The holiday season is often a very stressful time for many people, whether it be familial stress, financial stress, or social anxiety and pressures. There are many tools available to balance the nervous system and be more resilient to outside stressors. From the perspective of naturopathic medicine, we aim to help each individual have resiliency in their life. We recognize that stress is a common and normal part of life. Treatments focus on how we uniquely react and respond to stress, and how to modulate these reactions.
Biofeedback and MindBody Medicine
Biofeedback and MindBody Medicine are excellent tools to evaluate each patients’ unique orientation in the world, and assess the best techniques to help reduce anxiety and stress reactions. I train patients in the clinic in appropriate breathing and muscle relaxation exercises, while supporting their at-home practice. These tools prepare the patient to respond appropriately to stressors as they arise. A simple breathing exercise to practice for increasing calm is to breathe slow belly breaths, with the exhalation longer than the inhalation. Always be mindful not to breathe in too much air, or too deeply, as this can worsen hyperventilation and anxiety.
Botanical Medicine is another great way to help nourish the nervous system to create resilience to stress and anxiety. As a clinical herbalist and naturopathic physician I design individual botanical formulas specific to each patient, their constitution, and the unique way that stress and anxiety may be impacting their life. Commonly used herbs to help reduce stress and anxiety include chamomile, lavender, lemon balm, skullcap, just to name a few. These are great in tea, or can be added to baths, either as loose herb or as essential oils. If using essential oils, less is more, only a few drops are needed for an entire bath.
Hydrotherapy is another powerful tool for balancing the nervous system. The proper use of hot and cold water applied to the body helps to shift our nervous system out of a fight-or-flight dominant state, into a more balanced state. Each hydrotherapy session is uniquely formulated for the patient and their current state. Treatments vary from calming to stimulating and energizing, some methods are best applied daily, others are best weekly or monthly. A great way to begin a daily practice of hydrotherapy is to finish a hot shower with a cold rinse, followed by a vigorous dry towel rub. This daily practice can help to invigorate the system, increase energy, increase calm, and result in a warmer body overall, which is great during the winter months.
Nutrition and Diet
Nutrition and Diet is the foundation for a healthy balanced nervous system resulting in a reduction in stress and anxiety. When we are faced with an overwhelming load of stress or anxiety we use up our stores of many crucial nutrients. Knowing this information, we can target nutritional products or dietary changes to replenish the body and provide relief to a burdened nervous system. As a general rule I recommend patients to focus on balancing the 3 macronutrients at every meal (fats, carbs, protein) to maintain balanced blood sugar and mood throughout the day, focus on eating the rainbow, and 50% of the plate being plant foods. These simple practices will help to deeply nourish and mineralize the body and increase resilience.