Stress and Anxiety


Due to unprecedented times, many patients feel ill-equipped to
manage current stressors- whether it is the economy, jobs, racial
violence, or even their own health.
Stress can be an energy zapper, twist your neck and back into knots,
and make you feel overwhelmed, irritable, and unable to focus or

Acute stress can be adaptive and protective like alerting us to danger
when there is a real or perceived threat or meeting certain deadlines
at work or in school.

However, chronic stress can affect our hormone levels and interrupt our activities of daily living, fuel self indulgence (stress eating), cause sleep disturbances, make us
gain weight even without significant diet changes, and it can even cause us to self-isolate.

Chronic stress can lead to chronic inflammation and progression to
chronic disease. This can have deleterious health consequences.
Numerous studies link anxiety and stress to an adverse cardiovascular
event (stroke or heart attack). Even among patients who have not
experienced these events, the prevalence of anxiety is between 20-
25%. Psychological stress causes immune dysregulation and increases
pro-inflammatory cytokines like interleulin-6.  This means that  it more likely that you will get an illness and feel under the weather when you feel chronically stressed.

So how do we get out of this sympathetic nervous system overdrive mode created by stress and activate our parasympathetic nervous system to rest,
digest, and heal?

• Spend time in nature.
Go on a hike with your family or friends, plant an organic garden of
various herbs and veggies, and/or walk barefoot on the grass or sand.  Get outside each day even if it is just for a few minutes.Look at the plant and animal life.  Recognize the beauty that surrounds you.It is such a simple and easy thing to do.  Get outside!

• Incorporate various mindfulness techniques such as breathing
exercises and meditation.

BREATHE…..Breathe deeply, getting your belly muscles to move in and out.  Shallow breathing causes anxiety and fatigue, among other things.
Belly breathing activates our vagus nerve to get us out of the
flight/fright mode and helps us rest, digest, and heal.
It also lowers cortisol, increases our heart rate variability, makes us
more alert along with less anxious and depressed.

Singing or humming is another great way to get our vagus nerve
activated and helps lower anxiety and even improves our gut and lung
function!  Go ahead and hum or sing in the shower or anywhere else you desire!

• Get adeqate sleep
When we sleep, our bodies are able to restore, detoxify, and heal.
As we age, we don’t produce enough melatonin, and sleep ensures
adequate secretion of melatonin which is neuroprotective. Ensure that your bedroom is cool, dark, and quiet. Turn off electronics at least an hour before bedtime and allow your mind and body to go to sleep. If you find yourself too wired at night to get to sleep despite lifestyle adjustments, there are many natural and safe treatments to assist sleep (an article has been done in the past that specifically addressed sleep).

• Nourish your adrenal glands (Adrenal fatigue was addressed in last month’s article)
Aside from the many tips given last week, herbal supplements can also help to support your adrenal glands.  My favorite herbal supplement to use is ashwagandha, also known as “Indian ginseng.” It helps to strengthen, restore, and rejuvenate our bodies. It’s famous for its ability to reduce inflammation, promote clarity, and create a calming energy boost. Other adaptogens (adrenal support herbs) include lemon balm, passionflower, and l-theanine.

Avoid starving yourself of the peace and contentedness that awaits
you.  Turn off the TV and computer, and get outside and breathe!!  Set up a good bedtime routine that ensures a good night’s rest and add a good adrenal support supplement. These are easy things to do and they can make a huge impact on how you feel.

Take time to rest, relax, and practice GRATITUDE!It is easy to get caught up in what is wrong with the world, but there is also so much that is beautiful and wonderful.  Spend time focusing on the amazing things around you and think of ways to make your life, and the lives of those around you, better–full of health and vitality. It is truly your choice–do you choose the path of sickness, fatigue, and anxiety or do you choose the path of wellness, happiness, and peace?  What steps will you take to go down the path you desire to be on? We are here to help you at An Optimal You and An Optimal You Wellness Partners! Here’s to a healthier YOU!

Dr. Donna Ruiz, MD
Integrative Pediatrician & Functional Medicine Specialist
An Optimal You Wellness Partner

Posted In - Stress