Over the last year the world has become an uncertain place; as a result anxiety and mental health problems have escalated. Fears, insecurity and loneliness have taken a toll and health professionals have warned that the pandemic is likely to have triggered or amplified some serious mental illnesses.
Once anxiety is triggered it can be difficult to rein in and negative thought patterns can become established. However, more serious problems can be averted by taking small steps towards a different outcome. With some simple techniques, repeated regularly, the nervous system will calm and a deeper trust in the world around you, as well as in yourself, can return.
Nature is balancing and calming. The colours, sounds and scents all help to harmonise the body and mind, improving mood, self-esteem and reducing blood pressure. Whether in woodland, the open expanse of the mountains or by the sea, find your favourite place and make it a pre-scription to visit regularly. Try taking off your shoes and socks and gently walking barefoot on the earth or sand for 10 minutes or more; negative ions released from the ground have been shown to have an anti-inflammatory effect on the body, reducing stress hormones and calming the nervous system.
Lemon balm is a sweet-smelling member of the mint family, loved by bees and humans alike. Plant some in an area of your garden that you don’t mind getting overtaken and enjoy the fresh lemony aroma each time you pass. Medicinally, lemon balm helps to calm anxiety, improve mood and relax the mind. Making a tea using the fresh herb couldn’t be simpler; take a generous handful of leaves and infuse in 1 pint of boiling water in a teapot for 15-20 minutes. This can be drunk hot or cold.
Practice tuning in to your breathing throughout the day; where do you feel the rise and fall of the breath? In your chest or in your belly? If you are feeling anxious it is likely that you are breathing into your upper chest. When we are fearful or on guard the natural reflex is to tighten the abdomen, drawing the shoulders forwards slightly into a defensive/protective position. With the abdomen tightened the breath is naturally drawn into the upper region of the lungs, not the belly. By regularly becoming aware of the breath you can allow the abdomen to soften, breathing more fully. This simple exercise sends a message to the brain that ‘all is well, there is no need to be alarmed’ and anxiety is reduced.
One of the best herbs for healing the nervous system after prolonged periods of stress, Avena sativa is soothing and calming as well as being stimulating for the immune system; the perfect post lockdown restorative for anxiety. The grain, immature seeds and leaf are used to make this tincture. Take 2-3ml three times daily in a little warm water.
The mindset at the outset of the day can have a big impact on what follows. By starting the day with a routine which is calming and nourishes the nervous system, you can approach the day’s ups and downs from a position of strength. Choose a practice that appeals to you, for example meditation, qigong or playing a musical instrument. Just 10 minutes a day can start to have an impact. It is not the duration that is important at the outset but the regularity, so aim for 6 days a week. You may need to adjust your sleep times accordingly, allowing you to wake earlier feeling rested. (Warning: Once started you may find you want to do more! A personal morning practice is a gift to yourself that you can come to rely on and relish). Some of our patients complete up to 2 hours in the morning, finding this keeps them feeling at their best.
Herbal Clinic, 32 King Edward Road, Swansea SA1 4LL.
BSc(Hons) DBTh DAcu AcuC Dir MGNI Registered Medical Herbalist, Iridologist & Acupuncturist
Tel: 01792 474356 Web: herbalclinic-swansea.co.uk Email: firstname.lastname@example.org