Natural Support for Depression

Do you ever have those days when you feel that modern world expectations are too difficult? Are you feeling anxious, depressed, stressed out and unable to cope? 

You are certainly not alone, with 1 in 4 of us struggling with depression or anxiety at some point in our lives. Depression and anxiety often occur together as they share similar causes and symptoms. Join the discussion and learn some tools to help manage in daily life.

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Self acceptance and Self nurturing.

Self acceptance and self nurturing are incredibly important skills to learn in life. You are the best friend you will have in this lifetime. You will be with yourself every step of the way. Wouldn't it be better if you were supportive, loving and kind towards yourself? Imagine the freedom of not having to search outside of yourself for validation?  The Love vibrational mist strengthens love and acceptance of the Self, opening the heart centre and allowing connection to all living beings.  Read on for tips on self-acceptance and self-nurturing.
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Chicken Soup

Nana had it right when she made up a big pot of chicken soup to fight off a cold. The minerals from the chicken bones combined with onion, garlic, chilli and ginger plus added vegetables and herbs give your body the nutrients it needs to fight off any invaders. This is a 2 in 1 recipe, as I roast the chicken to have for dinner, and then make chicken soup with the leftovers.

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10 Tips to super-charge your immune system this winter

With the change in the weather, itโ€™s time to look after your immune system, as we seem to be more susceptible to colds and flu with the cooler temperatures.  Naturopathic medicine can offer nutritional advice, as well as supplements and herbal medicines to support the immune system to prevent infection, as well as assist when you are feeling under the weather.  There are also a multitude of things you can do to support your immune health and enjoy the winter months without battling the cough and sniffles.

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The Gut-Brain Axis

One of my passions is helping people with depression and anxiety through natural medicine. There are so many options available that can help with these symptoms.  There are many contributing factors to mental health issues - including trauma, genetic factors, lifestyle, but one of the major influences that not many people are aware of is what is going on in the gut.

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Supporting Healthy Sleep Cycles

So many people I speak with are struggling with a sleep disorder which impacts their day to day functioning.   Insomnia affects up to 30% of the population and is defined as a chronic or acute sleep disorder characterized by a complaint of difficulty initiating, and/or maintaining sleep, as well as a subjective complaint of poor sleep quality that results in daytime impairment. 

Anyone who has had bouts of insomnia (or young babies in the house) knows that lack of sleep has a huge effect on mood as well as physical impairment, resulting in mental and physical exhaustion, and lowered cognitive function. Pharmaceutical medications might get you to sleep, but they come with a range of side-effects including grogginess, potential for overdose, tolerance, and addiction.

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Understanding and managing stress

Stress seems to be a challenge that most of us are faced with in our lives today.  There are so many demands on our time and energy and an expectation of the 24 hour society.  It seems to be a side-effect of modern life and can become overwhelming.  But we can learn to recognise it and manage it as it occurs.

Excessive stress affects every system in our body:  challenging the nervous system, dampening the immune system, affecting digestion, dysregulating blood sugar levels, and the list goes on.   Ongoing stress and our perception of what we think we are meant to be able to manage can also have a detrimental effect on our mental health. 

The bodyโ€™s reaction to stress is actually a survival mechanism that was incredibly important in our past.  When youโ€™re faced with a sabre toothed tiger, you need the hit of adrenalin to run for your life.  This is where โ€œsurvival of the fittestโ€ truly evolved. 

Youโ€™ve probably heard the term โ€˜fight or flightโ€™ reaction?  This is our sympathetic nervous system reacting to a threat.  Our adrenal glands secrete hormones that will give us the ability to outrun or fight the threat.  During this reaction, hormones such as adrenalin, noradrenalin and cortisol are released, speeding up the heart rate, raising the blood pressure, slowing digestion, shunting blood flow to major muscle groups, giving the body a burst of energy and strength.

Then after you have outrun the sabre toothed tiger, you would chill out and recover โ€“ going into โ€œrest & digestโ€ mode.  This is controlled by our parasympathetic nervous system, which helps the adrenalin and cortisol to break down, the digestion and immune systems switch back on and the bodyโ€™s homeostasis brings you back into balance.  This relaxation response takes between 20 and 60 minutes to calm the body back down.

What can happen in our modern world, is that the perceived threat continues โ€“ peak hour traffic, work stress, family stressors, financial pressure, trying to fit everything in; so that the โ€œfight or flightโ€ response continues, and your body is always in alert mode.  However this constant stress reaction contributes to feeling anxious and fearful even though there isnโ€™t an immediate threat. 

On a physical level, the continued cortisol production lowers your immune system response, which is why you might end up with a cold when you are stressed out.  It also interferes with your digestion and may lead to diarrhoea or irritable bowel syndrome.  Constant muscle tension, headaches, insomnia and high blood pressure may be evident.  Cortisol even contributes to diabetes and blood sugar dysregulation.  So as you can see, stress is a major contributor to us feeling out of balance and unwell.

How naturopathic medicine can help:

Stress may contribute to unhealthy eating habits โ€“ eating on the run, grabbing takeaway foods; and you may find you are also craving foods high in fat and sugar.  The combination of these food choices alongside of elevated cortisol levels leads to weight gain, blood sugar fluctuations and eventually diabetes, as well as potential cardiovascular issues.  Ongoing stress also depletes essential vitamins and minerals from the body including amino acids, Vitamin C, B vitamins and magnesium, which contributes to anxiety and nervous tension, insomnia, lowered immune function and fatigue.


Include in your diet:

1.     Good quality protein, such as lean meats, fish, eggs, nuts and seeds, cheese and legumes.

2.     B vitamins โ€“ whole grains, meat, fish, legumes, nuts and seeds, brewers yeast, vegetables and bananas.

3.     Vitamin C โ€“ fruits such as citrus, kiwi fruit, capsicum, strawberries, paw paw and pineapple.

4.     Magnesium โ€“ green leafy vegetables, wholegrains, meat, fish, nuts, seeds and cacao.


1.      Sugar โ€“ depletes nutrients as well as contributing to weight gain and fatigue.

2.     Caffeine โ€“ increases stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol contributing to feeling jittery and increases heart rate, blood pressure and blood sugar levels.

3.     Alcohol - Alcohol and recreational drugs actually contribute to the stress on the body, creating imbalances in the neurotransmitters and receptors in the brain and further depleting essential nutrients.

4.     Smoking โ€“ apart from the obvious damage to your body, smoking depletes nutrients, causes heavy metal toxicity and also affects the neurotransmitters and receptors in the brain. 

The potential for herbal medicine to support physical and mental wellbeing in times of stress is quite unique.  Certain plant extracts called adaptogens increase the ability of the body to adapt to physical, environmental, emotional or biological stressors, reducing fatigue, supporting cognitive function and overall physical health.  An individual herbal formula can be tailor-made to your requirements, and may also include support for the digestive, immune and nervous systems, depending on your current symptoms.  Herbs can be prescribed in tablet or liquid, and have the potential to boost your system and have you feeling better in no time.

5 easy steps to manage stress yourself: 

Recognising and acknowledging that we are feeling stressed is the first step.  Donโ€™t keep ignoring it.  Look at what is happening in your life.  We are so busy doing stuff, that we forget that we are human beings, not human doings.

1.     Slow Down - What is truly essential on your to-do list?  What can you let go of?  What is non-negotiable?  When we have a long and never-ending 'To Do' list, we can get overwhelmed, despondent and ineffective.  If you can slow down and spend some time recharging yourself, giving yourself space and time to process and integrate your thoughts and feelings.  This allows you to more effectively understand who you are, and be present with your circle of friends, family and society. 

2.     Find Balance - Finding balance is a priority for your wellbeing.  It involves time and space alone, away from our busy day to day lives to process and reconnect with ourselves.  This can be through meditation, time spent in nature or even a bath.  Somewhere that you can take time out and are not bombarded with news, entertainment and the constant hum of society.

3.     Connect with your breath - If you find yourself getting overwhelmed, angry or frustrated, bring yourself back to your breath.  Breathing in deeply for a count of 4, breathing out for the count of 4.  Diaphragmatic breathing stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, calming the โ€œfight and flightโ€ response.  Do this 10 times, and you'll feel calmer and in control.   You can practice this breathing technique anywhere at any time.  The more you practice, the easier it gets, and the calmer you feel.

4.     Shake it off - Another technique to manage stress is to shake it off - literally.  Stand up and give yourself a shake. We tend to hold onto things when stressed. This loosens you up and allows you to let go of whatever is bugging you.  You may feel strange doing this, but having a bit of a laugh at yourself, while youโ€™re shaking it off can also help release some pent-up stress.

5.     Exercise โ€“ If you can remove yourself from the situation, try a 10 minute walk.  A change of scenery does wonders for our attitude and also allows time out for some perspective.  Regular exercise of any sort is a way of burning off the dross and helping to gain some balance.   It also does marvellous things for your cardiovascular system, musculoskeletal system, nervous system, immune system, and the list goes on.   It doesnโ€™t have to be anything strenuous or difficult.  But I do suggest something you enjoy.  Swimming, yoga, dancing, playing in the park with your kids or your dogs, bush walking, gardening.  Make it something that you want to do, and it will be much easier to be consistent.


Modern life can be challenging and sometimes itโ€™s not possible to remove the stressors, however there is support through naturopathic medicine and finding balance.   If you would like some additional guidance on herbs and supplements that can assist you to manage with your daily expectations, call (07) 3105 2875 or email for a naturopathic consultation with Cathy.


Managing Anxiety Naturally

Supporting mental health naturally has been a passion of mine for decades, and there are many complementary options to help manage depression and anxiety, including optimal nutrition, herbal medicine, flower essences, movement, breathing techniques and lifestyle choices.

Depression and anxiety often occur together as they share similar causes and symptoms, and over half of those people struggling with depression will also have symptoms of anxiety.  I will endeavour to share some understanding of these conditions and some techniques on how to manage them over the next 3 weeks, starting with anxiety and panic attack, then next week an understanding of how excessive and chronic stress contribute to these conditions, and finishing up with exploring depression and options available to support those with these debilitating symptoms.

Anxiety is a common condition, affecting over 2 million people in Australia, with 1 in 3 women, and 1 in 5 men experiencing anxiety at some stage in their lives.  We all experience some stress and anxious feelings when under pressure of exams, work deadlines or time commitments, however these feelings usually pass when the stressor is removed.  For those who struggle with anxiety, these feeling do not subside, and the symptoms of anxiety can have a crippling effect on their lives.  A number of symptoms may surface including โ€“

ยท       Obsessive thinking and compulsive behaviour

ยท       Tightening of the chest

ยท       Racing heart rate

ยท       Hot and cold flushes

ยท       Difficulty breathing

ยท       Constant worrying

ยท       Muscle tension

ยท       Insomnia

ยท       Avoidance of social situations

 There are a variety of contributing factors that may lead to a person developing anxiety including ongoing stressful circumstances, physical conditions such as an overactive thyroid, nutrient deficiency, unhealthy lifestyle choices, substance abuse and addictions, past trauma that has not been processed, as well as personality factors such as being a perfectionist or those with low self-esteem.

 Panic Attack

A panic attack (or anxiety attack) is a brief episode of intense anxiety, which causes the physical sensations of fear, which can include a racing heartbeat, shortness of breath, dizziness, trembling and muscle tension.  A panic attack can last from a few minutes to half an hour.  However, the physical and emotional effects of the attack may last for a few hours. Panic attacks are common, with up to 35 per cent of the population experiencing a panic attack at some time in their lives. 

 Tips on how to manage a panic attack in the moment and calm the physical fear reaction you are experiencing:

Cross your arms and tap with open palms on your arms 20 times, while taking deep breaths.  Counting the inhalation for the count of 4, and then the exhalation for a count of 4.  Notice your feet, press firmly and feel the support of the ground or floor beneath you.  Now look around and count 5 different colours, 5 different textures (eg. carpet, wood, glass, etc.), and 5 different shapes of items in the room.  This technique is bringing you into the present moment, to recognise there is no immediate threat.

Put one hand on your chest and other hand on your stomach and follow the breath.  Counting the inhalation for the count of 4, and then the exhalation for a count of 4.  See if you can extend your inhalation and exhalation to the count of 5.

Pay attention to your inner sensations โ€“ fast heart rate, tightness or pain in chest, arms, neck etc.  Notice these sensations one at a time.  No judgements โ€“ just awareness.  As you process these feelings you may notice that you discharge the anxiety automatically.  This may be a deep spontaneous breath, shaking or trembling, yawning, heat wave, goose bumps, gurgling of stomachโ€ฆ.  Keep noticing these sensations one at a time, while following the breath and allow them to dissipate.


How naturopathic medicine can help

Mental health imbalances can be influenced by genetic, hormonal, immunological, biochemical and neurodegenerative factors, as well as environmental factors, including diet and nutrients

Nutrition is the foundation of our health and certain nutrients are essential for the maintenance of neurotransmitters and neuronal structures of the nervous system. Omega-3 fatty acids improve symptoms of anxiety and depression via their anti-inflammatory properties, as well as involvement in the structure and function of neuronal membranes, receptors and signal transmission.  Magnesium is required to control inflammation, reduce nervous tension, mood swings, irritability and to manage stress.  Folate and the B vitamins are needed for the synthesis and metabolism of neurotransmitters, with deficiencies in these nutrients linked to mental health issues.  Anxiety can also be triggered by an imbalance in zinc and copper levels, or heavy metal toxicity.  Naturopathic medicine can offer functional testing to measure toxicity, imbalances and deficiencies in nutrients, as well as food allergies and sensitivities which can also impact emotional and psychological wellbeing.

Protein in the diet is crucial to provide amino acids for the synthesis of neurotransmitters. A diet high in good quality protein, and high intake of legumes and vegetables to provide folate and magnesium is extremely important in the prevention and treatment for those with mental health issues.  So how much protein do we really need?  It is recommended between 0.8 and 1.0 gram per kilogram of body weight per day.  The important thing to recognise is that the amount of protein in grams in a particular food is not the weight of that particular food.   Protein is useful to reduce hunger between meals and it is recommended to eat good quality protein at each meal.  

Herbal medicine offers unique treatment options to nourish the nervous system, reduce anxiety, support the ability to manage stress and provide a mild sedative action without the side-effects often associated with pharmaceutical medication.  Numerous research papers support the use of herbal medicine to improve the biological activity of neurotransmitters, and in particular GABA to help reduce anxiety and improve mental health conditions.  A naturopathic medicine consultation will gather details of your symptoms, history and medications to develop the best individualised treatment plan for your circumstances.  With a Bachelor degree, I am trained to work alongside pharmaceutical medications and can help minimise side-effects or assist with the transition to natural means to manage mental health conditions.

I have found flower essences to be a powerful tool for emotional and psychological conditions, bringing awareness and understanding to areas where we may feel stuck, in order to bring about gentle healing on a deep emotional level.  Flower essences can provide support for anxiety with an individualised prescription, as well as combinations such as โ€œEmergency Essenceโ€ or โ€œRescue Remedyโ€ to assist with the intensity of an anxiety attack.


6 Steps to Manage Anxiety Yourself

Anxiety can be challenging to live with. While it is preferable to seek assistance from a professional, there are also many things that you can do to manage your anxiety, apprehension and stress.

  1. Avoid drugs and alcohol:  Alcohol and recreational drugs actually contribute to an anxious state, creating imbalances in the neurotransmitters and receptors in the brain.
  2. Avoid caffeine:  Stimulants such as caffeine in soft drinks, coffee and tea can exacerbate the physical symptoms of anxiety, as caffeine increases stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol contributing to feeling jittery with an increased heart rate, blood pressure and blood sugar levels.
  3. Find some time to exercise:  Prioritise some form of movement every day. Not only is it generally healthy to get moving, but it also helps to spend some of that nervous energy caused by adrenaline surges. You will find that regular exercise also does wonders for your sleep, if you are struggling with insomnia. Getting the heart rate up increases the bodyโ€™s natural endorphins helping you to feel better. 
  4. Find ways to relax:  Yoga or tai chi offer relaxation and movement as well as techniques to quieten the โ€œmonkey mindโ€.  It is important to find balance when life is very busy.  A good relaxation or meditation recording will guide you through the process if you struggle to do so alone. Keep a quick relaxation technique in mind, like deep breathing and visualising a โ€œsafe placeโ€ that you can use when you begin to feel overwhelmed. 
  5. Develop positive self-talk strategies:  Often anxiety is made worse by the negative things we tell ourselves.  Learning to identify these negative thoughts and replacing them with positive ones goes a long way in terms of helping you cope.  When you catch yourself being negative ask yourself โ€œis this really true? What evidence to I have for thinking or believing this?โ€, โ€œhow does worrying about this help me?โ€ โ€œIs there a more positive way of looking at this?โ€ This may help direct your thoughts in a more positive and constructive way that can help to alleviate some of the anxiety you are feeling.

If you would like to book a naturopathic medicine appointment to explore options to support your mental health, I am available on Tuesday through Kangaroo Point Naturopaths and Wellness Centre - or call 07 3105 2875 and ask to book in with Cathy Vanzanden.


Where to find additional help and support:

ยท       Beyond Blue โ€“ PH: 1300 22 4636

ยท       Mind Health Connect -

ยท       Black Dog Institute โ€“


Are you feeling overwhelmed with your to-do list? Constantly so busy but you don't really know what you're achieving? What is truly essential on this list? What can you let go of? What is non-negotiable? If you can slow down and spend some time recharging yourself, you can access your intuition and get a deeper understanding of what you want out of life.

Excessive stress affects every system in your body. Challenging the nervous system, dampening the immune system, affecting digestion, dysregulating blood sugar levels, and the list goes on. Constant pressure to perform IS something to question. What would happen if you said no? Would the world really fall apart?

The only time you are truly alive is in this moment. What is important to your wellbeing right now? By being mindful and aware of the present moment, your understanding of the big picture of life deepens. Self-compassion is vital to your wellbeing and personal growth. By being aware of how you are feeling and what you can manage, you can make more effective choices in life.

There is wisdom in balance and including activities that recharge your system. Spend time in nature, play with some art classes, go dancing, catch up with REAL friends, have a holiday.... What brings you back into yourself and helps you to remember what life is really about?


It's a new dawn, a new day and a new moon. There are always new opportunities and the chance to rewrite your story. What can you do this weekend that supports your wellbeing? One of the most important things we can do for our own wellbeing and those around us is to be kind to ourselves. Self-nurturing and Self-compassion are essential for our personal growth and to love and support those around us. What brings you joy and gratitude? How can you support yourself and build your resilience to stress and change? Go for a walk in nature. Cook some yummy nutritious food. Take a long luxurious bath with healing essential oils. Self nurturing is important, because if you can believe in and love yourself, it is so much easier to love and support others. Be kind to yourself today and every day.

Nurture Yourself

"To be beautiful means to be yourself. You don't need to be accepted by others. You just need to accept yourself"
Thich Nhat Hanh

Do you give yourself a hard time with your thoughts? Being self-critical and judgemental? 'I'm so stupid.... If only I'd said "such and such" instead.... If only I was tall... skinny... blonde... witty...' Your thoughts contain power over your mind, body and spirit and you can choose a different way.

Many of us seem to struggle with this lack of self-nurturing. Our society seems to associate self-love with selfishness or arrogance, however this is far from the truth. If you are able to love and accept yourself, you are then able to open your heart to others and see the divine essence within each one of us.

To truly give love and accept love, we need to be able to love ourselves. Loving ourselves includes accepting all aspects of ourselves, including those things we do not like. We are complex beings and there is far more to us than the acceptable face we show in public. Embrace yourself as a whole and bring each part of yourself into the fold.

It is pointless and frustrating when we need to find love from an external source, as it is always subject to change, and causes us to be dependent on someone else for our happiness. Co-dependent love can lead to dysfunctional relationships and expectations that may never be fulfilled.

There are certain aspects to the art of Self-love which include Self awareness, Self worth, Self esteem, Self confidence and Self respect. These aspects can be learned and practised as we go though life. It is about learning to love, accept and nurture ourselves.

Instead of looking outward, turn within for a moment and make a list of the things that you like about yourself. It may be something physical, something that you are good at, or even better, something from the essence of who you truly are.

Try this interesting experiment. Look in the mirror. Look yourself in the eye and say (out loud) โ€œI love youโ€. Add your name as well. Eg. โ€œ(name), I really love youโ€. Can you do it? The first time I tried this, I couldnโ€™t say the words, ran away from the mirror and decided it was a stupid exercise.

I like to use affirmations to access the subconscious and help to address any underlying beliefs, and each vibrational mist comes with it's individual affirmation to help strengthen this aspect of yourself.

Love vibrational mist combines aromatherapy with flower essence therapy to assist with opening the heart chakra and understanding that you are deserving of love and connection with yourself and others.

I am loved
I am loving
I am lovable
I love and accept myself
As I am

Please share and encourage this connection to your True Self.


Having expectations that life should be a certain way only leads to disappointment. Resistance to reality creates anger and frustration, and doesn't change your circumstances at all. Acceptance of life in all of it's glory and darkness without judgement of "good" or "bad" can lead to peace. This acceptance doesn't mean that you don't have the power to choose your reaction to circumstances - that is where your true power lies. However you don't have to waste your precious energy trying to change the nature of things. There is value in all of what life presents us with - it is still a gift, even in our darkest moments.

No such thing as perfect

Do you put pressure on yourself to live up to expectations? Whose expectations are they anyway? Do you feel that you need to perform better? Achieve more? Love more? What would happen if you let go of these expectations? Would the world cave in? Would people stop loving you? No, instead you could operate in line with your true Self. From YOURpotential rather than someone else's storyline.

I am seeing quite a few people in clinic who are struggling with trying to be everything to all people, who end up feeling like a failure because this is impossible. They belittle themselves for any "so-called" unacceptable behaviour and lose contact with their inner power.

The media tells us we need to be beautiful, buff, with straight white teeth and immaculate hair. You need to have a degree, fancy car, perfect partner and gorgeous children to be happy. You should always be friendly, polite, kind and loving, witty and intelligent and the life of the party. Never grumpy, sad or confrontational... This is an illusion my friend, that is sold to you through marketing to try to make you buy a product.

*It is not real life. No-one is that person. *

We are all flawed in some way. We might drink too much alcohol, eat too much chocolate, dislike our work colleagues or resent our parents or children. Let's not even get started on our spouse....

We grow up with society's pressure to try to be perfect all of the time, which is an impossibility, even for the most saint-like among us.

How do we get past this illusion? It starts with self-acceptance. Acceptance of ALL aspects of yourself, including the moody, anti-social, anxious or depressed self. Also the angry, bitter, resentful feelings that sometimes occur. You are all of these things and so much more. We are very complex beings and cannot ever live up to some cardboard cut-out image that is projected in the media.

Carl Jung referred to the part of ourselves that we reject as our "shadow side", that which we deny and suppress from consciousness. When we reject these parts of ourselves, they can return at the most inopportune time as a psychodrama over which we feel we have no control.

Loving ourselves includes accepting all aspects of ourselves, including those things we do not like. Embrace yourself as a whole and bring each part of yourself into the fold. This is an ongoing process that brings us closer to being whole.

"To be beautiful means to be yourself. You don't need to be accepted by others. You just need to accept yourself" Thich Nhat Hanh