Let’s Lose That Anxious Feeling Part 2 - Dietary and Lifestyle Tips

Author: Angelique Bone   Date Posted:2 April 2019 

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.

 

Dietary Decisions

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

 

Sleep Soundly

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.

 

References:

1. Australian Psychology Society, nd, “Anxiety Disorders”, https://www.psychology.org.au/for-the-public/Psychology-Topics/Anxiety

2. National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy, 2018, “Exploring Aromatherapy”, https://naha.org/explore-aromatherapy/what-is-aromatherapy

3. Cho, M. et al. 2013, “Effects of Aromatherapy on the Anxiety, Vital Signs, and Sleep Quality of Percutaneous Coronary Intervention Patients in Intensive Care Units”, Evid Based Complement Alternat Med.

4. Kanani, M. 2012, “The effect of aromatherapy with orange essential oils on anxiety in patients undergoing haemodialysis”, Journal of Sabzevar University of Medical Sciences, Vol 19, no 3, pp 249-257. [Abstract]

5. Pappas, S. 2013, “Yoga: Benefits, Risks & Different Types”, LiveScience, https://www.livescience.com/42204-what-is-yoga.html

6. Maddux, R.E.; Daukantaite, D. & Tellhed, U. 2018, “The effects of yoga on stress and psychological health among employees: an 8- and 16- week intervention study”, Anxiety, Stress, Coping, Vol 31, No 2, pp 121-134 [Abstract].

7. Cases, et al 2011 in Braun, L. & Cohen, M. 2015, “Herbs and Natural Supplements, Volume 2”, Churchill Livingstone, Chatswood NSW, Australia.

8. Braun, L. & Cohen, M. 2015, “Herbs and Natural Supplements, Volume 2”, Churchill Livingstone, Chatswood NSW, Australia.

9. Pratte, M. A. et al 2014, “Systematic Review of Ashwagandha for the Treatment of Anxiety”, J Altern Complement Med, Vol 20, No 12, pp 901-908.

10. Boyle, N.B.; Lawton, C.L. & Dye, L. 2016, “The effects of magnesium supplementation on subjective anxiety”, Magnesium Research, vol 29, No 3, pp 120-125.

11.  Murck, H & Steiger, A. 1998; Held, K. et al 2002 in Boyle, N.B., Lawton, C.L. & Dye, L. 2016, “The effect of magnesium supplementation on subjective anxiety”, Magnesium Research, Vol 29, No 3, pp 120-125.

12. Forster, H.B, Niklas, H. & Lutz, S. 1980; Crotteau, C.A., Wright, S.T. & Eglash, A. 2006 & Sakai, H. Misawa, M. 2005 in Srivastava, J.K, Shankar, E. & Gupta, S. 2010, “Chamomile: A herbal medicine of the past with bright future”, Mol Med Report, Vol 3, No 6, pp 895-901.³

13. Amsterdam, J. et al. 2009, “A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of oral Matricaria recutita (chamomile) extract therapy of generalized anxiety disorder”, J Clin Pharmacol, Vol 29, No 4, pp 378-382.

14. Keefe, J. 2016, “Short-term open-label chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla L) therapy of moderate to severe generalized anxiety disorder”, Phytomedicine, Vol 23, No 14, pp 1699-1705 [Abstract].

15. Addolorato, G. 2001, “Anxiety But Not Depression Decreased in Coeliac Patients After One-Year Gluten-free Diet: A Longitudinal Study”, Scandinavian Journal of Gastroenterology, Vol 36, No 5, pp 502-506. [Abstract]

16. Kiecolt-Glaser, JK, Belury MA et al. 2011, “Omega-3 supplementation lowers inflammation and anxiety in medical students: a randomized controlled trial”, Brain Behav Immun, Vol 25, no 8, pp 1725-1734. [Abstract]

17. Burns, D.D. 1999 in Anxiety Treatment Australia 2018, “Nutrition and Lifestyle Issues”, http://www.anxietyaustralia.com.au/treatment-options/nutrition-lifestyle-issues/

18. Balch, P.A. & Balch, J.F. 2000, “Prescription for Nutritional Healing”, Penguin Putnam Inc., New York.

19. Petruzzello, S. J. et al 1991, “A Meta-Analysis on the Anxiety-Reducing Effects of Acute and Chronic Exercise”, Sports Medicine, Vol 11, No 3, pp 143-182. [Abstract]

20. Mayo Clinic Staff, 1998 – 2018, “Depression and Anxiety: Exercise eases symptoms”, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/depression/in-depth/depression-and-execise.

21. Nota, J.A. & Meredith, E.C. 2018, “Shorter sleep duration and longer sleep onset latency are related to difficulty disengaging attention from negative emotional images in individuals with elevated transdiagnostic repetitive negative thinking”, Journal of Behaviour Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry, Vol 58, pp 114-122.

22. Rossi, A. et al. 2012, “Social Connectedness and psychopathology”, Journal of Psychopathology, Vol 18, pp 305 -308.

23. Robinson, K.M. 2017, “How writing in a Journal Helps Manage Depression”, https://www.webmd.com/depression/features/writing-your-way-out-of-depression#3

24. Zadeh, A. H., Khoshkenab, F. & Tabrizi, N. 2012, “Impacts of Journaling on Anxiety and Stress in Multiple Sclerosis Patients”, Complementary Medicine Journal of Faculty of Nursing and Midwifery, Vol 2, No 2, pp 59-70.

25. Wright, 1998 & Eiseman, 2006 in Kurt, S. & Osueke, K.K. 2014, “The Effects of Colour on the Moods of College Students”, Sage Open, January – March 2014, pp 1-12.

26. McMahon, S. 2010, “The positive effects of office plants”, Nursery Papers Technical, No 6 pp 1-4 https://www.ngia.com.au/Attachment?Action=Download&Attachment_id=1430

 

Written by Angelique Bone

Angelique (BHSc Naturopathy) is a qualified naturopath with a passion for herbal medicine and helping other people feel the best that they can. She believes that balance and moderation is important in maintaining good health.

Angelique enjoys reading, spending time with her family and baking goodies with her two young boys.


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