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Calming down the culture of ‘busyness’

January 2019 Print
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Be inspired by the traditions of the South Pacific and look to kava for supporting anxiety

“Busyness is more than an annoying truth of modern life. It has emerged as a significant health concern.” Joseph Bienvenu, Psychiatrist and Director – Anxiety Disorders Clinic, Johns Hopkins Hospital

Have you noticed that the most common response to a simple ‘Hi, how are you?’ these days is “I’m so busy!’. In fact, modern life is causing many of us to feel so incredibly overwhelmed that stress and insomnia are also now major culprits linked to our worsening mental health.

From financial challenges, family issues and work pressures to study, general health and other social factors, stress and its side effects often lead to impaired cognitive function and performance. Very quickly this can spiral into issues affecting the nervous system such as anxiety and disturbed sleep.

Almost half of us will experience some form of mental illness in our lifetime

2018 studies reveal that 45 per cent of Aussies aged 16–85 will experience a mental illness in their life while on an average day in Australia, 26,000 specialised community mental health care services are provided .

And when it comes to anxiety alone, around 14 per cent of all adult Australians are affected by an anxiety disorder every year. More women are affected than men.  Anxiety is a medical condition and is characterised by persistent, excessive worry. It can take a number of forms, but it can interfere with a person’s ability to carry out, or take pleasure in, day-to-day life. Anxiety is actually now a leading cause of sleeping problems and vice versa Stress or anxiety can cause a serious night of sleeplessness and studies show that people with chronic insomnia are at high risk of developing an anxiety disorder. Not only that, if you’re struggling with inadequate sleep for more than just the odd night, you’re also at risk of heart disease, heart failure, irregular heartbeat, heart attack, high blood pressure, stroke, diabetes, and obesity.

Consider supplementing with kava to help ease your symptoms

Kava kava – or simply kava – is a member of the pepper family native to the islands of the South Pacific where it’s long been used in ceremonies to bring about a state of relaxation. Studies have found that the active ingredients in its roots known as kavalactones appear to affect neurotransmitters in the brain and as such, the root and underground stem (fresh or dried) are used to prepare drinks and made into extracts, capsules, and tablets for supplementation.

A University of Melbourne study of people diagnosed with generalised anxiety disorder – the most common anxiety condition – found taking kava tablets consisting of a water-soluble extract of peeled kava root that included a total daily dose of 120 mg kavalactones (kava’s primary active constituent) significantly decreased their anxiety symptoms compared to the placebo.

Although there is plenty of clinical research into its effectiveness on anxiety, other factors should also be addressed so it’s important to consider the integration of high quality kava supplementation only in consultation with your healthcare practitioner who may also advise other treatment strategies.

You can also adopt these tools to help support anxiety, stress and insomnia symptoms

  • Make time for mindfulness – this mental and physical technique can help you focus your awareness on the present moment, which helps acknowledge, accept and cope with feelings and thoughts in turn reducing stress, and helping manage anxiety. 
  • Focus on your breathing – try a meditation app like Calm or simply breathe in and out slowly and deeply. 
  • Making movement a priority – regular exercise provides an outlet for frustrations and releases mood-enhancing endorphins. A walk around the block or in the park as a break from your desk is just as good as a gym session.
  • Try a mind and body practice – yoga, tai chi and qi gong are all known for their focus on the breath, which can help relax the body. Have a look on YouTube for easy how-to videos to follow along at home or take a class.
  • Create a sleep sanctuary – ensure your room is cool, dark and blue-light device free. Research suggests that lavender oil may be useful for treating anxiety, insomnia, depression and restlessness so try a few drops of oil on your pillow too.

Remember, the culture of ‘busyness’ is nothing to be proud of; but giving our brains a break now and then is. Even if you only have five minutes to stop for some ‘you’ time, please do, it could be the most important five minutes of your day.

References available on request

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