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Top Tips for Reducing Anxiety by Improving Resilience


Anxiety is a debilitating emotion that can interfere with every day activities and make the simplest of tasks seem monumental and challenging. I remember vividly the first time I experienced anxiety. I was a new graduate nurse and my job was extremely busy and overwhelming. I was working in an oncology ward with very sick patients. Every day when I received handover I would feel this sensation of nausea and fear in the pit of my stomach. It continued to debilitate me and eventually I was diagnosed with a stomach ulcer. I healed this ulcer by starting a strict routine of meditation and yoga.


These are excellent strategies to calm the nervous system and reduce circulating stress hormones such as cortisol, although I did not know that then. It is common in our busy and modern world to experience anxiety and mainstream medicine does little to support our ailing nervous systems. Therefore, in todays blog I wanted to address the meaning of resilience and techniques to improve it and reduce anxiety.


What is Resilience?

Resilience is our ability as human beings to adapt to stressors and adversity.

When we are using resilience, we are using coping skills to or responses to deal with the negative effects of stress and maintain mental and physical health.


Where do these stressors come from?

Stressors can consist of trauma, life events or chronic adversity.

These stressors can cause changes in brain structure and function resulting in Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), depression and other mental health disorders.


Causes of poor resilience

· Genetics

· Epigenetics

· Environmental factors

· Neurochemicals

· Psychological factors


Genetics

Genetic changes or polymorphisms in areas of the brain that produce hormones for stress management (e.g. serotonin, adrenaline, etc). This change in the structure of the gene affects production of these hormones and can increase likelihood of low resilience.

Alterations in genes that affect the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis have had a large effect on resilience. The HPA axis is the main physiological system in the brain that affects the stress response. It plays a main role in cortisol regulation and release.

Polymorphisms in dopamine and noradrenergic systems have been associated with PTSD. The dopamine system is involved with the reward pathway in the brain. The noradrenergic system is responsible for the release of norepinephrine or noradrenaline involved in fight and flight.


Environmental factors

Adverse events throughout childhood can affect the development of the stress response in a negative way (e.g. childhood trauma or abuse)

Environments with good social networks, promoting self-efficiency and self esteem were shown to promote resilience in children.


Neurochemicals

NPY is a hormone circulating in the brain that is directly related to resilience and vulnerability to stressors. This hormone is downregulated in this struggling with stress or PTSD.

HPA axis dysfunction causing increased cortisol levels is implicated stress related disorders and depression.

The norepinephrine system can be hypervigilant in those experiencing chronic stress.

Acute stress leads to increased serotonin turnover in the brain.

Brain derived nootropic factor is implicated in mood and anxiety disorders and resilience.


Psychological factors

Positive physiological factors present in resilient people include:

· Optimism

· Cognitive reappraisal

· Active coping

· Social support

· Humour

· Physical exercise

· Trait mindfulness

· Moral compass


Effects of poor resilience

Increased risk of developing mental health disorders such as anxiety and depression

Trauma through childhood increases risk of developing the above conditions as well as PTSD, diabetes, heart disease, and cancer


Treatment


Nutrition

  • B vitamins have been shown in research to reduce the effects of stress response in the body.

  • Magnesium loss is consumed by cortisol and norepinephrine when experiencing stressors. This is a vital nutrient for neurotransmitters such as GABA, serotonin, and dopamine.

  • Other depleted nutrients during times of stress include zinc and iron.

  • Therefore, it is vital that these are replaced during times of stress

  • Reducing caffeine intake and swapping for green tea. Green tea contains L-theanine which has a calming effect on the body.


Herbal Medicine

Adaptogenic herbs increase psychological, physical, and emotional resilience to environmental or biological stressors, improve immune function and many are anti-inflammatory.

· Withania

· Astragalus

· Rhodiola

· Rehmannia

· Schisandra

· Siberian Ginseng

· Echinacea

· Lavender

Anxiolytic herbs help reduce stress and anxiety.

· Skullcap

· Lemon Balm

· Kava

· Passionflower

· Chamomile

· Damiana

· Motherwort

· Jejube

Nervous system trophorestoratives act as a tonic on the nervous system and stimulate healing and repair.

· Skullcap

· Withania

· Schisandra

· Damiana

· Vervain

· Oats


Flower essences

Are vibrational infusions of flowers that help to alter neurochemistry in the body via quantum physics.

Essences of flowers have been used since ancient times to cure health conditions. Their vibration corresponds to a specific condition or issue.

Through their healing properties, flower essences help rebalance emotional and spiritual imbalances and, therefore, promote the whole person’s health.

Bush flower essences

· Crowea - for stress and anxiety

· Fringed violet - to improve protection against negative forces

· Pink Mulla Mulla - to treat trauma

· Waratah - for those experiencing gloomy emotions

· Grey Spider Flower - for terror

· Dog rose of the wild forces - fear of losing control

Bach flower essences

· Star of Bethlehem (shock)

· Rock Rose (panic/terror)

· Cherry plum (stress)


Specific flower essence combinations have been formulated to help deal with crisis, trauma and shock.

These include: Australian Bush Flower Essences Emergency Essence and Bach Rescue Remedy.


Psychological practices to improve resilience:

  • Research shows that cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and mindfulness can improve individual resilience

  • Meditation for at least 10 minutes a day can have positive effects on resilience by reducing release of cortisol our stress hormone

  • Finding your purpose or true calling has been proven to improve resilience

  • Find coping strategies when stressed (e.g. 4-4-6 or box breathing)

  • Affirmations, gratitude journaling – positive thinking

  • Nurture yourself (find what brings you joy)

  • Social support buffers low resilience via release of oxytocin which works on GABA and HPA axis

  • Other releases of oxytocin could be by: petting an animal, hugging, massage, yoga, mindfulness, orgasm, and soothing music.

  • Adequate sleep is vital as it can affect cortisol regulation, mood, emotions and thoughts.

  • Spending time in nature has been proven to reduce feelings of stress and anxiety

  • EFT tapping therapy has been found to reduce cortisol, anxiety and depression

  • Yoga increases calming neurotransmitters such as GABA










References:

Wu, et al., (2013). Understanding resilience. Frontiers in neuroscience, 7(10), DOI: 10.3389/fnbeh.2013.00010

Kermott, et al., (2019). Is higher resilience predictive of lower stress and better mental health among corporate executives? Plos One, 14 (6), DOI: https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0218092

Joyce, et al., (2019). Road to resilience: a systematic review and meta-analysis of resilience training

programmes and interventions. BMJ Open, 8, DOI: 10.1136/bmjopen-2017-017858

Wells, M. (2013). The Bach Flowers Today: Coping and Living, Healing and Growing with the Bach Flower Remedies.

British Herbal Medicine Association. (1983). British Herbal Pharmacopoeia.

Bone, K. (2007). The Ultimate Herbal Compendium.

White, I. (2018). Australian Bush Flower Remedies.

Fisher, C. (2009). Materia Medica of Western Herbs.

Li, et al. (2021). Effects of sources of social support and resilience on the mental health of different age groups during the COVID-19 pandemic. BMC Psychiatry, 21(16). DOI: https://doi.org/10.1186/s12888-020-03012-1

Bone, K. (2013). Principles and Practice of Phytotherapy.

Young, et al., (2019). A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of B Vitamin Supplementation on Depressive Symptoms, Anxiety, and Stress: Effects on Healthy and ‘At-Risk’ Individuals. Nutrients, 11(9), DOI: 10.3390/nu11092232

Pickering, et al., (2020). Magnesium Status and Stress: The Vicious Circle Concept Revisited. Nutrients, 12(12), DOI: 10.3390/nu12123672

Lopresti, A. (2020). The Effects of Psychological and Environmental Stress on Micronutrient Concentrations in the Body: A Review of the Evidence. Advances in Nutrition, 11(1), DOI: 10.1093/advances/nmz082

Cox RC, et al. (2020). Sleep in the anxiety-related disorders: A meta-analysis of subjective and objective research. Sleep Med Rev, 51. DOI :10.1016/j.smrv.2020.101282

Cox RC, et al. (2018). Prospective associations between sleep disturbance and repetitive negative thinking: the mediating roles of focusing and shifting attentional control. Behav Ther, 49. DOI: 10.1016/j.beth.2017.08.007

Wright KP, et al. (2015). Influence of sleep deprivation and circadian misalignment on cortisol, inflammatory markers, and cytokine balance. Brain Behav Immun, 47. DOI: 10.1016/j.bbi.2015.01.004

Bach D, et al. (2019). Clinical EFT (emotional freedom techniques) improves multiple physiological markers of health. J Evid Based Integr Med, 24. DOI: 10.1177/2515690X18823691


Ein N, et al. (2018). The effect of pet therapy on the physiological and subjective stress response: A metaanalysis. Stress Health, 34(4). doi: 10.1002/smi.2812

White MP, et al. (2021). Associations between green/blue spaces and mental health across 18 countries. Sci Rep, 11(1). DOI: 10.1038/s41598-021-87675-0

Simon NM, et al. (2021). Efficacy of yoga vs cognitive behavioral therapy vs stress education for the treatment of generalized anxiety disorder: A randomized clinical trial. JAMA Psychiatry, 78(1). DOI: 10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2020.2496


I hope this helps you all the cope with the stressors of our modern world and reduce any anxiety you may be experiencing.


Love and light,


Branwen

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