The purpose of the breakfast was to raise awareness about mental health conditions, which affect 1 in 4 of us in any given year. Mental health issues cover a vast spectrum of symptoms and conditions, so today’s breakfast focused on offering practical advice for managing symptoms of stress and anxiety on a daily basis. I am keen to share as much of the information imparted today as possible, because I believe education and information about mental health should be accessible to all. It is important to eliminate the stigma so often associated with mental health, and for those suffering to know that they are not alone.
To give a brief overview of our autonomic nervous system, we have a sympathetic ‘fight or flight’ nervous system, and a parasympathetic ‘rest and digest’ system. Many years ago if we saw a predator in the wild we would switch on our sympathetic fight or flight mode, and blood would rush to our muscles to allow us to run away quickly. Once safe, our rest and digest functions would resume. Blood would return to our organs for digestion, reproduction, growth and repair; all essential for good health. We find that the pressure of today’s busy society has led to adrenal exhaustion and overuse of the ‘fight or flight’ mode. Deep relaxation isn’t occurring as often as it should. The advice below teaches you to transfer from a state of hyper-arousal to deep relaxation.
Our bodies manifest stress in many different ways, but very often patients change their breathing pattern and begin to hyperventilate. Rather than using our lower ribs and diaphragm, we take short, sharp breaths, overusing the accessory muscles of respiration in our neck and shoulders. Retraining our breathing can reduce pain in this area and restore more energy-efficient diaphragmatic breathing patterns.
Breathing re-education will therefore calm down the musculoskeletal system and the nervous system. The exercises will allow you to transfer from a state of hyper-arousal to relaxation. They can therefore be used in the morning and evening as part of your daily routine, or during a panic attack.
I will be uploading a downloadable breathing re-training programme soon that will go in to more detail, but here are some tips to get you started. Begin by tuning in to your natural breathing rhythm and rate. Ideally you should breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. Your shoulders shouldn’t rise much as the majority of your movement should come from your abdomen. It can take weeks to months to successfully change your breathing pattern, so take the exercises step-by-step, working towards box breathing. Box breathing gives your diaphragm a really good work out! Finally, mindfulness and progressive muscle relaxation techniques can be used in conjunction with these exercises for even deeper relaxation.
ADVICE FROM THE INSPIRATIONAL LADIES OF CP MEDICAL CLINIC
Nutritional Advice for Managing Stress & Anxiety
- Eat a balanced diet to stabilise blood sugar levels.
- Avoid stimulants like coffee, energy drinks, alcohol, smoking and sugar.
- Support your digestion by taking probiotics, there is a proven link between your gut health and brain function.
- Eat plenty of Omega-3’s found in oily fish, chia and flax seeds.
- Turmeric uptake is best when taken with black pepper and a little fat (e.g. coconut oil).
- Turkey is high in tryptophan which helps us to sleep.
- Echinacea to support our immune system, which is weakened by stress.
- Dandelion tincture or tea to reduce stress and detox the body.
- Reduce your intake of heavy metals through diet and lifestyle – avoid farmed fish, eat organic foods and walk on side-roads rather than main roads.
Mindfullness & Meditation
- Use apps like Buddhify and Headspace for guided meditation and mindfulness.
- Use self-help resource websites like Mood Gym and Mood Juice.
- Make time for yourself every day.
- Remind yourself of the good things in life and focus on them.
- Remind yourself that stress and anxiety are natural everyday occurrences.
- Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is a great way to retrain the way you think. Un-learn your bad habits.
Acupressure Points for Stress & Anxiety
- Using your thumb and index finger, pinch the fleshy part between your other thumb and index finger for around 1 minute, to reduce stress.
- Press on your sternum (chest) between your breasts to relieve stress and anxiety.
- Facial acupuncture to release tension in the face and jaw.
Advice from a General Practitioner
- Visit your GP to rule out any underlying causes of your symptoms of stress and anxiety, such as an under or overactive thyroid, heart pathologies or vitamin deficiencies etc.
- Don’t be afraid to pick up the phone. NHS 111 or The Samaritans (116123) are available 24/7.
This mornings breakfast was the first of many to come… Stay tuned for more <3