Anxiety - 6 Ways to Conquer Your Mind

Anxiety - It is a word heard more and more among people today, since the medical community is opening up more about mental health. It is not something we should shy away from, but support each other through. 

I have come to realize, over the years of being a perfectionist, studying in medical school, and starting a practice of my own, that I suffer from anxiety. I understand why people keep it to themselves, because it is actually a hard thing to admit, and a frustrating thing to live with. Because of my anxiety, at times I question whether or not I am are good enough, healthy enough and capable of achieving what I want. My mind gets in the way, even though I know it is irrational. My thoughts can take over, making me less productive. It makes only a few tasks seem like a million that I will never be able to wade through. But this doesn't always have to happen. Taking care of myself and following these steps help to push those anxious feelings aside and go on living a happy and healthy life. 

Types and Symptoms of Anxiety: 

  • Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) - Characterized by excessive anxiety and worry. These feelings are associated with 3 of the following: restlessness or feeling "on-edge", easily fatigued, difficulty concentrating, muscle tension, irritability and sleep disturbances. 
  • Social anxiety - Fear of social or performance situations, to the extent that their ability to perform at work or school is impaired. Avoidance, anticipation or distress occurs. 
  • Panic disorder - Feelings of terror or anxiety strike suddenly and repeated with no warning. A panic attack occurs, including sweating, palpitations, shaking, dizziness and difficulty breathing. They can last anywhere from 3 to 10 minutes. 
  • Agoraphobia - Fear of places and situations that might cause panic, helplessness, or embarrassment. Usually results from a previous panic attack in a certain area or situation (eg. heights, public spaces, small spaces etc.)

*Remember, none of these types make you inadequate or imperfect, simply who you are. Anxiety also comes in all sorts of shapes and sizes so a diagnoses is not necessary in order to benefit from these steps. 

6 Steps to Take:

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  1. Routine - I'll say it time and time again, our bodies LOVE routine! Hormones, including cortisol and melatonin, have a rhythm to them and a lack of routine affects these rhythms, leading to issues with energy and mood. Often we press snooze upon waking, rush off to work without eating or pooping, and are on our phones until we hit the pillow. Have a dog? Follow their cues! Wake and eat at the same time, walk every day, cuddle something, drink water and go to sleep at the same time.
  2. Deep breathing/meditation - When we are frightening we tend to breath in and hold our breath. This stimulates "fight or flight". Therefore exhaling is even more important, as it stimulates our sympathetic nervous system ("rest and digest"). Shallow breathing is also a common habit, stimulating anxious feelings. Focusing on deep breathing, expanding both your chest and belly for around a count of 6, in and out, is helpful. Start small - 5 minutes 2x/day. Or delve into mediation using apps such as Calm, Breathe or Headspace. Or join me on Deepak Chopra's 21 day meditation. This is one reason why I love yoga, because it connect the mind and the body through breath and meditation. 
  3. Nourish with food - We are what we eat! A diet abundant in brain foods such as fish, nuts and seeds, avocado, fermented foods and healthy oils (coconut, EVOO, grapeseed) help to feed the brain. A diet with colourful vegetables and fruit, contribute necessary vitamins and minerals and good quality protein aids to build proper hormones and neurotransmitters. Try this delicious and quick salmon recipe
  4. Sleep - With our busy lives, our sleep is something that usually suffers. It is an important part of our routine, in order to get enough stage 4 sleep. This is the healing phase, where tissue repair, detoxification and healing occurs. Without enough sleep, inflammation increasing, in turn increasing cortisol and feelings of anxiety and stress. Try lavender essential oil on your pillow or in a bath before bed to help calm your mind.
  5. Open up - This can be either discussing how you feel with family or friends or putting it on paper. Holding in our emotions is a form of stress, which can translate into other symptoms over time (eg. eczema, bloating, headaches), so get it out! Naturopathic Doctors, Psychologist, or counsellors are available to listen and help wade through your limiting emotions.
  6. Support with supplements - There are several great nutraceuticals and herbs, called nervines, available to help calm the mind. My favourites are L-theanine, schizandra berries, ashwaghanda, passionflower and oats. Specific dosing and herbs depend on the person and situation. Visit an ND to find the right supplement for you. 

Finally, anxiety may occur due to other issues such as poor digestion, nutrient deficiencies and thyroid issues. Naturopathic Doctors can help decipher what the root cause is. Remember, bad weeks happen, but what is important is knowing that you can get through it using these steps and with the support around you. 

Looking for support? I offer 15 minute complimentary consults to help answer any questions you have about Naturopathic Medicine or to see if it is the right fit. Visit Get In Touch to learn more. 

In health & happiness, 

Dr. Karen

(Photo credit:; pinterest)

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3. The Pros and Cons of Juicing, and all about Coffee, according to Chris Kresser. 

4. Winter minestrone soup, because even though it says its Spring, it doesn't feel like it yet! 

5. Meditation for success...What I am up to for 21 days.

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In health & happiness,

Dr. Karen

Adrenal Fatigue: Why getting out of bed may be so hard...


During the darker months, we are meant to rest more, but that rarely happens. You may have long hours at work, wee ones running around or even a new puppy keeping you up (like a few people I know!). All of these run you down and you may feel like you cannot climb out of the hole. Fear not my fellow zombies, there is a reason behind your fatigue and ways to fix it.

What is Adrenal Fatigue?

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A simple explanation is that you body can't produce enough cortisol, your stress hormone, to keep up with your daily stressors. Therefore, adrenal fatigue is caused by too much stress! There are two portions to your nervous system, the sympathetic, or "fight and flight" response, and the parasympathetic, or "rest and digest" response. Our bodies prefer to be in "rest and digest" the majority of the time, and only "fight and flight" when needed, such as running away from something or pumping you up for a presentation. These days, people are experiencing the opposite! We have too many stressors and we are not giving ourselves the proper time to relax. Your adrenal glands, which sit on top of your kidneys, then have to work on overdrive to produce enough stress hormone to cope...which then runs out! 

Signs of Adrenal Fatigue:

There are several common signs that your stress glands has been working overtime. 

  • I get dizzy when standing up rapidly.
  • I have chronic fatigue, and rely on stimulants. 
  • I am groggy in the morning, and have trouble getting out of bed. 
  • I have trouble getting to sleep.
  • My muscles feel weak.
  • My allergies are getting worse, and I have multiple sensitivities.
  • My skin is more reactive lately.
  • I frequently feel colder than others.
  • The term "hangry" rings true for me. 
  • I crave sweets.
  • I have been suffering from depression or low mood. 
  • I am frequently sick. 
  • My sex drive is low.
  • I have experienced a lot of stress in the past.

Cortisol, your stress hormone, has a natural curve throughout the day, helping you get out of bed in the morning and get to sleep at night. With too much stress this curve may either be flipped, making you feel "wired and tired," or disappear, which is adrenal burnout. A salivary test, done by an ND, is one way to see where your cortisol peaks and dips, giving us a better idea on how to treat. 


What can you do?

Usually we cannot take away stress, but we can find ways to better handle it. Some people are more stress resistant than others. This may be due to a number of things such as how much control they have in a situation, their social network, their attitude, their self-care exercises, and/or how much humour or fun they have in their life. These are things we can start to incorporate into our lives to better cope with stress. 

  • Mindfulness - Whether this includes daily meditation, yoga, or simply 5 deep breaths a few times a day, mindfulness and relaxation helps to turn our bodies towards "rest and digest." Our stress gland is given time to heal and restore. We tend to hold our breath on the inhale when frightening or shocked, therefore focus on the exhale while deep breathing to turn on your parasympathetic nervous system. 
  • Exercise - Exercise helps to release feel good hormones, putting you in a better state of mind and prepared to tackle what comes at you. However, ensure you aren't burning the candle at both ends by pushing yourself too much.
  • Sleep hygiene - Our bodies love rhythm and routine (remember that cortisol daily rhythm!), so it is important to have a sleep rountine. We need a minimum of 7-8 uninterrupted hours of sleep/night to restore and repair our bodies, while decreasing inflammation and cortisol levels. 
  • Diet - Keeping your blood sugar steady will avoid an unnecessary stressor on your body. Therefore, not skipping meals or eating a handful of candy, but eating a protein rich breakfast instead. Focusing on a nutrient dense, colourful diet is important to ensure you are feeding your body. For example, vitamin C, B vitamins and magnesium are food for your adrenal glands. (Getting these nutrients in high doses via IV may be an option with your ND.)
  • Adaptogens - These are herbs that nourish, heel and replenish your adrenal glands. Some of my favourites are Ashwagandha, Holy Basil, and Rhodiola. They may be needed for an extra boost. A Naturopath can help you find the best ones for you. 

Pushing yourself to be perfect - eat a clean diet, meditate, do yoga, sleep 10 hours/night everyday - is also not the solution. Balance is the key word. Enjoying what life brings to you, taking it as it comes and eating a small brownie, might be just what you need to decrease your stress hormone at the time. So go to that yoga class, eat a salad for lunch but don't put too much pressure on yourself and a stress-free life will follow. 

Need support to help you feel yourself again? Reach out to book your free 15 minute complimentary consult. It might just be the step you need. 

Are you suffering from anxiety or digestive issues due to your adrenal fatigue? These posts might be of interest to you. 6 Ways to Conquer your Mind; 3 Ways to Improve Digestion

In health & happiness, 

Dr. Karen 

The Mind-Body Connection

Namaste Nova. Photo cred: Tamara Cox

Namaste Nova. Photo cred: Tamara Cox

Happy June my fellow health nuts!

I am feeling very grateful this week as I was lucky to bring in this month at a Yoga Retreat, put on by the wonderful Michelle of We gathered at Namaste Nova, about 45 minutes outside of Halifax, and what a beautiful and peaceful place! Check it out if you are interested in doing a wellness retreat. They are known for Body Talk, a holistic therapy working with animals, and also offer weekly yoga classes in their yurt...yes a yurt! 

The Mind-Body Connection

I see many patients who are always on the go, who suffer from insomnia, who hold tension somewhere in their body, and so on, so I tend to always stress the importance of the mind-body connection. It is inevitable that our bodies will suffer in some way if we continue to live in the "fight or flight" portion of your nervous system, instead of the "rest and digest" portion. For that reason one of my "at home remedies" I suggest to patients is of course yoga. What a wonderful holistic form of medicine

I sometimes forget how good yoga makes me feel – physically, mentally and spiritually. That is exactly what I felt after my yoga retreat. As Michelle taught us, there are different forms of yoga - not only moving our body, but using mantras or working through exercises to better understand ourselves. Since it does such good things for me, I wanted to remind you of some of the many benefits of practicing yoga. Whether you are young or old, male or female, flexible or not, it has similar benefits for everyone.

Meditation – One of the best ways to calm your mind, reflect and bring your body into parasympathetic mode (“rest and digest”) is through meditation. It can simply be conscious breathing. Like most, my mind tends to wander, so bringing my attention back to my breathe is helpful. This is especially helpful after a busy and stressful day. Stress can create tension in our bodies, and breathing helps us relieve that tension. I suggest taking time for 10 deep breaths during the day, at yoga, or when lying in bed at night. Meditation and breathing is such a simple tool, yet so powerful.

Flexibility – Sitting at a desk all day, exercising in one position (eg. biking), and stress are all reasons why our bodies may be in contracture. This can lead to poor posture and injuries. Improving flexibility by stretching will lengthen muscles, relieve tension (both physically and mentally), and reduce the likelihood of injuries. So whether you can do the wheel, or a simple hamstring stretch, your body will benefit. You'd be surprised what a slow moving Yin class can bring up and release...I know I was! 

Balance – Back in my ballet days, balance came much easier to me. However, over the years of sitting in classes and getting sucked into reality TV, I wobble slightly more than I would like. Yoga is a great way to increase balance with several poses such as tree or half moon. Balance becomes even more important as you age, to prevents falls and more harmful injuries.

There are many more mental and spiritual benefits of yoga that you can explore and will come to love.

For whatever your reason, step on that mat and thank yourself for practising. I believe you will be better for it! 

In health & happiness, 

Dr. Karen