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7860 Mission Center Ct, Suite 209
San Diego, CA, 92108


At The Center for Stress and Anxiety Management, our psychologists have years of experience. Unlike many other providers, our clinicians truly specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of anxiety and related problems. Our mission is to apply only the most effective short-term psychological treatments supported by extensive scientific research. We are located in Rancho Bernardo, Carlsbad, and Mission Valley.

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Read our award-winning blogs for useful information and tips about anxiety, stress, and related disorders.


Filtering by Tag: somatic

Mental Health Awareness Month: Fitness #4Mind4Body

Jill Stoddard

by Annabelle Parr

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Every year, Mental Health America designates a particular theme for the month to highlight an important aspect of mental health. This year’s theme is Fitness #4Mind4Body, and it focuses on acknowledging the connection between mental and physical wellbeing. #4Mind4Body explores the role of nutrition, exercise, the gut-brain connection, sleep, and stress in our overall wellbeing and examines the ways each of these areas impact our functioning. Below is a summary of the topics covered in the Mental Health Toolkit from Mental Health America.

Diet and Nutrition


Eating a well-balanced, nutritious diet is an integral part of health. Diets high in processed, fried, and sugary foods can increase the risk not only for developing physical health problems like diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and cancer, but are also linked to mental health problems, including increased risk for depression symptoms. A healthy diet consists of a variety of fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, fish, nuts, and olive oil. Maintaining a balanced, nutritious diet is linked with a lower risk for depression and even an improvement in depression symptoms.


Regular exercise not only helps control weight, increase strength, and reduce the risk of health problems like high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, and some cancers, but it also helps boost endorphins and serotonin, among other important proteins and neurotransmitters that impact mental health. Endorphins serve to mitigate pain in the face of stress and increase pleasure in the body. Serotonin affects appetite, sleep, and mood, and is the target of SSRIs, a class of antidepressant commonly used to treat anxiety and depression. Just thirty minutes of exercise per day can help improve mood and mental health.


The Gut-Brain Connection

The gut, also known as the “second brain,” communicates directly with the brain via the vagus nerve and via hormones and neurotransmitters. The communication goes both ways, so anxiety, stress, and depression can impact the gut and result in gastrointestinal symptoms, but changes in the gut microbiome can impact the brain and mood, exacerbating or even resulting in symptoms of anxiety and depression. Eating a nutritious diet that includes prebiotics and probiotics is an important part of maintaining a healthy gut and a healthy mind. 


Quality of sleep impacts the immune system, metabolism, appetite, the ability to learn and make new memories, and mood. Good sleep for adults means getting between 7-9 hours of mostly uninterrupted sleep per night. Problems with getting good quality sleep can increase the risk of developing mental health symptoms, and symptoms of anxiety and depression can negatively impact sleep, creating a negative cycle. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia (CBT-I) can help clients reestablish healthy sleep patterns through addressing negative thoughts and worries as well as behavioral patterns that are impacting sleep habits.


Stress is a normal part of life, and the body is equipped with a fight or flight response designed to help mobilize internal resources to manage stressors. After the stress has passed, the body can return to its regular equilibrium state. However, when stress becomes chronic, it can cause inflammation, impaired immune system functioning, muscle aches, gastrointestinal problems, sexual dysfunction, changes in appetite, and increased risk for heart disease. Too much stress can also impact mental health.

Mental health involves a complex interplay between numerous factors, including but certainly not limited to the areas listed above. Furthermore, though maintaining a healthy diet, regular exercise routine, good sleep habits, and utilizing stress management techniques can help prevent or improve existing mental health symptoms, if you are struggling with mental health issues, it can be difficult to attend to these areas.

If you are struggling with anxiety, stress management, depression, chronic illness, or insomnia, seeking professional assistance can be helpful. Evidence based therapies like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) can help to address problematic thoughts and behaviors that are contributing to emotional distress. Therapy offers a warm, supportive, safe environment to explore painful issues. A therapist can also provide support in helping the client to develop good self-care habits, like those mentioned above.

This year’s mental health awareness theme reminds us of the importance of recognizing the multiple avenues through which we can approach mental health, and the variety of tools we have at our disposal to improve overall wellbeing.


If you or someone you love might benefit from cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) or acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) for anxiety, depression, stress, PTSD, insomnia, or chronic illness, or if you would like more information about our therapy services, please contact us at (858) 354-4077 or at


Mental Health America. (2018). 2018 Mental Health Month Toolkit. Retrieved from

Chronic Pain

Jill Stoddard

By: Sarah Bond

From an evolutionary perspective, pain serves to warn us of potential injury to avoid subsequent danger.  Although acute pain affords a short-term advantage, its long-term persistence can lead to significant distress and suffering. According to the American Academy of Pain Medicine (2013), 100 million Americans are afflicted with chronic pain. Chronic pain can be defined as an uncomfortable feeling set off in the nervous system that persists for weeks, months, or even years. Although its onset may be attributed to injury, chronic pain can also occur without any predetermined indication.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH, 2006) found that the most common chronic pain complaints include: lower back (27 percent), head (15 percent), neck (15 percent), and facial (4 percent). Although the physical effects are evident, the psychological pain is equally burdensome for many. The implications of such physical pain can lead to emotional distress and discomfort.  In turn, emotional distress can also exacerbate the experience of physical pain.

Individuals may feel as though their pain prevents them from leading a ‘normal’ life. They feel as if they cannot partake in activities they found enjoyable in the past. This withdrawal may result when chronic pain is associated with a particular movement/activity (Dahl, Wilson, & Nilsson, 2004). In fact, lower back pain is the most common cause of disability among Americans under 45-years-old (The American Academy of Pain, 2013). When people refrain from participating in what gives them a purpose in life, it can have detrimental effects upon their psychological well-being.

Treatment for chronic pain patients can be challenging. Although 41 percent of those who take over the counter medications and 58 percent of those who take prescription medications reportedly express pain relief, there are many who do not benefit from pharmacological interventions (The American Academy of Pain, 2013). Thus, it is critical to consider other options when addressing chronic pain. 

Research suggests that psychotherapy is an effective method for treating chronic pain. Specifically, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT)address the psychological factors that accompany physical pain (McCracken, Vowles, & Eccleston, 2005; Dahl et al., 2004). If the emotional factors are ignored, they can exacerbate the physical pain. Similarly, if the physical factors are ignored, they can exacerbate emotional pain. Therefore, it is important that both the psychological and physical factors are treated appropriately.

If you or someone you know suffers from chronic pain, professional support is available. If you are in the San Diego area and would like to speak to a professional at CSAM who specializes in CBT and ACT, please contact us


Dahl, J., Wilson, K.G., & Nilsson, A. (2004). Acceptance and Commitment Therapy and the treatment of persons at risk for long-term disability resulting from stress and pain symptoms: A preliminary randomized trial. Behavior Therapy, 35, 785-801.

Institute of Medicine. (2011). Report from the Committee on Advancing Pain Research, Care, and Education: Relieving pain in America, a blueprint for transforming prevention, care, education and research. The National Academies Press. Retrieved from

McCracken, L.M., Vowles, K.E., & Eccleston, C. (2005). Acceptance-based treatment for persons with complex, long standing chronic pain: a preliminary analysis of treatment outcome in comparison to a waiting phase. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 43(10), 1335-1346.

National Centers for Health Statistics. (2006). Chart Book on Trends in the Health of Americans 2006, Special Feature: Pain. Retrieved from

The American Academy of Pain Medicine. (2013). Retrieved from

Tags: Cognitive Behavioral Therapypainchronic painheadachebackachesomatic