We recently posted a blog on Let’s Lose That Anxious Feeling and gave some helpful tips on natural ways to help calm those nerves. That blog mainly focused on herbal and mineral remedies, but here we bring you part 2 of Let’s Lose That Anxious Feeling! This blog is filled with lifestyle and dietary tips to help soothe those jitters and get you back feeling your best.
We all know by now, that our diet plays a big part in our overall health. But did you know that some food intolerances can influence how we feel, both physically and mentally? Many sufferers of gluten intolerance, for instance, have been found to suffer with mild anxiety. This decreased after implementing and sticking to a gluten free diet.¹⁵ We need to be aware of how food is effecting the way we feel both mentally and physically. Take a food diary to see if you can identify any food they may be effecting the way you feel. If you are concerned you may be reacting to or suffering from a food intolerances, please speak to your doctor.
After saying the above, we need to be aware that dietary factors can also influence anxiety levels un-connected to any food intolerances, both beneficially and negatively. Omega 3 fatty acids have been found to potentially exert some anxiolytic benefit, which is a good thing! ¹⁶ So be sure to try and incorporate lots of good fats, including oily fish, such as salmon or trout, in your diet. Anxiety Australia recommends limiting stimulants like caffeine, as they can stimulate or enhance the fight or flight response and also interfere with sleep. Be wary of alcohol consumption - despite alcohol being a relaxant at first, it can actually act as a stimulant after several hours of being in the system, so try to avoid or limit alcohol consumption. ¹⁷ Also bear in mind, that constant blood sugar fluctuations can make feelings of mild anxiety worse, so try to eat smaller meals more regularly to keep your blood sugar stable and include good quality protein with each meal.¹⁸
Energize with Exercise
Exercise is extremely valuable when it comes to managing mild anxiety. It provides a release for the excess adrenaline that is often produced when we’re stressed or anxious and speeds up its metabolism. ¹⁷ Studies have shown that regular aerobic exercise can help to reduce anxiety levels. Aim for about 20 minutes several times a week. ¹⁹ Exercise can also be a good distraction and help clear your mind, as well as releasing endorphins, or feel-good hormones.²⁰
No doubt about it, sleep is vital to our health. It gives the body it’s much needed time to rest and repair. And just like sleep is essential for our physical health, it is also essential for our mental health as well. New research has shown that people who suffer from lack of sleep (regularly getting less than 8 hours per night) tend to have more difficulty disconnecting from negative thoughts and images, as opposed to people who get enough sleep, which can contribute to mild anxiety.²¹ This also indicates that for someone who already suffers from mild anxiety, sleep is an important factor in the management of symptoms, as it gives the mind a much needed time to process and disengage from negative thought processes. So make sure you’re getting enough sleep each night to feel better by day.
Stay Connected with Friends and Family
We humans need social interaction to thrive. Studies have even shown that social connection is associated with things such as good self-esteem, hope and wellbeing. There are also studies that have shown that lack of social connectedness may be associated with mild anxiety. ²² I’m sure you’ve heard the saying “A sorrow shared is a sorrow halved.” Talking to friends and family can help to allay our fears, calm our minds and help put things into perspective. Not only that, but getting out, having fun and interacting with others is a great way to give our mind a more positive focus.
Write it down in a Journal
Keeping a journal is a great tool in managing mild anxiety and its benefits are numerous. Firstly, it can help you to identify patterns and triggers ²³ and once you’re aware of them, they become much easier to manage and work through. Keeping a journal can also make you more aware of your thoughts and can help to put them into order. Once you have some clarity on what’s going on in your mind, your thought patterns and what it is you’re worried about, it then becomes easier to put it into perspective and consciously apply positive thinking to it and address it. ²³ This can be more difficult if all your thoughts are swirling around in your head in no particular order. Research supports the use of journaling as a management tool for mild anxiety. ²⁴ So grab yourself a notebook and start writing everything down. It can be for your eyes only or you may wish to share it with someone close and trusted, it’s up to you. The important thing is to get your thoughts down on paper.
Keep a Calm Sanctuary
It’s a good idea to have a place of calm where you can relax and feel at ease. Often, this would be your home, or your room if you’re in a share house. Choose a colour scheme that has a calming effect, rather than one that will leave you feeling over-stimulated. Red, for instance, is thought to activate the “fight or flight” response, ²⁵ so it’s probably not the best choice for your feature wall if you get mild anxiety. Green, on the other hand is calming, while yellow is thought of as a happy colour, though it may also be somewhat stimulating,²⁵ so if you like yellow, be aware of the shade you choose. Try adding some plants to your sanctuary. Studies show that adding indoor plants to your environment can reduce feelings of stress, tension and mild anxiety. ²⁶ Choose varieties that appeal to you, both in appearance and the amount of maintenance required. While those with a green thumb might see the appeal of needing to spend lots of time and energy in tending to their plants and even find this relaxing, others would find it stressful. Pick plants that will help promote a feeling of calm, not stress. You could even try adding a Himalayan salt lamp or small indoor water feature to your home or room. The idea is to create a space where you feel happy, calm, relaxed and at peace.
Check in Regularly
Finally, be sure to check in regularly with the person / team helping you to monitor and cope with your mild anxiety, be it your doctor, counsellor or psychologist. They will be able to monitor your symptoms and pick up quickly if perhaps you aren’t coping so well - before it spirals out of control. Not only this, but they may also present a safe place to talk about how you’re feeling and help you to develop coping mechanisms that will work for you.
It is quite normal to feel mildly anxious from time to time, and luckily there are many means to help keep these jittery feelings under control. However, if you suspect that what you or someone you know is experiencing goes beyond feelings of mild anxiety, seek medical attention and contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Head Space on 1800 650 890 for some help and advice.
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