As someone who works in social services, I see many people suffering from anxiety. That aside, one does not need to look far to notice our world is filled with people who feel unsettled and suffer the consequences.
There is much we cannot control, however with some lifestyle changes, we can minimize what we expose ourselves to. Conscious food choices that can help us cope with that we cannot change.
Here are 5 Lifestyle changes and 5 food changes to combat anxiety
Minimize exposure to news
Whatever happened to the 6:00 news? Now, we have 24-hour news. International, local, and sensationalized. Have you ever noticed that some of the news we are exposed to is largely speculation? What may happen, could happen, is bound to happen. Creating a feeling of helplessness and undue stress within the body.
Why not take a news break and see how that feels. Or just get caught up on the weekends. If there is something you really need to know someone will fill you in.
Take Social Media breaks
Studies show that there is no link between our interaction on social media and happiness. In fact, it can make us feel depressed. The majority of posts are the 'best' of people, what they have, the 'fun' they are having in their incredibly charmed lives. Making us feel inadequate. Take a break. Be in control. Have a designated time of day for catching up.
Get enough sleep
What we do during the day has an impact on our quality of sleep at night. Caffeine, alcohol, and other stimulants can have a negative effect disrupting important sleep stages. Caffeine affects people differently, so observe yourself, but generally, it is a good idea to avoid caffeine after lunch. Exposure to blue lights emitted from phones, computers, and televisions tricks the brain into thinking it is morning and will delay REM sleep. REM sleep is an important stage to support our dealings with perceived stress. Turn off all screens for at least an hour before bedtime. Sleep in a dark room. Ideally, you should not be able to see your hand in front of your face. If not possible, try a sleeping mask and block all clocks, radios or technology that may emit a light. YouTube has many guided sleep meditations that have been helpful for me in the past. Look for one customized to your needs for that day, be it anxiety, a busy mind, self-love, etc.
Good Social Networks
Those you choose to surround yourself will shape your world. Thoughts, ideas, and the activities you partake in will largely be determined by the people or groups you spend time with. What are your personal goals or interests? If it is to be a better photographer, spend time with photographers. If it is to be a better athlete, surround yourself with athletes. When you align your authentic self with the things that fulfill you, you will be growing and making conscious decisions towards your goals and aspirations.
Whatever your passion is I suggest giving back in some way. It is natural for humans to be involved and have a role in something bigger than ourselves. Give back to your community where you can and see the fruits of your labors. Whether it be a community garden, a community clean-up day, or volunteering at a local school.
You don't need to join a gym to be active. Any physical activity that you enjoy is beneficial. Time spent outdoors is particularly important for anxiety since it calms the nervous system and takes us outside ourselves. When outdoors use your senses. Observe all that is around you, notice the sounds of your environment, the smells and how this changes throughout the seasons. Having a walking or running partner at a regular time to meet will make you accountable and this commitment will ensure you are going regularly.
5 Foods to Combat Anxiety
One person's poison is another person's medicine. In other words, foods affect us in different ways. Understanding your body is paramount, however, there are foods that can support us or contribute to our anxiety.
Although a cup of joe may feel like something you need to get you going in the morning the stimulants will have an effect on our ability to cope with stress. The energy we get from caffeine whether it be from coffee, black tea, energy drinks or chocolate has to come from somewhere. It is as if we are paying for the energy with a credit card. The energy comes from our adrenal glands, a gland located above the kidneys. These small glands have many roles. Adrenal glands regulate our sleep patterns and store energy. The majority of the population have adrenal exhaustion. This happens with physical, environmental and emotional stress. This creates an energy deficiency cycle. To support your adrenal glands, you could switch to herbal teas to cut out the caffeine. Staying hydrated by drinking water throughout the day will also support your glands.
Protein is important for regulating blood sugar to ensure we don't experience the highs and lows which contributes to anxiety. Protein takes more time than carbohydrates to break down in our system to be used as energy. Among proteins many roles, it supports our neurological function which makes it critical for brain health. I recommend plant-based protein sources such as beans, legumes, nuts, seeds, sprouts, greens, quinoa, amaranth, tofu, and spirulina.
Add Omega 3 fats to your diet. This fat plays an important role in our brain to support mental health and minimize inflammation. We can only get this fat from our diets. Some rich sources include seaweed, avocado and avocado oil, dark leafy green vegetables, oily fish such as salmon, sardines, and herring, eggs, flax seeds and oil.
Cut out the sugar
Sugar effects memory, learning and our ability to cope with stress. It taxes our bodies and the brain. Worse, the forms of sugars found in the standard North American diet is highly addictive and throw all systems off balance.
The best strategy to combat the amount of sugar consumed is to reduce our reliance on processed foods. Cooking and preparing ourselves. With a whole foods diet, we are in control of the amount of sugar we add. Using alternative natural sweeteners is beneficial. The use of maple syrup adds minerals, honey has antibacterial, antimicrobial, and antioxidant properties. Buying locally produced honey can protect us against airborne allergies since many seasonal allergies are caused by the same plants.
Add Adaptogenic Herbs
Adaptogenic herbs work to support imbalance in the body and mind. They adapt to give you what you need relieving stress without the side effects experienced with medications used for anxiety. These include Rhodiola, which improves cognitive function, mental energy and the ability to focus. Maca reduces anxiety and stimulates brain activity. Siberian ginseng assists the brain in stressful times speeding up mental processing and improves memory. Tumeric is an anti-inflammatory herb which can be used to treat depression and anxiety.
These herbs have a myriad of benefits. Do some further research to see which one would be best suited to your needs. Some can be used over long periods and some for a short term.
Be intuitive, keep track of what works best for you. Writing a food and supplements journal along with a feelings and expressions journal can help you tap into what you need. Learning what works for you is the most effective way on this journey of self-care, self-love, and compassion. Taking the time to invest in care of one's self-allows us to tap to be the best version of us. Take the time. You are worth it. The more you understand and can control, the less anxiety will get the better of you.