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7 Essential Tips for Anxiety – Part 5 – Mindfulness

Anxiety is an extremely common problem, with one in seven Australians currently experiencing an anxiety condition. According to Beyond Blue, one quarter of Australians will experience an anxiety condition in their lifetime, while 26.3% of Australians aged 16 to 85 have experienced an anxiety disorder to date.[1] This is equivalent to 4.96 million people having experienced an anxiety disorder in the last 12 months, or 2.71 million people with anxiety right now.[2]

Anxiety is so widespread that it is the most common mental disorder worldwide.

Data from the US National Institute of Mental Health suggest that around 31 percent of adults can expect to experience some type of anxiety disorder in their lifetime.

But what can we do about it?

There are many potential pathways to managing or overcoming anxiety, including lifestyle change, behavioural therapies like Cognitive Behavioural Therapy or hypnosis, practices like mindfulness, yoga or tai-chi, exercise and traditional therapies drawing on herbal or plant-based remedies, and of course pharmaceutical drug therapies. Recent concerns about several classes of anti-anxiety medicines, including benzodiazepines, have led many to search for more natural ways to manage low to moderate levels of anxiety. However, there are cases where anxiety is so severe that pharmaceutical treatment will be the front-line treatment of choice.

It’s important to discuss treatment options with your physician and or therapists to determine which path of treatment is right for you, ensuring you do not over-use or misuse these powerful drugs in your attempt to alleviate the distressing symptoms of this condition. Likewise, you should never suddenly cease any treatment, especially drugs for the treatment of anxiety or depression and you should always manage medications under the supervision of a qualified medical practitioner. I will discuss the pharmaceutical options and risks later in this blog.

Only about one-third of those who experience anxiety seek formal treatment, and anxiety is one of the most common reasons that people use holistic and alternative modalities.

In last week’s Wednesday Wellness blog, I introduced Ayurveda as a source of traditional therapies for treating seasonal allergies, but what does this ancient healing system say about anxiety?

From an Ayurvedic perspective, anxiety is an imbalance in the Vata dosha. Vata is referred to as the “air” principle. Its character is light, dry, and mobile. An imbalance of Vata, mentally or emotionally, is associated with an overabundance of lightness, flightiness or movement with erratic thoughts, worries, obsession, confusion, and difficulty focusing. Vata imbalance is also associated with a hyper-excitable para-sympathetic nervous system and trouble sleeping. If you’ve ever been described as “ungrounded,” that’s a classic description of Vata imbalance. It’s too much energy in the mind, not enough at the feet to anchor you to life, or like a tree that needs a good pruning that has too much growth in the branches leaving not enough energy in the roots. Interestingly the ancient middle eastern practice of Kabbala also sees anxiety as a lack of foundation, or grounding in life. The penultimate sephirot of the Kabbala Tree of Life is Yesod – Foundation, or the connection between all things – this sephirot along with final sephirot – Malkuth (Kingdom) – are the last steps required to incarnate into life and become grounded in the world. All progress stems from this foundation, and fear can only overrun us when we lose it. You’ll see me talk about this later on in this blog. Yesod and Malkuth correspond to the root chakra – Muladhara – in Ayurveda.

Speaking of roots, when Vata is disturbed, you feel ungrounded and disconnected from the earth. In Ayurveda, to treat anxiety/Vata imbalance, you have to stabilize your energy—calm the nervous system, relax the mind, release obsessive thoughts, connect to your body and to the earth, and ultimately surrender to the flow of the Universe. This can involve a range of therapies and practices.

7 Essential Tips for Anxiety

Unlike pharmaceutical drugs, an Ayurvedic approach will include looking at your whole life to reduce the Vata imbalance and bring energy out of your head and back into your body that may include:

  1. Diet: Avoiding sugary foods, take-away, junk foods like soda and I hate to say it – chocolate – as these foods can be overstimulating. Increase grounding, warm, moist, less oily foods, like, hot cereals (porridge), dairy products, bread and pasta or their gluten-free or vegan equivalents like almond milk and oats.
  2. Structure: Staying warm, taking a hot bath with aromatic oils, and avoiding distracting or busy music, stressful work or study zones, or entertainment like violent programs or gaming. Create a sanctuary for yourself where you can control your environment.
  3. Mindfulness: Use mindfulness techniques, meditation or Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, listen to grounding music or guided meditation tracks, learn breathing techniques to help eliminate the use of stimulants like nicotine, coffee, energy drinks, illicit drugs etc.
  4. Sleep: Keeping a regular sleep cycle in tune with your natural circadian rhythm, going to bed before 11pm and waking before 8am. Develop a wind-down routine to eliminate stressful activities like answering work emails or browsing social media at least an hour before bed-time, keep your sleep area free of blue light.
  5. Nature: Spending time in nature to ground your energy, get your toes into the sand or dirt, create a small garden, talk to your plants, sit on a rock in the sun, hug a tree or look at pictures of nature.
  6. Exercise: Undertaking exercise that grounds, strengthens and warms, hot yoga, weight training or hot pilates.
  7. Essential Oils: Supplementing with plant-based remedies like essential oils that include concentrates of grounding ingredients including cinnamon, cumin, ginger, nutmeg, rock salt, sesame seeds, anise, citrus, lavender as either aromatics or ingestibles have been shown to support the parasympathetic nervous system to relax, reducing anxiety and stress.

You may or may not have come across these 7 tips. They work best when used in conjunction with each other, and many of them are common sense. So far this week we’ve been working our way through the list of tips in reverse order, starting with Essential Oils, then following on with how Exercise, Nature and Sleep can all become a positive part of a natural anxiety management plan.

Today we’ll focus on Mindfulness.

 

Natural Wellness Treatments and Lifestyle Routines for Anxiety

Tip Number 3: Mindfulness

Meditation is a wonderful, evidence-based tool for healing anxiety and is a key tool to help you become more mindful. It is an ancient technology developed over many centuries to gain mastery over the mind. Meditation involves letting go of thoughts, regulating the breath, and surrendering to the pause in the current moment. Meditation could be considered training for the rest of life, and as such, I really believe it should be taught in schools.

If you become skilled at controlling your mind using breathing or a light focus by practising every morning, you can more easily manage your mind during the rest of the day. It is the ultimate antidote to resistance, and it is also a key in the healing of anxiety. You don’t need to be a master to reap the rewards, simply slowing down your out breath so it takes longer than your in breath has an immediate effect on the Vagal nerve,[3] which is at the heart of the parasympathetic nervous system. Breathing techniques improve the tone of the Vagal nerve and improved Vagal tone has been shown to reduce anxiety.[4]

Breath techniques still the mind and provide perspective that allows you to become less attached to what could happen, is happening, or did happen, helping you focus, instead of your emotions and thoughts being pulled in lots of different directions. To heal anxiety at its roots you want to try to find a way to be detached, compassionate and empathetic in the face of fear. Mindfulness trains the mind muscle that can help you in every area of your life, which in turn supports the lifestyle changes necessary to manage and overcome anxiety; it can even help with your food choices, sleep patterns and creating a healthy structure, in your life. Every tip is part of a feedback loop. Manage them well and you’ll build a foundation for wellness; balance them poorly and the opposite will be true.

Here are my top 7 tips for becoming more mindful:

Be More Mindful: 7 Tips to Improve Your Awareness

  1. Meditate: Taking even just 5 minutes to sit quietly and follow your breath can help you feel more conscious and connected for the rest of your day.
  2. Focus on one thing at a time: Ayurveda teaches us that a mind that flits from one thing to the other can easily become overwhelmed, much like the computer analogy I described earlier.
  3. Slow down: Our sense of time is subjective, the more we rush, the faster things seem to go, when we slow down and become present in the moment, focusing on the task at hand and not jumping ahead we experience more time. The gaps between our breaths, thoughts and actions allows us to become present and complete tasks without procrastinating.
  4. Eat mindfully: Don’t rush to gulp down your food. Set the table, sit down to eat and allow yourself to taste your food. If you take the time to eat properly you will improve your digestion. There is a strong correlation between the speed of eating, indigestion and anxiety.[5] A 2018 study found that high anxiety may increase stomach acid production, and in turn anxiety impairs digestion by causing acid to leak into the oesophagus, while causing muscle tension around the stomach, increasing pressure and impairing digestion. A 2019 study also showed that people with GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) were more likely to experience anxiety and depression.[6]
  5. Limit screen and device time: Screen time and distractedness were already a hot topic prior to Covid-19, but with all the time we’ve been spending isolated in our homes, relying on teleconferencing and apps to connect with each other, it’s become easier to lose ourselves in the digital landscape, but this is not great for our health. [7] While increased or unregulated screen time is linked with a range of negative mental outcomes including anxiety, the good news is that mindful and regulated use of digital devices is linked with increased wellbeing.[8]
  6. Move: We talked about this in detail in our second blog in this anxiety series, moving provides a host of benefits that then allows us to still our mind, and be more present.
  7. Spend time In nature: Ditto to this one, our third blog showed how important getting outside is to our ability to be present, stay mindful and thus reduce anxiety. [9]

You’re probably beginning to see a pattern here – each one of our tips feeds into the other. Habits, emotions, and psychological stress are part of a feedback loop that arises from a multitude of small or large lifestyle choices. The great news is, as we start to make a change in any one of these areas, there is a flow on effect that makes other lifestyle changes easier.

Stay tuned tomorrow when we’ll focus on building structure in your life to manage and overcome anxiety.

No discussion about mindfulness or meditation is complete without discussing compassion. It is important to learn to have compassion for yourself for the vulnerability that is life on earth. Deepak Chopra has some useful tools to support meditative or mindful practice you might like to check out here: https://chopra.com/articles/a-checklist-to-learn-self-compassion.

In Summary

Anxiety is a complex problem and, thus, there are no simple solutions. The greatest improvements I have seen come with dedicated effort across multiple dimensions of life. |As a clinical hypnotherapist for over 30 years, I have seen people experience dramatic improvements in their anxiety levels if these suggestions are consistently and diligently practiced. Think: lifestyle change rather than one-time adjustment.

As Deepak Chopra says, “the journey of self-discovery, taken with an open heart, inevitably leads to healing.”[10]

At Cephyra® we want you to Be Better, Naturally.

You’ll see a symbiosis in the symbology and herbology of Ayurveda and Kabbala repeated throughout the Cephyra® Activated Oil™ products, which were designed to help us navigate our way through the challenges of the world and thrive, rather than struggle and just survive.

My favourite Cephyra® Activated Oils™ for managing anxiety include Sirius™ formulated to take advantage of the well-established anxiolytic properties of Lavender, Bergamot, Chamomile and Lemon Myrtle. This wonderful edible essential oil can be used in combination with Cephyra® Earth™, Cephyra® Moon™, or Cephyra® Mars™, designed to support grounding and to feel safe and strong in your own body.

To celebrate the release of Cephyra® Activated Oils™ we’re offering 20% off store-wide!

Quieten your mind with Cephyra® Sirius™:

Sirius™

Settle in with Cephyra® Moon™:

Moon™

Ground yourself with Cephyra® Earth™:

Earth™

Tend to yourself with Cephyra® Mars™:

Mars™

Yours in Wellness,

Elisabetta Faenza | LeafCann CEO


[1] https://www.beyondblue.org.au/media/statistics

[2] https://www.beyondblue.org.au/media/statistics

[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vagal_tone#cite_note-3

[4] https://srcd.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1540-5834.1994.tb01283.x

[5] https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/acid-reflux-and-anxiety

[6] https://www.cghjournal.org/article/S1542-3565(14)01742-X/pdf

[7] https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fhumd.2021.684137/full

[8] https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fhumd.2021.684137/full

[9] https://www.ellevatenetwork.com/articles/6170-be-more-mindful-7-tips-to-improve-your-awareness

[10] https://chopra.com/articles/an-ayurvedic-approach-to-anxiety

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