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Author: Mary Greenwood

A one time anxious TV Producer turned chilled out writer, I share my musings and insights on how to cope with anxiety and ultimately make it your friend.
Why facing our mortality is the best way to wake up out of anxiety

Why facing our mortality is the best way to wake up out of anxiety


It’s been a year of many farewells to notable faces and some great talents. January kicked off with David Bowie, Prince soon followed and to finish the year we lost George Michael, Carrie Fisher and her mother Debbie Reynolds.

That’s not to say that the loss of a celebrity is worth more than any other person. We all come into and leave the world in the same way. That’s because death is a great leveller.

But barr the odd spiritually sorted type or diehard athiest, most of us have our heads firmly planted in the sand. If we don’t think about death, it might never happen, right?

I remember vividly the first time I considered my mortality. I think I was about nine years old and was out on my pony. For some reason it just suddenly dawned on me that I, Mary Greenwood, would one day not exist.

And I think that was probably one of the defining moments in my eventual journey towards anxiety. I just couldn’t imagine what that would mean. The person who was thinking would no longer think. So aping the sentiment of Decartes, I don’t think, therefore I am not. Oh the horror.

And so, from time to time, it would ocurr to me again. Mostly at night as I lay in my bed. “I’m going to die. I’m going to die.” Cue more horror.

As a lapsed catholic, I’d long given up on the idea of ascending into heaven and hanging out with the angels. But what was left was a haunting void of nothingness.

I think at the root of most anxiety is the fear of dying. My fear of social rejection probably goes back to the primitive reality in which if someone was kicked out of a tribe, they would literally perish. Obviously, no one talking to me at a party won’t directly contribute to me being shunted off this mortal coil, but somehow I still believe my very existance depends on it.

So, it seems to me that we have no alternative but to look this whole death thing right in the eyes and see what answers we find. Because if it turns out it isn’t the worst thing in the world that can happen, where does that leave our anxiety?

From a buddhist perspective, there’s no birth or death, as ultimately there is no fixed self. We are just little waves that go back to being the sea again. But other traditions will say something else. Find out what resonates with you.

In the Ted Talk by Ric Elias, “Three things I learned while my plane crashed,” he speaks from the unique perspective of facing death as his plane crashed in the Hudson River.  He observed “And as we’re coming down, I had a sense of, wow, dying is not scary. It’s almost like we’ve been preparing for it our whole lives.”

Others who’ve had near death experiences have also recounted how ultimately peaceful the experience of dying actually was.

So imagine that, if the thing we are most scared of in this life, is actually not frightening at all? Maybe this would mean we could just get on with living?

So I invite you to cosy up to that grim reaper and make peace with him. He’s just doing his job. It’s not about being fair or not. It’s just what happens and it happens to us all.

And to sing us out on a cheery note, I’m going to leave you with a jolly spanish song called ‘Vas a morir’ – You’re going to die. Enjoy. Oh and happy new year!









Anxious during the holiday season? The question is: to fight or accept?

Anxious during the holiday season? The question is: to fight or accept?


I hate it when people ask me, “are you looking forward to christmas?”

In all honesty, it’s been a long time since I looked forward to anything, what with the future being heavily laced with fear and dread. But Christmas in particular gets my mind doing loop the loops as I imagine myself free falling, without a parachute landing unceremoniously on top of a brightly lit christmas tree.

At which point all around point and laugh at just what a loser I must be to have done such a ridiculous act.

That’s just how imaginative the anxious mind can be, creating an entirely catastrophic outcome to a seemingly inocuous event (don’t even get me started on weddings or other large family gatherings).

But this is just how things roll between my ears. And as hard as I try to fight it, it would seem right now that’s how I’m wired.

So I reckon I have two options: Fight it or accept it.

Ok, so I’m going to tell you about my experience of both approaches.

  1. Fighting

This must be the brave, plucky approach right? Because fighting is brave, or that’s what we’re told. In my case fighting means the following: denying I’m feeling in a particular way and putting a shiny spin on it.

“No, no, I’m not anxious, or depressed. No, I’m actually feeling quite positive and it’s really just only positive thoughts that I’m thinking right now. Yes, yes, that’s right. I’m super chipper and totally in control of myself and my surroundings.”

This approach takes a lot of effort and generally ends with me having a migraine. So in my mind (albeit an anxious one), any such approach that brings on headaches is not cool and not generally good for my health.

2. Accepting

Accepting the incessant outpourings of the anxious mind (or the scary physical sensations for that matter) is not an easy task. After all what does it mean to accept? In a way it’s to say yes to whatever appears, be it a thought or a sensation. But saying yes in a soft, gentle way, not saying yes with a mental sledgerhammer.

It actually doesn’t really matter what the anxious thought is saying, if you pay attention to the energy form it takes, there’s a sharpness and aggressivity to it. Or it might be like a crying hysterical child, as more often that not, it is our crying, hysterical child that wants to be heard.

So what happens if you take a hysterical child and you try and slap it into silence? It cries some more, right? What’s the approach that will probably get that infant to quieten of its own natural accord? Cradling it? Asking it what it needs? Not judging it? Rocking it gently until it stops crying.

But this can take some time. The baby might calm down and then start crying again a few moments later. Doesn’t mean it’s been a big, acceptance failure, just that your anxious baby just needs a bit more TLC.

For me, acceptance is both the softest and the bravest approach and is the path through anxiety I will be trying to remember to take this festive season (in between occasionally slapping myself about with a mental sledgehammer, before eventually remembering to accept that as well).

I invite you to join me.

For more strategies for acceptance try Radical Acceptance by Tara Brach










Five ways to stay sane and anxiety free with your family

Five ways to stay sane and anxiety free with your family

There’s something about spending time with my family that brings out the worst in me. I arrive all zen-like, filled with intentions of gliding through my time back in my childhood home. But somehow, my 30-something-self gets sucked back into being an angst-ridden adolescent, with the patience of a demon and the monosyllabic vernacular of Kevin the Teenager.

And yet, before I’d arrived it was all going so well. I’d been going through a good stretch, with minor blips of anxiety and ‘out-of-sortness’, but with my new found best friend of radical acceptance, it was always short lived and life soon got back to normal again.


But there’s something about being in the family home that pulls the rug from underneath my semi-enlightened feet. Or in the words of spiritual teacher Ram Dass:

Think you’re enlightened? Spend a week with your family

For one there’s the delicate dance of fitting into parents’ well-furrowed routines. In my house that means hour upon hour of telly watching in the evening. In my own home I barely turn on the TV, and after the first couple of hours of soap opera followed by Reality TV, I literally feel my good vibes evaporate and boredom starts to seep in.

And speaking personally, boredom is like a ticking time bomb for my anxiety. My mind starts to get all circular, obsessing about how I can feel uncomfortable feelings arising. Then the guilt starts. Why can’t I just zone out watching TV like other people do with their families? Why am I the only one incapable of relaxing?

And then the withdrawal starts. I can literally feel myself losing the ability to interact like a human being, preferring to nod and grunt in agreement.


So what to do?

  1. Acceptance

I think as ever acceptance is key. Fighting with oneself never leads anywhere helpful. In this instance, it’s accepting that you are spending some time in a place where your normal activities have been suspended and you must adapt to the rhythm of others. Accept that being here brings up uncomfortable emotions and try not to identify with them

2. Remember impermanence

Impermanence has a multi-pronged use for me when I’m back at home and falling into the funk. I remember both that I won’t feel like this forever, nor will my parents be here forever. Everything is fleeting and impermanent, which usually brings me back with a jolt to the here and now.

3. Observe your stories

When I come home I’m always looking for signs to support the story I have that I’m a disappointment to my parents. While there could be a grain of truth in it, most of it is in my head. And even if it were true, it wouldn’t matter anyway, because our parents’ disappointment is beyond our control and mostly comes out of their overwhelming desire for us to be happy. So observe what stories play out in your head, try not to act on them and be open to the possibility that a new way is possible.


4. Be kind to yourself

In buddhism an analogy that is used is that of the second arrow. The first arrow is the initial painful event and the second arrow refers to how we choose to react to it. In my case, if I’m feeling anxious or miserable, I then tend to judge myself and feel guilty. That is the second arrow and is actually the one that causes the most distress. So once again it all comes back to acceptance and self compassion.

5. Get some boundaries

Whatever it is that keeps you on the straight and narrow, don’t let it completely slide when back at home.  Be it exercise, yoga, meditation, dancing or whatever – try to factor it into your stay, even if your family thinks you’re crazy for doing it.



Natural remedies for Anxiety

Natural remedies for Anxiety

Natural remedies for Anxiety
Natural remedies for Anxiety

I remember the first time I got full on anxiety symptoms I had no idea what the f**k was happening to me. I had no idea about natural remedies for anxiety, I remember it clearly, being in the office where I was producing a TV series, calling in utter panic my GP surgery and the doctor talking to me over the phone saying, come in and he’ll give me some beta blockers. ‘Great!’ I thought. ‘Drugs will instantly make me feel better’. Turns out the beta blockers, which slow down the heart rate, just made feel feel weird and woozy, so I decided never to take them again. Same goes for the anti-depressants that left me with heart palpitations for 24 hours after taking a single pill.

Natural remedies for Anxiety

So that just left me with nature’s own remedies. That’s not to say that nature is a woose compared to pharmaceuticals. She’s got some quite serious plants in her medicine cabinet that have scientifically proven effects. So here are a bunch that if nothing else will help calm your overstressed nervous system.

  1. St John’s Wort

    St johns - Natural remedies for Anxiety
    St Johns Wort

Otherwise known as Hypericum, it is a well known remedy for mild to moderate depression showing the same if not greater efficacy that many antidepressants. This probably isn’t going to help if you are a panic attack sufferer, but seeing as depression often goes hand in hand with anxiety, it’s a good remedy to try. Be sure to ask your doctor’s advice though as it can interact with prescribed medication.

  1. Chamomile

    Chamomile Tea - Natural remedies for Anxiety
    Chamomile Tea

There’s no more a relaxing end to the day than sipping on a cup of chamomile tea, maybe this is because some of its compounds bind to the same receptors as valium. You can also take it as a supplement, typically standardized to contain 1.2% apigenin (the active ingredient), along with dried chamomile flowers.

  1. Green Tea

    green tea : natural remedies for anxiety
    natural remedies for anxiety

While we’re on the tea front, green tea is known to centre the mind, buddhist monks drink it before meditation apparently as it contains the amino acid L-theanine which in high doses is said to help anxiety. It’s also an antioxidant and good for the heart – what’s not to love?

  1. Valerian

Don’t be put off by the funky taste, valerian really is a natural sedative so potent that it’s not advisable to drive or operate heavy machinery after taking some. Perfect if anxiety is hampering your sleep.

  1. Passionflower

Contrary to its name, this isn’t an aphrodisiac, but is actually a natural sedative. Some studies say it can reduce the nervousness associated with anxiety more effectively than prescription drugs. But be sure not to mix with other prescription sedatives.

  1. Lavender

    Lavender : natural remedies for anxiety

One of the go-to essences in aromatherapy for relaxation, lavender is believed to calm the nervous system. It’s one of the few aromatherapy essences that are ok to apply directly to the skin, so add a couple of drops to a bath, on the temples or on your pillow to breath in the soothing aroma.


Yes you heard it right. Before it was deemed illegal in most countries in the world, cannabis was used for thousands of years to treat a whole host of ailments, including anxiety and depression. These days apart from a few places where it’s allowed for medical use, using cannabis remains against the law because it contains something called THC, the bit that gets you stoned.

But scientists have isolated another compound in the plant called Cannabidiol or CBD which is non psychoactive and many people find reduces anxiety and aids concentration.

  1. Foods rich in Omega 3

It’s been known for years that the essential fatty acid Omega 3 is great for our health. From our heart to our heads, scientists have shown that it helps to keep our health in balance. Turns out it is also good for anxiety. In one study, students who took 2.5 milligrams a day of mixed omega-3 fatty acids for 12 weeks had less anxiety before an exam than students taking a placebo.

Omega 3 can be found in oily fish like salmon and mackerel, so doctors recommend including plenty in our diets. For vegetarians or people who are worried about mercury toxicity in fish stock there are plant sources available. Most seeds are high in Omega 3, or you buy cold-pressed oils from hemp seed or flax.

  1. Kava Kava

Originally from the Pacific island, Kava Kava can ease a person’s mind while maintaining clarity due to the active component Kavalactones that affect brain chemistry in ways similar to prescription antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications. However anyone with liver damage should proceed with caution because of possible toxicity. It also can interact with other medication, herbal or otherwise, so if you are considering taking it you should consult with your physician before using it.

  1. Get in contact with nature


For me there’s nothing like touching nature directly for shaking me out of an anxious state of mind. Seeing an open sky, feeling the sun’s rays on my skin, hearing a bird sing, breathing in fresh air or just observing a beetle dragging a twig up a hill – there’s a whole host of therapy available to us just waiting to heal our frazzled nerves and calm our minds.

Must read books for the anxious mind

Must read books for the anxious mind

Ok I’m going to start here with a bit of a caveat. Endless reading of self help books is not the answer to beating anxiety (if indeed it has to be beaten). So while these books have got amazing insights and handy tools, there’s nothing like a roaring good read of fiction to capture the an overactive imagination and lead it, even if only temporarily, out of the anxiety loop.

But here are a few books that have given me some ‘aha’ moments, shifted my perception or just gladdened my heart.

  1. Thich Nhat Hanh – Fear: Essential wisdom for getting through the storm

Really I’d recommend any book by Thich Nhat Hanh, a Vietnamese zen buddhist monk, nobel peace prize nominee and prolific writer of books about mindfulness. But seeing as I’m writing about anxiety, it seems right that I mention his book called ‘Fear’ in which he shows us that by looking deeply and embracing our whole experience with acceptance, love and understanding, we can go beyond fear and anxiety to find fearlessness and inner peace. It includes some helpful mindfulness based exercises and is written with simplicity and love.   

thich nhat hanh book

  1. Tara Brach – Radical Acceptance

I came across Tara Brach being interviewed one day and she emanated such an aura of love and peace that I knew I wanted to know more. Turns out she’s a buddhist teacher and psychologist and has written a couple of books, the first being ‘Radical Acceptance’. From the title it’s fairly clear that it’s about accepting rather than trying to change those difficult emotions and she uses case studies of past patients to illustrate the principles, plus a bunch of guided meditations.


  1. Feeling Good – The New mood therapy by David D. Burns

This was the book that first introduced me to the concept of CBT and awakened me to the possibility that what I was thinking wasn’t necessarily true. I found it a really useful tool and has loads of great exercises. It’s one of the forefathers of the self help books and is a classic.

new mood

4. Anxiety as an ally: How I Turned a Worried Mind into My Best Friend – Dan Rykart

Sometimes rather than a professional with their perfect, anxiety free life telling you what to do to feel better, it’s reassuring to hear from someone who’s been there, done that and got the t-shirt. Dan Rykart’s book charts in a journal style his life from sudden onset of panic attacks in 2003 to using anxiety as his ally.


5. Dare: The New Way to End Anxiety and Stop Panic Attacks – Barry McDonagh

Barry McDonagh, psychology graduate, author and one time sufferer of panic attacks has come up with a no-holds-bar technique to move through anxiety which he shares in this second book.

I haven’t read this book as I don’t tend to have panic attacks, but the reviews are good and it looks like it’s worth a read.  


6. The Mindful Way Through Anxiety: Break Free from Chronic Worry and Reclaim Your Life – Susan M. Orsillo, Lizabeth Roemer 

I really believe that mindfulness is a useful tool not just for anxiety, but for life in general. So it was great to find a book that refines the approach to people with anxiety. I read it a few years ago and found it useful and lent it to a friend who’d been having some life limiting anxiety episodes and says it’s changed his life.

mindful way through anxiety

How CBD oil helped me overcome my anxiety

How CBD oil helped me overcome my anxiety

Having chronic anxiety for a number years can change you as a person and it’s easy to feel like your very essence is defined by it. 

Changes manifest in the way we live our lives.  We avoid situations and people in case they bring on an attack, our health suffers – there’s no better way to get high blood pressure than constant worrying and also our brain chemistry and structure is affected.


I’m no neurologist and I’ve never had an MRI scan, but I can guarantee after 10 years of worrying myself senseless, my gooey, lump of grey matter doesn’t resemble the one I had in my 20s. And without a doubt that pesky little collection of neurons, the amygdala that constantly fires out emergency 999 calls to the rest of my body, hasn’t had a day off for a decade.  

It’s clear being ‘anxiety free’ requires a multi-pronged approach, including something that targets anxiety related neural imbalances.

Many people go the prescription medication route. But in my case after an unpleasant experience with SSRIs, I know that wasn’t for me.

But nature has also provided us with a tool to get our minds back in balance again and believe it or not, it’s the Cannabis plant, or to be more precise, one of its compounds, Cannabidiol or CBD.

Tests prove CBD reduces anxiety

Cannabidiol (CBD) is one of over 100 natural compounds also known as cannabinoids in the Cannabis plant. Most people have heard of THC or Tetrahydrocannabinol – the one that gets people high – although for many people THC can actually bring on feelings of paranoia and anxiety.  

However CBD is considered non-psychoactive and over the last few years has been garnering a lot of interest in the field of medical research for its anti-inflammatory, neuroprotective and antiepileptic qualities.


So far, most research hasn’t made it beyond the science lab, with very few human trials taking place. Except that is in the case of CBD and its anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) effects. And here’s where it gets interesting. So far a number of trials on real, live people have shown that taking CBD does in fact reduce feelings of anxiety.

In one test published in Neuropsychopharmacology (1) in 2011, 24 people diagnosed with Social Anxiety Disorder were given either CBD or a placebo after which they were asked to perform a simulation public speaking test. According to the trial ‘pretreatment with CBD significantly reduced anxiety, cognitive impairment and discomfort in their speech performance, and significantly decreased alert in their anticipatory speech. The placebo group presented higher anxiety, cognitive impairment, discomfort, and alert levels when compared with the control group’. 

Another test published the same year in the Journal of Psychopharmacology, used neuroimaging on ten people also with social anxiety who had taken CBD to find out what parts of the brain are affected. Administering CBD ‘was associated with significantly decreased subjective anxiety’ and through the neuroimaging they could see that this was due to CBD’s effect on ‘activity in limbic and paralimbic brain areas’. The limbic system is largely responsible for our emotional life and formation of memories.

So far the trials have been few and carried out on a limited number of subjects, but the results are certainly promising.

Our bodies make their own form of cannabis

To understand why CBD might help anxiety, we first have to understand a bit more about how cannabis interacts with our bodies. It’s largely due to a physiological system called the Endocannabinoid System or ECS, which is a vast network of chemical compounds and receptors throughout the body. The primary function of the ECS is to regulate all the multitude of functions from inflammation and pain regulation, immune response, mood, neurogenesis and neuroplasticity.


Our body produces its own chemicals called endocannabinoids, that when fitting into receptors such as the CB1 and CB2 cause various modulating responses throughout the body. One endocannabinoid is called Anandamide and is similar to THC in cannabis. When we produce anandamide we tend to feel at ease and relaxed, just how many people feel after smoking a joint. Both Anandamide and THC fit snuggly into the CB1 receptor, found mostly in the central nervous system, thus affecting cognition and brain function.

But what about CBD?

CBD like THC is a plant cannabinoid, but unlike THC doesn’t fit directly into any of the receptors. Instead it interacts indirectly, not only with the CB1/2 receptors but also with another related to mood and brain function, the 5HT1-A (3). The 5HT1-A is a serotonin receptor and is found throughout the brain and in high densities in the cerebral cortex, hippocampus, and amygdala – all heavily involved in the mood and anxiety disorders.


Turns out that CBD is a 5HT1-A partial agonist – which in layman’s terms means it binds to the receptor site but only stimulates the receptor partially – but scientists suggest it does so just enough to elicit an anti-anxiety effect.

Studies also suggest CBD’s ability to promote hippocampal neurogenesis (the part of the brain responsible for memory, emotion and the autonomic nervous system) could also explain why anxiety is reduced (4).

And remember the feel good endocannabinoid, anandamide? Well, taking CBD can also play its part in ensuring that we have bountiful levels in our bodies. Anandamide is broken down naturally in the body by an enzyme called FAAH (Fatty Acid Amide Hydrolase), but CBD inhibits the production of FAAH, meaning that there’s more anandamide doing its mood enhancing work. (5)

So does CBD really work then?


While evidence is still very much anecdotal about the efficacy of CBD for anxiety, there’s plenty of people testing it out and getting great results.

I started taking it regularly about three months ago and I find that if I’m in the midst of a tornado of anxious thoughts, it immediately anchors me, enabling a calm, centeredness that can be enough to ease me back to normality. I don’t feel stoned, quite the opposite to be exact. That scattered, chaotic thinking and lack of concentration that is the blight of an anxious mind becomes focussed almost immediately.

I would certainly say I feel less anxious over all, although I do still think it’s important to do all the other stuff alongside it too – like meditation, yoga, exercise etc. It all counts.

Ok, CBD sounds amazing – how do I get it?

CBD as we know is a natural cannabinoid found in cannabis, but in most countries cannabis is illegal because it contains THC – the bit that gets you stoned.

However, CBD can also be found in hemp – which is effectively the same plant, it just has next to no levels of THC and is therefore legal almost everywhere in the world.

So, if you look on the internet for CBD oil, you will find that it is mostly extracted from industrial hemp plants and has less than 0.03% THC.  

As scientific and anecdotal evidence begin to mount, so does the interest in CBD, both from consumers and those selling the product and there are some unscrupulous companies taking advantage of the CBD goldrush. So it is vitally important to find a clean, ethically produced source of CBD oil that comes with Organic and GMP (Good Manufacturing Process) certification.

endoca cbd

I did my research online through sites such as Trustpilot and CBD Oil Review and opted for Endoca, a Danish company selling organic, GMP certified CBD oil. They aren’t the cheapest on the market, but their products get the best reviews for purity and quality and I liked their guarantee of controlling hemp production from ‘seed to shelf’. They also deliver their product really quickly.

I found the CBD oil the easiest to administer as it comes with a handy dropper, but they also have high strength extracts, suppositories, crystals and capsules – great if you don’t like the hempy taste.  

I should point out that unlike prescription medication, there isn’t a general dosing guide on the side of the packet. But a general rule of thumb is to start low, say with their 3% strength taking a few drops three times a day, working up to something higher such as their 15% oil, which is the one that got me back on track when I was in the midst of a stomach churning anxiety episode.

At first glance CBD oil seems expensive, but when I consider what anxiety has cost me in my life in terms of missed opportunities, failed relationships and general emotional heartache, I wish I’d splashed out sooner.

But don’t just take my word for it. Check it out for yourself.

At the very least you’ll get some extra Omega 3s in your system (hemp has the perfect balance of omega 3 and 6) or you might just find that natural, non-toxic help to get your anxious brain back in balance again.


  1. Bergamaschi MM1, Queiroz RH, Chagas MH, de Oliveira DC, De Martinis BS, Kapczinski F, Quevedo J, Roesler R, Schröder N, Nardi AE, Martín-Santos R,Hallak JE, Zuardi AW, Crippa JA. (2011). Cannabidiol reduces the anxiety induced by simulated public speaking in treatment-naïve social phobia patients. Neuropsychopharmacology. 36(6):1219-26
  2. Crippa JA1, Derenusson GN, Ferrari TB, Wichert-Ana L, Duran FL, Martin-Santos R, Simões MV, Bhattacharyya S, Fusar-Poli P, Atakan Z, Santos Filho A,Freitas-Ferrari MC, McGuire PK, Zuardi AW, Busatto GF, Hallak JE.(2011) Neural basis of anxiolytic effects of cannabidiol (CBD) in generalized social anxiety disorder: a preliminary report. Journal of Psychopharmacology. 25(1):121-30
  3. Leonardo BM Resstel, Rodrigo F Tavares, Sabrina FS Lisboa, Sâmia RL Joca, Fernando MA Corrêa and Francisco S Guimarães. 5-HT1A receptors are involved in the cannabidiol-induced attenuation of behavioural and cardiovascular responses to acute restraint stress in rats. 2009. British Journal of Pharmacology. 156(1): 181–188
  4. Campos AC1, Ortega Z, Palazuelos J, Fogaça MV, Aguiar DC, Díaz-Alonso J, Ortega-Gutiérrez S, Vázquez-Villa H, Moreira FA, Guzmán M, Galve-Roperh I,Guimarães FS.Neural basis of anxiolytic effects of cannabidiol (CBD) in generalized social anxiety disorder: a preliminary report. (2013). Journal of Psychopharmacology. 16(6):1407-19.
  5. Bluett RJ, Gamble-George JC, Hermanson DJ, Hartley ND, Marnett LJ, Patel S. Central anandamide deficiency predicts stress-induced anxiety: behavioral reversal through endocannabinoid augmentation. (2014). Translational Psychiatry. 4:e40 10.1038/tp.2014.53.
Find your flow out of anxiety

Find your flow out of anxiety

For many people who’ve had anxiety for a while, life becomes a game of hide and seek – hiding away from anything that might bring on an attack and seeking out situations where you feel safe from harm. The only trouble is that those safe places over time become fewer and farther between and the sofa or the duvet is the only sanctuary.

Avoid Avoidance

Avoidance is generally accepted as anxiety’s ingenious trick to bed down and get rooted in your psyche. It temporarily feels good not to have done that presentation in front of the whole company or not to have gone to that school reunion, but the end result is that your world of possibilities has shrunk to a suffocating prison. Not even the most anxious of us want that, right?


You are not defined by your anxiety

But it’s also very easy to make all the activities you still do be about feeling less anxious. So in my case. ‘Right – yoga. Yes that’s good for destressing. I should do that to be less anxious’. Somehow it just takes the joy out of things (particularly like me when I spend half the class worrying about what I’m going to say to everyone afterwards and will they notice that I’m still feeling anxious instead of calm and serene).

Silly your way out of anxiety


So my wish for you is to rediscover your joy or find a new one. But not in a functional way to ‘feel better’, but for the simple pleasure of doing it.

Maybe it is something you did when you were a child that to your adult self seems silly and daft. But quite frankly at this juncture in our anxious lives – the sillier the better. Silly is good. Silly is therapeutic and freeing.

I am at my happiest when I’m at my silliest and at my most miserable when I’m trying to appear normal, whatever ‘normal’ is.

If you’re silly in public you get the added benefit of ‘shame busting’ and boy does that feel good. I’ll never forget being forced to take the stage in an open mic evening, choosing to sing ‘New York, New York’ acapella. I forgot the words but kept going, soon realizing how great it felt to do it really badly and not give a shit.

But do something where it doesn’t matter how you do it. Just lose yourself in the act and flow into a new space of mind and being. And if you laugh or get laughed at the process, more’s the better.

But expand, don’t contract. We are expansive beings if we allow ourselves to be.  

Just give yourself the permission to flow.



Anxiety Therapy: Five effective talking therapies for anxiety

Anxiety Therapy: Five effective talking therapies for anxiety

Anxiety Therapy

Anxiety starts for a reason, it doesn’t just appear with no advanced warning, even though it feels like it at the time. Like anything there are a unique combination of factors that come together to provide the optimum conditions for its presence: what we learned from our parents, experiences growing up, traumas, a natural tendency towards worry, a lack of self esteem, a stressful period in one’s life, isolation and loneliness. That’s why starting some sort of talking therapy to unpick the why’s and wherefores is a good idea.

A good friend of mine who’d been suffering debilitating panic attacks that meant she could no longer go to work, took a two pronged approach and saw two therapists at a time: one to look at where the anxiety came from and another who through CBT gave her the skills to challenge her anxious thought patterns.   

Anxiety Therapy

Not everyone can afford two therapists at a time, so that’s why I would say an integrative approach is the best as neither one school has all the answers.

But anyway, here’s a quick introduction to some therapeutic approaches most of which I’ve tried and have found helpful.

  1. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)

    CBT - Anxiety Therapy

CBT is a practical technique giving people ways to deal with overwhelming problems by breaking them down in a systematic way into smaller parts. You are given ways to challenge those anxious thoughts that seem so convincing, which in turn improves the way you feel.

Unlike some other talking treatments, CBT deals with your current problems, rather than focusing on issues from your past. It looks for practical ways to improve your state of mind on a daily basis.

There can be between 5-20 sessions and it is a very targeted approach.

CBT is a must try approach for anyone with anxiety and like anything consistency and patience is the key. Limited sessions are usually available through your general practitioner.

2. Psychotherapy

Psychotherapy : Anxiety Therapy

As I mentioned previously there are a multitude of therapeutic approaches from long term psychoanalysis to Gestalt, counselling and many more. Recommendation can be helpful rather than going into something blind. And it’s a good idea to check their credentials with the professional organisation in your country.

An approach that I haven’t tried but is apparently useful for anxiety is Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, with many believing that trying to change thoughts isn’t the key, but acceptance is.

The essence of the therapy is letting go of the struggle to control thoughts, being mindfully aware of the present moment and committing to a course of action that is consistent with what you most value in life.

3. Mindfulness


Very much the rage at the moment, mindfulness is about developing the ability to be in the present moment, without changing anything or judging what’s happening.

It’s possible to practice mindfulness in every waking moment, in fact right now as I write this post if I direct the attention to all the sensations present, that’s mindfulness too. But for most people it’s learning how to meditate sitting down or while walking, plus other exercises.

Mindfulness comes from buddhist spiritual practice, but can be practiced by anyone, regardless of their religious views and was brought into the mainstream by an American doctor called Jon Kabat Zinn. He developed the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction Programme which has been offered by medical centres, hospitals and private therapists.

For anxiety prone peeps, it’s a useful technique as it strengthens the ability to stay present and not race off so much into the future, worrying etc. That also means staying with the feeling of anxiety as it happens rather than doing what most of us do and find any means possible to avoid it.

I was referred to this course through my doctor as I was lucky enough to live in an area where it was available through the National Health Service. Again like anything consistency is the key as mindfulness is like planting seeds that you have to water before you harvest the fruits.

If you decide to do a mindfulness course, make sure it is with a qualified teacher as there are a few people taking advantage of the ‘mindfulness gold rush’ and offering classes with little or no training.

4. Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT)

EFT - Anxiety Therapy

This is a cross between a talking therapy and energetic work and uses tapping on meridians while talking through traumatic or stressful past events. Apparently the technique accesses the amygdala, which any anxiety sufferer worth their salt would know, is the part of the brain involved in the fight or flight response that for some reason is oversensitized in someone with chronic anxiety.

A good friend of mine is a practitioner and has done it on me a few times, and it did bring up some interesting past trauma and neutralise its energetic charge.

The idea is also that you do tapping on yourself when you are in the midst of an anxiety episode. The only trouble is that if you’re in public it does look a bit odd if you start tapping around your head and chest – or maybe it would just be a good shame busting exercise!

5. Hypnotherapy

Chronic anxiety is a habitual way of thinking with associated bodily reactions such as tightness in the chest, dry mouth, shallow breathing, etc. So it would make sense that a technique that seeks to change this habitual thinking, reprogramming the subconscious mind would be effective in some way at alleviating anxiety.

Using the power of suggestion, it works to promote positive change. These suggestions can be tailored to help you learn what triggers your anxiety and why, as well as changing the way you react towards them.

Hypnotherapy can begin to teach you how to regain a sense of control and normality. It can help you understand what triggers your anxiety and how to cope when you start to feel anxious.

Holistic approaches to help with anxiety

Holistic approaches to help with anxiety

Since realising that the pharmaceutical approach wasn’t for me I’ve tried out a whole bunch of holistic therapies in a bid to sort out my anxiety. Most medical doctors will say they’re a lot of stuff and nonsense and some of them probably are, but from my personal experience, a few can really alleviate the symptoms if not necessarily leading to permanent ‘cure’. Here are the one’s I’ve tried.

holistic treatment for anxiety

  1. Reikireiki - holistic treatment for anxiety

More than anything I’ve ever tried, I’ve really found reiki to have the most instant and profound effect. Meaning ‘Universal Life Energy’ in Japanese, it is a type of healing energy that working through the chakra system (energetic centres throughout the body), unblocking and bringing balance to what can be the rather choppy waters of an anxiety sufferer.

You can learn to do it on yourself through a series of attunements, but I’ve found it much more effective receiving it from a trained practitioner. I’ve gone into a session feeling pretty close to the edge and come out renewed and vibrationally different. If I could afford to have it every day I would!

  1. Massagemassage - holistic treatment for anxiety

One of the side effects of chronic anxiety is muscle tension, so what better way to loosen up those tight muscles than a decent massage. Not only that, it activates the parasympathetic nervous system – the opposite to fight or flight, lowers blood pressure and is a good detox to the body. For extra anti-anxiety benefit, why not try an aromatherapy massage with essential oils such as lavender and ylang ylang.

  1. Reflexologyreflexology - holistic treatment for anxiety

One of the few times I’ve managed to totally switch off and nod off into a dribbling slumber, was during a reflexology session. Reflexology is a therapy focussing on points found in the feet (but also the hands and ears) that reflect areas, organs and systems of the body. Most anxiety sufferers will jump off the massage couch when the therapist touches the spot corresponding to their adrenals which tend to be sensitive in chronic stress. For maximum results, it’s worth investing in a series of treatments as the effects are cumulative.

  1. Acupuncture/ Traditional Chinese Medicineacupuncture - holistic treatment for anxiety

Acupuncture is an ancient form of medicine coming originally from China. It’s based on the principle that we have an energetic life force called Chi or Qi that’s vital to good health. Unfortunately, it can become blocked and so fine needles are placed in a network of points around the body to get this energy back into balance again.

Some traditional chinese medicine practitioners also think in terms of elements which have things such as organs, health conditions and emotions associated with them. My element is water and guess what the emotion is: you guessed it fear.

Again you have to treat acupuncture as an investment. It may not help over night, but I do believe with persistence over time, it will help to bring your system back into balance again and ease anxiety symptoms.

  1. Bach Flower Remedies

bach-flower-remedies - holistic treatment for anxiety

I remember when I first heard of Bach Flower Remedies, I was like ‘So this dude went wandering out in his garden in England, had a chat with the flowers who then told him how they could help all these mental malaises – yeah right!’

It just seemed so unbelievable at the time. But anyway, fast forward twenty years and now everything seems within the realms of possibility and it’s true, Bach flowers, in which different flowers are said to help with various emotional imbalances, have given me some respite in the past. The best thing is to get a consultation with a trained Bach Flower therapist who will make up a mixture to suit your own unique needs.  



If you are looking for a holistic treatment for anxiety I hope some of these methods inspire you. Let me know in the comments what has worked for you or if you think this is just a bunch of new age crap.

What is anxiety?

What is anxiety?

Anxiety mental health symbol isolated on white. Mental disorder icon designWhat is anxiety?

A common misconception about anxiety is that fear is bad, whereas we are biologically programmed to feel fear in order to protect us from bad things happening. If we didn’t experience fear from time to time, we’d never know when to proceed with caution in dangerous situations and we’d get hurt.

The trouble is that with anxiety, that fear mechanism has become oversensitized so that in the case of conditions like Generalised Anxiety Disorder it’s on constant loop or in panic attacks can lead to someone thinking they are going to die when there is no danger at all.

Either way it sucks as when it happens over a long period of time, it’s often accompanied by depression, social isolation, difficulties at work and in relationships.

This blog, written by an anxiety sufferer, seeks to give some handy pointers to steps that can be taken before turning to prescription medication, but in the end it’s up to you to find your own way of what works for you.

But just remember you are not alone. 1 in 5 of the population in the US and approximately 60 million people in the European Union suffer from anxiety. So while your nearest and dearest may not understand you, there’s vast swathes of the population that do.