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Freedom from Anxiety: A Holistic Approach to Emotional Well-Being Paperback – January 14, 2014
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—Jessica Prentice, author of Full Moon Feast: Food and the Hunger for Connection
“Hands down the best book ever written on the topic of anxiety. The combination of simple techniques, biomedical awareness, and nutritional guidance, creates a tool that lovingly holds the reader’s hand and gently navigates to an understanding of how to avoid and pivot away from anxiety. A tool I will use again and again as it has found a permanent position on my nightstand.”
—Betsy Hicks, author of Picky Eating Solutions
“[This book] is a multifaceted jewel—an extraordinary collection of healing approaches offered to assist one in achieving relief from anxiety. Its breadth and depth provide a unified, inspiring, and immensely practical new paradigm for how emotional well-being can be realized. Marcey Shaprio’s exploration of anxiety includes its spiritual and emotional roots as well as insights from her personal journey toward relief. By identifying a wide range of possibilities for practice that are life-giving, she sets the reader to underlining words and turning down page corners to mark passages that have personal resonance. A must-read for anyone seeking to understand the pursuit and realization of more ease and joy in their experience.”
—Joanne Lauck Hobbs author of The Voice of the Infinite in the Small
“Freedom from Anxiety is an amazing journey through the ‘minefield’ of anxiety. An extensive overview with both general and specific suggestions, it addresses this widespread syndrome from all levels: physical, emotional and spiritual. A holistic approach in the fullest sense of the tradition, this book provides a calming pathway with possible strategies and practical applications for the majority of sufferers. A must-read for every physician who is dealing with patients suffering from anxiety.
—John H. Hicks III, MD
“Accolades to Marcey Shapiro! As a dedicated healer and visionary, she has created an incredible treasure chest of practices and techniques that take us straight into the heart of healing. Rather than feeling we’re at the mercy of anxiety, we can empower ourselves by learning to use our emotions as our essential guidance system, illuminating where we are aligned with our enlightened Self, our Spirit. When we’re struggling, our emotions serve as a signal that we’ve stepped out of the flow of our greater good. The journey of finding the ‘gift in the wound’ is rewarding beyond measure. It is one of awakening to our own magnificence, joy, balance, and harmony that is our true nature.”
—Jill Lebeau, MFT, spiritual psychotherapist and coauthor of Feng Shui Your Mind: Four Easy Steps to Rapidly Transform Your Life!
About the Author
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It's a great-- actually, relaxing-- read. I read it from start to finish. It's also a reference work, the kind of book one wants to keep on the shelf and consult from time to time. It's a compendium of techniques and daily life practices and potions to alleviate anxiety, and a guide for discerning which of the innumerable choices is best for you or me.
Full disclosure here: Dr. Shapiro is one of my own doctors and a person I admire.
Freedom From Anxiety follows on the heels of Dr. Shapiro's first book Transforming the Nature of Health. The two are companions, actually the beginning of a series as she is at work on future books about digestion, menopause, men's health, among other topics.
Both of the already published books are grounded in Dr. Shapiro's holistic philosophy of medicine: We are spiritual beings in physical existence, and the bridge between the spiritual and the physical is contentment, happiness.
What stands in the way of happiness and, by implication, good health, is often our deep sense of anxiety. Fear is a primal emotion that may have had its evolutionary purposes. Anxiety seems to be a deeply ingrained response to external stimuli. It also makes us miserable, and sick.
I learned in this book that almost 20 percent of people in our society suffer from a diagnosable anxiety disorder. This is not the usual jitters anyone may get before a stressful event. The National Institute of Mental Health defines a diagnosable anxiety disorder -- including post-traumatic stress, obsessive compulsive disorder, panic attacks, phobias -- as "sustained feelings of fearfulness or nervousness." About three-fourths of those affected by anxiety disorders have their first episode before their 21st birthday. Anxiety disorders are implicated in other mental health problems such as substance abuse and depression, and probably in a lot of physical ailments form auto-immune diseases to cancer.
Nothing, then, could be more important for our collective health and happiness, than finding freedom from anxiety.
Dr. Shapiro explains for a non-scientific reader the happiness-to-health connection. "Our cells' immune system is strengthened by internal biochemical of happiness. The immune system creates many of these biochemical in response to our emotional state." Immune cells are equipped with receptors to receive information. Ninety percent of these receptors are for endogenous (made by our own bodies) opiates (endorphins) and cannabinoids. Much research shows that endorphins are key to optimal immune function, which protects us from illnesses. Research into cannabinoids is underway and has been slowed by the politics of cannabis prohibition. Dr. Shapiro writes that autoimmune diseases -- which affect millions -- "may one day be proven to be caused to a large degree by a deficiency of endorphins and cannabinoids." We need to feel good to be healthy.
If anxiety and stress in general are bad for our health, what are we to do about it? Dr. Shapiro repeatedly tells us to consult our own inner guidance in choosing from a banquet of stress-reducing practices that begin and end with being kind to oneself. Certainly, she says, don't worry about worrying.
From there, the book packs an amazing amount of technique into 300 pages. She discusses meditation, exercise, numerous breathing practices. She offers her non-dogmatic approach to nutrition. She's not out to convince anyone but she does introduce readers to the idea that eating adequate fat and protein, along with traditional fermented foods, goes a long way toward health. Again, her advice is: experiment and see how you feel.
The medium is the message here, and a big part of her message is: have fun and enjoy. She has a page on the stress-reducing properties of chocolate followed by -- surprise -- her own recipe for a sugar-free confection made with cacao, coconut butter and nuts.
There are lengthy sections on the use of nutritional supplements, herbs and traditional Chinese medicine, including acupuncture. If found these three sections to be the strongest information-wise, not surprising to me since Dr. Shapiro emphasizes these areas, along with food as medicine, in her practice.
There is an invitation to the reader to try all sorts of things from aromatherapy to homeopathy to using color and light, flower essences, rocks and crystals. Yes, crystals. Some of what Dr. Shapiro suggests for reducing anxiety is way off the beaten path, and she acknowledges that. No claims for efficacy are made as she reiterates her theme of individual experimentation. What works for one may not work for others.
Her agenda in this book is to present what she knows to date and what has worked in her own life and with patients. It's not about whether something has ben peer-reviewed in journals or popular with the AMA or covered by insurance. That's not how she operates.
Some of the techniques she mentions may seem way out (now) because not enough research has yet been conducted, and because our culture has become dependent on pharmaceutical solutions. Emotional conditions such as anxiety may be amenable to a broad range of treatments because anxiety has a lot to do with how we think and feel about ourselves, as well as with what we eat and whether we get enough exercise and relaxation. Teasing out all the variables would not be easy to do with standard scientific tests.
At the end of the book is a chapter called "Putting it All Together" which encourages readers to develop their own systems for reducing anxiety, not excluding the use of psychotherapy and medication where appropriate.
This is a doctor who believes that all healing ultimately involves self-healing. Freedom From Anxiety is good medicine.