Anxiety is a modern epidemic. Over 40 million adults in the US alone suffer from anxiety disorders (that’s a huge 18 percent of the population) and it’s increasing. Ten years ago, the figure was 19 million, so it’s more than doubled). If that weren’t bad enough, one in eight children suffer from it too.
That’s just the tip of the iceberg, the people who have taken their anxieties to their healthcare providers.
Should we be anxious about anxiety? Well, actually, yes we should. If fears and anxieties are allowed to run free, they will snowball. Once a fear is learnt, chemical pathways form in the brain so that the next fear to come along is learnt even more quickly. So we can learn anxiety and we’re very good at it. Stress researcher and neuroendocrinologist Professor Bruce McEwen says, ‘Anticipating impending confrontations, ruminating on endless ‘what ifs’ and ‘if onlys’ can send our stress hormones surging and have measurable effects on the cardiovascular and neuroendocrine systems. If we torture ourselves with worse-case scenarios, we can exhaust our bodies’ stress response without even leaving home.’
Strategies for Coping
So, what can we do? Luckily the new raft of ‘solution focused’ therapies (CBT, CAT, Brief Therapy, Solution-Focused Therapy etc.) have a good success rate at helping us ‘unlearn’ unhelpful behaviour and put healthy strategies in their place. Contact your physician in the first instance.
A form of hypnotherapy called EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) works particularly well if the anxiety and panic attacks can be traced back to a specific incident – it really does have miraculous results on erasing unpleasant memories and reprogramming the mind. The theory is that when a trauma occurs certain parts of the brain become over-excited and ‘freeze’ the information in its original anxiety-producing form. So instead of rationalizing the experience and letting it go, the brain holds the terror and fear. This ‘frozen’ information will resurface under certain circumstances giving rise to intrusive thoughts, uncomfortable feelings, flashbacks or nightmares. Sometimes these will result in low self-esteem or lack of confidence; sometimes they will turn into full-blown phobias or panic attacks. See www.emdr.com.
Come Into the Moment
Mindfulness is a useful technique for kicking anxiety into touch. Anxiety is a fear of what may happen so, by concentrating on the present moment and the present moment alone, you can stop the horrible stress cycle. Whenever you feel anxious, bring yourself into the moment by becoming aware of your body. Breathe calmly and tell yourself that, ‘Right here, right now, I’m okay.’ Take it moment by moment and there is no room for anxiety.
Aromatherapy won’t cure anxiety but it can help balance your emotions. We formulated our Tension Tonic blend specifically to target stress and anxiety. Nonstop Thoughts is another blend that might prove helpful if you suffer from a barrage of anxious thoughts that just won’t switch off.
Of course, you can create your own anti-anxiety aroma blends. These are the aromatherapy big hitters for kicking anxiety into touch. You can use them mixed with a carrier oil such as sweet almond in the bath or as a massage.
- Geranium: the sweet fresh floral scent helps to harmonize the emotions. It is useful when you need to regain your equilibrium.
- Rose: relaxes the nervous system and allows emotional release in the heart.
- Vetiver: a superb grounding oil, this helps you stop overthinking and harmonizes body, mind and spirit.
- Lavender: said to guard against unbridled emotions, so it is an excellent choice when anxiety is accompanied by agitation or mood swings. Lavender induces a sense of peacefulness and integration.
- Marjoram: The oil forms a barrier to the onslaught of stimuli and allows the emotions time to rest. It is especially useful to induce sleep or to soothe free-floating fears.
Super-soother Diffuser Blend
Use this Super-soother Diffuser Blend as a background scent to keep you calm throughout the day. You can make it right in a 5ml stock bottle (which you can get at StillPoint Aromatics or any bottle supplier like SKS bottles).
- 20 drops Frankincense (Boswellia sacra)
- 15 drops Coriander (Coriandrum sativum)
- 20 drops Cypress (Cupressus sempervirens)