Anxiety- Feel better naturally
Anxiety is one of the most common mental health condition experienced in Australia, affecting more than two million people. One in three women and one in five men experience the mental health condition at some stage in their lives. Depression and anxiety often occur together as they share similar causes and symptoms, with more than half the number of people struggling with depression also experiencing symptoms of anxiety.
We all experience a degree of stress and anxiety with exams, work deadlines or personal issues. However, these feelings usually pass when the stressor is removed. For those who struggle with anxiety, these feeling do not completely pass, and they in turn can have a detrimental effect on their lives. A number of symptoms often experienced by people with anxiety include:
Obsessive thinking and compulsive behaviour
Tightening of the chest
Racing heart rate
Hot and cold flushes
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 such as magnesium or zinc, unhealthy lifestyle choices, substance abuse and addictions, past trauma that has not been processed, and personality factors such as being a perfectionist or having low self-esteem.
Professional help is recommended, but there are a few steps you can take to help improve your condition.
1. Avoid drugs and alcohol: Alcohol and recreational drugs can contribute to an anxious state, creating imbalances in the neurotransmitters and receptors in the brain.
2. Avoid caffeine: Caffeine in soft drinks, coffee and tea are stimulants that can exacerbate the physical symptoms of anxiety, as caffeine increases stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol contributing to feeling jittery, with an increase in heart rate, blood pressure and blood sugar levels.
3. Fine tune your diet: 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 through their anti-inflammatory properties, as well as involvement in the structure and function of neuronal membranes, receptors and signal transmission. Include some cold water fish, such as salmon or sardines, as well as walnuts, flaxseeds and chia seeds for an omega 3 boost.
Fermented foods and other probiotic foods reduce inflammation in the gut. When there is an overgrowth of the wrong bacteria in the gut, this can create endotoxins that make us feel more anxious or depressed. By eating foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi or drinking kombucha we can introduce more beneficial strains of bacteria.
Magnesium is required to control inflammation, reduce nervous tension, mood swings, irritability and to manage stress & promote sleep. High magnesium food sources include dark leafy greens, nuts, seeds, fish, beans, whole grains, avocados, yogurt, bananas, and cacao. Folate and the B vitamins are needed for the synthesis and metabolism of neurotransmitters, with deficiencies in these nutrients linked to mental health issues. Some of the best sources of B vitamins are poultry, eggs, meat, seafood, bananas, legumes, leafy green vegetables and potatoes.
4. Find more time to exercise: Not only is it generally healthy to get moving, but it also helps spend some of that nervous energy caused by adrenaline surges. You will find regular exercise also does wonders for your sleep if you are struggling with insomnia. Getting the heart rate up increases the body’s natural endorphins, helping you feel better.
5. Find a way to relax: Yoga can offer relaxation and movement as well as techniques to quieten the ‘monkey mind’. 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. Find a quick relaxation technique that works for you, like deep breathing and visualising a “safe place” that you can use when you begin to feel overwhelmed.
6. Develop positive self-talk strategies: Often anxiety is made worse by the negative things we tell ourselves. Learning to identify negative thoughts and replace them with positive ones helps to reframe the situation and change habitual thoughts. Would we speak to our friends or family like we speak to ourselves. When you catch yourself worrying excessively, ask yourself the following questions: “Is this actually true? “What evidence is there for me to be thinking or believing this?”, “How does worrying about this help me?” and “Is there a more positive way of looking at this?”. This may help direct your thoughts in a more positive and constructive way and help alleviate some of the anxiety you are feeling.
7. Anxiety can also be triggered by an imbalance in zinc and copper levels, or heavy metal toxicity. Naturopathic medicine can help to remove these toxicities and address deficiencies in nutrients which can also impact emotional and psychological well-being.
8. Herbs such as St John's Wort, Rhodiola, Withania, Kava, Passionflower or Lemon Balm are a few of the herbs we can use to help with anxiety. Some of these herbs are contraindicated with certain medications, so check first with your health professional.
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