SUBSCRIBE TO OUR WEEKLY DIGITAL JOURNAL, IN FULL BLOOMJOIN NOW

Reframing Anxiety: An Empowering Approach to Mental Health

posted:

7/17/2023

@caroline__potter

MEET

Caroline

FREE DOWNLOAD

EXPLORE OUR FAVORITE POSTS IN

Anxiety is a powerful emotion—and often a big, dark scary word. However it is truly that—an emotion. So here on this blog you’ll learn an empowering approach to managing anxiety.

If I’ve learned anything both with my personal experiences and as a holistic nutritionist, it is to recognize these emotions for what they are rather than attaching “good” or “bad” labels to them. Be ok with “not being ok” and don’t be too hasty to suppress or change those emotions…because that never leads to true, long term healing. 

When it comes to anxiety and feeling overwhelmed, we are constantly told to suppress it, shake it off, or simply “relax.” Goodness, that doesn’t actually help but can increase stress more. But what if we dared to reframe our understanding of this powerful emotion? What if, instead of fearing it, we sought to understand its role and influence on our lives?

Explore More

Disclaimer: I am not a mental health expert—I am a wife, mama, woman and holistic nutritionist that has personally navigated mental health struggles and guided many clients through. The goal of this post is to help empower you with tools to navigate and cope with anxiety and overwhelm, not to claim we can live in a world without anxiety. 

We hope this guide empowers you with practical, holistic tools to reframe your approach to the waves of anxiety, stress and overwhelm. True healing can happen when we recognize and navigate our emotions rather than suppress them.

drawing of a girl using yoga as an empowering approach to managing anxiety

01 Believe that anxiety is not your final destination.

It seems like as a society we just accept that “I’m an anxious person” and that’s just how I have to live, that anxiousness and overwhelm define our personality without managing anxiety you have.

Anxiety is a real emotion, if you have experienced this first hand you get it, but it does not have to define you. God does not promise an easy life or a life free of fears but he does promise an abundant life. 

“You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” – Psalm 16:11 

Anxiety does not have to be your identity—it does not need to control you or drive the ship of your life.

02 Recognize that some anxiety is good—it is a defense mechanism. 

Just like not all stress is bad, not all anxiety is negative. It’s natural to get nervous, anxious and overwhelmed. The key here is figuring out the right tools and ways for YOU to cope with these feelings.

How can anxiety serve as a warning sign or a defense mechanism? Anxiety is rooted in a need to protect yourself or your loved ones. Some anxiety can be a warning sign that something or someone needs your attention—this emotion can influence your response or change your perspective.

That anxiety you are having before a hectic week, could alert you that your schedule is crammed too full. Do you really need to do all these activities? Maybe they are good things, but not the best things for you in your current season.

Or maybe you are sending your child off to daycare, summer camp or college—it’s natural to have some anxiety about that. If you didn’t have any emotions about saying goodbye to your child, I don’t think you would be human.

There is no reality that is stress free, anxiety free or overwhelm free. It’s all about shifting your physical and mental capacity to be able to handle the stressors with more ease.

03 Stop trying to “fix” every problem or anxious thought.

The worst advice ever:

Ohh, just choose not to be anxious. Don’t worry about it. Relax.”

Those words can be triggering, like a shock wave running down your spine and instantly trigger anxiety, guilt or panic.

When anxiety hits, people’s comments or our own thought process thinks we should have reacted differently. The spiral continues—which only leads to more guilty thinking, anxiety and overwhelm.

INSTEAD…what if we approached it like this:

Yes, I am anxious and overwhelmed, and I’m anxious for a reason. What could that reason be?

Rather than trying to suppress our emotions and experiences, accept them for what they are.

04 Exercise in a manner you LOVE.

Everytime I intentionally move my body, I quickly experience that exercise is more about the mental benefits than the physical. 

In fact, a recent study done in 2023 shows that exercise can be 1.5 times more effective than medication at relieving anxiety. This study shows that all forms of physical exercise can benefit mental health but in general high intensity exercise produces stronger effects. 

Different modes of exercise can stimulate different physiological benefits—resistance exercises have stronger benefits on depression while Yoga is more effective at calming anxiety.

Getting your heart rate up changes the brain chemistry and increases neurochemicals or feel good hormones (endorphins) like serotonin, GABA and endocannabinoids (what CBD is designed to mimic).

Exercising in a way you love and from a perspective of “I want to” rather than “I need to or I should” will have much more positive effects because you are owning the decision and committing! Whether it’s a HIIT workout, deep breathing, a brisk walk outside, a run or a yoga and pilates flow, move your body in a way you enjoy!

05 Anxiety lives in the future. Stay focused on the present even if it’s hard.

Anxiety is all about future thoughts, actions or experiences. Anxiety fuels off of “what ifs.” Staying focused on the present shifts our mind away from the what ifs. 

But “being present” often denotes being happy, calm and positive all the time. God gifted human beings ALL the emotions, not just the happy ones.

A thought process that has totally transformed the way I am present is being ok with the moment [happy or sad] and not trying to force emotions that aren’t there. If the current moment or season is rough, acknowledge the realness of how this makes you feel, what emotions you are experiencing and the toll it is taking on you. 

Live through it rather than jumping to the future. You don’t have to enjoy every moment of life, that’s just not possible.

Being present means being present for all of it. Faking how you feel only suppresses your true emotions more and leads to more anxiety and overwhelm down the road.

Repeat this over and over: “This is a really hard moment. I can be hopeful yet recognize the hardship and severity of right now.”

06 Understand what prompts and eases YOUR anxiety.

Anxiety and overwhelm are real, valid emotions, and as women our experiences manifest uniquely. What triggers anxiety for me is totally different than what triggers it for you. 

I always encourage my clients to keep a “mood journal”—what made you “snap”, how did you feel after this event, how did you feel after an hour of alone time? All of these emotions help guide how you navigate anxious thoughts and overwhelm as an empowering approach to managing anxiety.

What prompts anxiety:

  • Noise
  • Cluttered house, cluttered pantry, cluttered calendar
  • Not sleeping / lack of deep sleep
  • Skipping meals
  • Too much caffeine or sugar
  • Not having alone time [especially for moms this is often the biggest trigger]

What relieves anxiety:

  • Exercise
  • Nutrient dense foods
  • A bath
  • Time alone
  • A “brain dump” to get out your thoughts, tasks and responsibilities
  • Planning out your week
  • Time in nature—the effects of “forest bathing” are real!

07 Have dedicated times to check your phone, email & social media to manage anxiety.

Being always ‘available’ enhances overwhelm and anxiety as the constant stimulus pulls our attention in a million different directions. Remember, anxiety is all about the future so if your attention is scattered, rather than being focused on the task at hand, you aren’t living in the present – that’s an empowering approach to managing anxiety.

Serious question: have you ever felt BETTER or more CALM after watching the news or scrolling social media?

Studies on “parasocial interactions or relationships” show that when we watch the news or read something on social media, our brains experience the event as if it were happening in our own lives. This shifts our body into constant “fight or flight” mode and increases our fears, anxiety, overwhelm and emotions. We experience so many emotions “on the screen” that when it comes to engaging in real life “off the screen,” we are already worn out.

How to be intentional with your phone:

  • Have a dedicated phone spot for your phone during the dinner hour.
  • Choose 1 day a week to be fully off social media.
  • Use a battery powered alarm clock and remove your phone from your bedroom.
  • Customize your phone settings so you only get important notifications—texts, phone calls, reminders. Yes, turn on “do not disturb” throughout the day.
  • Turn off all social media notifications from your phone, so you won’t see the notification unless you intentionally open the app.
  • Have dedicated times throughout the day when you check your email for work, etc. Time block!
  • Don’t leave the TV running in the background all the time.

08 Have an end of the day ‘shut down’ flow.

Do you ever lay in bed going through all the things you need to do tomorrow, or better yet, needed to do today? As a mama to 3 littles, I get it. The needs are endless.

Oftentimes we can’t sleep because our mind and thoughts are racing—you see the clock ticking and this only leads to more anxiety. 

Take 20 minutes at the start of your evening to physically prepare your house and mentally prepare your mind for tomorrow, that’s a very good way to managing anxiety. Do a power clean up—wipe off the counters, start one load of laundry, fill up the dog’s water bowl and vacuum. Then open up your planner and look at your week. Highlight your top ‘must-do’ task for tomorrow and set any reminders.

Get your life in order mentally so you can start to wind down and prepare for deep sleep physically—sleep is a key foundation for anxiety relief.

Explore our Holistic Sleep Guide for more tips >

drawing of a girl using yoga as an empowering approach to managing anxiety

FAQs

What is a holistic approach to managing anxiety and overwhelm? 

Anxiety is a symptom, it is not the root cause. An empowering approach to managing anxiety works to discover the root cause to allow the brain and body to self-regulate and heal. Often the root cause can be lack of deep sleep, being constantly on the go, lack of any rest or self care time, postpartum, pregnancy, hormonal imbalances, dehydration, blood sugar dysreguation, adrenal fatigue and more.

To learn more about a root cause approach, explore our holistic nutrition services >

What are some practical tools for coping with anxiety and stress? 

  • CBD: by far the most effective tool in managing my anxiety and overwhelm. Start with the Broad Spectrum Nano Jellies. Use this link for $10 off.
  • Getting into bed earlier—around 9/9:30pm latest.
  • Exercise in a manner you love.
  • Hydration with magnesium + electrolytes.
  • Mushroom Magic tincture for emotional balance.
  • Deep breathing.
  • Prioritizing quality fats and proteins with each meal.
  • Journaling.
  • A morning routine—even if it’s only 10 minutes.
  • Quiet time.
  • Putting boundaries on your calendar, social commitments and phone usage.

How does lack of sleep contribute to anxiety? 

Sleep deprivation shifts your body into a limited state of capacity—you wake up tired and immediately have anxious thoughts about the day – that’s a bad way to start managing anxiety. How will I have energy to make it through? How can I survive another day taking care of the kids when I am this tired? And these are valid emotional responses to being exhausted when you’re not using any empowering approach to managing anxiety.

When we are tired or not sleeping well, our body over produces cortisol to compensate and attempts to lift energy levels. Excess cortisol and a chronically activated stress response increases anxiety. When you are anxious it’s also harder to fall asleep or stay asleep, thus the cycle continues. This is why a root cause holistic approach is so beneficial to bring the mind and body back into balance.

leave a comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

EXPLORE THE TOOLKIT

CAROLINE’S PICKS

In Full Bloom is a digital journal encouraging you to thrive, not just survive, and find joy in nourishing your whole self—mind, body and soul. Imagine we were sipping iced matcha lattes together and catching up like lifelong friends. Let's cultivate conscious living together.

Always in my inbox with a reminder I need in the moment. Thank you for your words!

Natalie

Your weekly dose of encouragement, holistic health, and intentional shifts to ease into your week.