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By the author of the FREE online course Growing Self-Sufficiency: The Whole Picture
A friend who is a nurse recently told me she is seeing many, many patients since the pandemic who are facing difficulties with anxiety and stress; sadly, many of them are young. These are difficult times and there are many reasons that people may be feeling anxious: financial struggles, worry about the future of the planet, violence, homelessness, and the disturbing divisions we are seeing in our society.
If you are one of the many folks feeling more anxious these days, please do not despair. There are many accessible ways to bring some healing into your life if there isn’t a lot of money to buy services and extra healthcare. The first, and possibly the most important is to understand what is anxiety and why this important signal is part of our nervous system.
What is anxiety?
1) We Need Anxiety! As living beings, we need to be able to assess our level of safety and respond to threats. In ancient days, when we saw a saber tooth tiger, we needed to RUN! This is the flight or fight reaction that helped us survive. We need this part of our nervous system to help us survive. It is a gift. It is supposed to feel awful: that is so that we will listen to our body and do something.
However, in modern society, we are bombarded by pressures, such as the stress of the daily commute, conflict with our spouse, and a difficult or oppressive work environment. Whereas before the flight or fight would be over and we could get back to feeling safe, many people nowadays spend all of their time in flight or fight.
2) Why We Cannot “Outthink” Our Nervous System It is unfortunate we are not taught more about our nervous system in school. If we were, we would have learned that we can’t outthink it. Our body is wired to detect threats and respond with powerful hormones and chemicals. We can’t just tell it not to. Compared to our mind, it is a hundred times more powerful.
Similarly, if we try to tell ourselves we are *not* feeling this way and to suppress it, it becomes all the stronger. Similarly, if you are prone to negative or distressing thoughts, the more you focus on them and fight with them, you are actually creating more of a stress on yourself.
3) How to Lower Your Body’s Natural Stress Response You might be saying by this point, “Well, what do I do then?” The secret is to recognize anxiety for what it is: You are in flight or fight mode. Don’t take it personally. Try not to think of it as a battle, but rather that you are now going to engage in proven strategies to lower your body’s natural stress response.
If you want to learn more about the technical aspects of anxiety, I highly recommend the brilliant work of Dr. David Hanscom, a renowned spine surgeon who stopped doing surgery when he found that he could create more healing by helping people lower themselves out of their stress response into physiological safety. Amazing, huh? Here’s his article “Eliminate the Word Anxiety”.
Ensure you are getting adequate sleep.
Because sleep is how your body heals, I consider getting enough sleep to be the foundation of my own health program. I have a relaxing nighttime routine, where I get off the computer 30 minutes before bedtime, put on the same enjoyable album of Brazilian jazz, and take my time getting ready, brushing my teeth, etc.
If I am particularly stressed, I may add a calming herbal tea like Valerian or a sleepytime blend 30 minutes before bed. If your body can’t rest and heal, then it is going to have a really difficult time getting you out of flight or fight mode. Sleep is the foundation.
Low-cost herbal support for a calm nervous system.
Because I come from what could be called a pretty nervous family overall, I drink a calming tea daily. It is called oatstraw tea. I buy it organic, and a pound at a time for around $24. By the way, a pound will last you for months and months, as just a teaspoon of it will make two cups of tea! This article also has some great information on other teas you can drink to help.
This tea is not sedating, so you can drink it from morning to night. It calms frazzled nerves. I drink four cups of this tea a day. It has a cumulative effect, so I would commit to trying it for two weeks for a month before you give up. It also has a lot of healthy nutrients in it that are good for you overall. What’s not to love?
Here are some free resources to help with anxiety
When you are stressing about money, or feeling negative about that rude comment Aunt Judy made at the potluck (argh!), you now know that telling yourself that you aren’t stressed or mad isn’t going to help.
But what can you do that will help? One of the simplest things you can do is to take a deep breath and return to the present moment. That is something that does actually have a positive physical, calming effect on your nervous system. By returning to the present moment, you can also remind yourself that, hey, Aunt Judy isn’t here, and my cup of coffee sure does taste good.
If you’re troubled by an inner critic who won’t leave you alone, here are two videos that can help with that:
If you need to find some way to come out of all of that chaotic thinking in times of intense anxiety, in this video, Dr. Les Aria will show you the 54321 grounding technique:
Creating some quiet time to listen to your body and soul
Sometimes, when we are feeling intense anxiety or difficult feelings, it can be helpful to try and create some quiet time to reflect on what we need. Is there a larger action we need to take in our lives to help us move out of flight and fight mode?
For example, I have worked in some very stressful environments with unpredictable people. I knew in my heart that I needed to leave one particular job. It was so unpleasant! I held on and looked and looked for another job. After about a year, I found one. Because I had made the decision to leave and was looking, it really helped me deal with the negative work situation because I knew that I was doing all I could to improve my working life.
If you take some time to reflect, is there anything that you can do? Cut back on your commitments? Find some space for the healing effects of play and joy in your life. Connect with a good friend more often?
Anxiety is an important signal from your nervous system
If our anxiety has become chronic, there is still a great deal we can do to move our body out of “flight or fight.” Could you see yourself trying any of the thrifty tips offered here? Do you have one you can share with us? Have you been more anxious than normal recently? What do you do to connect with yourself? Please tell us in the comments below.
Colette is passionate about sharing her knowledge of thrifty living and self-sufficiency. She has developed her skills in self-reliance living in the suburbs, the city, and more recently, on her own Half-Acre Homestead. Colette lived five years completely off-grid and without running water in an eight by 24 foot tiny home while designing and building her own 18 by 24-foot eco-cabin. Her website, Half Acre Homestead is attracting followers from around the world who want to become more self-sufficient. Colette invites you to stop by the Homestead and check out all of the great resources including the practical How To Guides, A Tiny Home Resource Center and her organic gardening stories on her blog. She shares her wholistic model (body/mind/spirit) for achieving self-sufficiency in her Free Course, “Growing Self-Sufficiency: The Whole Picture.” Stop by the Homestead today to register free of charge!