Thursday, October 31, 2019

Are the changing seasons causing your anxiety?

By Dr. Ann-Marie Regina, ND 

How does change effect anxiety?

With the days becoming shorter, the human body and mind is beginning to prepare for the transition.  Change is occurring constantly in our lives. Whether it be a new season, new job or relationship, a change in lifestage (ie. puberty or menopause) there is always a period of adjustment and transition which can be challenging for some. How do you cope with change? Does it make you feel overwhelmed or off kilter? Does change make you fearful?

Change for some can result in anxiety. Fear of the unknown can be disruptive to our comfortable lives. Anxiety for a short period of time is normal. It acts as motivation to accomplish our goals or tasks. The issue is when anxiety becomes chronic. Chronic anxiety can worsen pre-existing conditions or even contribute to new ones. Conditions such as insomnia, irritable bowel syndrome, depression and many more can be triggered by anxiety. As anxiety persists, quality of life decreases and has a negative impact on overall health.

Symptoms of Anxiety

Common symptoms of anxiety include, but are not limited to the following:

  • Running or racing thoughts
  • Abdominal pain & bloating
  • Muscle tension
  • Insomnia
  • Fatigue
  • Heart palpitations 
  • Restlessness & excessive worrying
  • Panic attacks 
  • Depression 
It is important to consider that there may be other health conditions causing the above symptoms. Consult with your naturopathic doctor or health care provider to rule out conditions other than anxiety.

What can you do to decrease anxiety in the fall & winter months?

1. Get your sleep Research consistently shows how important sleep is for mood. Having a good night's sleep allows your mind and body to rest and heal. Sleep is also a necessary factor in modulating hormones which can contribute to anxiety if your hormones are imbalanced. If your anxiety is keeping you up at night, you can add some relaxing hobbies to your bedtime routine such as meditation, a warm bath, light yoga or stretches, reading a book, or practise journaling.

2. Be Active As we know, getting a daily dose of exercise can help reduce anxiety. But how? You've probably heard of the "fight or flight" response, which is activated when anxiety or fear is present. The body and mind are trained to want to run or fight, which now can be translated into exercise. So when feelings of anxiety are overwhelming, give in to your body's desire. About 20-30 minutes a day of exercise, whether it be a walk outside or lifting weights, will have a significant impact on your mental health.

3. Meditate The research on meditation is profound in terms of its effects on reducing anxiety and other mental health disorders. Meditation creates an attitude of non-judgement and self love, which are attributes that can seem scarce while experiencing anxiety. The key to meditation is the ability to live in the present moment, which is a major way to combat anxiety. Anyone that feels anxiety knows that their feelings are either tethered to some future event or something that has happened in the past. Living consciously keeps the worries or fears about the past or future at bay, and it only takes 10 minutes each day.

4. Address lifestyle factors Anxiety is a complex emotion with multiple factors contributing to its presence. Lifestyle factors such as dietary changes are typically one aspect that is addressed when treating anxiety. Eliminate stimulants such as caffeine, alcohol and sugar that aggravate anxiety. Other stimulants such as technology are taxing on the nervous system. Remember to take time out of your day to be in nature and experience the restorative effects it has on the mind and body.
5. Vitamin D Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin that is activated by the sun and made in your skin, liver and kidneys. Unfortunately, the amount of sunlight we get in the winter is very limited. It also doesn't help that most jobs keep us indoors all day, so even in the summer our sunlight exposure is reduced. Vitamin D has an essential role in mental health. It plays a role in modulating hormones, the immune system, bone formation and energy. Vitamin D deficiency or insufficiency is common in Canada, which is why it is so important to supplement. Before supplementing however, make sure you talk to your naturopathic doctor or other health care provider to find out what dose is right for you as toxicity is possible.

6. Know your triggers Your body goes through transitions of its own to accommodate the change of seasons. Recognizing what your triggers are will help to address the root cause of your anxiety. Are you being exposed to new allergens? Is this time of year difficult with school or work? Is your body having trouble adjusting to the change in weather? Did you want to accomplish more over the summer months? Transition can be a time for self reflection. Investigate your anxiety on a deeper level, recognize patterns, and then you will learn to address it.

When to talk to your naturopathic doctor about anxiety?

There are many contributing factors that can aggravate or trigger anxiety. If you are finding that your anxiety is becoming too overwhelming, make sure to always seek help. Naturopathic doctors have the unique ability to treat patients on an individual level. Our treatments are specific to what you need on your healthcare journey. 

Dr. Ann-Marie Regina is a Naturopathic Doctor at Naturopathic Foundations Health Clinic with a focus on helping patients make healthy lifestyle choices that are specific to them. If you want to learn more about what your body and mind need, Dr. Ann-Marie Regina, ND can help you. Please call the clinic at 905-940-2727 to book an appointment or to schedule a complimentary 15 minute "meet and greet."