Since the holidays tend to be a more stressful time, and we are already in a bonus stress year, it seemed like an excellent time to tell you about GABA, a natural stress reliever.
I just started taking it and I’m noticing it’s helping. 😊
Because I certainly am not an expert in this, I asked an expert to tell you about it. Meet Dr. Jessica Wendling. (You can find more about her at the end of the article.) I’m doing neurofeedback with Dr. Wendling to help with my ADHD. (Can I just say how much easier my life would have been if this technology had been around during the gazillion of years I was in school?)
If you are looking for a natural way to help reduce your stress, read on.
GABA – A Natural Stress Reliever by Dr. Jessica Wendling
Gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA) is a naturally occurring chemical messenger in the brain, and its message is essentially, “relax.” GABA relieves anxiety, improves mood, and helps to reduce stress and insomnia.
Certain medical conditions and pharmaceuticals, malnourishment, or a sedentary lifestyle can reduce the levels of GABA in the body and result in:
– Anxiety or panic attacks
– Feelings of overwhelm
– Chronic stress
– Racing thoughts
– Difficulty concentrating
– Memory problems
– Muscle tension
– Sleep problems
If you notice any of the above symptoms, supplementing with GABA or engaging in activities that naturally increase levels of GABA in the body may be beneficial.
Practices that promote healthy GABA levels:
To produce GABA naturally, the following key nutrients are required:
– Vitamin B-6, found in red meat, chicken, and fish.
– Glutamate. This amino acid is found in most protein-containing foods such as cheese, milk, mushrooms, red meat, fish, and many vegetables.
– Fermented foods. The good bacteria in our gut can produce GABA for us when we eat fermented foods such as pickles, sauerkraut, kimchi, and kefir.
While the above foods and practices can support healthy production of GABA in our body, supplementing in higher doses will have a much more dramatic calming effect.
Supplementing with GABA will not treat the underlying causes of stress; however, it seems to directly reduce anxiety, sleep disturbances, restlessness, and muscle tension.
GABA works quickly (within 20 minutes) to reduce the body’s stress response and can be taken as needed, with or without food.
One should avoid alcohol and benzodiazepines when supplementing with GABA, as they act on the same receptors and could lead to symptoms of overdose.
To reduce anxiety and increase feelings of relaxation during a stressful event:
Start with about 300 mg. If you don’t notice a calming effect within 20 minutes, take an additional capsule.
You can continue to take one every 20 minutes until you notice a reduction in stress or anxiety. This is how you find an appropriate dose for yourself. The next time you notice stress or anxiety, immediately take whatever dose you require.
To reduce stress/fatigue during problem solving tasks:
GABA can be very relaxing, so a lower dose of 50 mg is recommended for daytime activities.
To improve quality of sleep and the ability to fall asleep:
300+ mg can be taken in the evening.
Side effects are rare, but may include stomach upset, nausea, low appetite, drowsiness and fatigue.
GABA Ease by Vitanica – this is a strong GABA supplement used for acute anxiety and sleep disturbances.
GABA-Pro Calming Effect Chewable by Bioclinic Naturals – this is a lower dose of GABA in chewable form (unsweetened), good for children or for day-time stress when you need to remain alert.
Other supplements that support natural GABA production, and help to calm anxiety:
– Herbs such as passionflower, hops, and valerian root
Dr. Jessica Wendling
Naturopathic Physician and Neurofeedback Specialist
Dr. Wendling is a naturopathic physician with advanced training in neurofeedback systems. Having worked in diverse clinical settings, including research hospitals, community clinics, and international outreach sites, she gained recognition from the greater medical community as one of Seattle Met’s Top Doctors.
Her philosophy is to heal the root cause of dysfunction by utilizing principles of neurology and neurofeedback. By retraining the brain and modulating the stress response, many conditions resolve and performance is optimized in a natural, safe, and lasting manner.
Dr. Wendling believes that by tapping into the body’s innate wisdom, we each have the ability to transform our well-being. She currently treats patients out of her private practice in the Lower Queen Anne neighborhood of Seattle.
If you love someone who has narcissist or borderline personality disorder, READ THIS BOOK.
Stop Caretaking the Borderline or Narcissist: How to End the Drama and Get on with Life, by Margalis Fjelstad.
This book has helped change the lives of several of my clients, literally.
The photo is of my own very well worn copy.
Common Feelings of a Caretaker
You are stressed much of the time
You live with two different people, one who is loving and attentive, and one who is mean, critical and attacking
You feel responsible to meet your family member’s needs and apologize, even if you are not sure what you did wrong
Common Behaviors of a Borderline or Narcissist
Verbally attacks loved ones and is charming to strangers
Demands from others what they are not willing to reciprocate
Blames or attacks you for small mistakes or accidents
Doesn’t want to be alone and pushes you away by picking fights
If these symptoms are a common part of your life, this book is for you.
Dr. Fjelstad understands narcissist and borderline personality disorders. She not only helps you feel less crazy, she gives you tools to change.
Change Yourself or Your Loved One?
If you want to figure out how to change your loved one, don’t read this book. It is not for you.
Just know this—when you are done banging your head against the wall of trying to change your loved one, this book will be ready for you.
Are You are Caretaker of a Narcissist?
For some reason, my practice has been drawing in clients whose partners are narcissists. Our work together, combined with Dr. Fjelstad’s book, has helped them remember who they are, and what they want in their life.
What Creates Change?
It is a combination of:
Understanding (not blaming) the personality disorder
Rediscovering what you want, not just going along with what your loved one wants
Stating what you want (and then avoiding arguing why it is ok for you to want what you want.)
And…this one is important
Taking action to get what you want (not convincing your loved one that they are the one that needs to change)
If you are ready to stop trying to change your loved one and you are ready to take back your life, read “Stop Caretaking the Borderline or Narcissist: How to End the Drama and Get on with Life” and find a therapist who understands borderline and narcissism.
Both will help you move through the discomfort and fear of remembering what you want, and taking the steps to have more joy in your life.
I’ve been walking around lately saying “I’ve got this!”
I’ve been saying this partly because I’m in the midst of creating a new program and I always get scared when I do something new. I’ve also been saying it because winter is coming and I’m a little worried about how I’ll handle the pandemic without the sun. The winter days are dark and short here in Seattle.
But mostly I’m saying it because it feels good, and it helps me feel more motivated to tackle what I’m facing.
The longer I’m on this earth, the more I realize how important the words are that we tell ourselves.
I stop my clients all the time and ask them how they feel when they say things like “I’m such a wreck” “I should have known better” “what is wrong with me?” or “I’m a failure as a mom.”
They always feel bad. They never say “Jane, I feel so good when I say that!” or “I feel so motivated to do my best now!” Never.
They feel defeated, hopeless, like a failure. Bad. Not motivated.
So why do we keep telling ourselves these messages that not only don’t help, they make us feel worse?
Because we learned that beating ourselves up makes us better people.
Except it doesn’t.
I speak from VERY personal experience here. I learned to motivate myself by speaking cruelly to myself (anything that puts us down is cruel.) I thought it worked. I got a Master’s and a PhD with dyslexia and unmedicated ADHD. It took me 10 years, but I did it.
So it worked, right?
Yes and no. I did get two advanced degrees, but I felt awful and like a failure the entire time.
I can only imagine how much easier that period of my life, who am I kidding, my ENTIRE LIFE, would have been if I had learned to tell myself, “I’ve got this. This is hard, but if I keep taking one step at a time, I’ll do it. I can do hard things.”
I urge you to try an experiment. Notice how you talk to yourself when you are trying to accomplish something and you are resisting it.
I bet you are saying things to yourself like “why can’t I just do this? What is wrong with me? I don’t know what I’m doing. I can’t do this. Who am I kidding?”
Gosh, I’m just raring to go after that motivational speech. Aren’t you?
Instead, try saying something that feels good. Here are some examples.
“This feels hard, but it would be helpful to do.”
“It might not be perfect, or even as good as I want it to be, but I’m willing to give it a try.”
“I’ve done hard things. I can do this too!”
“I’ve got this!” (my current favorite.)
Here is the important part–find a phrase that feels good to you. Experiment and say sentences that make you feel good rather than a like a failure…again.
Positive words feel awful when we don’t believe them.
For instance, if you say “I will do this and it will be amazing!” and you don’t believe it, you will be less motivated. Instead, try something softer like, “I just might be able to do this. I’m not sure how, but I’m willing to try.”
If that opens you up a little and makes you feel a little more hopeful, say that.
I am constantly working with my clients to help them find the words that stretch them a little without making them feel bad about doing it “wrong again.”
Play around and find what feels right for you in the moment. There are no right or wrong ways. There are ways that make you feel worse and feel better.
Why not use the words that make you feel better?
If you have phrases that motivate you and make you feel better about yourself, I would love to hear them!
Please watch The Social Dilemma. It will show you why we spend so much time on social media, what it is doing to our thinking, and the resulting social divide.
On a personal note, it helped partially explain to me why my brother-in-law and I, both good people, see the world so differently.
The reason I’m writing this Love Note though, is because the real take-away The Social Dilemma reminded me of, is the importance of learning to trust ourselves instead of our newsfeed.
Part of getting my PhD was learning how to gather, analyze, and manipulate data. Have you heard the phrase “the data doesn’t lie?” Data doesn’t, how people use it though, shapes what we see from the data. We see what the data presenter wants us to see.
Your body doesn’t lie.
Our body, if we learn to pay attention to it, tells us our response to a situation, not what someone wants us to believe.
Your body is more trustworthy than your phone.
If you are like most of my clients when they start working with me, you haven’t learned how to pay attention to your body’s wisdom.
That’s because most of us learned to not listen to what our body is telling us. That’s why we work when we are exhausted or sick, why we need coffee in the morning and sleep aids at night, why we do things for others even though we feel resentful.
Here are some statements I heard as a kid that taught me not to trust my own body. I’m sure you’ve heard similar, or maybe even worse, comments.
“You can’t be hungry, you just ate.”
“Don’t eat now. Wait until dinner.”
“Don’t be stupid, that’s nothing to feel bad about.”
“Sit still!” (I heard that one a lot as a kid with ADHD)
These comments told me what my body was feeling was wrong.
My parents and other authority figures weren’t bad people. They weren’t trying to create a lack of trust in myself. I was a lively little kid and what my body was doing wasn’t convenient for them.
I learned to be convenient, I learned to listen to them instead of my body. It helped them, and it kept me out of trouble.
It also cut me off from a huge source of wisdom. For 20 years I have been learning how to listen to my inner wisdom again.
How to do that, you ask? One tool I often use with my clients when they can’t decide what to do is this—
Close your eyes and pretend you’ve made your decision one way, and notice how your body feels. Do you feel tension, heaviness, a sense of dread? Do you feel lighter, calmer, a sense of moving forward? Do you feel contracted or expanded?
Open your eyes. Then close them again, this time pretend you made the other choice (we are often deciding between two choices) and notice how your body responds this time.
Your body is giving you information about your choice. Which decision feels better?
When trying to decide something, I gather information using my mind and my body. When they agree, I go for it. If they conflict, I frequently choose my body’s response. I have found over the decades things work out better when I do. Most important, I have learned to trust my body, and myself more.
It’s a grey Seattle morning. I’m drinking coffee and reading “Detox Your Life” by my friend and colleague Rebecca Gould. I highly recommend you get it.
I can barely sit still because I am reading her section on saying “no.” I LOVE it!
As a child I learned that “no” was not an ok response. Around the age of 50, I decided to declare “my year of the bitch.” I told everyone to expect me to act more bitchy that year. In reality, I was just going to practice saying no, but that doesn’t have the same pizzazz. For me it is more fun if there is pizzazz.
That year started me on a path to freedom.
All my life, I had believed if someone asked me for something, I was obligated to give it to them. I was wrong.
Yet I felt like a totally bad person if I didn’t say yes. It was time to shift that belief.
So I said no, mostly when it would have been easy to give someone what they asked. I practiced saying no to little requests because it felt excruciating to say that two-letter word. For example, if someone asked me to go for coffee that week (one of my favorite activities pre COVID)
I said no, just to know I could, and nobody would die.
That sounds extreme, but it felt so awful inside when I said no, that it felt like death. I still cringe inside when I say no, but it doesn’t feel nearly as bad as when I say yes when I don’t want to.
Saying “yes” when I want to say “no” feels like a violation of me—because it is.
Even now, eight years later, “no” can be hard to say. In Rebecca Gould’s book she lists Marcia Baczynski’s 12 ways to say “no.”
I’m a no to that, but I’m a yes to you.
I’m not so into that, but you go have fun!
I want to be in connection with you, but that doesn’t work for me. Can we do this instead?
I’m a no for now.
I’m not available for anything like that right now.
I need to build more trust before I’d be willing to consider that.
No, thank you.
I don’t have the internal resources to pull that off.
Hmmm. That’s not going to work.
It’s really hard for me to say no to people, but I’m practicing being braver and more honest, so I’m going to say no right now. (That’s my favorite.)
Aren’t they great? I’m sure you can come up with some of your own too.
My favorite method to use when I want to say no, but I’m afraid of disappointing the other person is to say “can I get back to you on that?” Then when I am by myself, I shore up my courage and practice how to say no in that situation. It works every time.
Sometimes it feels too hard to say no in the moment when we believe the person will be disappointed. That’s why it’s helpful to disengage for a bit, so we can also get in touch with how it would feel to disappoint us, instead of the other person.
We aren’t in charge of other people’s feelings. We are in charge of ours.
Here’s the magical thing about learning to be ok with saying “no.” We don’t take it as personally when someone tells us “no.”
Saying “no” is about someone taking care of themselves. It is NOT a reflection of how valuable you are.
How freeing is that thought?
No is about saying yes to your own value, and wants, and desires.
That is why “no” is one of the most powerful words in any language.