Over the years, I’ve consulted and mentored with a few experts in the field of anxiety, alternative medicine and functional medicine. These two doctors that helped when I’ve had questions or intermittent bouts of anxiety and insomnia had positive, encouraging and alternative views about anxiety. They offered treatments that do not involve taking anti-anxiety medicine, antidepressants or any type of allopathic medicine.
As a health and wellness coach, I of course, cannot advise people to either take medicine or not, and please never discontinue your prescribed medicine without a doctor’s careful supervision. My personal choice is to work with the propensity to have anxiety in a holistic, whole-person way, and these are invaluable tools irrespective of your medication usage. Every small change helps; I suggest making just a few incremental changes when we are trying to change a hardwired habit or propensity. This list of 12 steps came as a summary and mind/body suggestions from one of my excellent Mind/Body Medical Doctors here in Boulder Colorado, and I personally have benefited from these suggestions and resources so wanted to share them with you:
A New Way of Thinking About Anxiety
The Mind/Body doctor wanted to emphasize that anxiety and insomnia is a very common problem, and not a psychiatric disease. Anxiety, as far as he is concerned, is a normal brain responding in a very common way to experiences it has had. He said that it was very important to understand that we are not broken and we do not have a “disorder” that has to be “fixed”. He noted that people who suffer with this, have some brain circuits that developed outside of our conscious awareness, and we can work towards self healing.
He states: “I think we do ourselves a grave disservice when we call anxiety a “disorder”. It is a physiologic condition (not a psychiatric “illness”) characterized by increased adrenaline, cortisol, histamine and other inflammatory chemicals. We may be having these symptoms more frequently than we would like, but this is not a disorder or a disease. Diabetes and appendicitis are disorders/diseases and can be treated medically, but anxiety is a condition that has been shared by almost everyone on the planet, so let’s not call it a disorder. Now that we understand how your own brain (autonomic nervous system) is causing your symptoms, we can take some steps to change the patterns your brain is running.” Bradley D Fanestil, MD.
Suggestions for Education and Treatment
1. Watch this TED Talk by Johann Hari. His book has way more great information and he usually recommends that EVERYONE with anxiety or depression read his book called “Lost Connections”. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MB5IX-np5fE&t=873s From his TED Talk: “If you’re depressed, if you’re anxious, you’re not weak, you’re not crazy, you’re not in the main a machine with broken parts. You’re a human being with unmet needs.”
2. Watch this TEDx Talk by Tim Box about anxiety. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZidGozDhOjg
3. Or this TED Talk by Kelly McGonagle about stress. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RcGyVTAoXEU&t=360s
4. Consider reading “Hope and Help for Your Nerves” by Claire Weekes MD
5. Read this blog by David Hanscom MD (author of “Back in Control: a surgeon’s roadmap out of chronic pain“. Also, internet and podcasts.
*If we have issues with anger (not everyone does), here is a podcast where David Hanscom is interviewed about anxiety and anger: https://vidalspeaks.com/podcasts/emotional-healing/dr-david-hanscom-anger-and-forgiveness-episode-84/
6. We might talk more about the power of mindfulness and meditation in the future. There is a LOT of scientific evidence that brain chemistry, brain circuitry and even brain VOLUME changes with mindfulness practices.
For now, he recommended that we start doing an “active mini-meditation” – for just 3 seconds – multiple times per day:
A. Drop your shoulders.
B. Do a three second “active mini-meditation”, drop your shoulders and then take one slow deep breath in and out through the nose.
C. Repeat throughout he day, when needed.
7. If we have been told we have ADD or ADHD, consider reading Scattered Minds by Gabor Mate.
8. Watch this 4 minute Gabor Mate video clip:
9. Watch this TED Talk by Phil Borges, director of the movie “Crazywise”-
10. Try expressive writing – ok to not continue with it if we do not perceive any benefit, but just try it for 2-3 days and see if we notice any less tension in your system or any other benefits. After that, we can decide if it is something we want to continue regularly or not at all or just on certain days.
11. Commit to engaging with the idea that we can take control over our own nervous system.
Mind Body Medicine is a form of Self-Care, and requires for us to do some work.
Our symptoms are in no way our fault. Instead they emanate from neural circuits in the brain that began outside of our conscious awareness. But even so, there are ways to rewire these neural circuits so that we can feel better. Medications and procedures might temporarily blunt symptoms, but only YOU can change the neural pathways that your brain is running, so he insists that we start educating ourselves.
12. Education, education, education. Look at the suggested videos, start reading books. We should learn as much as we can about new neuroscience in order to understand how our subconscious brain (our Autonomic Nervous System) is running alarm signals and to start believing that we can get control over it, and heal completely.
Working with these alternative doctors and both Mind/Body and Functional Medicine, has been invaluable to me over the years as part of my healing process. The doctor that I went to, Bradley D Fanestil, MD. was actually covered by insurance, as a lot of policies are now honoring alternative medicine like chiropractic, acupuncture, preventative medicine, wellness medicine and even Reiki healing. Dr. Fanesil, met with me for almost two hours awhile back and he was so excited about his craft and his understanding of the bio-mechanics of anxiety. He passionately wants to impart to all of us, how these issues are hardwired into our autonomic nervous system and, according to him, are not considered a mental illness. Anxiety and insomnia are natural, common and normal responses to trauma, stress, adrenal fatigue and certain life experiences. With a few small mindfulness techniques, education and self care, over time, he believes that we could heal and restore our systems completely.