By Marika Berni, ND
As a continuation of my previous article, Emotional Wellness: Baby to Teen, I share my personal experience with anxiety as a woman, professional and parent.
I present the most common emotional upsets one faces at different phases of adulthood and how to manage them.
Which came first the chicken or the egg?
After years of treating my patients, both children and adults – I noticed that many of their complaints had an emotional component. They were symptoms like anxiety, mild depression, insomnia, irritability, or being overwhelmed and stressed out. I started to see a strong relationship between my patient’s emotional states, the stressors in their lives, and the complaints they had. Whether it was digestive symptoms, migraines, insomnia, hives, eczema, PMS, menopausal symptoms, weight gain or loss that brought them in to see me, emotions were manifesting physically as health problems. It amazed me that these complaints often disappeared once we had addressed and resolved the stressor in their lives.
I have also realized during my 20 years as a Naturopathic doctor that sometimes the emotional upset is caused by a physical imbalance in the body. For example low iron or Vitamin B12 levels, or low thyroid function can make you feel very tired which makes it really difficult to function. Simple tasks or just getting through your day can feel insurmountable. Thinking about all you need to accomplish in your day, yet knowing that you do not possess the energy, nor motivation to get it all done, can even lead to depression, anxiety and feeling overwhelmed. Also, when hormonal and nutritional imbalances occur, the body sees this as a physical stressor, and releases the hormone cortisol, which can manifest as anxiety.
Emotional Upset as an Adult
As you enter adulthood so many different things can affect your mood. Maybe you’ve recently moved out on your own and are experiencing all the stress (and joy) that independence and working can bring. Perhaps you’re starting a family with a whole new set of expectations and experiences. Whatever you’re up against, your mood can have its ups and downs.
During these stages, your hormones can do a lot of shifting and this is a good time to discuss their impact on your mood. Fluctuating levels of hormones such as cortisol, insulin, estrogen, progesterone, DHEA, testosterone and thyroid hormones all influence mood. High cortisol levels can result in poor sleep characterized by frequent waking at night, and generalized anxiety. I call it feeling “wired and tired”. Imbalances in estrogen and progesterone can result in anxiety, depression, and irritability. Lowered testosterone levels can result in depression and lack of motivation and drive in both men and women. High levels of testosterone (which can be seen in polycystic ovarian syndrome) can cause irritability and anger.
I always assess my patients with mood complaints for hormonal imbalances and age specific nutrient deficiencies using blood or salivary testing. For example, heavy periods can result in low iron levels in women, or for those in their 60’s, the absorption of Vitamin B12 in the stomach can be reduced. Identifying and righting these imbalances is the key to achieving lasting mood improvements.
Physical activity is so important that it gets its own section. The positive influence of physical activity on mood is clearly evident in countless studies. Its ability to decrease the symptoms of depression and anxiety is well established. (3) I have discussed in a previously published article, Maximizing your Child’s Performance, how exercise can positively influence behaviour and cognitive performance in children. Exercise releases endorphins and increases our happy hormone serotonin. Aim to workout at least every 48 hours to ensure a consistent production of serotonin. Physical activity also helps to distract us from our troubles and can in some cases provide a social support network (sports teams, gym, yoga classes). But studies suggest that any physical activity can help, so playing outside, gardening, or taking a daily walk can all make a difference.
There are many great supplements that can help to improve and maintain your mood. As I mentioned in my previous article Emotional Wellness baby to teens omega 3 supplementation has a positive effect on depression (1, 2). St John’s wort and 5HTP also can be very effective in supporting mood. For anxiety Gaba or L theanine chews can be a wonderful tool to ward off panic attacks. Before trying any of these supplements check with your doctor to be sure you avoid any drug interactions.
I see life as a series of peaks and valleys. We can have moments where we feel on top of the world and others where we feel like we are at the bottom. My clinical experience has shown me how effectively these emotional shifts can best be supported. My patients often say to me that they wish they had known that there were natural, safe and effective ways to support their mood. Many people go through life believing that mood shifts are just a normal part of life to be weathered, or endured. And while yes, life sometimes can throw us a curve ball, I teach my patients that they can prevent and support these moments so that they have less of an impact on their lives.
If your child is struggling with emotional upset, you have options for support. In case you missed it, I discuss common emotional upsets and how to deal with them in the previously published article, Emotional Upset: Baby to Teen.
Counseling, nutrient and hormone assessment and treatment, a well-balanced diet, regular exercise and sleep routines, and natural supplements are great options all available through the Darou Wellness team.
Book an appointment with Dr. Berni to see how she can help you support your or your family member’s mood issues.
Contact us: 416.214.9251, firstname.lastname@example.org
1) Li, F., X. Liu, and D. Zhang, Fish consumption and risk of depression: a meta-analysis. J Epidemiol Community Health, 2016. 70(3): p. 299-304.
2)Sublette, M.E., et al., Meta-analysis of the effects of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) in clinical trials in depression. J Clin Psychiatry, 2011. 72(12): p. 1577-84.
3) Craft LL, Perna FM. The benefits of exercise for the clinically depressed. Prim Care Companion J Clin Psychiatry. 2004;6:104–11.
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