Anxiety disorder is rapidly increasing in the modern world as the pace of society continues to quicken with constant additions of stimulants and the need to “be the best at everything”. People with anxiety often experience an overwhelming feeling of loneliness. It is easy to believe that the nervous, shaky, uncontrollable feeling is unique to you, however, know that anxiety is an extremely common disorder and most people have been affected by it in varying degrees over their lifetime.
Mental imbalances often stem from hormonal imbalances, especially in young girls. The first step in healing anxiety is with a whole-foods and herbal approach. Anxiety does not have an on and off switch, but the decisions you make in everyday life can increase internal balance and create a continuous sense of calm.
Common Causes of Anxiety
Excess computer use
Too much time on social media
Lack of in-person social interaction
Lack of exercise
Major life changes (moving, switching schools, etc.)
Anxiety attacks are often triggered by stress (conscious or unconscious) or pent-up unfelt emotions. But they can also occur in response to certain foods, drugs or illness. Food allergies and hypoglycemia can promote anxiety attacks. An attack may follow overindulgence of caffeine-based stimulants like coffee or energy drinks.
When experiencing anxiety, try this breathing technique that you can use ANYWHERE, ANYTIME. This breathing helps to calm the nervous system, relax the mind, and reduce anxiety. The more it is used and practiced, the quicker it will help in times of need.
-Inhale slowly through the nose for a count of five.
-Hold your breath for a count of 2.
-Exhale from the mouth slowly for a count of seven.
-Repeat this sequence until the anxiety subsides.
Regular breathwork can help reduce stress and calm the mind. Techniques to include in your routine are alternate nostril breathing, humming bee breath, and one-minute breath.
Get Adequate Sleep
Sleep allows our body and brain to process the day’s happening, heal and support areas of concern, and bring balance back into our systems. Aim for 8-10 hours of sleep per night to receive full benefits.
To aid sleep: Try drinking a calming tea like lemon balm before bed, take magnesium or a magnesium flake and lavender bath, and listen to relaxing music like binaural beats or anything from Steven Halpern (this music works on brain waves and will bring you into an alpha or theta state for deep relaxation). Work on creating a night-time routine that works for you and your body, preferably without the use of technology (grab some paperback books from the library!).
Also referred to as grounding, earthing is a practice that involves placing the soles of one’s bare feet in direct contact with the earth. Contact with the earth exposes our body to healing negative ions. The benefits of doing this are stress reduction, free-radical accumulation reduction, reduced inflammation, and canceling out anxiety-causing positive ions within the body. The act of connecting directly with the earth is grounding on an emotional and energetic level, helping to soften and dissolve the stress-inducing, neurotic energy you may feel during bouts of anxiety.
The earth can be used to regulate the endocrine and nervous systems, reduce mood and emotional imbalance, reduce body-wide inflammation, relieve chronic pain, promote more restful sleep, protect against the effects of stress, normalize cortisol levels, improve memory, and promote cardiovascular health.
Try: Walking on the beach, dipping your toes in the ocean, walking on the earth barefoot, laying on the earth for 15 minutes taking deep breaths, forest bathing.
Take a moment several times a day to stop what you are doing and move your conscious awareness from the mind back into your body. Stay quiet, and listen. If needed, practice short intervals of meditation and breathwork to get into a mindful state. Listening to your body allows the mind-body connection, and you will better be able to provide your body with what it needs at any given moment.
Try: Taking a minute to be aware of your body every time you go to the bathroom
Work on unplugging from phones and technology as often as possible. On weekends work on having a minimum of 1-2 hours a day away from technology. This can include going outside and ground, going for hikes, going shopping, doing hobbies such as a puzzle or reading, playing board games with family or friends, cooking a meal or baking a cake!
Try: Inviting a friend over and making a dinner from scratch to share!
Eat small, frequent meals throughout the day. This allows the body to process smaller quantities of nutrients at a time. Absorption is hindered when stressed so it’s best to eat in a relaxed environment. If in a stressful environment (e.g. at work or school, consume foods that require less work to break down. For example smoothies and blended soups). Regular meals also help to balance blood sugar & keep moods stable.
Consume nutrient-rich foods. Stress depletes vital nutrients we need in our body to be balanced. Consuming nutrient-rich foods will help to replace those that we have lost. These include apricots, asparagus, avocados, bananas, blackstrap molasses, brewer’s yeast, broccoli, brown rice, dried fruits, dulse, figs, fish (especially salmon), green leafy vegetables, root veggies, legumes, raw nuts and seeds, whole grains, and organic yogurt/kefir. These food contain high amounts of calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium.
Avoid commercial animal products. Conventional animal protein is highly likely to contain synthetic hormones and antibiotics that worsen anxiety symptoms. If you want to consume animal products, choose organic whenever possible and aim to eat animal products 3-4 days a week only.
Avoid or limit caffeine. This includes avoiding coffee, tea with caffeine, soda drinks, energy drinks, chocolate, and any other product that contains caffeine as an ingredient. Caffeine can trigger worrisome thoughts and increase stress which can trigger anxiety. If you don’t want to limit these drinks altogether, aim for only 1 cup a day total or less.
Reduce anxiety-producing foods. These include processed and packaged foods, sugar, alcohol, and refined carbohydrates. Aim to consume fresh fruits, vegetables, grains, and beans/legumes. Plus, be aware of / avoid food intolerances like gluten, dairy, and soy.
Chamomile: a popular herb known for its relaxing properties. Brew a cup of tea with 1 tsp of chamomile at any time during the day
Linden Flower: a lesser known herb, however, it’s great at calming anxiety and promoting relaxation. Brew a cup of tea to sip whenever you feel anxious by steeping 1 tsp of linden flowers in hot water.
Nettle Leaf: a very nutrient dense herb which strengthens the adrenals, relieves anxiety and can build focused energy. Brew 1 tsp of nettle leaves with hot water in the morning and sip throughout the day, or have a cup of tea whenever wanted.
Tulsi (Holy Basil): known for its ability to reduce stress and anxiety, reducing inflammation, and also gives a boost in energy without caffeine. This tea is a great caffeine replacement that will make your brain stay sharp throughout the day. Try brewing 1 tsp of tea in hot water and drinking in the morning. For added flavor, add a pinch of dried lavender buds for their taste and relaxing effects.
Mandarin Essential Oil: helps to alleviate the oppressive feelings of anxiety and depression. It can be breathed in, rubbed onto the skin, added to bathwater, or used as aromatherapy.
Flower remedies, or flower essences, are herbal infusions made from the flowering part of wild plants. They are used to address the mental and emotional realms of one’s health, in which anxiety symptoms are deeply rooted. Rescue remedy is a fantastic option.
Multivitamin and Mineral Complex
Take a multivitamin to provide a base dosage of all the nutrients needed to support the body in balance. Ensure proper amounts of potassium, as it is essential for the proper functioning of the adrenal glands, and selenium, as low levels after often found in those with anxiety disorder. Selenium is also a powerful antioxidant that protects the heart
Dosage: As directed on label.
Known as the sunshine vitamin, it’s important to help the body absorb other vitamins and minerals. Deficiency can increase anxiety symptoms as well as feelings of sadness.
Dosage: Get outside in the sunshine for 20 minutes daily, or supplement with 2,000-5,000 IU drops daily (consume with fat for optimal absorption)
Helps relieve anxiety, tension, nervousness, muscle spasm, and tics. As with B vitamins, magnesium is used up faster in the body during times of stress.
Dosage: 200-400 mg daily, best taken in the form of bis glycinate or citrate.
GABA (gamma butyric acid) is a naturally occurring chemical compound produced in the brain that helps to calm the excitability of neurons. People who have chronic sleep problems typically have GABA levels that are 30% below normal, as do people with mood disorders, like anxiety & depression, which are often tied to insomnia as well. Try in chewable form 200mg twice daily.
What L-theanine does is to increase alpha wave activity in the brain, mimicking brain waves during deep sleep phases. Because of this, L-theanine increases the production of dopamine, serotonin, and GABA, which all promote sleep and elevate mood. Try a chewable supplement 100-200mg daily.
*If you think you are experiencing a nutritional or hormonal imbalance - reach out to a holistic practitioner for support