I am often struck by how, despite the current emphasis on mental wellbeing and mindfulness, we live in a culture that paradoxically encourages worrying.  We intellectually know that worrying about a situation won’t change it – it won’t alter our friends’ response to a comment, keep our kids safe or influence the outcome of that medical test – but we seem to have an ingrained need to revisit these thoughts in our heads as if they will somehow influence the outcome, or at least, prevent it from being as bad as it might be….

But it seems to me that in recent years, things have got much much worse.  At Papalona, one of our best sellers is Calm and Relaxed – and I’m sure this is indicative of the times, with parents buying it for themselves as well as their kids.

A few months back, I treated a client for crippling anxiety.  We’ll call her Emily. Emily’s anxiety was so bad that just getting to me for an appointment was an issue.   What was particularly heartbreaking about this lady, was not just the years she had lost to this condition, but that when I meeting her teenage daughter by chance, it was clear that Emily had unwittingly passed her fears on to her.    When I mentioned Emily’s condition at a lunch with girlfriends, a good two-thirds of the (otherwise pretty-much-together) women present confessed to constant anxiety themselves.

Last Sunday, my eldest was in tears as it was the night before 2 days of exams.  She’s 10.  I’ve told her they’re not important.  I’ve told her nothing turns on them and we know how hard she has worked throughout the year and how proud we are of her.  The tears still came.

I have my own theories about why we are more anxious nowadays.  They largely revolve around our heightened exposure to constant bad news around the world and ever-present ridiculously high-standards we are expected to achieve in our goldfish bowl lives played out on social media.   Whatever the reasons however, it is clear to me that anxiety is on the rise and ruining our mental and physical health.

Our bodies have evolved in such a way that when we become afraid, our endocrine system releases adrenaline and cortisol into our bodies.   Adrenaline increases the heart rate, elevates blood pressure and boosts energy supplies.  Cortisol increases glucose in the blood stream, boosts the brain’s use of glucose and governs our mood – keeping us fearful and focused on that threat.  It also acts to inhibit functions that are not vital in that fight-or flight situation – altering the immune system and suppressing digestion, reproduction and growth processes.  

In other words, it’s perfect for times when you have to face off a wild animal or avoid maurading invaders – where the threat is physical and requires an immediate action – but wholly unfit for purpose when the threat or stressor is more nebulous and more importantly, ever-present.

Dr Bruce Lipton, a Stanford University Scientist and forerunner in the field of epigenetics carried out an experiment where he exposed human cells in petri-dishes to different stimuli.  He observed that where the stimuli were beneficial, the cells would gravitate towards it, often encircling it and absorbing the good nutrients involved.   But expose the cells to harmful stimuli (like nicotine) and they would actively shrink away.   Guess how the cells exposed to adrenaline and cortisol responded.

In short, adrenaline and cortisol are toxic to the body. When we constantly flood our systems with these chemicals, we create an environment in which our immune systems are suppressed and our cells struggle to maintain health. We become sick.

Personally, I think anxiety and stress are some of the biggest mental and physical health issues that we face today and I am determined that at Papalona we will do our bit to help you navigate this minefield.  All our products are designed to make you and your family feel better about life – whatever challenges you may face. In particular though, we are proud to be releasing 2 new specific anxiety products (watch this space)– one for children/the whole family and a specific adult download to help relieve some of those anxieties that parenthood in particular brings.

Here’s to calmer happier lives, for us all…