One of my favorites ways to get patients to reduce and mediate their stress levels is to use a free “breath trainer” on their smart phone or computer. There are a lot of free apps to do this, and my favorite for the iPhones is Breathe+ and my pick for Android is MyCalmBeat. It’s as simple as a metronome with a breathing visual. You can set the number of breaths per minutes and the duration of the exercise. I like to set it at five breaths for 5 minutes and recommend that patients do it for 2 to 5 minutes twice a day.
Then, when patients find themselves holding their breath during the day or breathing shallowly, they are far more likely to notice. At these times, I recommend that they do what I call three “rescue breaths.” Without even turning on the app, they can simply remember the tones and the timing, close their eyes and do three of these breaths at the same pacing that they’ve been practicing twice a day. It’s very effective because it’s not just working when they do the exercise, it increases awareness throughout the day of when life stresses are taking a hold of the nervous system and respiratory system and perpetuating a sympathetic stressor state.
This app is peripherally related to the “heart math”. I personally do not recommend going any deeper into heart math than to reap the benefits of regular, long slow breathing. In my personal opinion, the state of “coherence” that the heart math people talk about is simply a normal physiological response of the heart rate increasing when during inspiration, and decreasing during expiration.
My front-line therapy for an overactive mind, anxiety, stress, and even ADD is 100-300 mg L-Theanine. This is a simple amino acid with a variety of health benefits. It is abundant in green tea. It relaxes the mind and body by increasing GABA and glycine levels in the brain. GABA and glycine are inhibitory neurotransmitters that work to offset overactive excitatory neurotransmitters. Theanine promotes a state of relaxation and calm and thereby, reduces stress, anxiety, and ADD. I recently discovered that chewables or lozenges were VERY effective. Click the picture on the left to buy my preferred brand. Paired with breathwork, L-theanine can help you find and explore a new normal of calm and relaxation.
The most common family of antianxiety and antidepressant drugs are in the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) class: Prozac, Paxil, Zoloft, Celexa. All SSRIs work by recycling the serotonin, thereby increasing contentment, ease, and general happiness. Natural ways to support serotonin levels are to take 100mg 5HTP, and Vitamin B6. These can be very effective and usually have no side effects.
Can you get too much of the serotonin effect? Absolutely. It’s all about balance. Never take 5-HTP with an SSRI unless you are under the care of a skilled practitioner.