Anxiety. it can sneak up on you when you least expect it, sometimes beginning with a single unwelcome thought that snowballs into an uncontrollable, crippling fear of something you can't see or understand.
Other times anxiety can be triggered by a genuine fear or phobia, or it simply pops up in the form of a sense of impending doom. These days especially, I easily find myself contemplating the end of the world, brought about either by war or the off chance of a wayward comet crashing into the planet and obliterating us all just like that (snapping my fingers), which is enough to make some of us a little shaky.
Excuse me, I think I'll go breathe into a paper bag. "
What the Experts Say
Angelica gives relief from anxiety and digestive problems, butterflies in the stomach. Narcotics or opiates don't do anything for anxiety. They just block your perception of it. Something as innocuous as Melissa ( lemon balm ) is actually specific for feelings of dark, foreboding doom. The top herb for me for countering stress is eleutherococcus , sometimes called Siberian ginseng . It's an adrenal tonic and it improves your capacity to deal with all forms of stress. The Panax ginsengs would follow. Then there are borage and viper's bugloss , which has blue flowers and grows all over Ontario. These are adrenal-feeding herbs. Stimulants can also be very comforting, such as tea or chocolate . Chocolate raises your serotonin level within minutes.
JOHN REDDEN , herbalist, Toronto
"A clear quartz crystal can be held to the centre of the chest or at the heart chakra for five to 10 minutes to help clear your mind and reduce feelings of anxiety. Quartz crystals have a natural ability to take an erratic energy signal and make it stable. Holding a crystal will help clear your mind of any irregular thoughts as well as regulate physical stress symptoms such as sweating, heart racing or weakness.'
KAREN RYAN , crystal healer, Toronto
"The very first place to go is the breath. If you can control your breathing you can control your mind and life. Take long slow deep breaths . One technique that is very effective is changing what side you breathe from . You have two nostrils and two hemispheres of your brain that are connected and are diagonally opposite, so if you're thinking something that is making you anxious and feeling very neurotic, start breathing through the left nostril. Block off the right gently with your finger, and that will cool you down. If you're irritated, depressed or feeling kind of weird, start breathing through the right side, blocking off the left. You can also bring your palms together firmly . Some people find this helps them to feel neutral quickly. Any kind of yoga will be helpful because it helps build the glandular and nervous systems. Meditation is helpful because it gives you more mental control over yourself.'
YOGI AKAL , director, Institute of Yoga Therapy and Yoga Teacher Training, Toronto
"What causes anxiety is not being in touch with one's own wishes and desires; the conformist pressure of other people, even those one admires; the struggle to compete in a consumerist world; subjective awareness of political crises around the world; a sense of isolation in an urban jungle; and existential fears. Anxiety is not the same as fear. Anxiety has to do with that which might be, and isn't defineable in a very clear sense. Fear of losing one's job because the company is being taken over is different from anxiety over whether one might lose one's job. Anxiety sits on top of fears that are real or imagined, but below is the recognition that we don't really have much control over our lives. The illusion of control has to be dealt with.'
STEPHEN VAN BEEK , psychotherapist and founder of the Toronto Therapy Network
"My favourite combination of oils for anxiety is lime and bergamot. For panic attacks I would recommend a combination of lavender and geranium, and for fear a combination of chamomile and rose. The directions for any of these would be either a deep inhalation or a body massage. Sometimes when you have anxiety or fear your tummy gets upset. If this happens, I recommend inhaling peppermint, eating fresh peppermint or having some peppermint tea.
HEATHER BOYD , aromatherapist, Toronto