We may all suffer some form of mental health in our lifetime whether it is depression or anxiety or both. But with all the pressures of modern life, the fast pace, social media, mobile phones, it seems this is on the increase.
Symptoms of anxiety can be very unsettling. Your heart rate increases, your mind races and you can no longer think straight. Though everyone experiences anxiety a bit differently, there are some more common symptoms to look out for:
- racing heart;
- hot flushes, sweating and skin clamminess;
- rapid breathing; and/or
- frequent gastrointestinal upsets.
- feelings of excess worry, panic, fear or guilt;
- obsessive thinking and behaviours; and/or
- feeling generally tense and wound up.
If you can relate to any of the above then take heart as this doesn’t have to be your everyday ‘normal’. As a Naturopath I support many people who struggle with feelings of anxiety. By supporting their body with herbs and minerals and correcting any deficiencies in their diet, I have seen people change for the better. But it’s not all about taking something. There are many resilience-building strategies you can incorporate into your day to help you manage these symptoms. And best of all they are free. These may help you have a better sense of wellbeing, and may help you manage stress.
- Exercise – regular exercise is an easy way to improve mood and reduce feelings of stress. Aerobic exercise has been shown to decrease the stress hormone cortisol, which can exacerbate mood disorders – so try running, swimming, walking, or cycling. There are many informal ways of exercising too, such as dancing in your lounge room to your favorite music! Don’t underestimate the power of exercising in a group or with a friend – social connection and relationship building can be very powerful for improving mental wellbeing, so join a sporting team with work, or a local sporting club such as football, cricket, golf or tennis.
- Connect with nature – we tend to spend many hours of our life indoors in artificial light, in front of computers or televisions, none of which is beneficial to our health. So walk in a park or forest or on the beach – just being out in nature can have a calming effect. Take your shoes off and feel the grass or sand beneath your feet, breathe in the fresh air. Also, being outdoors, as well as exercising outdoors in the sunshine, is a good way to help us maintain healthy levels of Vitamin D, an important hormone that has a very beneficial impact on mood.
- Choose healthy foods – consume protein at each meal and avoid refined and sugary foods. This can help balance your blood sugar levels, reducing mood imbalances and lessening anxiety.
- Hydrate your body with filtered water and herbal teas – good hydration has been linked with better mood.
- Avoid caffeine – stimulants such as caffeine can exacerbate feelings of anxiety.
- Breathe! – if you start to feel panicky or anxious, focus on taking some slow, purposeful, deep breaths, helping you return to a state of calm. Meditation can also help to quieten your mind and instil calm. There are lots of free meditation apps you can download to start you on a meditation journey.
- Get plenty of restful sleep as fatigue can exacerbate the feelings of anxiety.
Everyone experiences fears and worries from time to time, however if anxiety becomes excessive and stops you from enjoying everyday life, avoiding social gatherings or work meetings, then it’s time to do something about it.
- Anglin, RES., et al., 2013, ‘Vitamin D deficiency and depression in adults: A systematic review and meta-analysis’, The British Journal of Psychiatry, 202, 100-107
- Beyond Blue, 2016, ‘Anxiety’, https://www.beyondblue.org.au/the-facts/anxiety.
- Hartescu, I. et al., 2015, ‘Increased Physical Activity Improves Sleep and Mood Outcomes in Inactive people with Insomnia: A randomised Controlled Trial’, Journal of Sleep Research, 24, pp.526-534.
- Lucertini, F., et al., 2015, ‘High Cardio respiratory Fitness is Negatively Associated with Daily Cortisol Output in Healthy Aging Men’, PLoS ONE 10(11): e0141970. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0141970.
- Oman, D., et al., 2008, ‘Meditation Lowers Stress and Supports Forgiveness Among College Students: A Randomised Controlled Trial’, Journal Of American College Health, 56:5, pp.569-578.
- Pross, N. et al., 2014, ‘Effects of Changes in Water Intake on Mood of High and Low Drinkers’, PLoS ONE 9(4): e94754. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0094754.
- Stasio, Michael J., et al., 2011, ‘Revving up and staying up: energy drink use associated with anxiety and sleep quality in a college sample.’ College Student Journal, 45:4, pp. 738+. Academic OneFile.
- Varvogli, L. and Darviri, C., 2011, ‘Stress Management Techniques: Evidence-based Procedures That Reduce Stress and Promote Health’, Health Science Journal, 5:2, pp.74-89.