Changing your relationship with anxietyRead More...
Firstly we don’t have to look very far to see the idea of a talking cure, it is really as old as man. Although with Freud’s work (and his predecessors) this idea came into prominence and was medicalised. Since then the field of psychotherapy has expanded greatly. You might be amazed to know there are over 500 different documented styles of psychotherapy today! Although most of these stem from a few main schools of thought and share much in common, they often highlight there difference between each other. This is one of those problems I am referring to, all these different therapies pointing out why they are better than other therapies, competing for status as the ‘best’ or most ‘evidence based’ therapy. These different approaches can end up working against each other for top status, instead of working together for the good of clients.
A definition the major schools of thought in counselling and psychotherapy can be found at:
Another problem is the emphasis on a medical approach to research that has favored some approaches over others, as some therapies more easily fit into the medical research paradigm. My approach has always been to find what works and to do that with my clients, irrelevant of what type of psychotherapy it is and for that matter what type of therapy it is.
Currently in Australia, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is considered the most “evidence based” therapy, or the “best” therapy for Anxiety disorders. I have no problem with a therapy like this (that focuses on thoughts, beliefs and behavior) and indeed I do focus on these processes myself in my practice. I find though, that the CBT approach used on it’s own has many limitations. It is not holistic and does not work for all clients (including myself).
In my own experience I have found that including therapies that are defined as “process” or “experiential” has been crucial in the treatment of fear, anxiety and panic. Interestingly enough I have watch these therapies (e.g. Emotion Focused Therapy, Somatic Psychotherapies, Mindfulness, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy and Contemporary Gestalt Therapy) in recent years experience a resurgence in popularity as advances in research technology are finally showing (what people who practice in this way have been saying for decades), that they lead to deeper and more lasting change.
I believe taking a more holistic approach to treatment, and using techniques that address a person’s whole experience is the best way to approach things. This basically means working with all aspects of an individual’s life: mental, emotional, physical and social. This includes working with thoughts, feelings and behaviors in the context of how people relate to their environment, and to their past present and future. This can be done in a very cognitive, linear talking way or in a way that focuses on experience and process. A powerful holistic approach addresses all these aspects, and this is the nature of my approach.
My personal and professional experience has also lead me to believe that there are common ways that people think about and relate to their fear, anxiety and panic that cause their issues, or at the very least exacerbate them. I highlight these processes in my book and my work with clients has demonstrated why changing their beliefs about, and relationship to their symptoms can be so powerful when working with different types of fear, anxiety and panic.
Overview of my Approach to treating AnxietyRead More...
In my book I devote a chapter to each of these skills. At first, this may look a bit daunting, but remember, you are probably doing some of these already, so you may not need to learn them all. However, if you do have a lot to learn about your fear, anxiety and panic, these steps and skills gradually build on each other and flow together naturally, making it much easier (after some practice) than it may initially look.
The following diagram outlines the stages of developing a healthy emotional response to experiences, specifically applied to fear, anxiety and panic as this is the main focus of this website and my book:
Note, this flow chart is adapted from (1) Leslie Greenbergs work on Emotion Focused Therapy (in ‘Emotion Focused Therapy: Coaching Clients to Work Through Their Feelings, p. 85 2002) and (2) the Gestalt Experience Cycle (Jennifer Mackewn, p. 19 1997).
Take A BreathRead More...
When I explore this statement with them in more detail there are two main problems that I notice. Firstly they have not been shown the correct techniques, it amazes me how many people teach breathing techniques with little or no training. Make sure the person teaching you breathing has significant training in yoga or martial arts and/or some type of western breathing training (as outlined in the books mentioned below).
Secondly they have used the breathing techniques for the explicit purpose of getting rid of, or moving away from their anxiety. And to make things worse have often only used it when anxious without past practice so there is no way it will work when you need it most of all-when you are struggling with strong anxiety.
No technique will work in my view if you approach it from the paradigm of trying “getting rid” of your anxiety (although you can get some short term relief approaching things from this perspective but nothing fundamental will change in the persons life or inside themselves).
So how can breathing training be useful?
Basic information on Breathing and relaxation
Breathing and relaxation exercises can be one of the most effective ways to learn how to relax. These exercises are also very helpful at reducing other symptoms like anxiety, insomnia, hyper-arousal, agitation and stress. Fortunately these exercises are quite simple to learn and very effective at reducing these symptoms.
The following summarizes the steps I teach my clients during counselling and is designed to help your breathing practice.
General Breathing Principles
- Daily practice is the best and most effective way to learn these exercises
- Find a place where you can sit / lie and not be disturbed for about 10-20 minutes (start with less time if this feels long)
- You may cool down a little while you are doing these exercises, use a blanket or sit in a warm room if needed
- Get yourself as comfortable as possible
- Feel free to move around if you need to during the exercise and don’t be too concerned about external noises
- Close your eyes (you may keep your eyes open if that makes you feel more comfortable) and at your own speed practice the relaxation exercise
- These breathing techniques can also be used when you are actually experiencing anxiety in your daily life, however don’t expect that they will put you in a fully relaxed state. At this stage the techniques will reduce the anxiety slightly so you can use the other skills discussed in the website
Breathing Principles that Promote Relaxation
As you may have already noticed anxiety can impact upon the speed, depth and quality of your breathing and also speed up your heart rate. So anxiety affects breathing and heart rate. These in turn can create other symptoms of anxiety (eg. dizziness and numbness). Thus these are important things you will need to change as you work on reducing your fear, anxiety and panic.
Use the following as a guide:
- Breathe in through the nose
- Take the air into your belly, feeling / watching your belly rise (use a weight if needed, see diagram below)
- Pause for a split second
- Exhale through the nose slowly, feeling / watching your belly fall. It is very important to extend your exhale so it is longer than the inhale (for example, if you breathe in for 3 seconds you would breathe out for 5 seconds)
- Pause for a second
- Deep relaxation normally occurs when your breathing cycles (process above) are around 3-5 cycles a minute, however this will take some practice
- The breathing principles can be more than enough to initiate relaxation and can also be a very helpful process to use when you’re in a stressful situation or having an anxiety / panic attacks
- Sometimes you may want to heighten your practice of relaxation or you may simply get bored with only breathing and sometimes breathing is not enough to relax you. At this stage you may want to implement other exercises in to your practice, such as visualizing certain things, listening to music or systematically relaxing parts of your body
- If you have difficulties learning these skills, using the technologies discussed in the “Latest Technology” section will be very useful
- There is no one piece of music that everyone will find relaxing, you may want to search out the music that you find the most relaxing and may even have different pieces of music depending on the type of relaxation you are wanting to achieve
- Examples of music some people have found to be relaxing include; Baroque music like Pachelbel’s Cannon (or other Baroque music), music by Bach, music that incorporates relaxing sounds or music with slow rhythmic beats
Books about Breathing
Dr. R. Fried, “Breathe Well Be Well”, Sophie Gabrielle, “Breathe for Life”
Meditation and the power of the mind/awareness
Meditation and relaxation
Meditation has been practiced for thousands of years as a way to quiet the mind and produce different states. Most cultures and religions have their version of meditation, which I think supports its value. Further, current research is also pointing to the powerful role that meditation can play in personal growth and in psychological and physical well-being.
Practicing any mediation style will have a positive effect on your life; however, I prefer the Mindfulness approaches. The following material is adapted from a book called Mindfulness Meditation by Michael Anderson and gives an introduction to Mindfulness Meditation.
Benefits of mindfulness meditation
There are many benefits of meditation; most styles of meditation increase relaxation, focus, awareness, and feelings of balance. However, each specific style of meditation has some different benefits, depending on the history of the style and the philosophy informing it. Following is a discussion of the major benefits of mindfulness meditation:
- Stability of mind
- Flexibility of awareness
Stability of mind
This refers to one’s ability to cope with the various mental states that we are faced with. The result of being able to cope with the many states we can experience is feeling predominantly stable in your mind. A stable mind is one that is balanced, meaning the mind is pliable, alert, yet relaxed and free of tension. This also means the mind can function more efficiently and adapt to change by retraining more easily.
Stability of mind can often be understood on the following continuum:
Agitated Mind ———————————— Stability —————————- Dull Mind
(Anxiety, anger etc.) (Flat, low, sad etc.)
Flexibility of awareness
Sometimes people can become stuck in their anger (and other emotions) or negative thought patterns, which can have a very detrimental impact on their life and health. No matter how hard they try, they are unable to shift their awareness.
Sometimes people can become stuck in their anger (and other emotions) or negative thought patterns, which can have a very detrimental impact on their life and health. No matter how hard they try, they are unable to shift their awareness. Being able to shift your awareness effortlessly from one experience to another can be very useful in day-to-day life. Being able to shift your awareness from one emotion to another, one thought to another thought, or from thoughts to emotions, and so on offers new possibilities for coping with life. For example, something in your life may have caused you to become angry, and there is nothing wrong with appropriate anger; however, imagine how useful it would be to notice this anger, accept it, understand what it is related to, and then to be able to use the flexibility in your awareness that you have gained from mindfulness meditation training to shift your awareness to a constructive step that you may need to take regarding the situation. One of the major elements of this type of skill is being able to let go of your own judgment about what you are experiencing. This creates a profound acceptance of your experience as it arises and withdraws the need to escape or run away from yourself.
Why might this be important?
This mental skill also offers a significant shift in your relationship to your own thoughts and feelings. Instead of your thoughts of feelings seeming as if they are controlling you, using flexibility of awareness puts you back in the driver’s seat, allowing you greater choice in deciding what thoughts and feelings you want or need to focus on to achieve your end goal. The role of meditation in developing flexibility of awareness is to provide a simple and effective vehicle for you to practice and develop flexibility of awareness (every time you return to the breath you are developing this skill).
Self-awareness (of the habitual mind)
The mind has many habits that it has developed from past experience; many of these habits are very helpful and useful. However, some of the habits learnt from our past may have outgrown their usefulness, and may even be quite negative and destructive. The good news is that as the mind obviously has the capacity to learn habits, it also has the ability to change habits and learn new habits. One of the skills you learn from meditation is increased self-awareness. This skill allows us to observe the habitual patterns of our mind so they are no longer unconscious. This teaches us more about our own mind and also changes the unconscious automatic relationship we have with these patterns. It enables us to observe our own thinking. Thus, when we move throughout the day with more mindfulness, we have greater choice over what patterns we choose to follow or not follow, and it also gives us opportunities to develop new patterns.
When you begin to practice mindfulness meditation, you notice that a slight separation between you and your experience begins to appear, almost as if you are noticing or watching your own subjective experience instead of being your experience and simply responding automatically. This is very valuable because it means we can stop reacting automatically and start considering, reflecting, and choosing how we want to respond to life. For example, when we feel fear, we often panic and react unconsciously, or when we have a negative thought about our self, we automatically believe it and feel bad. Developing non-reactivity means when we feel fear or have that negative thought, we can STOP, watch, notice it, be consciously aware of it, and so be able to wonder what those things could be about, and give us time to choose how we are going to respond.
I hope the above information motivates you to start looking into meditation and using it in your recovery. My advice would be to consult an experienced teacher who has a regular daily self-practice for some time. This is important because many of the basic mindfulness techniques appear quite simple on the surface. However, there is much subtlety in the practices that requires instruction, support and guidance.
Latest TechnologyRead More...
In many cases, I have found EEG biofeedback (or Neurotherapy, neurofeedback), a helpful tool to use in conjunction with counselling and other therapies. Unfortunately, it is relatively unheard of in Australia, and there are only a few practitioners using it. Basically, I have found EEG biofeedback useful to ‘retrain’ the nervous system, helping people to be more relaxed, sleep better, be more focused, improve memory, increase attention, and help them integrate change. It is especially useful when trauma is also involved and when people have not been able to use other modalities like relaxation, meditation, and hypnosis. There are different types of EEG biofeedback. You can find a brief overview of the type of EEG biofeedback that I use on the links below, I have used all the main types of EEG biofeedback and have found them all useful, however I do prefer the system discussed below:
Heart Rate Variability Training
Heart Rate Variability Training is another type of biofeedback that gives you feedback about what is happening with your heart rate and breathing. This can be very powerful because there is a close relationship between your heart rate, breathing and your different emotional and psychological processes. Heart Rate Variability training offers a very easy and practical way to retrain these physiological processes, benefits include:
- Less anxiety
- Better sleep
- Increased resilience
- Better coping skills and stress management
- Increased awareness of breathing
- Feeling more relaxed
Life StyleRead More...
- The importance of a good night sleep
- Keeping active
- What you put in your mouth
- The power of relationships
The importance of a good night sleep
More and more studies are coming out about the importance of a good night’s sleep!
Recently studies have implicated sleep disturbance as an issue with such diverse conditions as obesity, depression, memory, aging, immune function and of course fear, anxiety and panic. SO we cannot underestimate how important it is to get a good night’s sleep. When I first see my clients they have typically been struggling with fear, anxiety and panic for some years and they are suffering the long-term impact of chronic anxiety. Issues with sleep are one of the most common symptoms that people present with, and it is important to support people to develop or return to a normal sleeping routine, I have found the following four therapies (in varying combinations) the most useful:
- Reducing Anxiety
- Herbal Medicine
- Sleep hygiene (see below)
The sleep wake cycle is sensitive to a wide range of factors, including stress, anxiety, diet, alcohol, obesity, ageing and medical conditions. Treatment often needs to address the sleep difficulties themselves, along with the contributing factors, in this case most likely anxiety. The following information is a guide to help you better understand what good sleep hygiene looks like, implementing these strategies over a significant amount of time (often 6 to 12 weeks, or longer in some cases) is necessary for reversing chronic unhealthy sleep patterns. The following information is not designed to replace the treatment of a competent health care professional and is often required to be done in conjunction with the other modalities identified above.
Positive Sleep Hygiene Includes:
- Waking up at the same time every day (within one hour)
- Exercise in the morning, ideally allowing sunlight into the eyes which helps to re-set the sleep wake cycle
- Do not nap during the day whilst implementing changes to your sleep
- Do not consume things like alcohol, caffeine, a big meal or sugary foods in the evening
- Use your sleep routine (e.g. brushing your teeth) at night to prepare yourself for bed
- Go to bed at a time that allows you enough time to sleep (10pm is what I recommend to people)
- Relaxation exercises in the evening can be useful
- Have realistic expectations around sleep (e.g. it is common to wake at night, especially after the age of 40, but we should fall back to sleep quickly)
- Do not label yourself as an “insomniac”
- Make positive changes to your bedroom to manage noise, light, comfort etc
- We have “sleep waves” that come about every 90 min and only last about 20min so if you feel tired (as indicated by yawning or rubbing your eyes) go to bed, don’t quickly respond to emails, fill the dish washer or start talking to your partner because you will miss the wave and need to wait another 90 min for the next one!
- If you wake up during the night and don’t fall back asleep do your relaxation
- If your mind is active at night, write down the thing you are thinking about and go back to sleep
- Never catastrophise about not sleeping, after all “what is the worst that will happen?”
I am sure there is no surprise here for you; exercise is good for you! We all know how useful exercise is to manage common medical conditions. Problems with fear, anxiety and panic are no different. Exercise will help improve sleep, reduce arousal, manage the adrenalin that comes from the flight and fight response, and get you out of your head, focusing on your health. I don’t mind what type of exercise you do, as long as you do something. Personally, I prefer types of exercise like martial arts or yoga as they teach you many other skills and techniques while you are getting fit and healthy. Work out what feels best for you and do that.
Every culture throughout the world has its own version of martial arts; these arts have been practiced for thousands of years in an attempt to train people in self-defence and to keep them fit, healthy, relaxed, and loose. In some instances, it has also been used for personal development of the mind and body. Many different martial arts styles and individual instructors may be very useful in helping people with their fears, anxiety and panic; however, approaches that are termed ‘soft’ or ‘internal’ (as opposed to hard and external) in my view can offer you the best support with your fears. Examples of these include Aikido, Tai Chi, Ba Gua, to name a few. The method of martial arts that I practice is Systema. This is a Russian-based martial art that I believe has a unique blend of components, making it a serious method of self-defence, and includes Russian health practices that strengthen mind and body. Systema also teaches a unique breathing technique and approach to dealing with fear.
The Russian style of martial art dates back to the tenth century. Throughout the history of this huge country, Russia had to repel invaders from the north, south, east, and west. All attackers brought their distinct styles of combat and weaponry. The battles took place on different terrain, during freezing winters and sweltering summer heat alike, with the Russians often greatly outnumbered by the enemy forces. As a result of these factors, the Russian warriors acquired a style that combined strong spirit with extremely innovative and versatile tactics that were at the same time practical, deadly, and effective against any type of enemy under any circumstances. The style was natural and free while having no strict rules, rigid structure or limitations (except for moral ones). All tactics were based on instinctive reactions, individual strengths and characteristics, specifically designed for fast learning.
When the Communists came to power in 1917, they suppressed all national traditions. Those practicing the centuries-old style of martial art were severely punished. However, the authorities quickly realized the viability and potency of the Russian martial art and thus reserved it for the elite units of Spetsnaz (Russian Special Forces).
Since the collapse of the Soviet system, many other Russian fighting styles have re-emerged through training, competition, and media publicity. Among others, the styles include: Sambo (a wrestling style), Slaviano-Goretskaya Borba (Storm Warrior Style), military style of A. Kadochnikov, plus a variety of folk styles (e.g. Busa, Skobar, Forest Warrior, Kozachiy Sploch, fist fighting by Gruntovsky.
Taken from Systema Australia website, http://www.systemaaustralia.com/history.html (opens in a new window).
‘Systema is the Russian word for “The System” and is a martial art combining both body and mind. Systema doesn’t stick to out-dated techniques, just in the name of tradition, but is constantly evolving relying on the simple principles of breathing, movement, relaxation and correct body structure. At the end of class, the whole group sits together in a circle and everyone gets a turn to pass comments on the class. This allows any questions to be asked and answered and to share any insights students may have had about the days training. It also gives the instructor some feedback for future reference’.
Taken from Melbourne Systema website, http://www.melbournesystema.com.au/what-is-systema/ (opens in a new window).
What you put in your mouth
Could diet and nutrition be any more confusing? We have blood group diets, metabolic typing diets, protein diets, vegan diets, grape fruit juice diet, CSIRO diets, Atkins diet, and the list goes on. I have really struggled with this area in my life personally and have done a lot of reading and experimenting over the years to try and better understand this area and how it may contribute to anxiety or assist in its recovery. One of the best things that has every been said to me about diet was from one of my Nutrition teachers, he said “why do Australians feel they need to eat cereal for breakfast, in Mauritius were I come from we have a good chicken curry for breakfast!” The key piece of learning from his comments for me was that much of what we decide to eat is based on concepts, learning and beliefs from culture and family and much of it might not be good for us. Showing us how important it is to keep an open mind when discussing food, it can be a very loaded topic for many people.
After battling with this for some time I have come to realize what really seems to work and what foods the body is designed to live on and how and when we should be eating them. But before I introduce you to another diet and the underpinning knowledge behind it and confuse you even more! There are a few simple rules that are the corner stone of any good eating plan that I will introduce you to first. Frankly if you only follow these you will be doing better than 98% of people living in a Western industrialized culture!!
- Cut out as much junk food and processed foods as you can, this includes most white foods with sugar and white flour being the main culprits. This actually cuts out a large percentage of what most people eat everyday, including white pasta, biscuits, most breads, commercial breakfast cereals, fast foods, lollies, cakes, chocolate, soft drink and white rice (basmati, brown and wild rice are ok). I am also not a big fan of dairy food either; much evidence is coming out about its harmful effects. Basically your shopping trolley should be mostly filled with things from the fruit and vegetable section!
- EAT MORE VEGGIES, you know I have assessed the diets of hundreds of people and I can assure you I have never turned around to anyone and said “I think you should cut down on those veggies you are eating to much of them!” However at some stage in my working life I have said that about every other food group!!
- Drink lots of pure, fresh, clean water
- Eat as close to nature as you can, fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes and good animal protein should make up the majority of your diet
- Eat slowly, and chew your food mindfully
- Eat small meals, basically eat 5 or 6 meals a day and don’t eat late at night or when you should be asleep
If you really want to learn more about approaches to eating that really emphasis a more natural way of eating, probably the best one that I have found is the Alkaline diet. I have included some information about this below and some useful links. Be warned it is very different to how most people eat, however I would highly recommend this way of eating to you. You may need to make these changes slowly over three to six months as they will be foreign to most people. It is also wise to have a qualified health care professional to guide you through any changes you make to your diet.
More coming soon…
Ok, good fresh clean water is a very important part of our diet. You have probably heard most people say about six glasses or two liters is the right amount of water to drink daily. The problem with this type of definitive advice is that it does not take into account you or your context. For example a 6ft 2inch 100kg man like myself is going to need more water than a 5ft 2inch 60kg woman! And lets not even get into what we do differently on any given day when considering what you have done that day and the temperature.
To give you some idea one of my teachers many years ago gave me this basic formula.
Take your weight: 100kg
Divide it by 2: = 50
Divide it by 10: = 5 litres
This formula suggests I should be drinking about 5 liters of water a day and more if I exercise! As with any change you should make this change slowly and over time allowing the body to adjust, or you might spend all day on the toilet! Also, as with anything too much of it can be bad for you, water is no different and there are some health conditions that make drinking more water dangerous. So as with the dietary advice I have given seeking advice from a qualified health care professional is advised.
You are more than your AnxietyRead More...
I believe this is probably the single most important section on this website, you are more than your fear, anxiety, and panic. Do you know that yet? Most of my clients are so focused on their fear, anxiety and panic, and doing what ever they can to avoid, control or suppress it, or find the magic ingredient to make it go away, that they cannot see that life is passing them by. Their entire being becomes organized around not having the experience of fear, anxiety and panic, with the result being that they miss out on all the other experiences that are right here, right now, waiting to be lived.
I cannot tell you how many times clients have told me that their “anxiety” is the causes of all their problems in life, that everything would be better if they did not have this horrible thing called anxiety. I also made this fundamental mistake, thinking life would be a bed of roses when I finally got rid of my anxiety!
Unfortunately it is rarely this simple. Many times I have worked with clients and we have had a significant impact on their anxiety, even removed it almost entirely from their life. Obviously clients on the one hand are ecstatic with this result, however before too long they walk into my office and say things like, “well I still hate my job”, “actually things are worse now between me and my partner”, or “I still don’t really know what to do with my life”!
They had put so much importance on the belief that anxiety was the cause of all their problems, and such a focus on removing it from their life that they did not see the bigger picture.
That is why with all my clients I encourage them to focus on the bigger picture, look at their life and situation holistically and focusing on growth and evolution of the self not purely symptom management. Real change actually comes from growth not just getting rid of your anxiety or managing symptoms. This is the ultimate goal and the focus of the material below.
A little help on the side
– the usefulness of complimentary therapies in your journeyRead More...
Unfortunately, when most clients walk through my door, their fears and anxieties have been ruling their life for years, sometimes decades. The impact of this can be quite damaging, as fear is an emotion that is designed to be felt in response to a threat and support you to cope with that threat and then pass. Wouldn’t that be nice? Basically, fear is an emotional response that is designed to be experienced for a short time. When it becomes chronic, and is a consistent part of your emotional landscape, there are many consequences. This creates a massive load on many of the body systems that often results in problematic symptoms and, at worst, disease states. For example, many clients present complaining of the following:
- Muscle pain and stiffness
- Digestive problems, like Irritable Bowel Syndrome
- Insomnia and other sleep difficulties
- Problems with food, alcohol, and drugs
- Hormonal problems
- Fatigue and tiredness
- Immune problems
- High blood pressure
- Auto-immune diseases
These are the result of long-term chronic fear draining the body’s resources, and many of these problems need to be addressed early on in treatment as they inhibit the client’s progress. There are some natural therapies that I have found to be very useful in supporting clients to bring their bodies back into balance and give them the energy to not only change how fear affects them but to start living life more fully again. These include as follows:
- Herbal Medicine
- Nutritional Medicine
- Martial arts
- Meditation and Relaxation
- EEG biofeedback
Below I have taken some material from various sources that give a good definition of the above modalities and then I give a brief overview of how I have found these modalities useful when treating clients who have been struggling with fear.
What is herbal medicine?
Herbal medicine is the oldest and still the most widely used system of medicine in the world today. It is medicine made exclusively from plants. It is used in all societies and is common to all cultures. There are many different ‘types’ of herbal medicine that spring from different cultures around the world. All these have the use of medicinal plants in common, but they vary in the plants they use, the way they prepare and use medicines from these plants, and the philosophy of their treatment approaches. Different cultures may also use the same plants but differ in how it is used, or the part they use.
In Australia the most commonly found cultural types of herbal medicine are Western, Aboriginal, Chinese and Ayurvedic (Indian), although there are also many other cultures represented in Australia that utilize their own unique and traditional herbal treatments. The National Herbalists Association of Australia represents the practice of Western herbal medicine, which is based on European herbal medicine traditions. They have also recently incorporated an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (ATSI) membership category. These members work in their local communities using traditional Aboriginal bush and Western herbal medicine.
Herbal medicine is increasingly being validated by scientific investigation which seeks to understand the active chemistry of the plant. Many modern pharmaceuticals have been modeled on, or derived from chemicals found in plants. An example is the heart medication digoxin derived from foxglove (Digitalis purpurea). Using plants as medicine provides significant advantages for treating many conditions. The therapeutic activity of a plant is due to its complex chemical nature with different parts of the plant providing certain therapeutic effects.
Taken from the National Herbalist Association of Australia. www.nhas.com.au
How might herbal medicine be useful when treating fears?
By the time most of my clients walk through my door, many of their body systems show the signs of being exposed to long-term and chronic fear states. This causes them many problems with their health and well-being; in many cases, I have found Herbal Medicine to be a crucial step in their recovery.
Unfortunately, even if I could wave a wand and magically make my clients’ fear disappear forever, many of their body systems would have been so adversely affected that they would not return to a state of balance on their own. Even in the cases where clients can bounce back with no intervention, Herbal Medicine can still be used to make their recovery smoother and faster.
In the West, Herbal Medicine practitioners use various methods of diagnosis to assess your needs and to determine what herbal medicines you may benefit from. An individual preparation is then made up by the practitioners who blend various liquid extracts or tinctures to make up an individual preparation, specifically for your needs. I have had many clients over the years self-medicate with different herbs after doing some research on the Internet, seeing something in the media about a specific herb or at the suggestion of a friend. I would strongly advise against this, herbal remedies work, because they are powerful therapeutic preparations, and self-medicating rarely works, and, at best, you walk away, thinking Herbal Medicine is not useful or, at worst, you experience negative side effects. This is as dangerous as self-medicating with different prescribed drugs, which I am sure you would not do. Further, one of the real positives about Western Herbal Medicine is going to see a skilled practitioner, who can make you on a specific mixture for your needs.
What is nutritional medicine?
Nutritional Medicine is the study of food, its nutrients and how diet affects health and well-being. The Nutritional Medicine practitioner views food, diet and nutritional supplements from the perspective of their therapeutic potential, providing dietary advice to clients and prescribing nutritional supplements to assist in the treatment of a broad range of health conditions.
Taken from Endeavor College website
I have found prescribing some nutritional remedies in conjunction with herbal remedies a useful way of supporting clients to recover from a life controlled by fear. This can be particularly useful when trying to address very specific and chronic deficiencies or excesses that are difficult to treat with herbal remedies alone. For example, certain brain neurotransmitters can be too high or low and require targeted nutritional remedies to bring them back into an optimal range. Further, chronic fear and anxiety can deplete body chemistry in a predictable way, which also needs addressing. Commonly, magnesium, vitamin B, Omega 3, and zinc need supplementation. However, I caution against self-medicating because everyone’s chemistry can be vastly different; you need the support of a skilled therapist who can assess what your individual needs are.
Bodywork is an umbrella term that describes many ways of manually working with the somatic structures of the body and its patterns of movement. Manual Therapies such as Remedial Massage, Myotherapy, Relaxation Massage, and Rolfing can be very useful to reduce muscle tension, pain, and the chronic sympathetic nervous system arousal that comes with fear. Other Somatic Therapies like Alexander Technique and Feldenkrais can also be used to increase body awareness and change patterns of movement and breathing. These different types of bodywork can be very useful in the treatment of fear; ideally, your therapist should have enough knowledge to guide you in what type of bodywork would be useful for you; if not, you might need to try some of these approaches and make the decision for yourself.
The word massage is most likely to have emerged from the Greek word ‘Massein’, meaning ‘to knead’ or the Arabic word ‘mas ‘h’ meaning ‘to press softly’. Massage is the oldest form of physical medicine known to man and can be traced back to the early Chinese medical manuscripts around 400 BC. Massage was advocated by Hippocrates who was born in the fifth century and was known as ‘the father of medicine’. It was widely used and written of in Roman times with history recording how Julius Ceaesar received massage to relieve neuralgia!
Very little was recorded about massage in Europe between the Roman times and the early Middle Ages, but by the sixteenth century medicine slowly started to re-learn what had been lost. Between 1776 and 1839, a Swedish professor, Peter Ling, created a scientific system of therapeutic massage known as Swedish massage and established a teaching institute in Stockholm. Today, massage therapy is one of the fastest growing forces in the field of health care.
Taken from Australian Natural Therapies Association website,
What is Myotherapy?
Myotherapy is a method for relieving pain based on the application of pressure at trigger points throughout the body. Trigger points are defined as hypersensitive places in the muscles that cause pain in response to undue stress. They may be triggered by occupational or other injuries as well as by disease, physical stress, and emotional stress. Trigger points rarely occur in the same place where the pain is felt.
Myotherapy is founded on the notion that relief of tension in the muscle followed by revitalization of the relieved muscle through stretching, promotes healing and reduces the disposition of the muscle and the nerve to cause further pain. It can help people suffering from many types of head, back, and neck pain. It also relieves the discomfort of carpal tunnel syndrome, fibromyalgia, and arthritis. Patients suffering from multiple sclerosis experience reductions in swelling. Athletes may experience enhanced performance. By applying pressure at strategic nerve locations called trigger points, muscle spasms go away. Pain can disappear and relax the muscles associated with the specific discomfort. The therapist first locates and diffuses the trigger points of pain through applying pressure. A series of exercises to progressively stretch the muscles that have been relaxed by the pressure therapy.
Taken from the Australian Natural Therapies Association website
Relaxation massage is a type of massage that emphasises relaxation. It typically uses oil, light, flowing, and rhythmic strokes to bring about a deep state of relaxation.
Rolfing: What is Rolfing?
Rolfing® refers to a system of Structural Integration and manual therapy developed by Dr Ida Rolf over fifty years of study. It is an original and scientifically proven system of body restructuring and movement education, which releases the body from lifelong patterns of tension and bracing, and allows the force of gravity to realign the body’s segments.
The Rolfing series is designed to uncover a structural ease and balance that is unique to each client. Rolfing cannot accurately be described as therapy or as a returning of the body to a ‘natural’ state from which it has deteriorated. Rather, it is a process of education in which a Rolfer seeks to help a client discover the most efficient means of using his or her body, given the uniqueness of the individual. Through hands on techniques and guided movements, Rolfing slowly stretches and repositions the body’s fascia, the supportive wrapping of the body, restoring natural length and elasticity to the body through its network of deep connective fibres of the fascia. People seek Rolfing as a way to ease pain and chronic stress, and improve performance in their professional and daily activities. Athletes, dancers, children, business people, and people from all walks of life have benefited from Rolfing.
What is the difference between massage and Rolfing?
One of the most common misconceptions about Rolfing is that it is nothing more than a type of very deep massage. There are many varieties of massage, which are particularly effective for loosening tight tissue, reducing stress, detoxing the body and an increased feeling of relaxation and wellbeing. Since these benefits are also a by-product of Rolfing, the general public experience confusion as to the precise difference between our work and the proliferation of effective touch modalities currently available. Ray McCall, an Advanced Rolfer in Boulder and former student of Dr Rolf, once said that what Rolfers do can be summed up in three words: palpation, discrimination and integration. We palpate or touch the tissue, feeling for imbalances in tissue texture, quality and temperature to determine where we need to work. We discriminate, or separate fascial layers that adhere and muscles that have been pulled out of position by strain or injury. Finally, we integrate the body, relating its segments in an improved relationship, bringing physical balance in the gravitational field. Other soft-tissue manipulation methods, including massage, are quite good at the first two, but do not balance the body in gravity. As Dr Rolf used to say: ‘Anyone can take a body apart, very few know how to put it back together’. The true genius of her method is the art and science of reshaping and reorganising human structure according to clearly defined principles in a systematic and consistent manner. In addition to our skill as structural integrators, we are also educators, a point Dr Rolf stressed frequently in her training classes. The role of teacher is something every Rolfer takes seriously. In each session, Rolfers seek to impart insights to clients to increase their awareness and understanding, to help the client make the work we do their own. Our job is to make ourselves obsolete, by empowering our clients to take charge of their own physical and emotional health.
Taken from the Rolfing Centre website.
Through schooling our attention, the Alexander Technique provides a way of reducing the strains on our bodies and our being, to optimize our performance of the everyday, as well as of special skills. The Alexander Technique is a simple and practical method of mind/body integration, which leads to ease of movement, poise, vitality and coordination to relieve the pain and stress caused by everyday misuse of the body. It enables change in harmful (movement) habits in our everyday activities.
The Alexander Technique can help improve ease and freedom of movement, balance, support and coordination. The Technique teaches the use of the appropriate amount of effort for a particular activity, giving you more energy for all your activities. It is not a series of treatments or exercises, but rather a reeducation of the mind/body. It can be applied to any everyday or specialized activity.
Excess tension in your body can cause a variety of unpleasant symptoms and it can interfere with your ability to perform activities well. Therefore it is not surprising that most people come to the Alexander Technique because they are in pain (backaches, sore necks and shoulders, carpal tunnel syndromeetc.) and/or because they are performers who want to improve the quality of their singing, playing, acting or dancing. People of all ages and lifestyles have used the Technique to improve the quality of their lives. The Alexander Technique has been taught for over a century, and during that time a number of prominent individuals have publicly endorsed the Technique.
Taken from, Australian Society of Teachers of the Alexander Technique.
The Feldenkrais Method® facilitates learning through lessons that explore movement, posture, breathing. The fruit of such learning is improved ability in all aspects of life.
The Feldenkrais Method is person-centred and is adapted for individuals and specific populations. As a result, it is beneficial in a wide variety of applications—from Childhood Development to Older Adults, Sport and Performance to Chronic Conditions, Injury Prevention to Rehabilitation. People of all ages can participate, from babies and children through to senior citizens with interests ranging from dancers, musicians and athletes to people seeking to relieve movement difficulties, stiffness or pain. Participating in this unique learning process can lead to better health and well-being, improved attention, thinking ability, emotional resilience, posture, movement coordination and balance, easier ways of doing tasks, easier breathing, reduced pain and control over muscular tension.
The Feldenkrais Method is delivered in two distinct ways: Classes called ‘Awareness Through Movement®’ lessons (ATM)—a Feldenkrais practitioner guides the participants through a planned sequence of movement explorations. Attention is drawn to the process of each movement pattern. Through observing their movements, participants learn easier ways of moving in everyday activities. Exploration of movement in these classes is designed to improve overall wellbeing.
Individual lessons called ‘Functional Integration®’ (FI)—is a hands-on process which addresses particular individual problems. Fl lessons are tailored to each client’s needs. The Feldenkrais practitioner guides movements through precise touch. The client lies or sits, comfortably clothed, on a low padded table. The practitioner brings present habits into focus and offers new movement options. The learning is then applied to everyday activities such as reaching, sitting, standing and walking.
Taken from the Australian Feldentrais Guild Inc website.