In this illuminating conversation, I had the pleasure of speaking with functional medicine practitioner Dr. Traci Potterf about the power of holistic healing for anxiety. She and I have both been helping people with anxiety and burnout in general for many years, so this was a perfect opportunity to see how our approaches align and overlap.
Dr. Traci Potterf holds a PhD in Medical Anthropology and is a functional medicine practitioner with extensive training in mind-body therapies. She describes herself as an “anxiety detective” helping clients get to the root causes of anxiety.
Dr. Traci teaches people to understand anxiety as the body’s cry for help, not a personal failing or something you must accept lifelong. Her multifaceted, individualized programs help clients address anxiety through nutrition, lifestyle “makeovers”, stress resilience practices, and nervous system healing.
After healing her own health challenges, Dr. Traci was inspired to support others on their journey to wellness. She is passionate about illuminating the path to joy, meaning, and possibility by merging ancient wisdom, emerging science, and the magic inherent in every human.
Reframing Anxiety as a Health Messenger
Anxiety exists on a spectrum, ranging from tension and muscle tightness to full-blown panic attacks. At the physical level, symptoms may include jaw clenching, gut issues like constipation or loose stools, headaches, insomnia, hormone imbalances, heart palpitations, and more.
Mentally, anxiety manifests as excessive worry about hypothetical future scenarios, catastrophizing, ruminating on negative possibilities, and feelings of being completely overwhelmed.
Our conventional medical system has wrongly pathologized anxiety as a genetic brain defect requiring medication. But humans lived for thousands of years without widespread anxiety disorders. Anxiety is simply the body’s smoke alarm signaling that something is out of balance in the inner or outer terrain. The nervous system is saying “ouch” in the only way it knows how.
Rather than immediately medicating to silence the signals in our nervous system, we must approach anxiety as a teacher. It provides an opportunity to tune into the body’s wisdom and discover what requires healing. Trying to ignore or override anxiety without addressing the root issues provoking it is like disabling a smoke detector while your house burns down.
How Modern Life Impacts Our Nervous System
With our epidemic of chronic stress and toxicity in the modern world, most people now live with some level of anxiety. Here are several contributing factors:
- Diet high in processed foods, sugars, chemicals and industrial seed oils provokes inflammation throughout the body and brain. This impairs cellular functioning, hormone regulation, detox processes, and neurotransmitter balance.
- Dehydration prevents optimal delivery of nutrients and removal of toxins. Lack of structured, energized water also reduces the voltage that powers energy flow.
- Toxins like heavy metals, mold, infections from pathogens like Lyme, and EMFs directly disrupt the nervous system. They derail neurotransmitters and damage tissues.
- Trapped emotions and unprocessed pain or trauma from the past remain stuck in the nervous system and bodily tissues if never addressed. This perpetual loop feeds anxiety.
- Sleep deprivation and constant overstimulation from electronics disrupt natural biorhythms needed for health like cleansing cycles. This stresses physiology.
- Negative thought patterns like excessive self-judgment keep us feeling unsafe and on high alert. The mind perceives threats everywhere.
- Social isolation and lack of community fails to meet our core human needs for belonging and intimate connection. Lack of oxytocin and bonding creates distress.
- Suppression of innate human needs for pleasure, joy, play, and meaning leads to loss of purpose. Without a felt sense of meaning, anxiety brews.
Even with genetic susceptibility based on temperament, we can mitigate these lifestyle and environmental triggers through functional medicine approaches that support the body’s innate wisdom.
Principles of Holistic Healing in Healing Anxiety
Healing anxiety requires a truly holistic approach that addresses body, mind and spirit simultaneously.
A foundational piece is healing and nourishing the physical body by removing sources of inflammation, promoting detoxification, and providing the building blocks for recovery.
Eliminating inflammatory foods like sugars, processed carbs, industrial oils and adopting an organic whole foods diet can cool inflammation. Also adopting an organic whole foods diet centered around vegetables, healthy fats and clean proteins and staying well hydrated with clean, filtered water.
Checking for infections, hormonal issues, autoimmunity, blood sugar imbalance and addressing these underlying issues provides support.
Promoting hydration, key nutrients like B vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and using targeted botanicals and nutraceuticals further aids recovery.
Gentle detox protocols help offload toxins and calm inflammation when indicated. Sauna therapy, massage, dry brushing, castor oil packs, and other techniques enhance detox.
In the interview, Traci shares her personal journey of discovering she had mold toxicity, and how recovering from it has helped solve anxiety.
Since anxiety fundamentally represents nervous system dysfunction, we must specifically heal and regulate the nervous system, not just treat the physical body.
Key strategies for regulating the nervous system include:
- Establishing routines aligned with natural circadian and seasonal bio-rhythms. This supports hormonal balance and healthy nervous system activity.
- Optimizing sleep duration and quality allows neural regeneration and tissue repair. Melatonin and sleep hygiene practices boost sleep.
- Reducing stimulation from electronics, screens, excessive noise, and artificial blue light. This calms the hyperexcited nervous system.
- Engaging in play, pleasure, movement, and nature immersion practices. These discharge tension and cultivate embodiment.
- Incorporating research-backed stress resilience techniques like breathwork, mindfulness, meditation, yoga, chanting, and somatic practices. These alter the brain and repattern nervous system responses.
- Processing old traumas and stuck emotions through journaling, therapy, EMDR, tapping, and other energy psychology methods. Safely releasing old pain prevents anxiety.
Anxiety frequently feeds on distorted, negative thought loops and unhelpful cognitive patterns. We can work to reframe anxious thinking by noticing anxious thoughts and cognitive distortions without judgment and developing the observer self.
We can challenge distorted thoughts by asking questions like “Is this definitely true?” and “How do I know this to be fact rather than my fearful interpretation?” This way we can reframe anxiety narratives into more positive mental scripts aligned with self-trust.
We have to be able to release limiting beliefs about our own inability to get well or successfully manage anxiety. We have to realize that we have more strength than we realize.
We can also practice allowing all emotional experiences to flow through without exaggerating their meaning or significance and practicing present moment mindfulness to break identification with anxious thoughts.
Since human beings are bioenergetic systems, we must also address the spiritual and energetic roots of anxiety. Spending time in nature, adopting daily pleasure practices, moving stagnant emotional energy, freeing the body through dance and creative expression, fostering community and intimacy, engaging in spiritual practices, and cultivating meaning uplift your overall frequency.
Honoring the Nonlinear Journey Back to Wholeness
Traci and I also talked about how true holistic living means embracing all facets of being human. This includes sitting with painful or unpleasant emotions when they arise, not just seeking high-vibe states and positivity.
Avoiding our feelings can worsen anxiety. We need full expression of our inner experience and realize the importance of self-compassion when anxiety feels overwhelming. Judging or beating yourself up will only worsen matters. Each person’s path is unique and nonlinear.
There will invariably be ups and downs, breakthroughs and backslides as part of the journey. What matters most is continually realigning with your core values and making progress from a place of radical self-love.
Expanding your self-knowledge allows you to create a lifestyle that is sustaining and enlivening for your unique mind-body needs. As you learn how to care for yourself in the ways your system requires, you will no longer need willpower or self-force to make positive choices. Pleasure, meaning, joy and health become synonymous.
Investing fully in your own healing journey, though often challenging, pays exponential dividends. Having compassionate community support and guidance from skilled practitioners accelerates progress through difficult times.
But at its core, healing anxiety means rediscovering your innate wholeness, remembering you are more than your anxiety. When you reclaim your power to shift your inner landscape on all levels, the physical manifestations change as well. You “feel your way free” and unlock possibility for profound holistic transformation.
Dr. Doni’s Approach to Anxiety
I have been helping patients recover (yes recover) from anxiety and burnout for over two decades. Even though we are led to believe that anxiety is permanent, my patients have proven that is not true. I also used to experience severe anxiety myself, and that motivated me to solve it once and for all.
Now I use my proven Stress Recovery Protocol to guide patients to address their mental health issues and burnout based on their Stress Type. I first recommend measuring your cortisol levels at four times of day, as well as adrenaline and neurotransmitter levels.
By knowing the exact imbalances in your adrenal function and nervous system, I can then guide you to address them using amino acid therapy, as well as herbs and nutrients, known to bring cortisol, adrenaline and neurotransmitters back to optimal.
I also guide you to implement my C.A.R.E. Protocol, which involves clean eating, adequate sleep, recovery activities and exercise based on your Stress Type.
To give you a sense of what is involved, here is a summary of Beneficial Modalities for Healing Anxiety Naturally:
- Eliminate inflammatory foods, such as sugar, gluten, dairy, based on your food sensitivities – here is the test I recommend
- Gut healing to address the gut-brain axis with herbs and digestive enzymes – find my Leaky Gut Program here
- Adrenal support using adaptogens and nutrients – Based on your Stress Type®
- Methylation support to optimize neurotransmitter metabolism – find my Methylation Program here
- Amino acids like tryptophan, glycine, GABA for calming – Based on my Stress Recovery Protocol®
Herbs and Natural Agents:
- Nervine herbs like passionflower, chamomile, lemon balm to soothe nerves
- Adaptogens like ashwagandha, rhodiola, ginseng for resilience – Based on your Stress Type®
- Support your cannabinoid system – herbs and CBD
- Nootropics for cognitive support like lion’s mane mushroom and more – Based on your Stress Type®
- Magnesium, l-theanine, omega-3s for calming and mood regulation – Based on my Stress Recovery Protocol®
Body-Centered Healing Practices:
- Breathwork, mindfulness meditation, chanting, yoga, and Qigong
- Somatic techniques, polyvagal exercises, breathwork
- Nature immersion and forest bathing to restore
- Trauma release exercises, EMDR, neurofeedback
- Bioenergetic therapies – acupuncture, sound healing, tapping
Lifestyle and Plant Medicine Approaches:
- Sleep hygiene, light exposure, digital detox, balancing rest and activity
- Community support, relationships, intimacy, pleasure practices
- Nature immersion, gardening, grounding, ecotherapy
- Creativity, dance, journaling for expression and embodiment
- Psychedelic therapy with plant medicines
I hope these suggestions provide a helpful starting point for those seeking to craft a personalized holistic healing program. Please reach out if you would like guidance assembling your own integrative anxiety relief toolkit. With an open heart and willing spirit, true and lasting transformation is absolutely within reach.
If you would like to learn more about Dr. Traci and how she can help you, you can visit her website here. You can also connect with Dr. Traci on social media at @drtracipotterfphd (Instagram) and @Inner Genius Health with Dr.Traci Potterf, PhD (Facebook).
If you want to learn more about Dr. Doni’s Stress Recovery Protocol® which involves optimizing cortisol and adrenaline levels using nutrients, herbs and C.A.R.E.™, her proprietary program to support clean eating, adequate sleep, stress recovery and exercise, you can read all about it in her book Master Your Stress Reset Your Health.
We also invite you to listen in to Dr. Doni’s FREE virtual masterclass – Calm in the Storm: Research-Backed Techniques for Healing Your Body and Mind.
This masterclass will equip you with a toolbox of techniques and a personalized action plan so you can find inner peace and heal the impact of stress based on your Stress Type. You’ll leave this masterclass with research-backed skills to bring calm to the chaos within – and maintain resilience in the face of external stressors. And know next steps you can take to recover.
For the most comprehensive support, even with the most difficult health issues (physical or mental), it is best to meet with Dr. Doni one-on-one, which is available to you no matter where you are in the world (via phone or zoom). You can set up a one-on-one appointment here.
We’re here to help you!
Connect with Dr. Doni:
- Facebook https://facebook.com/drdoniwilson
- Instagram https://instagram.com/drdoniwilson
- YouTube https://youtube.com/user/DoniWilsonND
- Weekly Wellness Wisdom Newsletter: https://doctordoni.com/www
More Resources from Dr. Doni:
- Start with Dr. Doni’s Stress Quiz:
- Latest Book: Master Your Stress, Reset Your Health
- Stress Warrior Book
- Stress Warrior Stress Resiliency Group (FREE)
- 7-day SelfC.A.R.E Stress Reset
- HPV Recovery Guide (FREE)
Disclaimer: This specific article and all other Content, Products, and Services of this Website are NOT intended as, and must not be understood or construed as, medical care or advice, naturopathic medical care or advice, the practice of medicine, or the practice of counseling care, nor can it be understood or construed as providing any form of medical diagnosis, treatment, cure, or prevention of any disease.
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