wE'Re AlL mAd HeRe

Anxiety, Social Anxiety, Panic… and the rest!

Is anxiety making you ill? Like.. physically

Lately I’ve been thinking about Cortisol. (Now if that isn’t the sexiest phrase you’ve ever heard, then I don’t know what is)!

I’ll spare you the medical jargon – Cortisol is basically the stress hormone and it works closely with Adrenalin, they’re BFFs.
Both are linked to panic attacks and anxiety. In the same way adrenaline is released during a period of distress, Cortisol levels are also increased.

Fawn Hansen talks about Adrenal Fatigue on her website and references the feeling of being “wired but tired,” which PERFECTLY summarises how I feel during a panic attack, or when I’m very anxious. I couldn’t put this into words for so long because I didn’t understand it. How could I be ‘buzzing’ but exhausted at the same time? Well it’s because Cortisol burns through the DHEA hormones in the body. Again I’ll keep the medical stuff brief, but DHEA is the sex hormone. So for women it’s Oestrogens and for men it’s androgens. We need DHEAs to function normally and healthily. It keeps our moods and energy levels steady and keeps our immune system strong. Too much Cortisol depletes the DHEA in the same way it does Serotonin.

I get sick a lot. Stomach bugs, colds, infections. Dan and I often joke about how shit my immune system is. But it never occurred to me that my anxiety was having a direct impact on this. Why does it have to be involved with everything? It’s like a nosey neighbour who can’t bear to be left out.

On Thursday I was in Manchester and I had a few stressful meetings. Also, I was offered the opportunity to be on TV! (It didn’t happen). So my stress levels reached boiling point. Even though I was excited about the prospect of being on TV, the adrenaline was still battering me. I could actually feel myself twitching, I was so hyped up. Anyway, to cut a long story short the next day I got ill. It was a nasty cold like virus that also made me vomit. I actually burst some blood vessels in my face too which was disturbing, and I was so tired that I slept for five hours on Saturday.

So I’m thinking that now may be the time to actually do something about it. What with my wedding coming up in May, I need to find a way to relax properly to avoid a burn out. And not just by reading a book (because I don’t) or going out with friends.

I’ll be honest, the easiest way to sedate my Cortisol levels is with alcohol. I’ll have a glass of wine to ‘take the edge off,’ but as I’m reaching the age of thirty I should probably grow up and start facing facts. A glass of wine isn’t a good solution.

Therefore… after consideration I’m finally going to give Headspace another try. In the past I’ve struggled with this app, because I don’t like to focus on my breathing. However, I’m willing to try again. I’ve subscribed to the full thing this time, not just the free version. I’m going to give it a decent 28 day trial to see whether it makes a difference.

In the meantime, if anyone comes up with a ‘Cortisol be gone’ remedy, feel free to give me a shout!

Snooze face

Do I look stressed to you? I’m all about snoozing! 

 

Categories: Anxiety, Panic Attacks

24 replies

  1. All the stress I experience from panic attacks/anxiety affects me physically too. I get a lot headaches, heart burn and stomach cramps. When I’m feeling especially crappy (or have to face many social situations) I do some yoga then meditate for 15-30min. It helps to take the edge off without having to down so much stomach medicine lol

  2. I came to the same cortisol conclusion this week! I recently read a blog about “stress belly”, and it made a lot of sense: http://haileyshelpfulhints.blogspot.co.uk/2012/03/tame-tum-spare-tire-or-stress-bulge.html?m=1

    As well as all the other symptoms, my tummy goes from 0 to 6 months in a day!

    I’m trying to relax a lot more throughout the day, a lot of stretching and deep breathing, and doing yoga and weights instead of cardio. I’ve noticed a difference in the belly, but not in my anxiety levels. So, don’t know how to stop producing cortisol, but the advice in the article has helped reduce the effects!

    I’ve also started taking vitamin D for mood and magnesium for my stomach. I’ll keep you updated!

    • Thanks for this. I’m definitely going to give that blog post a read.

    • Hello

      I’m currently on Vitamin D for other reason but does magnesium really help your stomach. I ask because I suffer from IBS?

      H

      • I’m afraid I can’t advise on this Hitesh.
        I would talk to your doctor or pharmacist.
        Wishing you all the best.

      • Hello Claire

        Apologies, was more a question for Jenny Hearn as she said she tried it (in her comment). Thanks for replying though anyway.

        H

      • Magnesium can have benefits but only if it’s the right kind. I take magnesium citrate at times (though rare) for muscle spasms and twitches. Can’t take much of it though because it actually acts as a laxative. It’s what they give you in the hospital to go.

        For stomach issues, go with ginger (capsules or raw) and turmeric (capsules). Yes, both. Two ginger capsules in the morning and two turmeric capsules before you go to bed. If you go to Amazon, search for Nature’s Way Ginger Root, 550 mg, 100 Capsules. For Turmeric, search for Nature’s Way Ginger Root, 550 mg, 100 Capsules from Schwartz.

        I used to eat a lot of raw ginger and/or make ginger tea, but the capsules make life so much easier.

        I’m not actually taking either for IBS. I’m taking ginger and turmeric as pain management. National Institutes of Health studies show it works as well or better than ibuprofen (without the long-term side effects). Turmeric is great for people with depression too. AND, apparently if you suffer from digestion or IBS issues.

        A positive side effect I’ve noticed since taking both for pain management (back and shoulder tear) is that my stomach doesn’t get all screwy when I eat certain foods anymore.

      • Hi again,

        Like Jeffrey says, Magnesium is a good natural laxative and I take it because my medication can cause constipation and certain high-fibre foods make me bloat. I’m at the beginning of the journey to find out what helps or not in terms of anxiety management and IBS – I’ve made a lot of changes so I can’t say for certain whether magnesium itself is the reason, but I’m feeling a lot better physically after I made changes to my diet. I haven’t had any adverse effects!

        Ginger is used in Ayurvedic medicine and has a lot of health benefits, it’s interesting to read about its traditional uses. I find it’s too ‘hot’/powerful for my digestive system to handle, but I guess it depends on the person!

  3. Reiki is deeply relaxing and helps the body to shift back into balance 🙂 x

  4. Hi Claire,

    I saw someone mentioned yoga above and I had also thought of it when you mentioned focusing on your breathing. Yoga is a good way to help get better at this! If you haven’t done it before I would recommend signing up for a good beginner’s class at which you will hopefully be reassured by the teacher that being bendy does not matter. I am the least bendy person in the world (I’m right down there with all the guys in the class who have naturally tight hamstrings) but I have been doing yoga for three years and it was SO helpful when I was very anxious (also I can now touch my toes, progress!)

    xx

    • Go on then, I’ll look into it! I was scarred by a class 3 years ago when the teacher said that since I couldn’t touch my toes (I can literally get to my shins), that yoga wasn’t for me. Thank you for your message 🙂 xx

      • I totally agree with this – just started yoga again last month and I have the sweetest teacher. She tells us to listen to our bodies and stop when it hurts – you basically get a free pass to nap on the mat :v Don’t be afraid to try a few classes and shop around for a teacher whose style you like

      • That yoga teacher sounds like the worst!!!! Yoga is not at all about how flexible you are – yes, practicing yoga will make you stronger and more flexible, but it’s also very much about breathing, meditation and calming your body and mind.
        I find that yoga helps SO MUCH with stress and anxiety. I really struggle with meditation and breathing exercises (my mind just won’t shut up!), but I’ve found that yoga makes a huge difference – the practice in itself is a kind of meditation for me, and if I try to meditate after a yoga class it goes 100 times better than usual. It makes such a difference to my mood that my mom can tell immediately that I’ve been to yoga if I call her after a class!

        If you do try yoga again (which I would DEFINITELY recommend), it might be helpful to try a calmer style, such as Hatha yoga. I’ve found that the ‘vibe’ of the class depends heavily on the style of yoga and the teacher. I would avoid the more physically intense styles, such as Ashtanga and power yoga for now and rather try to find a gentler style to start. Also, if the teacher says ANYTHING about your lack of flexibility, that is definitely not a class you (or anyone!) should be attending! You might have to try several teachers before you find the right fit, but once you do it’s definitely worth it 🙂

      • LOL, my last comment was directed at Claire, not Jenny. Jenny, your teacher sounds lovely! 🙂

      • Haha, I know what you meant! Thanks Jess, i’ll look into classes now that I know most yoga teachers are nice. She really was the worst actually.. It was humiliating!

  5. My high-level anxiety tends to be triggered the worst by legit physical symptoms. The problem is I exacerbate my physical symptoms more with my anxiety response, if that makes sense. It’s a vicious, self-feeding cycle.

    I’m writing an Overcoming Anxiety series on my own blog that will detail this among other things, and found your blog while researching.

    One of the most important recommendations I can offer is this:

    Meditate every morning before you get out of bed and every night before you go to sleep. There’s an app called Stop, Breathe, & Think which is great, particularly if you or anyone reading this is like me and has/had no clue how to meditate. The key is consistency and scheduling. Hence, first thing in the morning while you lay in bed, still dark out, and at night.

    (I considered the Headspace app at one time but went with Stop, Breathe, & Think instead)

    Meditation has provided great benefits for me — someone who apparently is anxious while sleeping and when waking, meaning: I actually have panic attacks that begin while I sleep. Meditation has all but erased this.

    Enjoyed your blog.

    Take care.

  6. I just stumbled upon your blog. And wow you hit the nail on the head, at least from what i feel.

    I’m loving the fact that everyone here is recommending yoga which i will to – though it wasn’t in response to my anxiety but more in my own want to get fitter/flexible but it is definitely calming (even though its difficult for me personally to shut off the thoughts inside my head).

    From reading other peoples posts im beginning to understand why i have a constantly irritable bowel..

    I agree completely with the breathing thing, it hasn’t helped me and if anything my therapist reinforced this. She said that controlling my breathing wasn’t helping when i had a panic attack because you need to distract yourself – and focusing on my breathing was doing the opposite. Its your body going through the fight or flight motions when there really isn’t any imminent danger. Sometimes this helps.

    If anyone has any short term tips that’ll be great because i’ve been having it at work and on the train so yoga isn’t the most convenient option 😦

  7. I just stumbled upon your blog. And wow you hit the nail on the head, at least from what i feel.

    I’m loving the fact that everyone here is recommending yoga which i will to – though it wasn’t in response to my anxiety but more in my own want to get fitter/flexible but it is definitely calming (even though its difficult for me personally to shut off the thoughts inside my head).

    From reading other peoples posts im beginning to understand why i have a constantly irritable bowel..

    I agree completely with the breathing thing, it hasn’t helped me and if anything my therapist reinforced this. She said that controlling my breathing wasn’t helping when i had a panic attack because you need to distract yourself – and focusing on my breathing was doing the opposite. Its your body going through the fight or flight motions when there really isn’t any imminent danger. Sometimes this helps.

    If anyone has any short term tips that’ll be great because i’ve been having it at work and on the train so yoga isn’t the most convenient option 😦

    • I used to get really back panic attacks on the train all the time(once thought i was having a heart attack, fun times). Two thinks worked for me.

      The first was concentrating on tightening my muscles one at a time and releasing. For example, I would clench my foot for a second and release, then calf then thigh. You can work your way through all your muscles one at a time. This is a great distraction and it stops the weak leg feeling.

      Second thing that really helped me was putting on headphones and listening to audio books by Claire weekes. She was a psychologist back in the 60s. The books are really straight forward and relaxing. I have read and listened to sooo many anxiety/panic attack books which did very little for me. I think it was because her books are pretty much her having a conversation with the listener. And also the knowledge that what worked in the 60s still works today. She was one of the driving forces of CBT back then.

      I’ve been going through anxiety/panic for the past 7yrs so feel free to ask anything, i’m sure i’ve experienced it 🙂

      • Thanks Jonathan. Claire Weeks is the original panic attack guru.. Her ‘floating through it’ is really interesting.

      • Thank you, i can’t express how grateful i am for a helping hand. I will definitely take both of those suggestions and use them to tackle the fiend that is my anxiety – i’ve already found her books on audible! Excellent.

        And thank you Claire. For building us up instead of letting us tear ourselves down and for creating a community that does the same. Reading this blog has really helped more than you’d ever know 🙂

  8. Hi Claire!
    I’ve just ordered your book and I’m really looking forward to reading it!
    I too have suffered with anxiety/panic attacks for the last 18 years on and off.
    It’s scary at times but it’s reassuring to know I’m not the only one who is battleing it! X

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