2020: the chillest, easiest year ever, right?
Yeah, okay, we at NWIM understand this has been a challenging year for everyone. We’re also aware that as the year comes to a close, it’s unlikely that we’ll get a respite in the face some of significant milestones ahead.
It’s true that the collective mental health of the country is looking, well… different than it did a year ago. A report from the CDC in August found that Americans are experiencing worse mental health and increased substance use compared with before the pandemic began.1 It looks like this is most prevalent in young adults, BIPOC, essential workers, and unpaid adult caregivers (e.g., parents).1 All said, that’s a lot of us!
Feeling anxious about some upcoming events, the latest in COVID statistics, and the state of the world? Yeah, we are too. There is some good in all of this chaos: the opportunity to self-reflect, to stretch our resilience, and to find effective support systems.
There are many ways that we can support ourselves through anxiety, and many of our patients like to know that they have something in their back pocket—literally or figuratively—to use to combat their most anxious moments. Here’s a brief breakdown of what we like to offer our people to get through the #COVIDstress (or just life in general):
- Herbal support like herbal tinctures and teas have been used for generations to help with momentary anxiety. Some common anxiolytic herbs include kava, passionflower, chamomile, and ashwagandha.2,3 Working with your ND or herbalist to develop a protocol based on the whole picture of your health is one surefire way to get the most benefit out of this option.
- Neurotransmitter support supplements like GABA and L-theanine can give our brain the tools it needs to calm down in the moment.4,5 The benefit of these depends highly on what is causing your discomfort, so this is another option that merits chatting with a practitioner first.
- Energetic support and very-low-dose tinctures like Rescue Remedy (a flower essence blend) can provide safe and effective anxiety relief for individuals who are sensitive and responsive to these options. We love to use Rescue Remedy, flower essences, UNDA remedies, and homeopathic options with kiddos, highly sensitive people, and anyone option and interested in this fascinating option.
And the most fun option: custom blends, combinations, and formulas are always on the table when it comes to natural management of anxiety – and using these in combination with medications, as long as there aren’t any herb-drug interactions, can be even better to support optimal mental health.
NDs are trained to identify the root cause of disease and distress, but that doesn’t mean we don’t believe in using medications when the time is right.
- Rescue medications like hydroxyzine (Atarax), alprazolam (Xanax), and others can be warranted for people who experience severe anxiety that interrupts their daily functioning or that doesn’t respond to natural options. These are often controlled substances that require regular check-ins with your doctor (including a mental health-oriented ND, like some of us at NWIM).
- Daily medications like escitalopram (Lexapro), sertraline (Zoloft), and others might be a better fit for patients that want or need support that will help with their baseline or daily anxiety. There is nothing wrong with using medications to get through this or any other trying time! Using a daily medication can make it easier to make lifestyle changes that we know improve mental health long term, like more movement and regular meditation.6,7
There are so many options and ways to tackle mental health challenges. If you want or need to work with someone to dial in your medication and supplement routine to maximize the benefits and improve your mental health, the team at Northwest Integrative would be so happy to work with you!
2020 has been rough, but we’ve got your back. Reach out if you have questions about how to walk the path toward mental and physical wellness together.
All the love, light, and good juju for the end of your 2020,
Dr. Pickworth & the NWIM Mental Health Team
- Czeisler MÉ , Lane RI, Petrosky E, et al. Mental Health, Substance Use, and Suicidal Ideation During the COVID-19 Pandemic — United States, June 24–30, 2020. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2020;69:1049–1057. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15585/mmwr.mm6932a1
- Sarris J, Mcintyre E, Camfield DA. Plant-based medicines for anxiety disorders, part 2: a review of clinical studies with supporting preclinical evidence. CNS Drugs. 2013;27(4):301-19.
- Liu L, Liu C, Wang Y, Wang P, Li Y, Li B. Herbal Medicine for Anxiety, Depression and Insomnia. Curr Neuropharmacol. 2015;13(4):481-93.
- Weeks BS. Formulations of dietary supplements and herbal extracts for relaxation and anxiolytic action: Relarian. Med Sci Monit. 2009;15(11):RA256-62.
- Lopes sakamoto F, Metzker pereira ribeiro R, Amador bueno A, Oliveira santos H. Psychotropic effects of -theanine and its clinical properties: From the management of anxiety and stress to a potential use in schizophrenia. Pharmacol Res. 2019;147:104395.
- Stonerock GL, Hoffman BM, Smith PJ, Blumenthal JA. Exercise as Treatment for Anxiety: Systematic Review and Analysis. Ann Behav Med. 2015;49(4):542-56.
- Goyal M, Singh S, Sibinga EM, et al. Meditation programs for psychological stress and well-being: a systematic review and meta-analysis. JAMA Intern Med. 2014;174(3):357-68.