If I could name the most common hindrance to the achievement of a healthier lifestyle, or the much desired six-pack, anxiety would be at the top of the list. Anxiety and subsequent emotions are known to exact a set of specific psychological as well as physiological effects. Among such effects was that noted by Dr. Beaumont, an army surgeon located in northern Michigan over one century ago. A famous patient of his, Alexis St. Martin, was a Trapper who suffered bullet wounds in the upper abdomen and stomach. When the wounds healed, the opening in the stomach was intentionally left patent, so that Dr. Beaumont could make periodic observations of the contents and mucosal lining of the stomach. Dr. Beaumont found that in the presence of fear, anger or any other emotional disturbance that affected the nervous system, the lining of the stomach would consequently lose its healthy appearance and the secretions were greatly decreased or ceased all together. Beaumont concluded that when his patient had a quarrel, the movements of the stomach were not normal[i].
‘’you do not get stomach ulcers from what you eat, you get stomach ulcers from what’s eating you’’
-Dr. Joseph Montague
Someone very close to me went to see a good friend of mine, an osteopath which I recommended because of recurrent injuries and lack of improvement no matter what I did as a protocol. Digestion was completely off, sleepless nights one after the other, lack of interest, to name a few symptoms. Instead of kicking his ass mentally with a lecture on how to get back into it, I knew there was something wrong, but I also realized that the solution lay outside of the gym and the supplemental protocol i had prescribed. As with any client I send to my friend osteopath, we meet to discuss what would be the appropriate plan to follow and if we can do something about it. In this particular case, emotions were so strong that it completely ripped him apart; nothing worked the way it was supposed to be, viscerally and neurologically. His lungs, heart, diaphragm and anything under his ribcage were constricted like he has never seen before. It seemed as though every little muscle pain he recently experienced was largely due to his emotions.
Digestion was so significantly impaired that no matter the enzymes or HCl regimen I put him on, little to no improvement was observed. His conditions worsened in a matter of weeks. When your digestion is impaired, assimilation of the proper nutrients needed for repair and growth hormone production is set aside and your nervous system falls back on a ‘’survival mode’’. Cortisol (stress hormone) levels are out of whack and everything from your body to your mind is out of control and is headed towards a vicious downward spiral. Believe me, I see this more often than I would like too.
So I sat with my client, and without wanting to know what is the culprit of his misfortune, I informed him of what was happening to his physiological and psychological states. It just happened that he came out of a strong relationship and was completely destroyed when it ended, he felt like he was crushed, and felt the pressure getting tighter and tighter. Following the consultation, we made a plan and stuck with it, through good and bad times. My friend did his work viscerally, as he worked on his lungs and diaphragm to make them relax and to release the pressure around his heart and organs. My work was to do some part of counselling and since nutrition was not an issue, I gave him a supplement protocol to support his adrenals and his impaired sleep pattern. Everything went according to plan, but most of the work had to be done by the client, since his recovery largely depended on how well he followed the emotional plan and how well he dealt and managed his thoughts and anxiety.
‘’70% of all patients who come to physicians could cure themselves if they only got rid of their fears and worries. Their ills are very real, and sometimes hundred times as serious. Fear causes worry. Worry makes you tense and nervous and affects the nerves of your stomach and actually changes the gastric juices of your stomach from normal to abnormal and often leads to much more serious conditions such as ulcers and crohn’s disease.’’
-Dr. O. F. Gober
Our thoughts and worries can bring down the best of us and no one knows when it’s going to hit, if we did, we would know how to avoid it. However, some of us that went through tough times can attest to the difficult procedure of acceptance and learning from past mistakes in order to avoid getting trapped into a circular and self destructive state of mind. The following are some tips that I’ve gathered from past experiences, books, and from people who have used them with great success. I often give them to someone that I know is a worrier by nature, or simply through a rough patch.
Take action and be proactive
The first step is Identifying the source of the anxiety. This seems like an obvious and easy start but at times, confusion is the principle cause of anxiety. Worry is caused by people trying to make decisions before they have sufficient facts or substance on which to base a decision[ii]. Once you have considered all the factors, think of not one, but a series of possible solutions. Once you have written everything down, there will always be one solution that will stick out more and be the obvious choice. The biggest mistake I’ve seen with this is failing to write it down. If you think of some possible ways of solving a problem, you’ll forget them as the day passes and you’ll be back to square one. Writing down every thought clears your mind, and it makes it much easier to sort everything out. When all is done and clear in your mind and on paper, you’ll feel a sense of release, like a ton of bricks that got off your chest. It is now clear in front of your eyes, you have a plan and all you have to do is execute it.
A while ago, I was involved in a bad business venture and since day one, I knew that it was set for failure. I blamed it on everything, from myself to the bad partnerships; it was impossible to keep the boat afloat. I not only lost a great deal of money, but also what I had considered a true friend. Everything happens for a reason. When all possible solutions failed, I had no choice to get the hell out of the business before I did something I could regret and pay for the rest of my life. So when everything was all set and done, I had 2 choices, depression, which I felt was getting closer by the second, and find something that would keep me both physically and mentally occupied and involved. I went and worked in a completely different venue and it was an eye opening experience.
I was sitting in my little office cubicle from 9 to 5 with the usual 15 min. break and hour lunch, Monday to Friday. Used to the usual trainer lifestyle of eating whenever I want (more like whenever I can), plan my day around my eating and training regimen, I had to follow and do the complete opposite, for 3 months…It was a complete change that I needed to have, to make me grateful of the life I had. In 1 week, I turned everything around and took charge. Since that misfortune, I absolutely love what I do and am grateful to be surrounded with people that energize and motivate me. They are the reason why I do this and vowed myself to help people the best I can for the rest of my career as a strength coach.
Keeping myself busy was a big part of getting back into the beat and moving on to better things, but also to forget what happened and the depression that was knocking on my door. Why does keeping yourself busy help drive out worry? Because of the simple impossibility for our minds, no matter the IQ or brilliance, to think of more than one thing at a time or multitask beyond a certain point. You think you are able? Very well, then, try this. At the same instant, think about your next vacation and of what you plan to do tomorrow morning. Yep, that’s what I thought.
It’s no secret, staying active helps your brain think clearly. When exercising, your body produces endorphins which act as neurotransmitters and additionally produce an effect of well being and relaxation. I always do my thinking while or after I train. But please, weight lifting is the key, no long cardio session. Remember that long duration cardio workouts will drain your adrenals if done excessively and will, in turn, tire you out. So keep your workouts short and intense for maximum recuperation.
Keeping your blood glucose low and steady is essential for keeping you sane. Imagine yourself having some amazing comfort food like a big pizza extra bacon or some high carbohydrate meal that will raise your blood sugar through the roof. It is a well known fact that carbohydrates, most precisely the high glycemic kind, will make you feel good. Unfortunately, your body will deal with it differently in a matter of minutes. Carbs have the ability and tendency to lower cortisol, which is namely why we consider these foods comforting. But as soon as your blood level comes crashing down, the pleasant temporary relief quickly dissipates and an anxious or depression sensation emerges. This triggers a strong desire for the consumption of additional carb-laden foods in attempts to regain relief or calm. Needless to say, this can quickly result in emotional and nutritional roller coaster ride for your mind and body. A quick note on alcohol: it is one of the worst things to abuse when you are worrying or depressed about something. The buzz is fun while it lasts but subsequent crash is tenfold any cheat meal. The liver in Chinese medicine is noted to be closely related with anger, resentment and irritability, so that when the liver is under stress or is taxed by bad habits or just plain exaggeration, those symptoms are worsened. Try making a decision about anything after a liver beating…
My kid and I have a little ritual before going to bed, we review what went well in our day and we say that we are grateful for what happened. I try to learn from every situation and apply it. I am a big believer that whatever you think about, you attract. Thinking of positive things puts your mind in a positive state; it is as simple as that. Just saying thanks or give a pat on the back to one of your employees or coworkers will lighten and improve their day and yours as well. I don’t know anybody that doesn’t enjoy making others happy, maybe it’s because I surround myself with positive people, or I just want them to be happy and enjoy the time they are giving me, but someone once told me; ‘’what you appreciate appreciates.’’ One day out of your week, give more time, go out of your way to help someone, help someone with their bags, anything that is giving just for the pleasure of giving, without expecting anything in return. I can assure you that you will be eventually rewarded tenfold. I know, it sounds a bit boring and time consuming, but once you tried it, the feeling you get will make you want to do it again…
Mot de la fin
Although these tricks and habits are proven to help, you have to be the one to take the first step towards knowing what the actual cause of your anxiety is. Once you have it clearly identified, the above suggestions can help you deal positively with your emotions and your health to support whatever the lifestyle you decide to follow. Our body is incredibly complex, but homeostasis and a mindful and healthy lifestyle will always bring success and contentment in everyday life, whatever life brings to your door.
[i] “‘Thc Effcct of Wor-ry owl Digestioni”, by Dr. A. C. Ivey. The Scicntific Montthly, Vol. XXVII, No. 3, Sept., 1933, Pages 266-69.
[ii] Dale Carnegie, Stop worrying and start living