Let’s Talk About Anxiety
nxiety is a word that gets thrown around a lot, but many people are unclear as to exactly what it means. As we discussed in our blog post earlier this week, symptoms of anxiety often accompany moments of change, but there are many other situations that can act as triggers. Anxiety is a very normal human experience; there are many evolutionary benefits to experiencing this emotional state, and it can act as a helpful response in the right situation. But sometimes, anxiety becomes too prevalent in your life, and this is when it can become problematic.
Anxiety is defined as a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome. This is a very normal human experience. It becomes abnormal only when someone is experiencing anxiety too often, and it begins to interfere with his or her quality of life. From an evolutionary standpoint, anxiety indicates to you that you are in a dangerous situation, and it cues a response from your body to get you out of that situation. If our ancestors encountered a bear while hunting, they would experience increased heart rate, increased rate of breathing, and increased blood flow to their muscles; all physiological symptoms designed to help them either fight or (preferably!) make a run for it.
In our current day-to-day lives, these same symptoms help us to react when we have to suddenly slam on the brakes, or jump out of the way of an oncoming cyclist. The trouble is that this anxiety response can also kick in when we aren’t in a physically threatening situation – like when we have to speak in front of a large audience, or have a conversation with our boss – in which case it isn’t very comfortable, or helpful. And for a large number of people (seriously, you would be surprised!), this anxious state becomes their normal state, and they experience the symptoms for much of their waking hours.
Anxiety is often accompanied by a number of other symptoms and problems. Difficulty sleeping, poor digestion, headaches, aches and pains, stress, depression, racing thoughts – the list goes on and on. Many people opt take medications to suppress their anxiety so that they are better able to function day-to-day. Alternatively, there are a number of excellent, highly effective natural treatments, backed by strong research, that can help in the treatment of anxiety, as well its side effect symptoms.
Learning to cope with anxiety is like teaching the brain a new way of thinking. It takes time and it takes dedication. Here are a few tips that can help get you started on the path to understanding, coping with, and eventually eliminating your anxiety.
TIP #1 – Recognize the Anxiety
Start by purposefully paying attention to the anxiety.
What is happening to your body while you are feeling anxious?
Is your heart racing? Are your palms sweating? Are you short of breath?
What thoughts are you thinking? Is your mind racing? Are you having negative thoughts? Are you angry?
What is your response to this? Do you start working faster? Do you leave the situation? Do you stop talking? Do you notice what is happening in your surrounding environment?
If you find it difficult to process and answer these types of questions, try journaling when you are feeling anxious, writing down the answers to these questions. See how you feel once you get it down on paper.
Recognize that anxiety is just a feeling. The more closely you pay attention to the symptoms of your anxiety, the better you will become at recognizing when they are about to occur. Learn what situations and experiences trigger your anxiety. Make special note of this in your journal. Getting to know your anxiety and its symptoms, as well as recognizing its triggers, can help you to consciously prepare for situations that may cause anxiety.
TIP #2 – Exercise
We all know how important exercise is, but it is even more important for someone who experiences anxiety. Exercising for 30 minutes a day, 4 times a week has been shown to help lower anxiety levels (not to mention all the other added benefits!). And keep in mind that “exercise” doesn’t have to mean sweating it out on the treadmill at your local gym. Go for a hike with a friend, take your dog to the park, try out a yoga class – the possibilities are endless!
TIP #3 – Dietary Supplements
Essential Fatty Acids:
Our brains require essential fatty acids to function optimally. EFAs can be obtained from foods such as cold water fish, walnuts and flax seeds. Unfortunately it is difficult to get adequate amounts from food, so I often recommend that my patients experiencing anxiety include these foods in their diets and also take a supplement. Be sure to take a good quality EFA supplement and always keep it in the fridge.
For someone experiencing anxiety, the best type of magnesium to take is magnesium bysglycinate. Magnesium deficiency is quite common and can cause symptoms of anxiety. Magnesium is also helpful as it can improve sleep and has a calming effect on the body.
This is an amino acid which is derived from green tea. Drinking green tea can be beneficial but in order to obtain the dose required of L-theanine, it must be taken in supplement form. L-theanine has an effect on the alpha waves in our brains and alpha waves have a calming effect. This supplement will allow the brain and body to relax and experience a state of calm.
The smell of lavender oil has been shown to decrease anxiety and is also beneficial for anyone experiencing insomnia. Sprinkling lavender oil on your pillow before going to sleep can help you fall asleep. Lavender allows the mind to calm which is a good benefit for anyone experiencing anxiety.
If you are on medications for anxiety, or have any other concerns, please check with your healthcare provider before taking any of these supplements or herbs. It is also important to have a professional assist you in assessing your anxiety, as the root cause of anxiety can be the result of another medical condition. Please contact us if you have any questions – we would love to help you work towards a life free from anxiety!