We tend to think of ‘stress’ and ‘anxiety’ as the same thing, but they’re not. Anxiety is actually the by-product of ongoing stress! Thankfully there are lifestyle, diet, herb and nutritional options to make it a thing of your past!
Stress is our body’s natural defense and puts us in a state of heightened awareness. This is only meant to happen in short time bursts, however these days, we can live our lives in this heightened state day after day for years or for a lifetime.
Our most common source of stress tends to be work. Huge workloads while trying to balance our wants and needs of family life. Add to this burdens of money, health and relationship problems and we can see how stress has become an ongoing part of our lives rather than short term.
Anxiety can occur from the constant state of stress and can really damage our health and quality of life. The term anxiety is also used for several disorders that can cause us nervousness, fear, apprehension and worry. Over 2 million Australians suffer from anxiety each year. This shows that we really do leave stress untreated and if this is left for too long, it can cause more serious mental illnesses.
IS YOUR ANXIETY FROM ‘A THING’ OR JUST FOR NO REASON?
Anxiety can manifest from worrying about an event or situation OR from what seems as no reason at all… which is what we call ‘free floating’ anxiety. So life might seem ‘good’ but we still wake up in the morning with that ‘heavy pit’ in our stomach and not know why we feel this way. It’s when anxiety goes beyond worrying constantly, it may develop in a phobia, social anxiety, panic attacks, obsessive-compulsive disorder and these can be so debilitating for people. It can also be the reason why people have addictions, resort to comfort eating or ’emotional eating’ and other substance abuse such as alcohol. This is simply because many are desperately trying to ‘suppress’ feelings of anxiety, which can be so uncomfortable.
WHAT DOES ANXIETY DO TO OUR BODY AND HEALTH?
When we feel anxious, the same ‘fight’ or ‘flight’ thing happens that’s caused by stress. This triggers us to release a stress hormone, cortisol, which increases our heart rate, breathing, tenses our muscles and diverts blood flow away from our digestion. This can sometimes cause diarrhea and increased urination. So the constant increase in cortisol is not good as it decreases slows immune system, reduces our good stomach acids (creating poor digestion and absorption) and can cause heartburn, gas and bloating. This can then go on to imbalance our gut flora which allows bad bacteria and gut parasites to flourish. We can also have excess weight around our middle (tummy) high cholesterol, cardiovascular disease, upset fertility and hormones. These are just ‘some’ of the ways anxiety can decrease our overall physical health.
So you see, we NEED to do everything we can to balance ongoing anxiety. Before we go on medications, we must get our gut bacteria checked out by a simple digestive test. If we have an imbalance in our good and bad bacteria (most people do these days) this can be a real cause of our anxiety.
These medications and anti-depressants have increased by 95.3 % in Australia over the last 10 years! We are the second highest prescribers in the world after Iceland. While these drugs ‘feel’ effective, they can be addictive and have nasty side-effects. They also don’t address ‘what’s causing’ the anxiety, therefore once we go off them, the problem returns. It’s understandable that when people are feeling ‘yucky’ all we want to do is ‘fix it!’ So it’s easy to go for the quick fix and take medication. In some cases it’s necessary, however in many many cases we are being ‘over-prescribed.’
NATURAL ALTERNATIVES TO MEDICATIONS:
Thank goodness, nature has many answers to help with anxiety by calming our nervous system, lowering our cortisol levels, healing our waning adrenal health and boosting our serotonin and dopamine (our feel good chemicals.)
WHAT ARE SOME NATURAL ALTERNATIVES TO HELP ANXIETY?
There are some amazing herbals medicines which are called ‘Adaptagens.’ This means that they help our body and mind ‘adapt’ to stress better. They help our body boost and decrease what ever we need naturally. Some of these herbs are (there are many) :
Withania: Improves our body’s resistance to stress. It calms those who feel stressed, strung out and exhausted, so mothers do very well on this as it also helps with sleep.
Skullcap: Supports our nervous system, increases vitality, helps with depression sleep.
Kava: Has a calming effect and produces brainwave changes similar to Valium. It relieve muscle tension, insomnia and anxiety in general.
Generally these type of herbs will be mixed together in certain ratios and we can take it as a herbal liquid or tonic.
ALSO SOME ANTI-ANXIETY SUPPLEMENTS?
There are also many vital nutrients that we need to have a healthy emotional system. If we’re deficient in any of these, then this could cause us to stress more thus creating anxiety. Some of these are:
B Vitamins: Crucial to help with emotional and mental health and are considered some of the most important anti-stress nutrients. They relieve stress and anxiety and boost energy. A diet based around processed foods and gluten will cause a lack in B vitamins.
Magnesium: So essential and has many multi functions both decreasing stress and anxiety AND giving us our energy back. Deficiencies in Magnesium can cause bad sleep, fatigue, weakness, twitching, muscle cramps and of course anxiety and depression.
GABA: This is one of our major brain neurotransmitters which is essential for us to feel emotionally good. GABA slows down our ‘brain firing’ (in a good way) which helps with relaxation and calm. Although doesn’t make us drowsy. For example medications such as Xanex and Valium which are used to treat depression and anxiety work by increasing GABA. Alcohol and cannabis boost our GABA also, however these have larger negative effects which end up undermining our health. E.g. alcohol is a depressant.
L-theanine: Is found in green tea and this stuff stimulates our brain waves to help with waking and feeling relaxed. Our feel good chemical ‘dopamine’ increases in our brain in response to L-theanine… AND it also boosts our GABA (as described above.)
WHAT ARE SOME ANTI- ANXIETY FOODS?
Foods are such a crucial things to help us feel good and balanced in our health. Sometimes we think foods aren’t enough to make a difference, but we now know that food is king. It changes our gut flora, it can change our genes! Food is our real medicine. These are some things to do to help with anxiety:
Reduce caffeine: Although it feels like a good morning ‘kick-start’, caffeine increase our cortisol levels (stress) and this contributes to anxiety later on in our day. Instead have calming and adrenal nourishing herbal teas like chamomile, peppermint and passionflower teas.
Balance blood sugar: If our blood sugar levels fluctuate wildly, so will our emotions and moods. High carb foods, sugar, processed foods, breads etc. will ‘spike’ our blood sugar causing big peaks and troughs in our energy. This hurts our adrenal health too and is one of the leading causes of weight gain and type 2 diabetes.
Eat tryptophan rich foods: These increase our serotonin (prevents depression) and also helps us to sleep well. Foods such a turkey, fish, eggs, cheese, nuts, bananas, and spinach are high in tryptophan.
Eat probiotic rich foods: The health of our digestion is greatly linked to our emotional health. A large amount of our feel good chemicals for our brain actually are made in our gut. Probiotic foods help to boost our ‘good’ gut bacteria which are commonly killed off by things like antibiotics, stress and poor diet. Foods such as fermented vegetables, sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir are all high in good gut bacteria.
Have Maca powder: This beautiful nutty stuff is known as a Peruvian ‘superfood’ and will increase energy, decrease anxiety, and help with happiness in general. Add it to your smoothies or make a hot cacao drink on almond milk and a tsp of Maca powder to make a glorious velvety chocolate drink high in magnesium. Perfect for chocolate cravings too.
WHAT SHOULD YOU DO EVERY DAY TO HELP WITH ANXIETY:
Exercise, meditation, yoga and laughter: Are wonderful ways to calm and get rid of yucky anxious thoughts. For example when we meditate, this actually lowers our cortisol levels (stress hormone) and makes us more resilient under stress. For example when we notice our stress is higher than usual, we may think back and realize ‘Oh I haven’t been doing my meditations lately… that’s why I feel stressed these days!’ It all helps in a holistic way.
SO, DO YOU NEED FURTHER HELP ON GETTING YOUR ANXIETY SORTED?
If you’re needing more help with anxiety, gut health, hormonal health or any other health issue, be sure to check out Empowered Women’s Health (EWH) where I’ll walk you through the exact what, when, why and how, so that you can manage your own health back to vitality and happiness. Fully supported by myself, we won’t stop working on your health and happiness until we have you in the place where you want to be! For more info on EWH and when it’s available TAP HERE BE IN THE KNOW!