Watch the full interview below or listen to the full episode on your iPhone HERE.
Stu: This week, I’m excited to welcome Susie Garden to the show. Susie is a clinical nutritionist, naturopath, podcaster and mindset coach helping clients who are experiencing stress, fatigue and anxiety. In this episode, we dig deep into the topic of anxiety, uncovering the telltale signs and discuss where we might start when wanting to address it. We cover diet, gut health, sleep, and so much more … enjoy.
Where might we start when wanting to tackle anxiety?
Do certain foods feed anxiety?
How important is gut health for a calm and controlled mind?
Get More of Susie Garden
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Hey, this is Stu from 180 Nutrition, and welcome to another episode of the health sessions. It’s here that we connect with the world’s best experts in health, wellness and human performance in an attempt to cut through the confusion around what it actually takes to achieve a long-lasting health. Now I’m sure that’s something that we all strive to have. I certainly do. Before we get into the show today, you might not know that we make products too. That’s right. We’re into whole food nutrition and have a range [00:00:30] of superfoods and natural supplements to help support your day. If you are curious, want to find out more, just jump over to our website. That is 180nutrition.com.au, and take a look. Okay. Back to the show.
This week. I’m excited to welcome Susie Garden to the show. Susie is a clinical nutritionist, naturopath, podcaster and mindset coach helping clients who are experiencing stress, fatigue and anxiety. In this episode, we dig deep into the topic of anxiety, uncovering the telltale signs and discuss where we might start when wanting to address it. We cover diet, gut health, sleep, and so much more. So without further ado, over to Susie.
Hey guys, this is Stu from 180 Nutrition and I’m delighted to welcome Susie Garden to the podcast. Susie, good morning. How are you?
I’m really well. Thanks, Stu. How are you?
Yeah, good, good. Really good. And I’m very intrigued and inspired to [00:01:30] dig into your knowledge today and looking forward to the wisdom that you’re going to share with our audience. But before we jump into any of that, I’d love it if you could just tell our listeners who may not be familiar with you or your work just a little bit by yourself please.
Yeah. Sure, Stu. Well, I’m currently a naturopath and nutritionist and a yoga and meditation instructor in Brisbane. Soon to be moving to Burleigh Heads, which I’m super excited about. But I actually started off my career in the conventional side [00:02:00] of medicine as a registered nurse, and I worked in the hospital environment, looked after a lot of really sick people and eventually ended up in the pharmaceutical industry, which is kind of like the polar opposite of the natural health industry, but had a lot of fun and it was a really great learning experience. I got exposed to a lot of different ways of treating illness, not a lot about wellness, but certainly [00:02:30] it was really great for my own education about the body and how it works and how drugs work and, but also during that time I was in quite a senior role, and I was traveling constantly.
I was living on hotel food and airline food. I had no routine, and I was just getting very burnt out and very unwell and I didn’t really recognize it. That’s one of the things with stress and anxiety [00:03:00] is often that you don’t actually recognize it until you’re really far gone in it. And sometimes then when you do recognize it, it’s like, “Well how do I get out of this?” And that was kind of how it was for me. I started getting kind of panic attacks in normal situations, so I remember once being at a local shopping center and just having this feeling of absolute overwhelm and feeling quite anxious and feeling like I shouldn’t be there. I should be working like this is a Saturday [00:03:30] afternoon. There was no need for me to be working. But it was absolute feelings of just panic and I needed to get out of there and I needed to be doing something else and feeling guilty and really quite disturbing when I reflect back on it.
And it wasn’t until I got struck down with quite a nasty flu, it was in February, which was summer, which is not really flu season here. I was in bed for two weeks and literally just couldn’t get out for more than about 20 or 30 minutes without being extremely fatigued. So, I [00:04:00] was just lying in bed doing nothing but lots and lots of thinking and it really gave me some fantastic reflection time, which is kind of a bit sad really, that it took that for me to actually type this reflection time. But it made me realize that it was not sustainable what I was doing and it was not something I wanted to continue to be doing with my life, but I couldn’t work out how to get out of it. It was a very lucrative job. I really loved the people I was working with. But yeah, the lifestyle, [00:04:30] the constant travel was just a real problem.
So, I started studying nutrition online because I thought, “Well, I want to stay in health. I can’t really picture what this is going to look like yet, but this is something I can do.” And I went and did my yoga teacher training, which was really more for me. I’d been doing yoga for, Oh gosh, at that point, around 15 years. And I didn’t know a lot about the philosophy and I really wanted to get some good education in that. So, I took some [inaudible 00:04:59] leave and went over to Bali [00:05:00] for a couple of weeks and did my yoga teacher training with no intention to teach, just to get the knowledge and it was amazing. It was life-changing actually. I really felt coming back from that and being with the different kinds of people that were on that training and just being in Bali for two weeks, was transformational for me.
I’ve came back feeling like a different person. I had different habits and routines. I had a regular meditation practice, I had a regular daily yoga practice and that just made a huge [00:05:30] difference for me personally with my mental and physical health. And then I think about two weeks later the universe stepped in and I was retrenched from my job, which was an absolute delight. I couldn’t have been happier with that because it essentially gave me the ability to study full-time to go on campus. So, I did that and started teaching yoga, which was really fun and [00:06:00] still is really fun. And I then got interested when I was in the student clinic learning nutrition into the herbal medicine. But I was so anti natural health, just I’d never really been exposed to it. And being from the pharmaceutical industry, if it’s not pharmaceutical, then it’s not evidence-based and therefore it’s not real and it doesn’t work.
And so, suddenly I was exposed to people that were having successful [00:06:30] careers in natural health and I was learning about what these natural medicines actually were and they actually have pharmacological actions which are proven and yeah, I suddenly decided, “Okay, I’m going to study that.” So, I became a naturopath and a nutritionist and a yoga meditation teacher. And so I have my clinic in Hamilton in Brisbane. I also work with the Australian Army teaching meditation to injured soldiers on Wednesday afternoon.
Yeah, which is really amazing. It’s part of a [00:07:00] structured, six-week program for these soldiers, some of them which will stay in and some will be medically discharged. And I also run international retreats and my online course, the Anxiety Taming Method. So, it’s all happening,
Boy oh boy. Busy, busy. Now I feel inadequate. You’ve just spoiled. No, it’s amazing. And so I’m really, really keen then to talk about the Anxiety [00:07:30] Taming Method as well because I just feel that we in a point in time where I think we’ve never been less mindful because we’ve got so many digital distractions and so many pressures, environmental pressures, social pressures, digital pressures, and perhaps we’re not connecting as well as we used to because we virtually connect now as well. And so I’m really keen to dig into anxiety, [00:08:00] telltale signs and strategies and modalities to be able to address that at the core level as well. So, I’m thinking in terms of anxiety and it’s probably a huge sliding scale, like you said. Like you went to complete burnout, but at the other end of the scale, what telltale signs do you think that some of us may be experiencing that could potentially point to a [00:08:30] cumulative effect that negatively impacts our health?
Yeah, yeah. There’s quite a few actually, and this is why it can be quite difficult to identify because a lot of these signs are not particularly dramatic, they’re not particularly a problem on their own. And some of it might be some insomnia and plenty of people have insomnia and that can be either a difficulty to sleep or it can be waking up during the night and then having a bit of trouble getting back to sleep. So, that [00:09:00] can be one thing, and often people will dismiss that as not very important, but it’s actually really, really important to address. That could be a whole other podcast, Stu.
Yeah. Well, I would definitely want to dive into your sleep strategies because I think that that is absolutely so critical in terms of waking up with racing mind and things like that, but so I’ve got a whole heap of questions that I’d like to dig into.
Yes, excellent. Cool, we’ll get into that. But yeah, insomnia is one of them. Also fatigue, [00:09:30] so just general fatigue. That can be waking up and really dragging yourself out of bed, or it can be fatigue during the day and there’s no real reason for it. It can be also just a real lack of interest, particularly when it comes to burnout. One of the official symptoms of burnout is just a lack of interest in your job. So, really I’m just going there, getting the things done that you need to get done, but actually not caring that [00:10:00] much about the outcome is actually an official, I think World Health Organization-listed a side of burnout.
Oh boy. I think we’ll be getting lots of people nodding their head, right now, thinking, “That’s me.”
Yeah. Also avoidance behavior, like if you’re starting to avoid certain situaaaaaaaaaaaAtions. So, if it’s avoiding catching up with friends, that was something I really noticed with myself. I would be away or weak and I’d get home and I just wanted to sit on the couch. I didn’t want to go out and socialize, which was actually had [00:10:30] more of a detrimental effect than a positive effect. So, I was just avoiding social situations or avoiding certain people or avoiding conversations that need to be had, can also be a sign of anxiety. Having digestive symptoms, like chronic constipation can be a sign of being anxious or stressed, or diarrhea. So again, it’s kind of like there’s not one or the other. It can be either or both. Nausea, particularly related around a particular situation, [00:11:00] can also be a sign of anxiety or stress. So, that’s just a handful. But as I say, each one of them on their own you could immediately associate with anxiety.
Yeah, it’s tricky too because all of those symptoms could cause us anxiety too.
Absolutely. Yeah, yeah.
As we worry about that. So, the starting point, so I’ve decided, “Right, something doesn’t feel right. [00:11:30] I am experiencing symptoms like that. Yes. I wake up in the middle of the night. I just don’t really care about my job. I just want to get in there, get out. And I just absolutely, just want to dial into Netflix at the weekends and in the evenings.” Yeah. If that is me, where would the starting point be?
The starting point I think is recognizing that perhaps this might be becoming an issue. It might be interfering with your life and actually then starting to [00:12:00] take some responsibility for that and going, “Okay, well what can I do about it?” And one of the big things with regard to stress and anxiety is calming the stress response. And to calm the stress response, you need to understand what the stress response is. So, it’s also known. People probably know it as the fight-or-flight response. And this is like a caveman thing where it was to keep us safe. It was only ever designed to be activated for about 20 or 30 seconds to get us out of a situation, runaway or fight a [00:12:30] predator essentially. And that response hasn’t evolved. It still is what it is, right? And our stress levels now are mortgage stress, financial stress, job stress, relationship stress, looking-at-the-news stress. And that doesn’t go away in 20 or 30 seconds.
And sometimes people are living in their stress response for hours, days, weeks, months at a time. And what that stress response does is it triggers [00:13:00] hormones like adrenaline and cortisol, increases your heart rate, your blood pressure, and your respiratory rate to get blood out to the muscles so that you can either fight or run away. It makes you sweat to cool you down. It takes oxygen and blood away from the digestive system because that’s a lower priority at that point. And it also takes those same oxygen and blood away from the reproductive organs because that’s not a priority when you’re fighting for your life. So, that, as you can see just by listing those symptoms, you can see, “Okay, that can be causing [00:13:30] some problems.” So, one of the things that you can do to try and dampen down that stress response, and it sounds so simple, it’s ridiculous, is deep breathing.
And this belly breathing is something I first learned when I was probably in my first few yoga classes. It’s one of the basics of yoga is belly breathing. And what that does, it’s actually been extensively researched. It affects the hypothalamus, which is like your control center in the center of your brain. It controls that stress response amongst a whole [00:14:00] bunch of other things. And what it does is it basically tells your hypothalamus, “It’s okay, the threat is gone.” So, you can just dial back that stress response. So, you’re already controlling your breathing. So, that’s slowing that down. But then your heart rate will slow down, your blood pressure will come down. Those stress hormones will lower their production, and it just brings that stress response down and brings up your relaxation response, which is your opposing nervous system.
So, for those of us that aren’t familiar [00:14:30] with belly breathing, I wonder whether you could just run us through the practice.
Yeah, it’s so easy and I love teaching this practice. It’s one of the most essential things I think, a life skill that we can have. So, if you don’t know belly breathing, you essentially teach yourself and then you can do it all the time. But to teach yourself how to do it, you just sit or stand. You place one hand on the chest and one hand on the belly and you just take a normal breath in and out.
And then in the next breath you breathe into the belly first, [00:15:00] and then the mid chest and the upper chest, and then you exhale from the upper chest, and the mid chest and the belly. And you hug the belly in, and you inhale into the belly, and you just continue in that kind of segmented approach with the torso. But it’s not jerky, it’s just kind of smooth. It’s like a wave. And once you teach yourself that, you can do it all the time and no one knows you do it, because you don’t have to put your hands on your body.
Got it, got it.
And it’s [00:15:30] one of the first things that I teach clients coming in. I teach all of the Army people that I work with. And interestingly, when I was a senior manager and I had to do around of retrenchments unfortunately, and they brought those psychologists in to help us managers deal with that. And one of the skills they taught us was belly breathing and they said, “If you’re getting stressed when you’re doing this, with having these conversations with people to start the belly breathing.” And I was kind of like, “Oh, I just thought this was a yogi thing. [00:16:00] But in fact, it’s used everywhere.” So yeah, and as I said, there’s a lot of research behind it as well.
Yeah, I’ve spoken to a couple of neuroscientists as well, and they utilized similar practices in terms of giving ourselves micro breaks when we are in this continual stress response throughout the day. So, how many times would you do that typically?
Well, the research says it takes up to 10 minutes for this to [00:16:30] work, depending, of course on your baseline. So, if you’re quite highly stressed, it may take that full 10 minutes. If you’re kind of at about 50% of your stress response, it might take less. So, what I recommend is you maybe take three minutes a day to teach yourself the technique. And probably after a week, you’ve probably learned it. It’s not very hard. And then you just do it all the time. You do it when you’re driving, you do it when you’re sitting in front of the computer, when you’re sitting in front of your screen and it just becomes second nature and then you don’t even really have to [00:17:00] think about it. So, it’s a really easy technique to bring in.
Okay. And any counting required? Or just-
Just in, out. So in through the belly. In through the chest.
In down into the belly. Yep. And then the upper chest, [crosstalk 00:17:17] and then exhale and from the upper chest [crosstalk 00:17:18] and the mid chest and the belly.
Yeah. Super easy.
All right, I’m trying it. I’m trying. Excellent. So that sounds like [00:17:30] a fantastic starting point to directly impact the physiology. And I’m thinking now about external factors, things like the foods that we eat because we could get up and we could charge ourselves with sugar and caffeine and head out the door. What’s your take on nutrition? How important is it if anxiety is a problem for us?
It is critical.
[00:18:00] … It is critical because those foods you mentioned are some of the key foods that can trigger off anxiety and really feed it and in particular sugar is a really big one because when we’re in that stress response where we have elevated cortisol anyway, as I mentioned before.
What cortisol does is it’s trying to help us fight or run away. So it’s pushing glucose into our blood so that we’ve [00:18:30] got energy. So when we have higher glucose levels in our blood, we naturally will shoot glucose into the cells, which is where we need it. That’s a normal response.
But when we’re getting high levels of glucose, we get high levels of blood sugar and then we get what we all know is that sugar crash, right? And so you feel terrible, you get sweaty, you feel irritable, and that just feeds your anxiety and it’s very well-known in research that that increased sugar will [00:19:00] increase your anxiety.
And same with caffeine, same with alcohol, processed foods, like all the stuff we love, all the stuff we turn to when we are feeling anxious or stressed unfortunately is going to enhance those feelings of stress and anxiety.
So being prepared with foods that are nourishing for the body but are going to satisfy that craving that [00:19:30] we have for the sweet treat can be really helpful when we’re managing stress and anxiety for ourselves.
Excellent, excellent. And we always liken, we have a fire analogy in terms of fuel, energy for the day. Where protein and fat are typically like putting a log on the fire and they’ll give you steady energy throughout the day, but your carbohydrates, which are our more convenienced options that we tend [00:20:00] to crave more of.
It’s almost like kindling or paper on a fire. It’s like it’s gone and then you’re hungry an hour or so later.
You want more.
You just want more, you want more. What would you say then to somebody says, “You know, I’m not anxious but I absolutely have to have a glass of wine before I go to bed because I just can’t wind down and when I get up in the morning, don’t even talk to me unless I’ve had a coffee.”
Yeah. Yeah. A mindset around this is one of the most important [00:20:30] things because particularly in Australia we really like to drink. We really, really like to drink. And yeah, having that glass of wine at night can be a real ritual for people and an absolute pleasure that we look forward to at the end of the day.
And I think sometimes there’s an education around what that alcohol is actually doing to us and perhaps finding substitute [00:21:00] for that. Now I do find, and this to me it sounds horrible, but I find many people actually do well with substituting that wine with bone broth.
Which I just think, “Really?|.
On the rocks.
Yeah. But I’ve tried that with a number of clients who have been quite stuck on having their alcohol at night and they love it. Because it’s really soothing, particularly in winter. It’s really soothing, it’s quite hearty and it does [00:21:30] give that sense of comfort that I think people do get from wine. And that is obviously can be very, very nourishing for the gut.
So that’s something if you can find a good alternative that people can substitute, I think that is one solution,.but also providing the education around what that wine or alcohol is actually doing to your brain and to your liver, and to your blood glucose and how that’s [00:22:00] then feeding into how you’re feeling the next day.
And the same with the coffee. I mean, gosh, I love my coffee as much as anybody and even I only have usually one a day, but if I don’t get that one a day, you don’t want to be around me. Let me tell you.
And having coffee, there’s nothing wrong with having a coffee, but as long as it’s not substituting for a meal and as long as you’re not feeling like absolutely physically and psychologically [00:22:30] dependent on that coffee.
And I know for myself personally, several times a year, I’ll take myself off it for a few weeks just so that I know that I can. Every time I do it, even though I do it regularly, every time I’m like, “Ah, I really can’t exist without it.” Then I don’t really want to go back on it. I don’t know, but then I do.
It’s good advice. I’m on the wine as well, now I track my sleep implicitly and it’s profound [00:23:00] the effect that alcohol has on sleep in terms of allowing you to enter the phases that are so necessary to reset, recover, and enable all of the repair systems as well.
So you may think, “Oh, it’s just winding me down. I really need that.” But when you actually see the data it is quite a shocker, quite a shocker.
It really is. Yeah. And people don’t realize. But again, because it’s such a big part of our culture in Australia and from a young age, I mean I remember as a kid, it was a real treat for me to [00:23:30] go to the fridge and pull mum and dad a glass of wine because that made me feel like a grown up.
I mean I wasn’t drinking it, but it was kind of fun to bring the glasses to the table and all of that sort of thing. It was always associated with very positive, happy things in my family, which I know it isn’t always in other people’s families. But it’s certainly a big part of our culture and it can be a very difficult habit to break without having good reasoning behind that.
Yeah, no, definitely. And you mentioned gut health prior when we were talking about food as [00:24:00] well. It’s now becoming common knowledge it seems like across the board that gut health is so important for overall health and also I think many people now are referring to the gut as the second brain.
Now where anxiety is concerned if your gut health needs work, given the fact [00:24:30] that we’re told that X percent of serotonin is produced in the gut, what are your thoughts on the importance of optimizing your gut health to make you a happier person?
Because I don’t know. People might think, “Oh, my gut health is terrible. I’ve got bloating indigestion. I’ve got gas.” But I wonder how many people actually linked that to the mindset and the way they feel emotionally.
Yeah, exactly. And my concern sometimes with this is that people will have those types [00:25:00] of symptoms and they’ll just go, “Oh, I’ll go and buy myself a kombucha down the shops.”
Yeah, treat themselves like that or go and grab some random probiotics from the chemist. And I think that part of this healing journey is about actually getting assessed and seeing what is actually going on in your digestive system.
Because it it’s not normal to have bloating. It’s not normal to have pain. It’s not normal [00:25:30] to have constipation or diarrhea. People over periods of time start to find their symptoms, they’re just normal for them and don’t even have a second thought.
I have a client that is a GP and she came to me for anxiety and when we were talking about her digestive health because I do a holistic assessment, and she had [00:26:00] diarrhea for the past eight years.
And I’m like, “Oh have you had that investigated?| And she’s like, |Oh no, that’s just normal for me.” And I’m like, “Hmm, but it’s not really normal, is it?” She goes, “Yeah, yeah that’s normal for me?” And I went, “Okay, well.” We had a bit of a chat, but she was quite insistent this was normal.
Anyway, two weeks later she came back to see me. She went, “Oh my goodness, I’ve really been observing this and it’s really not normal.” And she’s noticed that on the days she had to go to work it was actually [00:26:30] worse. And so we were talking about that whole connection between the gut, the brain anxiety.
And also we had a discussion about how easily things can become normal and how easily symptoms because particularly I guess gut symptoms can be embarrassing. So we don’t really want to go and talk to our doctor or our healthcare professional about that.
And so we just up with it and then it just becomes normal. So I think the first thing is to actually get checked [00:27:00] out and make sure you don’t have a parasite. You don’t have a bacterial infection that is just at the level where it’s not making you violently ill, but it’s just making you unwell at a certain point.
So I think if you are having digestive symptoms, that’s incredibly important to us to get checked out and make sure there’s nothing more. I was going to say Sonesta maybe, but more something that can actually be treated quite effectively and that needs to be treated [00:27:30] in order for you to move forward.
For some people, it is an imbalance in the gut and the, oh sorry, we now say the beneficial and the non-beneficial bacteria in the gut. And so again that usually needs some assessment. I can’t even tell you how many times I go and do a stool testing on patients and it comes back with bacterial imbalances that are way out of proportion to the symptoms that the person is actually experiencing. [00:28:00] And sometimes when I’m advising people to get these stool tests, I’m even thinking to myself, “Oh, but their symptoms aren’t that bad, but maybe they might have an autoimmune disease or something going on.” I think, “Oh, I really should go and have a look at that.”
And so yeah, often it’s really hard to tell from symptoms what is actually going on in the gut in terms of the bacterial composition. And this is so important because we do know there’s now a lot of research around the connection between the health of our gut [00:28:30] microbiome and our mental health.
And obesity and we know obesity’s a massive problem in our community. Also, the link between our gut microbiome and inflammation. Inflammation is the root cause of almost every condition, depression and anxiety to cancer, to cardiovascular disease.
So often by looking into what might seem like fairly minor symptoms in the gut can [00:29:00] really make a huge difference in long-term health and wellbeing. And so I really strongly urge anyone that’s having these types of symptoms to get checked out by someone who knows what they’re dealing with.
Yeah and that’s great advice. And oftentimes it can be, like you said, with your client who was a GP, strangely enough coming to-
Yeah, it’s a thing. Yeah, yeah.
Coming to a naturopath [00:29:30] and a nutritionist. But it’s, you can think, “Oh, you know, that’s just how it is. That’s how it’s always been.” But when you actually get on top of that, it can be groundbreaking to not experience gas and bloating and discomfort.
And to be able to eat foods that were prior problematic and sensitivities and to have better quality sleep, clearer thinking, clearer skin, all [00:30:00] of the above.
Yes and that’s the thing. It’s so true what you’re saying too about the food intolerances because we know that that is rising dramatically. Even if we look 10 years ago, 15 years ago, the difference in food intolerances back then to now is quite dramatic.
And this is now being linked back, of course to gut health, gut inflammation. And people are so shocked sometimes when things that they haven’t been able to eat and we might [00:30:30] eliminate them from the diet for maybe eight weeks and then re-challenge and all of a sudden, “Oh my goodness, I can eat this again.”
Now obviously there is gut healing and stuff going on in the background. We don’t just stop eating it and then restart. But yeah, it’s surprising, again, what people are accepting as their normal that can actually be addressed. And people can have a huge improvement in their quality of life.
Yeah, exactly. And all of those things that we’ve spoken [00:31:00] about, bloating, digestion, food sensitivities, allergies and bad sleep, poor skin, all of those things would make us anxious.
Susie: Yes, yes, yes.
Stu: It just will.
Stu: So you have a program, the anxiety taming method. I’m intrigued to find out what we can expect if we wanted to find out more about that and [00:31:30] because as we’ve discussed, only over the last 30 minutes, there is so much to this.
Stu: So tell us a little bit more about the program and what we’d commonly see if we sign up for that.
Susie: Absolutely. So it is a 12-week program and I’ve broken it down into three main pillars. And those three main pillars are mindset, nutrition, and the mind body connection.
Susie: So the initial as I mentioned earlier, I [00:32:00] think mindset is huge when it comes to recognizing and identifying things in the body, but also then becoming willing to make the necessary changes in lifestyle to improve those symptoms or your overall health.
Susie: And with the mindset module of the anxiety tame method, we look at all of that sort of stuff. So really diving into what drives certain behaviors, like how am I actually feeling?
Susie: A lot of people aren’t aware [00:32:30] of how they’re feeling in their body. And often when I’m talking to people with anxiety, I say, “Well, when you feel anxious, how does that manifest in your body? And they’re kind of like, |Oh, I haven’t really thought about it like that before.”
Susie: And they get a fluttering in the chest or a clenching in the tummy or maybe their shoulders get really tight. And knowing how that manifest is actually really important to help you identify when you’re starting to feel anxious and then manage that.
Susie: And so we spend quite a bit of time on mindset and then we go into nutrition module, which is massive of course [00:33:00] because we talk about all of the foods that can feed anxiety, like we’ve mentioned a few. But also there’s a whole bunch of foods that can help support and make you feel a lot better.
Susie: And during this module, we experiment a little bit with different ways of eating and also looking after the gut microbiome and learning all about how to feed the gut microbiome. And also how to make sure we’re not harming the gut microbiome with the food that we eat.
Susie: And getting into the mind-body connection is all about [00:33:30] strengthening the mind-body connection. So we look at mindfulness, we look at a yoga and mindful movement, and using that to help slow everything down and get ourselves into that relaxation response because we know that mindfulness is, again, loads of research around how mindfulness helps to calm the stress response and increase the relaxation response.
Susie: Interestingly, most of the research that was done on that, initially it was a cardiologist [00:34:00] at Harvard University in the 70s and he’s one of the groundbreaking researchers in this and it’s been amazing to see some of his work in this area.
Susie: And I use a lot of his work in the mind- body connection module and also obviously yoga because I love it. And yeah, and then we finish off with I guess a bit of a celebration. We reflect on how far we’ve come over that 12 weeks.
Susie: There are online modules plus there’s a Facebook [00:34:30] group and I’m in there every week presenting and also supporting answering questions. So even though I call it an online course, I’m very hands-on with it, which I only run it a couple of times a year so that I can make sure I can devote the time that’s needed to support people that are in this course.
Stu: Boy, sounds like a fantastic resource. And we’ll discuss at the end of the conversation how we find that and how we might sign up and learn more.
Stu: I’m intrigued about mindful movement. So you mentioned [00:35:00] that phrase. Movement can be so beneficial for us. We should be moving more, I think that’s terribly widely recognized.
Stu: How would mindful movement stack up against, say, early morning boot camp? How are the two different?
Susie: I think that they are really different things and they have different objectives. I wouldn’t even put them together as in terms of comparing them. [00:35:30] I think early morning boot camp is awesome and I think mindful movement is also really awesome and beneficial, and you need both in a way.
Susie: Obviously, depending on what your body’s injuries, et cetera. But mindful movement is just all about being incredibly aware of everything you’re doing in that moment. So that’s what mindfulness is, is being aware of the internal and external environment in that moment.
Susie: And so mindful movement and yoga is
Susie: [00:36:00] Is a very good example of it. I mean, of course we do have dynamic flow yoga classes. They’re probably a little bit less on the mindful path. I primarily these days teach yin yoga-
Susie: Which is all about mindfulness. So it’s very slow. You get into the pose, you feel into the tissues, you relax the tissues quite consciously. You notice sensations that are in the body, you feel into the breath, [00:36:30] and as thoughts are coming in, you’re acknowledging those thoughts and allowing them to just go away for now, we can come back to those thoughts later.
Susie: So mindfulness is just all about being incredibly present and aware of, you know, where you’re putting your left hand and your right hand, and which direction you’re looking, and following the breath in and out. And that’s the mindfulness aspect of the movement. Whereas when we’re doing a more aggressive cardiovascular type of exercise, it’s a very different kind of concept [00:37:00] and a different objective.
Susie: So they both have incredible benefits for the body and for the mind I would, I would say, both, but yeah, they just have to serve two different purposes. And sometimes for people with anxiety, you actually want to reduce the amount of cortisol that’s being produced, so you’d kind of want to avoid some of those high intensity workouts because that will raise the cortisol.
Stu: Yeah, no, that’s good advice. Absolutely good advice. I’m keen now to tap [00:37:30] into sleep because that for me is the big one. And I want to kick off with a question about an anxious racing mind. So it’s quite common to wake up two, three o’clock in the morning and you’ve just got all these thoughts going through that just do not want to stop, like the monkey mind. What would you say to somebody who would come in to you complaining on the exactly that?
Susie: [00:38:00] Yeah. Well, quite a lot actually. It depends on the overall picture of course. For something that might be just happening because you’ve got something big going on, maybe you’ve got a big project, maybe there’s a short term situation where there’s a high stress at work or in your relationship or, you know, moving house, or something big is going on in your life and so you’re waking up in the middle of the night with this racing mind. Generally the advice is if you can’t get back [00:38:30] to sleep within 20 minutes, then you get up because you don’t want to start associating the bed with being awake. So you get up. And sometimes it’s really helpful to write down all of this stuff and just empty out the mind. Without filtering, without editing, just write down everything that’s going in, close the book, and then try and go back to sleep and see if that helps.
Susie: If you’re feeling hungry. Sometimes if we haven’t had enough protein before we go to bed, we maybe don’t have enough tryptophan. [00:39:00] tryptophan is an amino acid which is the building block for serotonin, which is the building block for melatonin, which is our sleep chemical. So sometimes just if you’re getting up and you’re feeling a little bit hungry, it can be helpful just to have something that’s got some protein in it. Often some kind of milk is good too, and that will often settle people to get them back to sleep as well. I find that personally very useful and yeah, that’s something that I think can [00:39:30] be very helpful for people to make sure they have some protein before they go to bed. It can sometimes help them get through the entire night.
Susie: So that’s a couple of things for that racing mind in the middle of the night, but often it can be a sign of perhaps not having a good sleep routine before going to bed. I think we all really know now that screens are not great for us to be looking at and that we should really be kind of putting [00:40:00] them away. I think I’m hearing one to two hours, probably more like the two hours before going to bed is to not be using the screen. And it’s really difficult. Let’s face it. That’s really, really difficult.
Stu: Yeah. And you know what? The tricky thing is that we’re so connected now to these devices that also connect us to our work 24/7. So it might be that you open that email at nine o’clock at night that you [00:40:30] just shouldn’t. And that’s it. It’s like, “Oh no, I’ve got to do this tomorrow and I can’t believe this is happening.” And that’s it, and that’s the trigger.
Susie: Yeah. Totally.
Stu: So outside of all of the other chatter, it certainly doesn’t help us rest.
Susie: Yeah [crosstalk 00:40:46].
Stu: Or prepare for rest.
Susie: It really doesn’t. And it’s so true what you said. And in fact that happened to me the other night. I knew I shouldn’t have looked and I looked and I was like, “Ugh,” and then yeah, you go to bed with that on your mind [00:41:00] knowing it’s something you’ve got to deal with in the morning. And yeah, I really, really recommend that you shut down that screen. I would say two hours to be set, particular who are really having, and it’s becoming a bit of a longterm thing, this sleep disruption is to stop that screen.
Susie: A lot of people are wearing the blue light filter glasses. They’re very helpful because it is the blue light that’s part of the problem that’s interrupting our neurotransmitters, so our brain [00:41:30] chemicals and our sleep chemicals. But there is also exactly what you said, is that something might come in that’s going to trigger off your stress response, and then, yeah, [inaudible 00:41:38].
Stu: Exactly right. Yeah.
Susie: Yeah, it’s an unbelievable problem.
Stu: The blue light blockers are excellent, and I’ve actually been wearing those for five or six years-
Susie: [crosstalk 00:00:41:47].
Stu: And they generally and strangely make you feel quite calm quite quickly. And I use those because I don’t use the computers or the smartphones, but I do dial [00:42:00] into a bit of Netflix in the evening because that’s my tool to turn off the thinking brain. So it’s just like trash TV-
Susie: Yes, I’m totally with you.
Stu: And I’ll put on the blue blocker glasses and I’ll just watch rubbish. But it does help me wind down. And then whether I slide into a book or something along those lines, just yeah, it really, really does help to try and make that connection and I think let your body know that we’re getting ready for sleep.
Susie: [00:42:30] Absolutely. And as you say, a book, a real book, not on a screen that’s then going to show you a notification-
Stu: That’s right.
Susie: For an email or from social media or something like that, so that’s really important. And also, yeah, just having a bit of a routine can be really nice. Humans really like routines, and using things like herbal teas can be nice and relaxing. You can use a lavender oil, either having, you know, if you like baths. I get a bit bored in baths, but some people [00:43:00] really like to have a bath before they go to bed. So having some lavender oil and maybe having a lovely hot, you know, lemon balm tea or something like that that’s quite relaxing can be really nice, and not having your phone next to your bed as well.
Stu: Absolutely. Absolutely. Yeah. And you’ve got all of the, I mean, we haven’t even spoken about EMF, electromagnetic fields and how that can disrupt as well. So yeah, it’s certainly… yeah.
Susie: [00:43:30] There’s so much. There’s so much in our modern world. And particularly with kids. Like I work with a lot of women, and a lot of them now are saying to me they’re turning their wifi off at night because they can’t stop the kids during the night getting on their screens. And you know, there was some recent studies done that showed that the use of screens in like young kids, I think it was up to the age of about 10 or 12, is actually increasing dopamine levels in their brain beyond what it should be, and they don’t know [00:44:00] what that means longterm.
Stu: Oh, you know what? That is a huge conversation.
Stu: And I really do think that from a mental health perspective, having youngsters dialed into social media where they’re getting a continuous dopamine response by this swipe, swipe, swipe, I feel good because I continue to swipe, and then the anxiousness that they feel when you take that device away-
Susie: Absolutely, yeah.
Stu: And you can see that in restaurants and cafes [00:44:30] where you go, where the children are plugged into the iPads. You take those things away and it’s like game on, like you don’t want to be in there.
Susie: Exactly. Exactly. Yeah, exactly. So yeah, that really is again, another podcast.
Stu: It is. It is. So we’re coming closer to time and I’m kind of intrigued to talk about your daily rituals, the rituals that you personally utilize to optimize your health. And this could be absolutely anything that you [00:45:00] have stumbled upon or researched or just found to be really beneficial to make your day the best day it can be. I wonder what they might be.
Susie: Yeah, I always start my day with some mindfulness time. For me, that is really critical and I make it really easy. Obviously the gold standard is getting in like a 20 or 30 minute meditation practice and that would be great. I don’t always have [00:45:30] time to do that as much as I would like to, particularly in the mornings. So just having a mindfulness practice. So literally, I wake up, I lie in bed before I even open my eyes and I do a body scan. I start from the toes and I just feel into every part of my body. Like the real details, the real minutia is what you’re wanting to get into. So like feeling the toes touching each other, feeling the sheet on the feet, feeling into any sensations in any [00:46:00] parts of the body. And I just move my way up. And starting from the feet and moving up is considered to be a more relaxing way of doing a body-
Susie: Than going from head down, which is really interesting. And so I start my day with doing that and it just makes me feel really, really good. It makes me feel really energized. I don’t know why, I’m sure there’s some research on it, but it just makes me feel really, really good and I’m in my body and I’m grounded, and it just sets me up for a really great day. So that’s [00:46:30] the first thing.
Susie: I’m going to sound like a real stereotype here, but the green smoothie. I love a green smoothie. And again, I feel really good when I have it and I think that’s a really great way to set myself up for the day.
Susie: And the other thing is spending a little bit of time in nature. So I have dogs and I love walking them first thing in the morning. And that gets me out, they’re really happy, I’m out in… You know, I just live in suburbia, so [00:47:00] there’s a few trees around and things like that, but I’m certainly not walking through a rainforest or anything like that every day, as much as that would be fabulous. But yeah, I think anytime we can get into nature is a good thing, because I think we forget that we’re animals and we are connected to nature, we’re connected to the cycles of the sun and the moon, and it’s really good for us, I think, to get out into the sun in the mornings to set ourselves up for a good day.
Stu: Yeah. And yeah, there’s huge amounts of science to back that up as well. And I [00:47:30] think if we wind back to some of the memories that we hold dear to ourselves, they’re probably going to be at a time when we were exposed to nature. It’s not going to be when we were in the office working on that job, right?
Susie: Yes. Yes. Or when we were watching TV.
Stu: No. That’s right. What a great day. I remember that day.
Stu: So just as a wrap up then, for somebody that they’re [00:48:00] not feeling energized, they’re feeling anxious, they are experiencing all of the issues or many of the issues that we’ve spoken about today, some quick type take-homes, almost like in the top tip category that you think could make the biggest impact on that issue for our listeners.
Susie: Totally, yeah. I think one of the easiest and biggest impact things is the belly breathing.
Susie: I really, really believe in that. It’s massive. It makes a huge difference. [00:48:30] We know that through science, and it’s easy and quick and anyone can do it. So that would be number one. Number two would be obviously improving the diet. Now it’s something I do caution people against. If you do have anxiety, you don’t go for a cold turkey off sugar. That can actually mimic a panic attack.
Susie: Yeah, right? That’s exactly what you need. So if you’re looking at making some really positive changes, that’s fantastic. Do it slowly with the sugar.
Susie: So [00:49:00] just reduce slowly. Same with caffeine. Caffeine for anybody I think is not a great thing to just suddenly go off it. I would always recommend people reduce it, but yeah, if you’re looking at making improvements to the diet, reducing sugar to eliminating [inaudible 00:49:15] is one of the best things you can do. And it can take a little bit of time, and sometimes you don’t feel so great when you’re coming off sugar, but once you’re off, you actually don’t crave it and you really notice it. Like I know when I first came off sugar, walking [00:49:30] into food courts, you can smell the sugar. Like it’s incredible.
Stu: Absolutely. Walk past a Donut King or whatever they’re called, and boy oh boy, it’s sickly sweet.
Susie: [crosstalk 00:00:49:38].
Stu: It almost takes you back to like childhood fairground rides with the candy floss and things like that.
Stu: [crosstalk 00:49:46].
Susie: Yeah, and it makes you realize how full on it is [inaudible 00:13:47]. Yeah.
Stu: It’s pretty toxic.
Susie: Yeah. So looking at diet and reducing that, and also that mindfulness. Again, that’s just such a big evidence-based [00:50:00] modality. And as I said, it doesn’t have to be this full on meditation practice, although that is great. There are plenty of free apps that you can use to help you get on a mindfulness journey. I always recommend Smiling Mind because it’s free. It’s Australian. It’s really easy to listen to. You’re not kind of floating away on fluffy clouds, although that’s really nice and I really enjoy some of that more visual stuff. This is really grounded, body scanning. It starts [00:50:30] with practices around five minutes a day. It goes up to about 30 minutes a day. And again, small steps is really important actually. That would be it. Don’t, go and go, “Right, I’m going to do 30 minutes a day from tomorrow.” That’s not going to happen. You’ll just hate it.
Stu: No. It’s not sustainable.
Susie: No. You’re going to hate it.
Susie: So start with easy, small steps. And I think that those three things, breathing, food, and mindfulness is a really good start and it’s stuff you can do right away.
Stu: Excellent. Yeah, they’re three big ones [00:51:00] and yeah, easy, I think easy to jump into, specifically with that belly breathing. I mean, that’s a no brainer. You can do that right now.
Susie: Yes, exactly. Yeah.
Stu: Good stuff.
Stu: So what’s next? What’s next for Susie Garden? What have you got coming up?
Susie: What’s next for me? Well, I’m running a retreat.
Susie: I run international retreat so I’m going to Bali in a couple of months time.
Susie: So I’m taking bookings for that still. And I love running retreats. The transformational [00:51:30] experiences that I’ve had personally when going on retreat and leading retreat is profound. And I really encourage people, if they’ve never actually been on retreat, just do it. Like it’s a really amazing experience and you meet fantastic people, you build really good friendships, and have experience that you just wouldn’t have at home. So yeah, retreats, and I’ll be setting up a new clinic in the Gold Coast shortly because I’m going [00:52:00] to be relocating to [inaudible 00:16:01]. So that’s pretty exciting as well.
Stu: Good stuff. Exciting times ahead. So for all of our listeners then that want to find out more about the retreats, want to find out more about everything that we’ve spoken about today, and specifically the anxiety-taming method as well, where can we send them?
Susie: Yes. So my website is susiegarden.com, and at the moment, I haven’t got the anxiety-taming method on there because I’ve got so much other stuff going [00:52:30] on.
Susie: So if you want to learn more about it, please email me.
Susie: It’s firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d love to hear from any of your listeners that are interested and I can give the information from there.
Stu: Great, good stuff. Well every link that we’ve spoken about today will be compiled in the show notes and then we’ll distribute that across our networks as well.
Susie: [inaudible 00:52:52].
Stu: So all good.
Susie: [crosstalk 00:16:53].
Stu: Well Susan, thank you so much for your time.
Susie: That’s a pleasure [crosstalk 00:16:56].
Stu: Loads and loads of information today, so very excited to share [00:53:00] this with our audience.
Susie: Yeah, yeah. And I’m obviously very passionate about the topic, so yeah, it’s been a really good fun for me to discuss it with you this morning, Stu. Thanks very much for having me.
Stu: Great stuff. Yeah, thanks. We’ll speak soon.
Susie: Okay, bye.
Stu: Okay. Bye bye.