Expert Advice

How can I ease anxiety?

Anxiety is a physiological response to fear that feels especially intense for people with low self-esteem or perfectionist personalities.
How can I ease anxiety?
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Anxiety is a physiological response to fear that feels especially intense for people with low self-esteem or perfectionist personalities.
TREATMENT: I see anxiety as the springboard to finding inner calm. In a session, I talk with patients to discover the root cause—which may be current or go as far back as childhood. I also perform therapeutic touch by placing my hands about five inches above their chakras. This dislodges and draws the energy of negative emotions to the heart chakra, where it dissipates.
SELF-HELP: Do aerobic exercise to boost dopamine and serotonin levels, and avoid stimulants. As soon as an anxiety attack starts, put your hand over your heart to stimulate the chakra’s warm energy. At the end of a good day, commend yourself for being calm—it’s heroic.
—Judith Orloff, M.D., assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at UCLA and author of Emotional Freedom (Crown Publishing, 2009)

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, there are two roots of anxiety: the blockage of qi, or life energy, in the liver and heart, which causes poor digestion; and a deficiency of yin (the body’s tranquil side), which causes insomnia and is more common in women.
TREATMENT: To mobilize qi, I give weekly acupuncture along the liver meridian on the legs and shiatsu-style massage. To nourish yin-deficient blood, I perform moxibustion by placing the lit tip of the mugwort herb above acupoints along the spleen, heart, and pericardium meridians on the arm.
SELF-HELP: To keep qi from stagnating, try playing sports. Or snack on dried longan, a nutty-tasting Chinese fruit similar to a lychee that nourishes yin. You can also try acupressure. Find a professional to teach you anxiety-easing acupoints like heart 7 on the wrist.
—Bryn Clark, L.Ac., Dipl. O.M., of the New Harmony Center for Health & Wellness in Massachusetts

Stress releases cortisol into the bloodstream. Because cortisol is acidic, it irritates the lymphatic and digestive systems—and thus vata, the dosha (or life force) in the colon that’s linked to the nervous system.
TREATMENT: I plan a diet and herbal regimen for my patients based on their symptoms, allergies, eating habits, and genetic predispositions. I recommend they eat only three meals a day so they burn fat, which is the calmest source of energy. To energize but not overstimulate vata, I recommend herbal adaptogens like tulsi and ashwagandha.
SELF-HELP: Try sarvabhyanga, a selfmassage that calms the peripheral nervous system, for one or two minutes in the shower. Use circular strokes to massage herbal sesame oil on your head, joints, and feet, and longer strokes over your bones.
—John Douillard, D.C., Ph.D., director of the LifeSpa Retreat Center and Clinic in Boulder, Colo.