This past month, I added a new member to my family, and her name is Ella Queen.
This cutie came to us all the way from Houston, Texas where she was a rescue from a kill shelter. Since arriving she has had quite the journey and it came clear to us that anxiety is a big part of her puppy health picture. She has been fearful of grass, cars, people, dogs, her food bowl, wind, you name it and she has probably feared it. With exposure therapy, love, and some coaxing with treat-os we have been improving her response to the unknown.
Some of her new favorite things include her stuffed animal platypus, tennis balls, and belly rubs. I love that we have a rescue and it had me thinking about all the patients and clients that I have worked with over the past few years who have anxiety. I came up with 5 helpful tips for managing stress and anxiety that you can try at home. This could be used for situational anxiety, social, or daily. Try them out and let me know how they go. I will continue to intersperse puppy pictures, because they make me happy. :-)
Tip #1 - Deep Breathing
You have probably heard this before and I will tell you again, breathing can help improve stress and anxiety. This is because deep breathing engages your vagus nerve, which is in your parasympathetic nervous system and attaches from your brain to your stomach. When you take a deep, belly breathe, your vagus nerve is stimulated in the gut and it tells your brain to release chemicals that increase relaxation to prepare us to "rest and digest".
My favorite breathing technique is to breathe in for 4 seconds, hold for 4 seconds, breathe out for 4 seconds, and hold the out for 4 seconds. Then repeat as needed.
Tip #2 - Walk it Out
Walking and movement have been studied to decrease stress and anxiety in people. Physical movement, like walking, releases endorphins in our brain which make us happy. These endorphins help calm our minds and bring joy. A little bit will do. I like to take a 5-10 minute walking break every hour of work during the day. More on walking and health later.
This is how leash walking is going for us so far.... she is not impressed.
Tip #3 - Put Down the Device
Screens, social media, and other electronic devices can promote stress and anxiety. Give yourself a 5-10 minute phone and electronics break every hour. I like to do this by combining other anxiety tips above. I will often put down my phone, close my eyes, and do several repeats of the belly breathing above. Then I keep my phone down and go on a short walk. This again has been studied (want proof here is one study on phone use and depression and insomnia). I am not saying throw the device out the window or in the garbage, like my younger brother did to my phone when I babysat him when he was younger, but just give yourself a brain break.
Tip #4 - Get Outside (Vitamin Nature)
Nature is a treatment for anxiety and stress. It also helps produce those happy chemicals in the brain, endorphins, and the physical process of connecting with mother nature is healing to the mind, body, and soul. If you need ways to increase your outdoors time, then get a puppy, because we go outside every 3 hours for potty training (at least we did, its up to every 4-5 hours now). But serious a study looked at nature for stress and found just 10-15 minutes 1-3 times weekly can greatly improve cortisol (stress hormone) levels. Even if it is cold and rainy, get some Vitamin Nature.
Tip #5 - Tea Time
Herbal medicine is one of my FAVORITE modalities (treatments) for anything, but especially anxiety and stress. There are so many tasty herbs to choose from, but turns out the process of brewing and drinking tea itself is stress reducing. The warm liquid stimulates our favorite friend, the vagus nerve, allowing us to move into that restful parasympathetic state. If you want to try some tea in your life I would suggest Lemon Balm, Fennel, Chamomile, or Passion Flower.
Now that you are all relaxed, let me know what some of your favorite tips or tricks for anxiety are. If you have more questions or would like more guidance on specific treatments for anxiety book a health consultation today!
None of the treatments, advice, or medical information listed in this blog post or on this website is to be taken as medical advice. Please consult with a medical professional prior to initiation any treatment recommendations or suggestions including lifestyle changes to ensure that it is right for you.