just beginning to understand the degree to which what we put into our bodies can impact brain health. Our gut uses the same chemical messengers as our brain. Serotonin plays a huge role in both gastrointestinal signaling and regulation of mood and anxiety. Certain foods appear to promote sleep, stabilize blood sugar levels, and encourage healthy gut flora: the bacteria that live in our gut... and other foods do just the opposite. And these bacteria that live in our gut can impact our mood and anxiety levels. It sounds like science fiction, but new research reveals the mind-gut link deserves a lot more attention than we've been giving it! Want to know more?