Anxiety Toolbox

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Anxiety and toxicity often go hand in hand. It was one of my first clues that something was wrong. Several of my children became quite anxious while living in our toxic home. Children who were once calm and balanced suddenly fretted about homework or tests. They became afraid of the dark and worried about "little" things. We left our home, and the anxiety came with us.

Psychologist Dr. Robert Crago has seen hundreds of chemical/mold-exposed patients over the years. According to Dr. Crago,

The results of my research on mold toxicity, and the results of others' research on toxicity in general, isolates consistent findings that toxicity affects multiple areas of the brain, but the frontal temporal areas are affected quite consistently.

The frontal temporal areas, and especially the orbitofrontal and the anterior cingulate gyrus, are primarily involved with executive functioning. Executive functioning includes the control and modulation of attention and mood as well as cognitive issues like working memory and planning.

The frontal cortical areas, including the anterior cingulate gyrus, are responsible for inhibiting distracting thoughts and/or filtering emotions while allowing us to be flexible in our thinking. The research suggests that patients who have had toxic exposure with effects to the brain had decreased levels of executive functioning.

My research also shows that only 2 to 3 percent of our patient population had premorbid psychological problems. However, almost all who had been exposed and suffered ill health could now be diagnosed with problems of anxiety and depression. Their problems with anxiety and depression were considered to be caused by organic deficits in brain functioning as well as difficulties in coping with the many significant adjustments they had to make in their lives.

For the first year and a half out of our home I felt a constant ball of anxiety in my chest. A large part of this I'm sure was due to the constant stress and uncertainty. This anxiety has greatly improved. I still experience waves of anxiety, particularly after shopping for any length of time—which I surmise is a reaction to the chemicals and fragrances I encounter.

My kids will be fine one minute and terribly anxious the next. I've also noticed a direct correlation between detoxification and anxiety. The more detox, the more anxiety, at least in our house.

Thus we have learned to cope with the waves of anxiety. Here are some of our favorite and most helpful tools.

1. GABA. Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) is an inhibitory neurotransmitter. It tends to make cells less excitable. GABA is the brain's very own source of anti-anxiety medication. Supplementation with GABA can be helpful. One of our favorites is GABA Calm. NutraBio offers an additive-free powder version which can be found here.

2. Bach Rescue Remedy. This is a homeopathic remedy based on the work of Dr. Edward Bach, who left his lucrative medical practice in 1930 to focus on remedies made from plants. An interesting article on Rescue Remedy can be found here.

3. Magnesium. Dr. Mark Hyman is a family physician and founder of the Institute for Functional Medicine. In his article titled Magnesium: Meet the Most Powerful Relaxation Mineral Available, he writes: Anything that is tight, irritable, crampy, and stiff — whether it is a body part or even a mood — is a sign of magnesium deficiency. This critical mineral is actually responsible for over 300 enzyme reactions and is found in all of your tissues — but mainly in your bones, muscles, and brain. You must have it for your cells to make energy, for many different chemical pumps to work, to stabilize membranes, and to help muscles relax.

Magnesium citrate is one of the more absorbable forms of this mineral. We like the Natural Calm brand.

4. Deep breathing. This is tough to do in a heightened state of anxiety but can quickly calm the nervous system if done properly. There's more than meets the eye when it comes to proper breathing. An excellent tutorial is offered by the Institute of HeartMath and is available by clicking here.

5. Hook-ups. This is a simple exercise that helps relax the central nervous system by connecting the electrical circuitry of the body. It crosses the center mid-line to activate both the left and right hemispheres of the brain. A simple explanation can be found here.

6. Epsom salt baths. These utilize the calming effect of magnesium. Epsom salts consist of magnesium and sulphates. When anxiety levels are high, we always see some measure of relief with an Epsom salt bath. Add a few drops of frankincense, lavender, or other essential oil for added benefit.