Archive for the ‘Mental Health’ Tag

Menopause and Stress, Adrenal Health   Leave a comment

As a society, we are acutely exposed to daily stresses, be they emotional, physical, or mental. Work situations, family changes and obligations, changes in our bodies and in our health–all of these can contribute to the stress demands on our bodies. Our bodies respond to these stresses in a similar fashion despite the source. Physiologically, each time we are exposed to stresses, our adrenal glands respond by producing certain hormones. One part of the adrenal gland, the adrenal cortex, responds to long and short-term stresses, while the adrenal medulla responds to sudden or alarm situations, producing our “fight or flight” response. With the amount of stress we are exposed to each day, you’d think our adrenal glands were of considerable size, but that isn’t the case. Our adrenals weigh about 5 grams each and reside in our bodies just above our kidneys in the low back area. For small glands, they play an enormous role in our health. Their function also tends to decline over a person’s lifetime, leading some researchers to coin a new term “adrenapause” to define this loss. As such, we need to have ways in which we can keep our adrenal glands healthy.

From a preventive standpoint, we can reduce our exposure to certain stresses, as well as change the degree to which we allow stresses to affect us. This involves making choices about what we subject ourselves to, as well as how we respond to situations we can’t avoid or change. The amounts of hormones, specifically glucocorticoids and catecholamines, that are released by the adrenal glands are directly related to the amount of stress the body endures, and these hormones can affect nearly all the tissues in our bodies. Individuals exposed to long-term stress have higher circulating glucocorticoids than a person who is unstressed does. Certain lifestyle changes, such as exercise, meditation, breathing exercises, and yoga, have all been demonstrated to ease our response to stress. Those who incorporate one or more of these into their days are noticeably more resilient to daily stresses.

We can also address adrenal health through nutritional support and herbs. Vitamin C and the B-complex vitamins are crucial to adrenal health. Being water-soluble vitamins, they are easily depleted and may need regular supplementation, especially in times of stress. Vitamin C is stored in high concentrations in the adrenal glands, which is evidence of its need for this important vitamin. It has been shown that a person’s need for vitamin C varies, depending on what their body is going through at the time. Infection, for an example, can increase the body’s need for vitamin C considerably. Herbs which address adrenal health are referred to as adaptogens, because they help the body adapt to changes, or stresses. Some of the most notable herbs utilized for adrenal support are licorice, ginseng, and astragalus. Astragalus has long been used in Chinese medicine as a tonic. Research has demonstrated its value in enhancing immunity through multiple mechanisms. Ginsengs are commonly prescribed to increase energy and support adrenal function. Research has demonstrated improved functioning under stress as well as increased working capacity following ginseng use. For women, Siberian ginseng appears to be the most appropriate of the ginsengs, as from a Chinese medicine perspective, it is more cooling (less likely to induce hot flashes) and can be used on a regular basis. Borage leaf also provides specific support to the adrenal cortex and can be used daily to support adrenal health.

Diet is another factor that plays a strong role, as it can supply the body with nutrients as well as deplete the adrenals, depending on what choices are made. For example, sugar and caffeine tend to draw energy from the adrenal glands, so stay away from them during times of stress or if you are working at improving adrenal health. In contrast, nutrients that are found in fresh fruits and vegetables supply healthy support for the body. Nutrient-rich foods, like kelp and other seaweed, are good sources of key vitamins and minerals important to glandular health.

A balanced program for supporting adrenal health includes scheduling time to exercise and taking some time for you to be mindful of your stress level and facilitate adjustments when necessary. Remember that treating health holistically means addressing mental, physical, and spiritual aspects of one’s life, for they all affect one another and can contribute to health as well as disease.

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Anxiety And Meditation   3 comments

bronwynchatby Bronwyn Fox, Power Surge’s Anxiety/Panic Attack Expert”

One of the most common questions we are asked is:

“I am taking medication and/or I am seeing a therapist, but is there anything else I can do to help me recover ?

And the answer is, “Yes! There is.”

The basis of our self help techniques is :

Mindfulness Meditation

Why Meditation?

Because meditation is a fantastic self help technique involving both a relaxation technique and a cognitive technique.

Meditation was how Bronwyn recovered in 1985. Since then Bronwyn has taught thousands and thousands of people with an anxiety disorder to meditate. Bronwyn’s book ‘Power over Panic’ which describes and teaches meditation is a best seller in Australia and her Panic Anxiety Management Workshops won an Australian and New Zealand Mental Health Award.

We use meditation in a non spiritual / non religious way

And we use it in a number of different ways:

  • as a relaxation technique
  • to teach people mindfulness /awareness skills
  • to learn how not to attach to, or empower thoughts which create panic and anxiety
  • as an exposure method to dissociative states including depersonalisation and derealisation
  • as an exposure method for letting go of the need to be in control and/or fighting the panic attack and/or anxiety

This is then transferred over into every day life as a Mindfulness based cognitive technique :

People are taught to:

  • become mindful/aware of their panic/anxiety producing thoughts during the day
  • become aware of the intimate relationship between their thoughts and their symptoms
  • become aware of any tendency to dissociate

This assists people:

  • in seeing how many of their fears and symptoms are being created by the way they think
  • to see they have a choice in what they think about
  • to learn not to attach to or empower their thoughts
  • to learn how to manage and control their thoughts
  • to learn to let go of the need to fight their panic attacks and/or anxiety
  • to learn to let their panic attacks and anxiety happen without resistance
  • to be aware of and manage any personal tendency to dissociate

Many people tell us they can’t relax, that they have never been able to relax. Part of the reason why people can’t relax is that they are too frightened to let go of their overall need to be in control. Or as people do begin to relax they become fearful of the sensations of their body relaxing. The meditation technique we use is specifically designed for people with an anxiety disorder and assists people in being able to learn to let go of the control and to learn to accept the sensations of their body relaxing with out fear.

How does meditation differ from progressive muscle relaxation? Most other relaxation techniques focus on relaxing the body first. Meditation focuses on the mind and the body relaxes naturally as a result.

How does our Mindfulness technique differ from other cognitive techniques? Other cognitive techniques, while being very effective, don’t emphasis the ongoing awareness of thought patterns in the way a mindfulness technique does. Using a mindfulness technique means we can begin to see how it is not just our obvious thoughts, ‘what if I have a heart attack, go insane, lose control, make a fool of myself’ etc that are creating our anxiety and panic. Mindfulness shows us how our low self esteem also impacts on us and how our thoughts about ourselves and the way we interact with other people also perpetuates our anxiety and panic.

It helps us become aware of how we constantly get hooked into feeling guilty about 1001 different situations, how our perfectionist behaviour impacts in our lives. How our need to be ‘all things to all people’ creates so much of our underlying anxiety. Once we are aware of all that we are unknowingly doing to ourselves, Mindfulness then teaches us and shows us that we can have a choice in what we think about and in how we live our lives. Other cognitive techniques usually do not go into as much subtle detail as the mindfulness techniques.

Other cognitive techniques involve changing our thoughts eg the thought…’what if the doctor has made a mistake. What if there is really something wrong with me that they have overlooked’. With cognitive therapy you would be asked to look at this thought and find a more reality based thought..i.e.

“I have seen two different doctors and a cardiologist. All the tests results from each doctor and the cardiologist show there is nothing physically wrong with me.’ and/or ‘ I have been feeling like this now for ‘X’ amount of months, years, if there was something wrong with me I would know it for sure by now..and so would the doctors!”

Mindfulness differs from this approach in so far as the technique doesn’t involve finding a more reality based thought. Mindfulness teaches the reality! With a mindfulness technique people begin to see the intimate relationship between their thought patterns and how this creates their anxiety and panic.

Once we are aware of this relationship we begin to lose our various fears because we can see, step by step, how it is being created. If we dissociate it teaches us to see how this happens and how our thoughts about it create the panic and anxiety.

As we practice Mindfulness we begin to realise that we do have a choice in what we think about. Using the mindfulness technique we can then exercise this choice!

Bronwyn Fox is the author of

  • Power Over Panic: Freedom From Panic/Anxiety Related Disorders
  • and the The 2nd edition, Power Over Panic
  • plus “Working through Panic: Your Step-by-Step Guide to Overcoming Panic/Anxiety Related Disorders” (which you can get on Bronwyn’s Web site
  • and finally, the wonderful audio cassette, Anxiety Panic: Taking Back the Power