How to Deal with Anxiety and Rewire Your Brain

 In Health, Sleep, Uncategorized

From time to time, we all experience feelings of anxiety. This is a natural response to uncertainty about upcoming events, whether they're moments away, days ahead, or even further in the future.

Anxiety, as defined by mental health professionals, involves worrying about a potential threat that looms in the future. For instance, the anticipation of a difficult conversation might cause your stomach to churn days before it occurs. Similarly, your heart might race before an important exam or presentation, or you might find yourself lying awake at night, fretting over the possibility of (fill in the blank).

It's perfectly normal to have these feelings and it’s perfectly normal to desire a way to ease them. And someone who can help you with that is Dr. Traci Potterf, PhD, is a Functional Medicine Anxiety Detective.

Traci helps growth-minded professionals find and fix the hidden causes with natural solutions so they can live a limitless life at peace in their own skin.  She received her PhD from UC Berkeley where she participated in a joint program with UCSF Medical School as a Javits fellow. 

As a psychiatrist’s daughter, former medical anthropologist and recovered debilitating anxiety sufferer, she sees a unique way out of the mental health epidemic that she’s on a mission to share with the world.

A Personal Journey

Traci’s journey into understanding anxiety is deeply personal and intriguing. Growing up with a psychiatrist father, she was immersed in the medical field from a young age. However, her perspective shifted dramatically when she experienced her first panic attack at 19. Despite her father offering medication, she chose to seek alternative solutions, driven by a desire to avoid a life defined by anxiety. While Traci emphasizes that medication can be beneficial, she also highlights its limitations. Medications often fail to address the root causes of anxiety, merely suppressing symptoms like taking the battery out of a smoke alarm while the fire still burns. Her journey led her to explore deeper, underlying causes of anxiety, seeking solutions beyond pharmaceuticals.

Traci's experience and her research have shown that anxiety often has underlying causes that can be addressed. These include physiological issues such as thyroid imbalances, autoimmune diseases, gut health problems, and exposure to toxins. By identifying and treating these root causes, it's possible to alleviate anxiety without relying solely on medication.

Functional medicine focuses on a holistic approach, considering both top-down (mental and emotional) and bottom-up (physical and nutritional) strategies. This approach addresses the root causes of health issues, beyond what conventional medicine often targets, like metabolic syndromes.

Three Pillars of Dealing with Anxiety 

Guided by this, Traci developed a comprehensive program addressing anxiety through three main pillars:

  • Lifestyle Makeover: Our modern lifestyles often clash with our evolutionary biology, leading to anxiety and other health issues. Traci advocates for a lifestyle that includes healthy hedonism—finding joy in non-destructive pleasures like nutritious food, joyful movement, good sleep, and strong social connections. This pillar also involves addressing physical and social environments to reduce exposure to toxins and stressors.
  • Functional Health: This involves advanced lab tests and supplements to uncover and address specific health issues contributing to anxiety. Conditions like gut inflammation, hormonal imbalances, and autoimmune diseases can significantly impact mental health. A functional health approach seeks to heal these underlying conditions.
  • Nervous system rewiring. Thanks to neuroplasticity, our brains can change and adapt. Practices like neurofeedback and simple daily breathwork can significantly alter brain structures, improving energy production and mitigating the impacts of trauma. Meditation is a powerful tool for health. Despite common misconceptions, everyone can meditate with the right tools and techniques. Simple practices, such as focused breathing, can induce a state of deep peace and even euphoria. Regular meditation helps rewire the brain, addressing both physical and emotional pain, and improving overall well-being.

Upgrading your lifestyle can seem daunting, especially when you're already juggling a busy schedule and not feeling your best. Many people, particularly middle-aged women going through perimenopause or menopause, face significant physical and emotional strains. 

Environmental toxins, stress, and hormonal imbalances add to these challenges, complicating the process of improving one's health. Environmental toxins can disrupt our hormones, particularly estrogen, leading to what is known as "dirty" or "toxic" estrogens. These toxins can block the production of other essential hormones, and stress exacerbates these issues. For instance, during menopause, the production of estrogen should transition from the ovaries to the adrenal glands, but chronic stress can hinder this process, affecting overall hormonal balance for both women and men.

For those struggling with anxiety and insomnia, certain supplements can be beneficial. While I'm not a fan of melatonin due to its potential side effects, I recommend natural alternatives like magnesium and ashwagandha. These supplements support your body's ability to produce its own melatonin and maintain healthy circadian rhythms.

  1. Magnesium: Look for forms that cross the blood-brain barrier, like magnesium threonate or nano magnesium.
  2. Ashwagandha: An adaptogen known for its cortisol-lowering effects, which can help with anxiety and support healthy sleep patterns.
  3. High-Quality CBD, particularly strains high in CBD and low in THC: A few drops of CBD tincture can help calm your mind and promote restful sleep without the side effects associated with over-the-counter sleep aids.

By adopting a holistic approach, you can create a nurturing and nourishing life. This involves daily practices that balance your neurology and restructure your brain away from trauma. Embrace the journey of becoming the artist of your life, crafting a beautiful, healthy, and fulfilling existence. No amount of therapy will be effective if you're not taking care of yourself. A chaotic lifestyle or undiagnosed health issues can hinder your progress. It's crucial to adopt a balanced approach that includes proper nutrition, adequate sleep, and regular physical activity.

For more insights and resources, visit Inner Genius Health. You can also find Traci on Instagram and YouTube, where she shares tips and advice on holistic wellness.

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