High Anx­i­ety

HOW TO STAY STRONG IN THE STORM

Santa Fe New Mexican - Healthy Living - - SANTA FE SPAS OFFER IT ALL — AND MORE - BY DEB­O­RAH BUSEMEYER

Dan Friedman, a reg­u­lar Tues­day vol­un­teer at Kitchen An­gels, ap­pre­ci­ates the rep­e­ti­tious na­ture of kitchen work. “I can shut my brain off and slice and dice,” he said.

In­creas­ingly, it seems dif­fi­cult to shut off our brains in the uni­verse of Twit­ter and daily life de­mands. A na­tional study last year found that more Amer­i­cans than ever re­port that they are anx­ious, de­pressed or anx­i­ety-rid­den. News me­dia has re­ported a rise in anx­i­ety in teenagers and young adults. Politi­cal di­vi­sive­ness adds an ad­di­tional weight.

In Santa Fe, peo­ple are find­ing ways to re­duce the al­most con­stant level of anx­i­ety vi­brat­ing in their bod­ies by con­nect­ing to their com­mu­nity, fo­cus­ing on oth­ers, cul­ti­vat­ing mind­ful­ness, con­trol­ling their social me­dia time and choos­ing to eat healthy food.

Giv­ing back

Joni Con­rad-Neu­tra cut sweet pota­toes into thick slices as she talked about why she vol­un­teers at Kitchen An­gels, a non­profit that de­liv­ers freshly made food to peo­ple who are home­bound due to ill­ness or dis­abil­ity.

“I feel it’s re­ally up­lift­ing to make such good, qual­ity food,” she said. “Good food is joy­ful. It’s so im­por­tant to us.”

Vol­un­teer­ing al­lows her to get to know peo­ple she wouldn’t oth­er­wise meet, and it’s a stress re­liever. “You’re never think­ing about your­self and it’s such a re­lief,” Con­rad-Neu­tra said with a smile.

Lau­ren LaVail, Kitchen An­gels’ com­mu­nity li­ai­son, who co­or­di­nates the work of 650 vol­un­teers, hears that per­spec­tive of­ten.

“There’s no pres­sure here like a lot of peo­ple have in their jobs,” she said. “And we are mak­ing a dif­fer­ence in the world. Some­one is go­ing to bed with a full stom­ach be­cause of what we’re do­ing. We are go­ing to save some­one’s life be­cause they have healthy food to eat. There’s some­thing about that one sim­ple act that gives your life mean­ing. I think we’re all search­ing for mean­ing and pur­pose in life, and this is a re­ally di­rect act to­ward that.”

LaVail has seen how vol­un­teerism re­duces stress, in­creases con­nec­tion to com­mu­nity and im­proves men­tal and phys­i­cal health. “Over­all it’s re­ally help­ful to peo­ple per­son­ally, and I’ve seen that in ac­tion,” she said. “Peo­ple say, I’ve re­ceived so much more than I have given.”

Nur­tur­ing body and mind

Lara Bache and El­iza Skye, co-ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tors of the Santa Fe Com­mu­nity Yoga Cen­ter, say that yoga and mind­ful­ness can ease our ten­sion on a bi­o­log­i­cal level by re­duc­ing our cor­ti­sone lev­els, in­creas­ing oxy­gen flow and stim­u­lat­ing the parasym­pa­thetic ner­vous sys­tem, also known as the rest-and-di­gest sys­tem.

“You can lit­er­ally re­train your ner­vous sys­tem to stay calm in anx­i­ety-pro­vok­ing sit­u­a­tions through the hard­ware of your ner­vous sys­tem,” Bache said. “We know when we are stressed, our breath be­comes shal­low. We can choose to slow the breath, in­crease our oxy­gen and have an im­pact on our ner­vous sys­tem.”

With yoga and mind­ful­ness, you can teach your brain to let go of the to-do lists in your head or the wor­ries you have about your fu­ture. “You can con­sis­tently re­train your mind to places of the present mo­ment when you are in a room and all you have to worry about is mov­ing your body and breath­ing con­sciously,” Skye said. “Then you can start to take it out­side of the yoga room.”

Be­yond the usual stress of life, Bache and Skye have picked up on a sense of hope­less­ness re­lated to the na­tional news. The day af­ter the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion, Skye cre­ated a safe space in her Deep Re­lease class; peo­ple there cried out their wor­ries and fo­cused on the strength of their com­mu­nity.

“When we cre­ate an en­vi­ron­ment where peo­ple are sup­port­ing each other, it’s re­ally heal­ing, es­pe­cially if peo­ple have pat­terns of try­ing to im­press them­selves or oth­ers,” Bache said. “It shifts gears to a prac­tice of lov­ing your­self, and that can be so trans­for­ma­tive.”

Na­tional politics also prompted the stu­dio to ex­pand giv­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties. These in­clude fund-rais­ers and karma classes, where stu­dents’ fees are ded­i­cated to or­ga­ni­za­tions that sup­port a healthy, re­spect­ful en­vi­ron­ment for every­one.

“It gives that feel­ing like there are lit­tle ways to con­trib­ute to the changes we want to see in the world,” Bache said. “That sense of agency is given back to us.”

Fu­el­ing body and mind

Feel­ing like you have more con­trol in to­day’s over­whelm­ing world can bring more ease ac­cord­ing to Fran­cie Healey, a health and wellness ex­pert and clin­i­cal coun­selor in Santa Fe. In her Con­scious Wellness prac­tice, she helps clients de­velop a deeper aware­ness of how their life­style and nu­tri­tion choices make their bod­ies feel. The next step is re­gain­ing a sense of con­trol over

those choices.

“We want to do it in a way that doesn’t in­volve di­ets or de­pri­va­tions but in a way that em­pow­ers some­one to stay cu­ri­ous about how they feel,” Healey said. “It’s im­por­tant to al­low the de­sire to feel good to be the driver, rather than from the place of us­ing willpower. It’s re­ally about tap­ping into that place that feels wor­thy of feel­ing good. It’s a kind ap­proach.”

Many of her clients grap­ple with bal­anc­ing the de­sire to be in­formed with feel­ing bom­barded by too much neg­a­tive news. If they feel de­pleted af­ter their social me­dia time, Healey helps them re­duce their ex­po­sure. Tech­niques in­clude des­ig­nat­ing cer­tain times of the day to check social me­dia or news sites.

“Some peo­ple look at their phones as soon as they wake up, and it sets the tone for the day,” she said. “Some­times we work on set­ting a dif­fer­ent rit­ual that’s doable for them, that re­flects their val­ues and af­firms they are tak­ing care of them­selves.” That could be drink­ing a glass of hot water with le­mon, do­ing a five-minute med­i­ta­tion or breath­ing ex­er­cise or eat­ing some­thing that boosts en­ergy be­fore they have their morn­ing cof­fee.

As the author of Eat to Beat Alzheimer’s: De­li­cious Recipes and New Re­search to Pre­vent and Slow De­men­tia, Healey ap­plies sci­en­tific re­search on how food af­fects brain health to her work with clients. First she asks peo­ple to tune into how food makes them feel and to track their di­ges­tion. Are you more slug­gish and dis­tracted when you eat pro­cessed food? Do you feel bet­ter when you eat pro­tein for break­fast?

“Through my re­search, I rec­og­nized that when the brain and body got the right kind of nour­ish­ment, we could re­spond with less over­whelm and stress,” she said. “What the re­search is show­ing is that the brain can be­come in­flamed, and of­ten the first symp­toms are de­pres­sion, anx­ious­ness, dif­fi­culty fo­cus­ing — the symp­toms that many of us deal with in our daily lives.”

Healey helps clients fuel their bod­ies and re­duce brain in­flam­ma­tion. She rec­om­mends good fats, such as the omega-3 fatty acids found in wild Alaska sal­mon, wal­nuts, an­chovies, chia and flax seeds, mack­erel and sar­dines.

“A lit­tle meal plan­ning can save you money and also re­duce anx­i­ety about what are we go­ing to have for din­ner,” she said. “And it is one of the things we can con­trol in a world that feels un­con­trol­lable. It’s one of the ways we can nour­ish our­selves and our fam­ily.”

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