Do you suffer from anxiety or burnout? You might even be wondering why I would put them together. There’s a good reason. They both have a lot of commonality and the path to successful treatment has a lot of overlap.
Anxiety is on the rise! According to the National Institute of Mental Health almost 20% of US adults suffered from an anxiety disorder in the past year. More current federal data from 2023 indicates the percentage of adults suffering from anxiety is 32.3%. In the year 2000 it was 7.31%.
Something has to change! If you are suffering from anxiety it is clear that the traditional approach of psychotherapy and medications is not solving the problem!
Why is Medication and Psychotherapy NOT the Solution?
Maybe if we looked at why anxiety develops it might offer insights as to how to structure a successful anxiety treatment program. Let’s be clear that there is a possible role for both short term medication treatment and psychotherapy. But, neither of those address the underlying issue.
And, if you are not correcting the underlying cause then you have little chance of truly solving the problem. If you do your research you will find a range of “causes” of anxiety. And, if we distill them down to their common components they all have a common thread of “stress”. More on that in a bit.
Neither medication or the vast majority of psychotherapy address the impact of the stress in a way that empowers the sufferer of anxiety or burnout with the tools to overcome the issue.
The Key is Your Autonomic Nervous System
Your autonomic nervous system is the key to successfully overcoming both anxiety and burnout as well as many other departures from health. This is the part of the nervous system that runs your body below your conscious awareness, from digestion to heart rate to sleep to the immune system.
You have two divisions of the autonomic nervous:
1. Sympathetic “fight or flight” System: this is the survival part of the nervous system. It is activated by any real or perceived threat. The key word there is perceived! In our modern world there are many daily triggers that activate the sympathetic system. When activated it causes:
- Increased muscle tension
- Increased heart rate and blood pressure
- Disturbed digestion
- Impaired immune function
- Increased inflammation
- Impaired restorative sleep
Many people over time live in a state of what I call Sympathetic Dominance and this is the onset of all sorts of health challenges, including anxiety and burnout.
2. Parasympathetic “rest and digest” System: this part supports every function associated with health and healing. One of terms used to describe a healthy parasympathetic system is safety. If you suffer from anxiety or burnout in some way you have lost that experience of safety in your system. A healthy parasympathetic system is responsible for:
- Rest, relaxation, recovery
- Healthy digestion
- Healthy immune function
- Reduced inflammation
- Quality restorative sleep
- Healthy human connection
Most health challenges are caused or aggravated by an imbalance between the Sympathetic and the Parasympathetic systems. Anxiety and burnout both have a reduced activity of the Vagus Nerve of the parasympathetic system.
The answer is to restore balance by removing irritation to those systems and to raise the activity or tone of the Vagus Nerve.
4 Critical Legs to a Successful Anxiety or Burnout Treatment
Remember that anxiety and burnout have an imbalance in the autonomic nervous system and our goal is to restore balance.
#1: Upper Cervical Spine Balance: the upper neck is the location of the brain stem and this is the origin and control center for both the sympathetic and parasympathetic system. Both the Vagus Nerve (parasympathetic) and the sympathetic nerves pass right next to the C1 vertebra. Imbalance in the upper neck is a common driver of autonomic imbalance.
#2: Cervical Curve: the neck has a normal curve going forward. When we lose the curve as a result of trauma or chronic postural imbalances it puts the spinal cord under tension and this is another activation of the sympathetic “fight or flight” system.
Restoring motion, alignment, and the curve are critical components to restoring balance to the autonomic system.
#3 Pelvis Balance: both the upper neck and pelvis are the most common places for interference to the parasympathetic system. We want the pelvis to be level, aligned, and moving freely to reduce any excess tension to the nervous system.
#4 Vagus Nerve Practices: in conditions like anxiety, panic, and burnout the Vagus Nerve has been lowered for an extended period of time. It is essential that we activate the vagus nerve to both keep bringing the system back into balance and to strengthen the vagus nerve. It is less about lowering the sympathetic system than it is about raising the activity of the vagus nerve.
Restoring balance to the autonomic nervous system puts you back in control. Anxiety and panic are events that you seemingly have little control over. This is about changing that. With burnout the goal is to rebuild that part of the nervous system that has been suppressed for a long time.
Bill Berkowitz, DC
Bringing more than 3 decades of practice experience, Dr. Bill Berkowitz focuses on balancing and corrective care, applying his expertise to provide patients with predictable, repeatable and measurable results.
Dr. Bill consistently strives to enhance the well-being of his patients by addressing the root imbalances of their problems and promoting optimal balance, alignment, and function of the spine and nervous system.
Bill’s wealth of knowledge and experience has allowed him to develop a nuanced understanding of the human body and its intricate connections. With each adjustment, he supports the body in returning to a state of balance that goes beyond mere symptom relief, focusing instead on long-term correction for his patients’ well-being.
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