Feeling occasionally anxious is a normal response to modern life. However, for some people their anxiety is like a little monster living inside, who stirs up uncomfortable feelings when faced with simple everyday situations. If you or someone you know avoids social gatherings, work meetings or confrontations due to anxiety, then don’t ignore these feelings, as it may be a sign to seek help.
Anxiety is experienced at different time points for different people, and can be a perfectly normal response to a one-off stressful period or worrying event. However, for some, anxiety can persist and become a chronic mental health condition. In this instance, the triggers for chronic anxiety are multi-factorial, encompassing genetic predisposition, work stressors, traumatic life events, family or relationship issues, abuse, and physical disease. Personality traits of low self-esteem and/or perfectionism can also predispose individuals to experience anxiety, (yes, my hand is up).
Therefore, the key to reducing or eliminating anxiety lies in addressing these underlying causes. However, making big life changes or processing large emotions can often take time, and it isn’t always possible to rectify right away. So what can you do each day to reduce your symptoms and boost your ability to cope in the moment? In these instances, it can be really important to amass some tools that will help to manage and reduce your symptoms.
Symptoms of anxiety can be very unsettling. Your heart rate increases, your mind races and you can no longer think straight. Though everyone experiences anxiety a bit differently, there are some more common symptoms to look out for.
• Physical sensations:
-hot flushes, sweating and skin clamminess;
-frequent gastrointestinal upsets.
• Emotional sensations:
-feelings of excess worry, panic, fear or guilt;
-obsessive thinking and behaviours;
-feeling generally tense and wound up.
If you can relate to any of the above, it may be time to give me a ring!
In addition to dietary and lifestyle interventions available, several nutrients and herbs are also available that work to calm the nervous system and nourish a stressed body and mind. Here are some of my favourites:
When anxious, your body actively eliminates magnesium, which is a catch 22, as a magnesium deficiency actually leads to releasing more stress hormones.
Promoting an inhibitory effect on the nervous system, this amino acid has shown particular benefit in improving sleep quality. As anxiety often disrupts sleep, and poor sleep is a primary trigger for anxiety, ensuring a good night’s sleep goes a long way in helping to reduce anxiety levels.
The neurotransmitter adrenaline, and the adrenal hormone cortisol, are the primary drivers of stress in the body. B vitamins are required to synthesize both of these, with anxiety therefore increasing the body’s demands for these vitamins. B vitamins are also needed for your brain to produce several key anxiolytic neurotransmitters, such as dopamine, serotonin and gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA). By taking a B complex, you can support your body during times of increased stress, while ensuring the production of calming brain chemicals.
Adrenal Support Formula
There are many out there, and often they contain herbs, vitamins and minerals to support healthy adrenal gland function. Your adrenals are the walnut-shaped organs that sit on top of your kidneys and respond to stress. When anxiety and stress hit they release hormones to help you deal with the stressor, but they can only handle so much and often need additional support.
There are also some daily strategies to help support yourself that you can build into each day, and I've found help me:
• Connect with friends – keeping in touch with people maintains your support network;
• Exercise (ideally outdoors) – regular exercise has been shown to improve mood and reduce feelings of stress;
• Choose healthy foods – consume protein at each meal and avoid refined and sugary foods. This can help balance your blood sugar levels, reducing mood imbalances and lessening anxiety;
• Avoid caffeine – stimulants such as caffeine can exacerbate anxiety;
• Breathe! – if you start to feel panicky or anxious, focus on taking some slow, purposeful, deep breaths, helping you return to a state of calm. Breathing from the diaphragm is something you can practice throughout the day to activate your parasympathetic nervous system, (rest and digest) vs sympathetic branch of your nervous system (fight or flight). Inhale for 5, hold for 5 and exhale for 5.
* Meditation can also help to quieten your mind and instill calm. Find a quiet place, get comfortable and close your eyes, clearing your mind and just focus on your breathing.
So, recognize anxiety, find the triggers and approach it before it takes over. I'm happy to chat to anyone who thinks stress has really impacted their body over time and may require a consultation to support the body appropriately.