Body and Mind

Anxiety: What’s the matter with me?

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Generally when a client presents to me and tells me they’re suffering with anxiety, I respond with, “No, you are not suffering with anxiety, you are suffering with a condition that is focused on you – and you are not handling your life situations very well. As the first port of call, you need some guidance with that.”

Clients often arrive carrying a bag of products: perhaps St Johns’ Wort, lavender, B-complex vitamins and so on. They’ve spent a fortune, but nothing is helping. “So what’s the matter with me?” they ask.

It’s not that there’s anything the matter with them per se. Instead, their choices are wrong: they’re seeking a magic bullet in those supplements that doesn’t actually exist. So we have to take a step backwards and look at the life events they’ve been dealing with for however long. And some people have been dealing with the same thing for 20 years – perhaps a divorce or separation – and still don’t have a solution.

They say “I’m trying to get over it but I just can’t.” And I respond: “You have two issues: one, ‘try’ means you won’t; and two, you can’t go over it, you have to go through it. You go through experiences and look at coming up with solutions.”


And because everyone has their story, the management of anxiety is quite a complex process. There is no one-size-fits-all answer.

So we set out on a journey of solution discovery. I ask them to divide a page into two columns and write down all the positive things on one side, the negatives on the other. Invariably they return two weeks later with foolscap pages of negatives and maybe a couple of positives.

The next step is to go through the list and identify the issues that are possible to change and actually do something about, and those that can’t be changed. To use divorce as an example: you can’t change that, so we put a line through it. And so we continue working through the list, crossing out each issue that can’t be changed and highlighting those that can.
From there we strategise how to incrementally change the things that are going on with them and seek positive outcomes.


During this second appointment, if the client complied with my request and wrote everything down, and are showing they’re engaged with the process, I will normally look at their diet.

In many instances people with anxiety self-sedate by eating far too much sugar and other simple carbohydrates such as white flour, often combined with high levels of fat. One client ate a family-size pack of hazelnut chocolate every three days: she was in such a state it was an actual addiction. This was her feel-good food, life feels okay when I’m eating this.

We had to wean this person off that heavy fat and sugar combination. While she consumed quite a few complex carbs in the form of fruit and vegetables, she ate too many lollies, chocolates, and desserts, and liked creamy sauces on her food.

We moved her to a higher-protein diet, eating grilled fish or meat with salads dressed in balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil for her evening meal. For dessert she had low-kilojoule jelly, which provides some sweetness. We increased her protein throughout the day, replacing her carb-loaded breakfast muesli with an omelette with some pine nuts and mushrooms, and a slice of multi-grain toast. Her mid-morning snack was a mini tub of yoghurt with some nuts, while lunch was a salad with tuna or chicken.


I also had her make a carrot, apple, green bean and lettuce juice – lettuce juice is fantastic because it’s very high in nerve salts. She would drink this juice, but also combine 200ml of it with 200mls of almond milk and a raw egg and whip it into an eggnog-type drink with a sprinkle of cinnamon to take her through the mid-afternoon slump.

So nutritionally we got her engaged with taking positive steps to stop the massive sedation, the really low energy she was experiencing, and that anxiety state where she was quite nervy and shaky, and began tilting her body in the right direction.

This particular client was very compliant. She was fed up feeling the way she was and prepared to do anything. Now she’s in full recovery and is fine.

Conversely other clients do little bits of what you advise, but never make the full commitment. So really they want to hang on to the bad bits in their life. There are times we know a client is not going to make a move forward – at least not with you as the practitioner. They may make their move forward with others, but in 34 years of clinical practice I see people who come back five years later, still looking for solutions after having consulted 20 other practitioners. The best you can do for these people is simply to be there as a support and let them know the smallest changes they make just might be the tilt that gets them into wanting to change.

Sadly, sometimes it takes a major catastrophe for this to occur.

And because everyone has their story, the management of anxiety is quite a complex process. There is no one-size-fits-all answer.

Author Sandi Rogers

CEO at National College of Traditional Medicine

Dr Sandi Rogers (ED.D., N.D.) has twice held the role of president of the Australian Traditional-Medicine Society (ATMS), and continues to be an active member. She is the CEO and a senior practitioner at the National College of Traditional Medicine in Sunshine, Victoria, runs two busy practices, and boasts more than 30 years’ clinical experience.



1 Comment

  1. I do talk about volunteering in the final class of the F&SF one! I rneimd them that the F&SF world depends on volunteer work but if you’re writing, you can say no. Or at least pick one or two causes rather than scattering yourself wildly about.Thanks for the shout-out, Cheryl.

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