The Fit Student – Combat Anxiety

Detoxify, Sleep, Take Supplements and Medicine

Herbs. Medicine. Detoxifications. If anxiety keeping you awake at night, these items can help dispel your anxious feelings. Edmund J. Bourne in his book The Anxiety & Phobia Workbook provides insights into how to combat insomnia and toxicity, and what medicines or herbs to take to relieve your stress. I have personal experience with some of the herbs and medicines, so I can provide a case study (of sample size one) for you to consider.

While the following information is gleaned from a credible book, none of the advice is meant to be a substitute for a doctor’s recommendation. Please contact a physician or psychiatrist if you wish to explore any of the following options in more detail.

I must add here, however, that I used to experience severe panic attacks every three days. While working in an office scenario, I had panic attacks daily. But, since reading Bourne’s book, I haven’t had a panic attack in over seventy days. I thought I would never find a cure. I didn’t use any medications, either. Dedicating the hours reading Bourne’s book can change your experience of stress, too.

How to Counter Insomnia to Relieve Anxiety
I would stay wide awake for hours at night when I worked at one particular job. I fretted about job tasks from the time I went to bed until hours later, when my overactive mind would finally settle down and I would fall asleep. Generally, I just laid in bed, staring at the ceiling, panicked, worrying about my job. I fretted painstakingly over little details–whether I contacted so-and-so or made the proper entries. When I woke up, tired and groggy, I would dismay over my lack of sleep. The following night, the cycle of sleeplessness would continue, this time with the added worry that I hadn’t slept. Day after day, I slogged through work, half awake and distressed. I worried like I had just spawned a wart.

Edmund J. Bourne gives much advice, from herbal remedies to strategies, all for falling asleep easily and soundly. One of his strategies that I find most poignant is to not stay in bed after twenty to thirty minutes of wakefulness. Instead, he advises to get up and do something relaxing, such as watching television or read some light-content books.

Also, avoid caffeine at all costs, have a hot shower or bath before bed, and get plenty of aerobic exercise?but not within three hours of your bedtime. Watch comforting television programs before bed, but nothing violent or overly charged. don’t view the Web or engage in anything mentally or physically challenging before bed. Also, don’t drink alcohol or have a heavy meal before bed. don’t nap for more than 20 minutes during the daytime. These little decisions can make the difference between a peaceful night’s sleep and hours of tossing and turning.

If you can’t sleep, let it go. don’t worry. Instead, listen to gentle music, meditate, do muscle relaxation techniques, or imagine beautiful sceneries. Prescription tryptophan may help you sleep as well, especially when taken with a carbohydrate, such as milk. Melatonin may also curtail sleepless nights. Consult a doctor when taking any supplements though, as they can lead to addiction.

How to Prevent Body Toxicity to Prevent Anxiety
The Western diet is plagued with toxic substances such as processed meats, refined wheat, candies, and caffeine. All of these substances can contribute to anxiety by making the body more toxic.

When I learned of the benefits of going caffeine- and sugar free, I reduced my caffeinated tea consumption to, at most, one a day. I also reduced my usage of sugar in tea beverages. Before this initiative, I drank five caffeinated beverages and consumed fifteen packets of sugar a day. Of course, this intake of toxins resulted in frequent panic attacks. Since reducing these intakes, my incidence of panic attack has reduced significantly.

Wisely, Edmund J. Bourne advises his readership on ways to detoxify the body for better anxiety management. Eating too much, consuming alcohol, poor diets, drugs?all of these things contribute to toxicity in the body. To overcome them, avoid meat products, especially red meat. don’t smoke. don’t drink alcohol. don’t intake caffeine or sugar. Avoid sweets. Avoid refined flour. Avoid fried foods. Avoid anything that makes you salivate, in other words.

Instead, eat lots of fresh fruits and raw vegetables, bran, whole grains, green veggies, garlic, nuts, and seeds. After a while of eating healthy foods, you will acquire a taste for them. Take a multivitamin and drink lots of water everyday.

Herbal Supplements to Treat Anxiety
Herbal supplements for combating anxiety can offer a better alternative than medicines for mild to moderate anxiety.

When I experienced excessive workplace anxiety, I received an over the counter prescription for tryptophan that my work health plan covered. Tryptophan, a sedative, is an amino acid found in food items such as turkey and milk. The Tryptophan in turkey explains why you feel tired after a big Thanksgiving dinner. When I went on tryptophan, I received high dosages for the suppression of anxiety that I took nightly and occasionally during the day.

While it didn’t combat my anxiety, I did experience vivid dreaming. I entered a new realm of existence every time I went to sleep. My dreams primarily consisted of nightmares at that time in my life, so I discontinued the herb.

Herbal remedies are one of the areas discussed by Edmund J. Bourne. Take vitamin B Complex and vitamin C. Calcium magnesium in liquid form serves as a tranquilizer to abate anxiety. Consume antioxidants from foods such as berries and apples.

Herbs you might consider include Kava, although this is not allowed to be sold within Canada due to some serious concerns about liver damage. Valerian is another natural tranquilizer which reduces anxiety symptoms and aids in sleeping. Saint-John’s-wort treats depression and also anxiety, although it is less effective for dealing with panic attacks, PTSD, or OCD.

Other helpful herbs for dealing with anxiety include passionflower, gotu kola, and ginkgo biloba.

As for amino acids, tryptophan, theanine (found in green tea), GABA, and Tyrosine can also help mitigate anxiety symptoms.

Antidepressants or Tranquilizers to Treat Severe Anxiety
Edmund J. Bourne invites the reader to explore the possibility of medication. He suggests that medications, such as antidepressants or tranquilizers, should be considered only in situations where panic occurs once or more times daily or where significant distress results from anxiety attacks.

I never went on an antidepressant to treat severe anxiety, although the more I read about antidepressants, the more interested I become. I did, however, go on a tranquilizer, a benzodiazepine tranquilizer: Ativan. I took Ativan while at work, in spite of the drugs risk of dependency.

I found that the lower dosages of Ativan weren’t effective in stopping the panic attacks. So, I took higher doses. But as a result, I stumbled around in the workplace, slurring my words like a drunkard. Fortunately, my colleagues and employers were all highly educated and no-one brought my bizarre behavior to my attention. In fact, my boss’s wife, who is a dear friend to this day, knew about my intake of Ativan and expressed compassion. She prescribed herbal formulas that I took religiously. None of it really worked, however.

Every single day, the anxiety reappeared, which made it more likely that my next attack would last even longer. When I read that these tranquilizers can increase anxiety over time, particularly if dependency on the drug occurs, I quickly went off it. In retrospect, going off the Ativan may have saved me from extreme anxiety later on. It turns out that benzodiazepine tranquilizers, like Ativan, should only be used for six months to two years. But the more addicted you get to Ativan, the more anxiety you experience.

Tranquilizers can be effective for short term use, such as just before a high performance situation for people with performance anxiety. Beware, however. The benzodiazepine tranquilizers, in particular, are addictive and only suppress the anxiety while taking the medicine. These tranquilizers don’t address the cause. Once you go off the tranquilizer, the anxiety symptoms may return or even grow worse than before, especially if you have developed an addiction.

Some people with social phobia respond well to SSRI antidepressants. These antidepressants are especially effective for treating panic attacks, agoraphobia, and obsessive compulsive disorder. But, be wary before jumping on the antidepressant bandwagon as it comes with a host of side effects, including nausea and sexual dysfunction. If you don’t respond to SSRI antidepressants, there are many other types of antidepressants with which you can experiment.

If insomnia or severe anxiety is your problem, especially during exam time, then consider the above steps for helping you overcome the setback. But remember, there are a host of things you can do, such as meditate, practice muscle relaxation, produce positive self-talk, express feelings, and more, that can help you combat anxiety more naturally than any medication ever could.