Our society lives in a constant state of stress and anxiety. Every email is urgent, we pack our days full of meetings or social events, and working a 12 hour day on minimal sleep is the norm. We are constantly going. No wonder over 40 million adults suffer from anxiety every year! Anxiety disorders have become the number one mental health issue in the United States and many people use unhealthy coping mechanisms to combat their anxiety. Ultimately, prescription medication, recreational drugs and alcohol are doing more harm than good. It’s important to explore and understand where the anxiety is stemming from. We have lost the ability to be present, slow down, and connect with our bodies. I encourage the use of natural techniques and diet to ease a racing mind that feels out of control, unfocused, irritable, and worried.
Eating a diet rich in whole, nutrient dense foods is beneficial for everyone, but it is especially important if you are suffering from anxiety. If your body is unwell and unbalanced then your mind follows suit. The key is to fill your diet with a variety of fresh vegetables and healthy proteins and fats to support optimal mental and physical health.
Never skip breakfast! Skipping breakfast can cause unstable blood sugar levels, which can in turn cause decreased mental clarity and focus.
Reduce stimulants like caffeine and sugar because they drain serotonin, which is a crucial “feel good” brain chemical.
Experiment with eating organic food and see how it affects your anxiety. So much of the food we eat contains unsafe chemicals, preservatives, and pesticides. The toxicity of these substances impacts our mental health.
Healthy fats like those from avocados, raw nuts and seeds, and coconut oil play a critical role in our brain health. Fats aid the body in absorbing important fat soluble vitamins like Vitamin A, K, E, and D.
Spend at least 15 minutes in sun each day soaking up Vitamin D. Our bodies do not make a sufficient amount of Vitamin D on their own so the sun is the best source. Billions of people suffer from Vitamin D deficiency and it plays an major role in our mental health.
Did you know that Vitamin D is the only vitamin that is a hormone? Once it is absorbed by the skin it is transported to the liver and kidneys to be converted into an active hormone. Vitamin D is so powerful that it has the ability to activate genes that control the immune system and release dopamine and serotonin.
Take a “forest bath!” This term originated in Japan and the goal is to slow down and immerse yourself in nature. Connect with your senses and notice the sounds, smells, sights, and textures surrounding you. Take a moment to sit at the base of a tree, close your eyes, and just breathe.
There is growing evidence that shows forest bathing promotes immune function, boosts mood, lessens stress, and lowers blood pressure. Trees release compounds into the air known as phytoncides. When you inhale these compounds they help reduce the amount of stress hormones and increase the activity of white blood cells in your body.
What brings you feelings of ultimate relaxation or joy? Maybe it’s a massage, time in the sauna, a restorative yoga class, taking a warm bath, reading a book, or watching your favorite movie? Find what feels comforting and uplifting to you and incorporate these things daily. Doing things that nurture yourself daily is an easy way to keep yourself happy and calm, and it’s as important as food or water. Self care allows you to live from a place of fulfilment and lays the foundation for how you show up in life and work.
Creating a routine can restore your sense of control and focus. Every Sunday evening take a look at the calendar and schedule your workouts, trips to the grocery store, dinner with family or friends, work engagements, and time for yourself. A sense of organization and routine can take the stress out of a busy week ahead.
MEDITATION & BREATHWORK
Quiet your overactive mind with some simple meditation or deep breathing. You can use this technique anywhere and it’s free! When you are feeling overwhelmed take a few moments to sit still and connect with your breathe. Notice the temperature of the air as it enters your nose, how your breath feels different as it leaves your body, and how the air feels as it fills your lungs.
Regular physical activity is just as good for mental health as it is for physical health. Even a 10 minute walk has the ability to promote anti-anxiety effects. We all know exercise produces endorphins. Those endorphins act as natural painkillers and promote restful sleep, which in turn lowers stress. It’s all about finding the right form of exercise for you. Some may need a long bike ride or intense kickboxing class to help channel all of their energy, while others are better served by a restorative yoga class to calm frazzled nerves.
Allow yourself the opportunity to pause and dig deeper when anxiety arises. Where do these feelings stem from? Is there someone or something specific that triggers your anxiety? Exploring the thoughts, emotions, or triggers behind the anxiety can help to lessen the severity and frequency.
Having an encouraging support system is so valuable. Humans are social creatures and we need interaction and love. Having someone who understands and accepts you when anxiety arises can be the best kind of medicine.