Relaxation

Learn about the importance of relaxation as part of a healthy lifestyle. De-stress and improve your health by relaxing.

7 techniques to reduce stress and manage IBS symptoms

Q: I’ve noticed that since Covid, my digestive system has not been performing as well. Is there a relationship between stress and how my intestines work?

A: Studies around the gut-brain connection are increasing, and proving something that we’ve always noticed; that our digestive system talks to our brain, and our brain talks to our stomach, intestines, and other organs. Reflect on the last time you felt butterflies when you are nervous or anxious about an outcome or nauseous over an event, or even had a gut-wrenching experience. All forms of emotions can be located in our body if we pay attention and research is showing that some of the more severe or persistent feelings and thoughts can be reflected in some of our digestive system illnesses. According to Harvard Health Science, emotional and mental stress can be a major contributor to some of the common gastrointestinal illnesses like irritable bowel syndrome, gastro reflux, upset stomach, constipation, and, diarrhea. Unfortunately, these illnesses and the pain and worry associated with them can lead to increased anxiety and depression for many people, and it becomes a negative cycle.

Chronic stress affects your Gut Health & Metabolism

When stress is chronic and not managed, our sympathetic nervous system triggers the release of many hormones including cortisol to help us physically resolve a perceived threat with the options of fight and flight. Cortisol signals some organs and systems to ramp up, and others to turn off. For example, saliva and stomach acid secretions are stopped as digestion is a waste of energy when trying to outrun a mountain lion. The peristaltic contractions that move food through our intestines are also stopped to save energy for fleeing. Heart rate increases and the release of blood sugar becomes more available to power our muscles. Our sympathetic nervous system ramps us up for a survival scenario, and after the event, it’s our parasympathetic nervous system that brings us back into a “rest and digest” equilibrium for balanced health. But, what if there isn’t a cougar to outrun, but instead it’s our thoughts and feelings about situations in our life that keep us in a chronically elevated state of stress? Fast forward to the effect of having a vigilant nervous system triggering too much cortisol on an ongoing basis and the effect on our digestive system can turn into an illness. Add the fact that our parasympathetic nervous system operating from the vagus nerve’s connection to all of our internal organs connects the brain to our guts and is responsible for digestive enzyme release, intestinal contractions, immune reactions to allergens, and hormonal movement back and forth between our head brain and our gut-brain, and we can see how medical and psychological researchers are looking for ways to minimize stress’ effects on the body and brain. On a simplistic level, this communication is responsible for letting us know when our stomach is full before we stretch it with overeating, and on a complex level, it works in concert with our gut microbiome to ensure complete digestion and absorption of nutrients.

7 techniques to reduce stress and manage IBS symptoms

From research reported through the Mayo Clinic, Harvard Medical, and Psychiatry Magazine among others, it is becoming more mainstream to consider the inclusion of psycho-social tools and practices to help reduce stress, anxiety, and depression while improving gut biome, immune function, and stabilizing many digestive disorders. Here are some examples being touted as beneficial to repair the gut-brain issues that have become even more prevalent during the stress of the Covid pandemic.

1. Mindfulness training

Mindfulness is the act of paying attention to the present moment. During mindfulness practice, you are encouraged to notice and accept your thoughts and feelings without trying to change them. Over time, mindfulness helps you reduce stress by improving your ability to accept change and let go of worries. Research indicates that mindfulness can prevent and ease IBS symptoms.7,8

2. Relational Somatic Therapy

Connecting body sensations with feelings and implicit memories to heal developmental, attachment, and trauma from childhood in order to learn how to self and co-regulate the sympathetic nervous system in order to increase one’s tolerance to previously stressful triggers.

3. Cognitive behavioral therapy

Sessions with a trained counselor can help you learn to modify or change your responses to stress. Several studies suggest that cognitive-behavioral therapy provides a significant and long-lasting reduction of IBS symptoms.1,6-8

4. Hypnotherapy

During sessions with a trained professional, you enter a relaxed state and are then guided through visualizations and suggestions designed to help you control your symptoms and calm your digestive tract. Several studies support the long-term effectiveness of hypnosis for IBS.1,6-8

5. Biofeedback

During these sessions, electrical sensors help you receive information (feedback) on your body’s functions – heart rate, for example. The feedback helps you focus on making changes to manage stress and ease symptoms.7,8

6. Progressive relaxation training

These exercises help you learn how to relax your muscles. For example, you might start by tightening the muscles in your feet, then slowly releasing that tension. Next, tighten and relax your calves. Continue up the body until all your muscles – including those in your face and head – are relaxed. This progressive tightening and relaxing of your muscles are typically coupled with breathing techniques – breathe in while tightening the muscle group, breathe out when relaxing the muscles.1,6,7

7. Yoga

In a review of several studies, individuals with IBS who practice yoga experience fewer bowel symptoms, decreased IBS severity, and lower rates of anxiety compared with conventional treatment.9


What is Mountain Trek?

Mountain Trek is the health reset you’ve been looking for. Our award-winning hiking-based health program, immersed in the lush nature of British Columbia, will help you unplug, recharge, and roll back years of stress, anxiety, and unhealthy habits. To learn more about the retreat, and how we can help you reset your health, please email us at info@mountaintrek.com or reach out below:

Stress Hormones

black and white photo of a woman holding her head in stress.

Stress hormones are released in response to a stressful situation. This could be a near-miss car accident, a project deadline at work, or overdue bills—any event where our unconscious deems we are in a threatening situation. Before we are even aware, our sympathetic nervous system triggers our fight, flight, or freeze response, and a flood of stress hormones enters our bloodstream. The two primary stress hormones are epinephrine (adrenaline) and cortisol.

The Stress Response

It all starts in our hypothalamus, a small portion of our old “survival brain”. When we encounter a perceived threat—such as a large dog barking at us during a morning walk—our hypothalamus sets off an alarm system in our body. Through a combination of nerve and hormonal signals, the HPA axis (hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal) system prompts our adrenal glands, located on top of our kidneys, to release a surge of stress hormones, including adrenaline and cortisol.

Adrenaline (epinephrine) Stress Hormone

Immediately upon the recognition of a stressor, the amygdala signals the brain stem to release norepinephrine and epinephrine, aka adrenaline. Adrenaline increases our heart rate, elevates our blood pressure, makes us sweat, dialates our pupils, and boosts energy supplies to our muscles, fueling us to fight or flee. Adrenaline causes inflammation in an attempt to destroy antigens, pathogens, or foreign invaders.

Cortisol Stress Hormone

A surge of cortisol follows the release of adrenaline and can remain elevated for hours. Cortisol increases the availability of blood sugars (glucose) in the bloodstream, enhances our brain’s use of glucose, and increases the availability of cells that repair tissues (in case we get hurt as we fight or flee). Cortisol also curbs functions that would be nonessential or detrimental in a fight-or-flight situation, altering the immune system responses and suppressing the digestive system, reproductive system, and growth processes to prioritize survival.

Cortisol’s role in our body and brain isn’t only in response to a stressor, however. It manages how our body uses carbohydrates, fats, and proteins, and communicates with the brain regions that control mood, motivation, and fear. The hormone is integral in controlling our sleep/wake cycle, naturally rising and fall throughout our circadian day, peaking in the morning, and waning throughout the day. Cortisol helps us focus, problem solve, and manage the details of our life, regulates blood pressure, and also boosts our energy when required by controlling blood sugar. It’s a versatile hormone and when in balance, actually decreases inflammation to allow for the effective management of stress [1].

Stress Hormones & Their Response

Healthy Stress: The Acute Stress Cycle

Stress takes a variety of forms. Some stress happens as the result of a single, short-term event such as having an argument with a loved one. Other stress relentlessly builds due to recurring conditions, such as managing a long-term illness or a demanding job. When stress hormones are released due to acute, or sudden and short-lived, stressful situations, they rarely have a damaging effect on our bodies. In fact, the right amount of physical stress helps us grow muscle and bone, and being challenged mentally to learn a new task helps us become more effective and efficient.

Following a stressful situation, our body needs to enter a state of relaxation to recover. The parasympathetic nervous system takes over at this point and promotes a “rest and digest” state that returns stress hormone levels back to normal. This is called the Acute Stress Cycle.

Historically, stressors were life-threatening things like predators, famine, and extreme weather conditions. They were present in our lives, but occurred periodically, allowing for the full Acute Stress Cycle to occur and hormonal balance to be restored.

So, as long as our mental, physical and emotional stressors come and go throughout our day, and the sense of perceived threat relaxes after an event, our acute stress cycle is incorporated into our day-to-day life without adverse effects on our balanced health.

Unhealthy Stress: Chronic Stress

When recurring conditions trigger stress that is both intense and sustained over a period of time, it can be referred to as “chronic” or “toxic” stress. While all stress triggers physiological reactions, chronic stress is specifically problematic because of the significant harm it can do to the functioning of the body, brain, and nervous system.

Unfortunately, in our current culture, we now have mental and emotional stress on top of the physical, causing a stress response in situations that aren’t life-threatening—and these situations arise daily; we stress about work drama, our finances, the accomplishments of people we follow on Social (and what we’re not accomplishing in comparison), and so much more. This results in a constantly activated stress response, and constantly elevated levels of our stress hormones, especially cortisol. We rarely have enough of a break between stressors to allow our body to regain hormonal balance. This chronic stress is killing us.

As mentioned above, under normal conditions, cortisol reduces cellular inflammation. However, when continuously secreted due to chronic stress, cortisol fails to function and it actually has the opposite effect—it increases inflammation. This is similar to what happens with insulin resistance in diabetes, where excessive secretion leads to dysfunction. According to the Mayo Clinic, the CDC, and others, chronic stress, and the constant elevation of the stress hormone cortisol causing inflammation, is responsible for a vast majority of the diseases and illnesses of our time, up to 90%.

The Effects of Chronic Stress

Chronic low-level stress keeps the HPA axis activated. This nervous and hormonal system vigilance is much like a motor that is idling too high for too long. Chronic stress leads to:

Inflammation

Repeated stress is a major trigger for persistent inflammation in the body. The brain is normally protected from circulating molecules by a blood-brain barrier. But under repeated stress, this barrier becomes leaky, and circulating inflammatory proteins can damage brain tissue. Chronic inflammation can also lead to a range of health problems, including diabetes and heart disease. Inflammation is one of the leading causes of dementia-related brain diseases like Alzheimer’s.

Anxiety and Depression

The ventromedial prefrontal cortex, which plays a role in emotional cognition – such as evaluation of social connections and learning about fear may enhance irrational fears. Eventually, these fears essentially override the brain’s usual ability for rational decision-making. It has long been researched that chronic stress can lead to depression, which is a leading mental illness worldwide. It is also a recurrent condition – people who have experienced depression are at risk for future bouts of depression, particularly under stress. There are many reasons for this, and they can be linked to changes in the brain. The reduced hippocampus that persistent exposure to stress hormones and ongoing inflammation can cause is more commonly seen in depressed patients than in healthy people. Chronic stress ultimately also changes the neuro transmitting chemicals in the brain that modulate cognition and mood.

Reduced Serotonin levels

Serotonin one of our feel-good hormones is lower in the brain in people with depression. Serotonin is produced in our intestines by the digestion of fiber by our positive gut bacteria, and travels up the vagal nerve to the ‘old brains’. According to the American Psychological Association, stress can affect this brain-gut communication and may trigger pain, bloating, and other effects from inflammatory bowel diseases. The gut’s nerves and bacteria strongly influence the brain and vice versa.

Impaired cognitive performance and brain health

The hippocampus is a critical region for learning and memory and is particularly vulnerable. Studies in humans have shown that inflammation can adversely affect brain systems linked to motivation and mental agility. According to several studies, chronic stress impairs brain function in multiple ways. It can disrupt synapse regulation, resulting in the loss of sociability and the avoidance of interactions with others which limits our choices for de-stressing through co-regulation with others.

Stress can kill brain cells and even reduce the size of the brain. Specifically, chronic stress has a shrinking effect on the prefrontal cortex, the area of the brain responsible for decision making. “Cortisol is believed to create a domino effect that hard-wires pathways between the hippocampus and amygdala in a way that might create a vicious cycle by creating a brain that becomes predisposed to be in a constant state of fight-or-flight,” Christopher Bergland writes in Psychology Today.

Increased abdominal fat and weight gain

Elevated cortisol levels create physiological changes that help to replenish the body’s energy stores that are depleted during the stress response. Unutilized for flight or fight, that extra available glucose gets stored as fat.

Hyperglycemia (blood sugar imbalance), metabolic syndrome, and Type 2 Diabetes.

Research suggests that chronic stress may also contribute to obesity, both through direct mechanisms (causing people to eat more) or indirectly (decreasing sleep and exercise), Type 2 Diabetes, and Metabolic Syndrome.

Heart disease

Persistent epinephrine surges can damage blood vessels and arteries, increasing blood pressure and raising the risk of heart attacks or strokes.

Compromised immune system

While this is valuable during stressful or threatening situations where injury might result in increased immune system activation, chronic stress can result in impaired communication between the immune system and the HPA axis. This impaired communication has been linked to the future development of numerous health conditions, including chronic fatigue, fibral myalgia, and immune disorders. Even Autoimmune disorders are created as an inflammatory response to ongoing stress. The immune system becomes overly sensitized to the body’s own healthy cells and tissue. It reacts against the joints, intestines, or other organs and tissues as if they were dangerous. As the inflammatory response continues, it damages the body instead of healing it.

Muscle atrophy, decreased bone density, and hormone imbalance

Experiencing stressors over a prolonged period of time can result in a long-term drain on the body. As the autonomic nervous system continues to trigger physical reactions, it causes a wear-and-tear on the body. It’s not so much what chronic stress does to the nervous system, but what continuous activation of the nervous system does to other bodily systems that become problematic. Constant cortisol production from our Adrenal glands lowers the production of DHEA, the precursor to our male and female sex hormones. The resulting decline in testosterone production negatively affects libido, and can even cause erectile dysfunction or impotence. Women who are more stressed and anxious may experience an increased number, intensity, and severity of hot flashes, according to the American Psychological Association.

Increased likelihood of addiction

A series of population-based and epidemiological studies done at Yale University School of Medicine proves that increased levels of cortisol is predictive of substance use and abuse. Preclinical research also shows that stress exposure enhances drug self-administration and reinstates drug-seeking in drug-experienced animals (addiction).

Insomnia

Naturally, cortisol wanes throughout the day and is replaced with our sleep-beckoning hormone melatonin. Elevated cortisol levels late into the day stimulates us and prevent melatonin from being released, impacting our circadian rhythm and making it harder to fall asleep and stay asleep. Unfortunately, researchers at Dartmouth have proven that is a negative cycle, “sleep, in particular deep sleep, has an inhibitory influence on the hypothalamic-pituitary- adrenal (HPA) axis, whereas activation of the HPA axis or administration of glucocorticoids can lead to arousal and sleeplessness. Insomnia, the most common sleep disorder, is associated with a 24-hour increase of ACTH and cortisol secretion, consistent with a disorder of central nervous system hyperarousal”. Increased stress leads to poor sleep, and poor sleep, in turn, leads to increased stress. We must learn to break the cycle.

Read our Sleep Hygiene Checklist for your best night’s sleep.

With such a dramatic effect on our health, how we deal with and react to stress, and learning how to prevent or lessen the impact of our stress response is critical to our health and longevity.

Getting to the bottom of Stress-induced Disease

Humans, like all animals, are genetically wired to cope with environmental stressors for survival. How harmful a physical, mental, or emotional stressor is, ultimately depends on its intensity, duration, integration, and, as the most recent research is concluding, how our autonomic nervous system was developed as a child. If we had traumatic events, neglect, developmental attachment issues, or toxic shame in our childhood, our brain, and nervous system will have developed a low-grade survival vigilance. That underdeveloped or under-resourced response will keep cortisol amplified daily decades later. This can put many of us under more stress than may seem necessary.

Emerging Stress Patterns

Before the Covid pandemic, the Stress in America survey reported that money and work were the top two sources of stress for adults in the United States for the eighth year in a row. Other common contributors included family responsibilities, personal health concerns, health problems affecting the family and the economy. The study found that women consistently struggle with more stress than men. Millennials and Gen Xers deal with more stress than Baby Boomers. And those who face discrimination based on characteristics such as race, religion, poverty, disability status, or LGBTQ identification, struggle with more stress than their counterparts who do not regularly encounter such societal biases.

Vagal Theory

A recent study conducted by Stephen Porges, the guru on poly-vagal theory (our autonomic survival nervous system), found that during Covid, the most highly stressed individuals (who weren’t infected) were those who had either an underdeveloped or underregulated/underresourced survival and safety nervous system. Vagal Tone describes our nervous system’s ability to co-regulate with others through prosocial interactions, and self-regulate through practices that induce the parasympathetic (rest and digest) nervous system. Decreases in vagal tone is associated with illnesses and complications that affect our nervous, circulatory, respiratory, and digestive systems as all of our internal organs are connected to the ‘many wandering’ strands of the polyvagal nerve that connects to our reticular, limbic, and neo-cortex brains.

How To Manage Chronic Stress

Since there will always be stressful events in our lives, with all of these varied symptoms of chronic stress on our Balanced Health, what can we do?

Elicit the ventral vagal parasympathetic relaxation response

Harvard Health reports, Dr. Herbert Benson, director emeritus of the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind-Body Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital, has devoted much of his career to learning how people can counter the stress response by using a combination of approaches that elicit the ventral vagal parasympathetic relaxation response. These include deep abdominal breathing, focus on a soothing word (such as “peace” or “calm”), visualization of tranquil scenes, repetitive prayer, yoga, and tai chi.

Practice mindfulness and journal

You can learn to identify what stresses you and how to take care of yourself physically and emotionally in the face of stressful situations through mindful reflection and journalling. When practicing mindfulness meditation, heart rate and breathing slow down, blood pressure normalizes, adrenal glands produce less cortisol and immune function improves. The mind also clears, and creativity increases. Additionally, mindfulness will prevent stress levels from reaching an extreme, or getting out of control. This will allow the Acute Stress Cycle to complete more frequently, resting and digesting fully following a stressful event.

Resource Your Body, Mind, and Spirit to Restore Stress Hormone Levels Quicker

Stress is naturally draining. Resourcing yourself following a stressful experience will restore the balance of your stress hormones and prevent the negative effects of chronic stress. Try eating a healthy diet and getting regular exercise and plenty of sleep. Practicing relaxation techniques such as meditation, yoga, deep breathing, getting a massage, taking time for creative hobbies, reading an inspirational book, or listening to emotionally relaxing music. Walking in nature also lowers cortisol and bathes our brain in positive mood stimulating neurotransmitters (dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin). Fostering healthy intimate friendships, engaging a sense of humor, and seeking professional Relational Somatic Therapy to expand our “window of tolerance” for external stressors that may trigger our autonomic /survival response patterns from childhood help us self-regulate. Resourcing habits between acute stress ‘demands’ and co-regulation with safe others coupled with self-regulation techniques all help break the cycle of chronic stress, nervous system vigilance, constant cortisol elevation, and disease-causing inflammation.

Purposefully Expose Yourself to Acute Stress

Intentionally putting ourselves in stress-inducing, but not harmful or damaging, situations can desensitize our stress response and improve our longevity. Activities such as intermittent fasting or cold-immersion are stressful by definition but performed correctly, they are not harmful and in fact, have a long list of health benefits. Intermitting fasting has been proven to cause cellular autophagy, a process of cellular healing, and Caloric restriction (CR), the reduction of calorie intake to a level that does not compromise overall health, has been considered as being one of the most promising dietary interventions to extend lifespan in humans.

Cold water immersion has a vast array of benefits, from raising metabolic rate by 350%, lowering Cortisol by 46%, raising noradrenaline by 530%, and raising dopamine by 250%. Pain and inflammation also decrease (as experienced in patients with rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia due to increased production of opioid endorphins in the body). Research has shown that cold showers or cold immersion create a “positive systemic stress activation”, through which the high density of cold receptors on the skin sends an overwhelming amount of electrical impulses to the brain. This positive transient activation ignites the sympathetic nervous system and HPA axis (Hypothalamus-Pituitary-Adrenal-Thyroid nervous and hormonal systems). This activation has immense stimulating effects on our immune system by promoting lymphatic drainage! Brief daily cold stress increases the production of T-Lymphocyte, also known as T-cells, a type of leukocyte (white blood cell), and Natural Killer cell, also known as NK cell, production and activation. Both are critical in our immune system. Research is proving the benefits of cold water immersion in innate tumor immunity and nonlymphoid cancer survival rates.


What is Mountain Trek?

Mountain Trek is the health reset you’ve been looking for. Our award-winning hiking-based health program, immersed in the lush nature of British Columbia, will help you unplug, recharge, and roll back years of stress, anxiety, and unhealthy habits. To learn more about the retreat, and how we can help you reset your health, please email us at info@mountaintrek.com or reach out below:

The Cause of your low energy and how to fix it

Feeling tired and low on energy has a dramatic effect on your life. Being low on energy reduces productivity, happiness, longevity, and your overall health. Understanding what causes a lack of energy and how to fix it is critical, and what we aim to share with you in this article.

What Causes Low Energy

Essentially all life in the universe is composed of energy. And, energy (which is never created or destroyed) is constantly changing into one form and through utilization or decay into another. In the cells of our human body, we take in thermo-electric energy from our sun that has been converted into plant life (and up the food chain into animal life) in the form of glucose (sugar). Tiny organelles in each of our cells called mitochondria convert the sugar transported by blood (“blood sugar”) into energy to power every organ, muscle, and neuron. These 1000-2500 power houses extract energy from food and supply it to all parts of every cell in an energy currency called ATP. The healthier and more efficient our mitochondria are, the healthier and more efficient our bodies are.

How To Fix Low Energy

Now if energy is never created or destroyed, how come we feel like we are losing energy? Aging and our lifestyle choices affect the efficiency and longevity of our mitochondria. Oxidation (the bombardment of mitochondria and other cell components with “free radical” electrons from energy production), nutrient deficiencies, and environmental toxins are the root causes. According to Integrative Medicine: A Clinician’s Journal, “the better a species does at protecting its mitochondria, the longer a species lives”. So, in a nutshell, we need to ensure our lifestyle supports our mitochondria operating efficiently.

Optimize Your Nutrition and Meal Timing

The primary way mitochondria are protected from ‘oxidative stress’ is through plant-based dietary building blocks containing CoQ10, manganese, glutathione, and vitamin E from omega 3 oils. Then there is the need for rest. Intermittent Fasting for as close as possible to 12 hrs through the night, gives the mitochondria a break from energy production so they can repair and regenerate.

Reduce Toxin Exposure

Decreasing toxin exposure (plastics, petrochemicals, heavy metals, alcohol, etc.) lessons damage.

Build Muscle Mass

And, building muscle mass counters the diminishing number of mitochondria as we age. Harvard Vanguard Medical Associates warn us about sedentarism contributing to a loss of muscle mass prematurely lowering our number of mitochondria and ATP production. Strength training rebuilds energy-producing mitochondria in our muscle cells.

Reduce Stress Hormone Cortisol

Stress reduction is important to lowering cortisol which through both the increase of inflammation and reduction of ATP production becomes another energy zapper.

Prioritize Sleep

It’s one thing to target longevity through incorporating as many balanced health lifestyle habits as possible (refer to the previous blog on Blue Zone Centenarian lifestyle commonalities), but living consciously now with a focus on supporting our cellular energy engines and maintaining a charged battery with deep sleep will keep you feeling youthful until your ‘due date’.


What is Mountain Trek?

Mountain Trek is the health reset you’ve been looking for. Our award-winning hiking-based health program, immersed in the lush nature of British Columbia, will help you unplug, recharge, and roll back years of stress, anxiety, and unhealthy habits. To learn more about the retreat, and how we can help you reset your health, please email us at info@mountaintrek.com or reach out below:

Guest Information Form Tahoe

Information Form

Mountain Trek Tahoe

Please fill out the form below prior to your stay. This information allows us to offer you a highly personalized and transformative experience.

Please note: this form is specific for you and your booking.

Different Kinds of Meditation

We live in a world of choice; 50 shades of grey, 150 flavors of ice cream, 50 styles of yoga, and over 300 various mind/body practices of meditation. It’s oh so easy to get frozen in the decision-making process and then not choose anything! Below is a summary of the different kinds of meditation to help you find the technique that resonates with you, so you can exercise your mind to be more potent and free.

First, let’s back up and discuss the benefits of meditation, and specifically, the practice of mindfulness, which is one of the most researched topics in psychology and neuroscience these days. Unequivocally, as exercises, it shows positive results in both brain and mental/emotional health. Though we tend to think of meditation as only something to bring mental benefits like increased attention span, heightened concentration, improved focus capabilities, peace, and tranquility, all the various techniques also have a somatic, or body-centric, benefit by invoking the parasympathetic nervous system. The result is lowered stress hormone levels, relaxed muscles, oxygenated blood cells, and ultimately, a deeper mind-body connection.

Current researchers have been cataloging the various practices, and have synthesized them down to the 20 most common, which can then be subdivided into 3 primary themes; Focused Attention, Open Monitoring, and Ethical Enhancement. Though there are the various flavors imbued from the original religious or spiritual wellspring that these techniques are associated with—whether Christian, Sufi, Buddhist, Judaic, Taoist, or Hindu—they are all, at their core, techniques to train our mind to be in present moment awareness, a mental state called consciousness.

Focused Attention Meditation

Focused Attention Meditation (FA) uses a vast array of internal or external phenomena to concentrate the mind on. From the sensations of the breath rising and falling or passing the tip of the nostrils; to gazing at a candle flame; the sounds of singing bowls, word phrases, mantras or, chants; or the details of each foot landing in slow motion while mindfully walking, focusing is the focus. When we notice our attention drift to thoughts, feelings or, body sensations, all schools of this form of meditation encourage a non-judgemental “letting go” followed by a return to concentrating the awareness on the stimuli. Brain scans show increased neuron activity in the centers responsible for cognitive control, thought regulation, and sensory information processing. Try this 8-minute breathing meditation:

Open Monitoring Practices

Open Monitoring Practices (OM) do not use an object of focus. Instead, they center on moment-to-moment awareness of thoughts, feelings, and body sensations also without judgment or preference. Again, with this practice, certain areas of the brain show improvements in action and thought regulation, cognitive control, and sensory information processing. These schools of meditation practice noticing and letting go of anything and everything to foster awareness of our thought tendencies, from a place of present moment witnessing without attachment.

Ethical Enhancement

Ethical Enhancement forms of meditation (EE) include contemplative, gratitude, and compassion centric exercises. They tend to focus thoughts and feelings towards higher states of acceptance and loving-kindness. The improvements noticed through neuroscience are related to areas in the brain associated with ’empathy’, ‘pain perception’ and, ‘body sensation processing’.

Whether you choose to start a meditation practice from any one of these channels, the results are beneficial for the mind, heart, and body. Besides becoming practiced in being focused, aware, or more compassionate for self and others, you’ll notice how your interpersonal presence increases, your ability to stay on task at work increases, and how anxious thoughts can be simply noticed and let go. All of these benefits bring more peace, and joy to our lives.

How To Start A Meditation Practice

Here is a simple starting formula:

  • Pick a time of day that you can own as consistently yours; before getting into bed, or after your morning shower and smoothie.
  • Create a place that invites you to feel calm and relaxed; a chair or cushion in corner of a quiet room, perhaps a serene piece of art or houseplant nearby.
  • Start gently, set a pleasant bell or gong timer for just 5 minutes.
  • Lightly close your eyes, breathe slowly and deeply from the bottom of your belly to the top of your ribs through your nostrils.
  • Invoke your mind’s focus on either the movement/sensation of your breath; the light awareness of the thoughts, feelings, sensations that arise; or focused thoughts or images of gratitude or compassion.
  • Be kind to yourself if you notice a constant stream of thoughts interrupting your practice, this is a normal occurrence for all of us—be patient and, over time your concentration will increase and so too will the space between thoughts.
  • Keep a journal to track your experience and insights.

We hope this helps you on your journey to balanced health. If you would like a kickstart, including guided meditations, please join us for an upcoming Basecamp Weekend Retreat, an online retreat where our expert team brings our award-winning program to you.


What is Mountain Trek?

Mountain Trek is the health reset you’ve been looking for. Our award-winning hiking-based health program, immersed in the lush nature of British Columbia, will help you unplug, recharge, and roll back years of stress, anxiety, and unhealthy habits. To learn more about the retreat, and how we can help you reset your health, please email us at info@mountaintrek.com or reach out below:

Q&A: How do I calm my anxiety?

woman sitting on floor with hand on head

Q: How do I calm my anxiety?

A: According to Harvard’s health scientists, anxiety and its family of stress disorders affect over 40 million Americans, and now with the fears generated from the COVID pandemic, it is on the rise.

There is a wide range of anxiety and stress-related disorders. From constant worry to various phobias, social anxiety, obsessive-compulsive behaviors, panic attacks, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Though anxiety is part of our survival toolkit that keeps us wary of life-threatening situations, it can be debilitating if everyday events continuously trigger reactions that persist into weeks or months.

Research has made it clear that traumatic experiences in early childhood or child-parent attachment difficulties set us up for a higher likelihood of anxiety in our adult life. These unattended stressors can affect the size of parts of our brain responsible for fear and memory. As well as affecting stress levels and mood-enhancing hormones and neurotransmitters. These imbalances can then predispose us to react to fearful triggers, perceived or imagined, in our day to day life. Unconsciously, these triggers initiate thoughts and emotions that can limit and even paralyze our interactions with life’s unforeseen events and relationships with others. This is when anxiety controls our lives.

Up until very recently the only remedy to anxiety, and its common partner depression, has been medication and talk therapy. But with our increased understanding of our genetics, brain, nervous system, hormone and neurotransmitter roles, and even our gut health, there are more options for treatment than ever before.

Though research into success rates is ongoing, the majority of health professionals agree that using two treatments has more success than depending on just one.

Ways to Calm Your Anxiety

Medications

SSRI’s (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors) are most commonly prescribed for anxiety and depression. They help maintain serotonin and norepinephrine levels in the brain (both key mood-enhancing neurotransmitters). There are also medications that adjust dopamine, another “feel-good” and motivation supporting neurotransmitter. And others that help regulate our stress hormone, cortisol. As with all medications, there can be side-effects, and it can take time to calibrate the correct dosage, so work closely with your doctor with these medications as each of us is unique in how we respond to them.

Herbal supplements and essential oils

Herbal supplements and essential oils can be supportive in quelling symptoms of anxiety and chronic stress. A Dr. of Naturopathic Medicine can test your hormonal balance and offer suggestions for specific remedies and dosage. Some common herbs that have been used for centuries are St. John’s wort, passionflower, and valerian root. Research is continuing on the efficacy of essential oils like lavender and rose, which have been used for relaxation and sleep aid in Europe for centuries as well.

Gut health

Pro and prebiotic support for a healthy balance of bacteria in our intestines have shown to increase the production of serotonin.

Exercise

Regular exercise helps move energy in the body. It also releases pain-blocking endorphins that elevate our general mood, and help the body get ready for sleep. And sleep is a paramount resource for neurological and hormonal balance.

Limit triggers

Certain situations, and people, can trigger each of us differently by stimulating old traumas, doubts, and fears that can cascade into worry and helplessness. Avoid stimulants like too much news, media, and screen time as well as caffeine products.

Stress-releasing activities

Nature immersion, yoga, meditation, creative pursuits, petting an animal, massage, and gardening all lower cortisol and release neurotransmitters like serotonin, dopamine, and oxytocin, reducing anxiety.

Psycho-emotional therapy

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) 

CBT has been successful in helping people recognize their stressors, and feelings and thoughts that trigger anxiety. Its success with PTSD is based on strategies of desensitization and life skill management.

Relational Somatic Therapy (RST) 

RST is a body-centric approach that allows the brain to re-wire reactive patterns. The client is supported while exploring self-guided techniques for arising anxious thoughts or emotions. This school of therapy does not try to eliminate triggers relating to trauma or attachment issues but instead helps build awareness and tolerance.

Hypnosis, BioFeedback, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, and Repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation 

These are all new therapies that are being researched and are showing success for various people from war veterans to socially shy teenagers.

Because we are all unique individuals with differences in genetics, family history, hormonal balance, responses to traumatic events, diets, and lifestyles, there is no one magic cure-all for anxiety, depression, or stress disorders. Get professional advice and experiment with different treatments while keeping a journal on your stress triggers, moods, energy levels, thoughts, and feelings. Learn how to creating healthy habits to reduce your anxiety. Anxiety and stress disorders can be managed if we seek appropriate support, a free, happy life will be lived.


What is Mountain Trek?

Mountain Trek is the health reset you’ve been looking for. Our award-winning hiking-based health retreat, immersed in the lush nature of British Columbia, will help you unplug, recharge, and roll back years of stress, anxiety, and unhealthy habits. To learn more about the retreat, and how we can help you reset your health, please email us at info@mountaintrek.com or reach out below:

Extra Mountain Trek Services Form Appalachians

Extra Services Form

In addition to the three 50-min therapeutic massages already included in your program, you may purchase additional sessions to enhance your stay. Please fill out the form below prior to your stay if you’d like to add any massages to your experience.

Please note: Scheduling is based on specialist availability and therefore cannot be guaranteed. We will do our best to accommodate all extra service requests. All prices are in USD and do not include tax.

  • How many extra massages would you like to add to your stay?
  • Support your individual healing needs with a therapeutic massage. Engage your mind and body, while focusing your session on chronic areas of contraction or pain, while releasing muscle knots and fascia, liberating joints and mobility. $135 USD

Appalachians Guest Information Form

Mountain Trek Appalachians Information Form

Please fill out the form below prior to your stay. This information allows us to offer you a highly personalized and transformative experience.

Please note: this form is specific for you and your booking.

Extra Mountain Trek Services

Extra Services Menu

In addition to the three 50-minute therapeutic massages already included in your program, we offer additional treatments and sessions to enhance your stay.

Please note: Scheduling is based on specialist availability and therefore cannot be guaranteed. We will do our best to accommodate all extra service requests. Prices do not include tax.


SWEDISH THERAPEUTIC MASSAGE
Support your individual healing needs with a therapeutic massage. Engage your mind and body, while focusing your session on chronic areas of contraction or pain, while releasing muscle knots and fascia, liberating joints and mobility.
$130 CAD

FOOT REFLEXOLOGY
Involves applied pressure to meridian points on the feet to promote the clearing of energetic pathways and deep relaxation for the whole body. A real treat for your aching feet.
$130 CAD

NUTRITION CONSULTATION
A 50-minute, private session with our Registered Nutritionist, Jenn. Health questions and concerns are reviewed, physical, emotional and lifestyle factors discussed and recommendations given. Please bring a 7-day food diary.
$130 CAD

THAI MASSAGE
Traditional Thai Massage performed fully clothed on a floor mat and incorporating a combination of deep tissue acupressure and yoga-like stretching. Encouraging lymphatic function, this therapeutic offering will also detoxify the body, strengthen the immune system, and prevent injury.
$130 CAD

PRIVATE YOGA SESSION
Enjoy a personalized session focusing on creating your own take home routine, or deepening your current practice.
$130 CAD

ORGANIC FACIAL
An anti-aging and mineral rich nourishing facial treatment.
$155 CAD

ACUPUNCTURE/ACUPRESSURE
An alternative medicine modality in which extremely fine needles are used to help relieve pain and inflammation in the body by stimulating the release of chemicals and the body’s natural healing process.
*Acupressure can be used upon request instead of needles.
$145 CAD

PERSONAL COUNSELLING SESSION
Enjoy a private 50-minute session with our Registered Clinical Counsellor, Michelle. Whether you’re working through a life transition, relationship issues, depression, anxiety, stress, trauma, grief, addiction, or issues relating to self image and self confidence, these client-centered counselling sessions are an opportunity to slow down, become clear and find ways to resolve current concerns or issues from the past that interfere with living fully in the present.
$165 CAD

NATUROPATHIC HEALTH CONSULTATION
During a 50-minute consultation, Dr. O’Brien will review your health history to assess for the underlying cause of your symptoms and health concerns. You will leave with a personalized strategy to maximize your health.
$255 CAD

Optional Naturopathic Health Consultation Addons:

Please note: the above Naturopathic Health Consultation is required to request any of the following. Additionally, all testing is done in the States so prices are in USD

Food Sensitivity Testing
Food sensitivities can cause fatigue, bloating, irritable bowel syndrome, sinus congestion, headaches, joint pain and skin concerns. Test your immune reactivity to over 120 foods via a simple finger-prick blood test during this session. You will receive a detailed laboratory report of your food reactions, which will be reviewed with you during a 30-minute phone follow-up consultation.
+$425 USD

DUTCH Complete Hormone and Neurotransmitter Testing
This test provides comprehensive evaluation of estrogen and its metabolites, progesterone, testosterone, DHEA, cortisol, dopamine, adrenaline, melatonin and more. This test is suitable for both men and women, and is especially helpful to pinpoint the cause of anxiety, insomnia, PMS or menopausal symptoms, fatigue, anxiety and weight gain. Includes a 30-minute phone follow-up consultation.
+$495 USD

Comprehensive Thyroid Testing
This is the most comprehensive test available for the assessment of thyroid function. It measures thyroglobulin and thyroid hormones (TSH, T4, T3) as well as autoimmune reactivity (TPO antibodies). This test also measures iodine and selenium levels, which are critical for healthy thyroid function, in addition to heavy metals that can block thyroid hormone production. Includes a 20-minute follow-up phone consultation.
+ $425 USD

Comprehensive Digestive Stool Analysis
This comprehensive test is paramount to help us pinpoint the cause of digestive symptoms, bloating, skin concerns, autoimmune conditions and more by providing us with a detailed assessment of your gastrointestinal health. Through advanced laboratory analysis, we are able to evaluate your key markers of digestion, absorption and inflammation in addition to measuring for bacterial imbalances, yeast overgrowth and parasites. Includes a 20-minute follow-up phone consultation.
+ $495 USD

Comprehensive Full Package Price
Includes all tests and 2.5 total hours of consultation time with Dr. Kimberley (50-minutes in person at Mountain Trek and the remainder via phone or video-based consultations once you return home).
+ $2,065 USD

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