I tell people all of the time the brain is amazing, incredible and sooo stupid at the same time. It can trick us making us think we are scared or anxious when we are really just excited! Our brain has trouble differentiating emotions such as emotional pain or physical pain. It thinks it’s the same! Or fear versus excitement, it can’t tell them apart. What does tell those things apart is our thoughts around them. Our brain will engage the nervous system and then our thoughts will come into play. For instance, let’s pay attention to our body for a moment. Pretend you are getting ready to give a big speech. You might have butterflies in your stomach, start to sweat a little bit and maybe fidget around. Your thoughts around that will dictate whether you decide to view this as fear or excitement, “I can’t do this, it’s too much for me!” versus “I’m so excited that all of these people are here to see me!”. Do you get the difference? Our lizard brain doesn’t get the difference until we tell it what’s happening.
Our fight/flight is in place to protect us from harm. If we didn’t have it our species would have probably died off a very long time ago. When we are in fight or flight we don’t have the ability to make decisions, think through things or access or coping strategies. When a threat happens our adrenalin kicks in shutting down our prefrontal cortex (thinking brain) and allows us to instinctually go! It’s also when we say and do things we wish we wouldn’t have said or done. But our brain doesn’t care at this point because we are running away from the threat, which turned out to be a stick, not a snake. See? Our brain can be really stupid sometimes. So…we get to figure out how to slow it down so we can make better decisions even when a perceived threat arrives.
The secret sauce to brain health is our NEUROTRANSMITTERS (think about serotonin, dopamine, adrenaline, etc) – and here’s where the science comes in!
Neurotransmitters are natural chemicals that regulate a literal ton of physical and emotional processes such as mental performance, emotional state, physical energy and pain response. They play an important role with optimal mental and physical health. Many of the symptoms associated with hormone imbalance can also be attributed to neurotransmitter disruption, including:
Neurotransmitters are naturally occurring throughout your entire body. They are crucial to feeling better. Neurotransmitters are made from food. Primarily from animal proteins (but you can do a pretty good job with food pairing to create whole protein if you are a using a plant based diet) but they require several other nutrients to play nice in order for the brain to wake up and say ahhh!
Neurotransmitters are negatively impacted from stress, drugs, alcohol, poor diet, prescription medications. Yes, the very thing that we turn to tends to disrupt our brain function.
There are many neurotransmitters throughout our body, but for anxiety we are going to focus on Serotonin, GABA, Glutamate, Dopamine, Norepinephrine, epinephrine (adrenaline).
Serotonin imbalance is one of the most common contributors to mood related problems, and pharmacologic agents that alter serotonin levels are among the most commonly used class of drugs prescribed for anxiety and depression. When serotonin is out of balance, depression, anxiety, worry, obsessive thoughts and behaviors, PMS and sleep cycle disturbance can result. Serotonin regulates many processes connected to other health issues such as carbohydrate cravings, pain tolerance, and appropriate digestion.
GABA is the major inhibitory neurotransmitter. It is important for balancing excitatory action of other neurotransmitters. High levels of GABA may be a result of excitatory overload. These high levels result in a ‘calming’ action that may contribute to sluggish energy, feelings of sedation, and foggy thinking. Low GABA levels are associated with dysregulation of the adrenal stress response. Without the inhibiting function of GABA, impulsive behaviors are often poorly controlled, contributing to a range of anxious and/or reactive symptoms that extend from poor impulse control to seizure disorders.
Glutamate is a major excitatory neurotransmitter. It is involved in most aspects of brain function including cognition, memory and learning. Due to its excitatory role, high levels of glutamate are often associated with panic attacks, anxiety, and depression.
CATECHOLAMINE (DOPAMINE/NOREPINEPHRINE/EPINEPHRINE) is largely responsible for regulating the pleasure/ reward pathway, memory and motor control. Its function creates both inhibitory and excitatory action depending on the dopaminergic receptor it binds to. Memory issues are common with both elevations and depressions in dopamine levels. Caffeine and other stimulants, such as medications for ADD/ADHD, often improve focus by increasing dopamine release, although continual stimulation of this release can deplete dopamine over time. Common symptoms associated with low dopamine levels include depression, loss of motor control, cravings, compulsions, loss of satisfaction and addictive behaviors. High levels often result in anxious feelings and panic attacks.
You’re a type A driven woman riddled with anxiety on the inside. Nobody would know that you have anxiety, because you don’t show it on the outside, ever! You’re busier than you ever thought. You have just enough energy to get you through the day, but you crash and burn every night. You’ve been struggling for a while now. You can’t figure out where the anxiety comes from, but inside you are struggling, hard.
There are natural solutions to help you rebalance your neurotransmitters and to help set you free from anxiety.
Dr. Teralyn Sell is a Psychotherapist, Brain Health Expert and co-creator of the world’s first and only mental health and addiction recovery supplement line, Pro Recovery Rx. For over 20 years, Dr. Teralyn has helped career-driven women overwhelmed by anxiety and panic attacks eliminate their symptoms and get off of medication completely using natural approaches that balances brain chemistry while permanently changing behavior.
Dr. Teralyn is NOT a believer in throwing a prescription at the problem – which seems to be the blanket “solution” to stress, anxiety and depression in our current society. She encourages a holistic approach to overall wellness, which results in lasting change, a chealthier state of being, and a happier you.