Somedays I really struggle with anxiety. As soon as I wake up in the morning my breath is shallow, my heart is racing and I have a huge lump in my throat. I feel really nauseous and don’t feel like eating breakfast even though my stomach is rumbling. I am on edge and my kids only have to do the smallest thing to set me off, when normally it wouldn’t worry me. I am so irritated and I just can’t shake it. Even though my anxiety has really improved over the years, it still comes and goes no matter what is going on in my life.
Anxiety is a thing that everybody can experience to different extends particularly if you are worried or stressed about something. However, for someone with anxiety, these feelings can be ongoing and it can dictate their every move. It can be a constant and exhausting daily battle that you don’t always feel like you are winning.
Anxiety is the most common mental health condition in Australia. On average, 1 in 3 women and 1 in 5 men will experience anxiety (Statistics courtesy of Beyond Blue).
There are different types of anxiety disorders and these include:
- Generalised anxiety
- Social anxiety
- Panic disorder
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
There are risk factors for anxiety and these include:
- Family history
- Prolonged stress – work, family and relationships, loss of a loved one, pregnancy and giving birth, changes in living arrangements.
- Alcohol or substance abuse
- Traumatic life experience
- Health conditions such as diabetes, asthma, heart disease.
Anxiety can present in many different ways. The signs and symptoms can include:
- Tight chest
- Light headiness
- Panic Attacks
- Loss of appetite
- Increased heart rate
- Wanting reassurance
- Unable to relax
- Stomach cramps
- Muscle tension
- Hot flushes
- Avoidance of situations
How can I help my anxiety?
- Eat a fresh whole food diet, which includes plenty of colour and variety. Different colours will provide you with different nutrients
- Avoid food additives such as aspartame and MSG as they may trigger anxiety
- Avoid stimulants such as coffee, tea, cola, energy drinks, and other caffeinated drinks as they can exacerbate anxiety for some people
- Reduce sugar and carbohydrates, as fluctuating blood sugars may trigger anxiety.
- Ensure you eat adequate protein whether it is meat or plant-based sources. Protein provides essential amino acids for healthy neurotransmitter production
- Eat plenty of green vegetables, nuts, seeds, and dark chocolate as they are rich in magnesium
- Be mindful of your alcohol intake and avoid excessive alcohol consumption
- Boost essential omega 3 fatty acids from oily fish such as salmon and sardines at least 3-4 times per week.
- Identify your triggers (it may be a food such as caffeine)
- Practice deep breathing, yoga, meditation and other relaxing activities which may be useful to help reduce anxiety.
- Low to moderate impact exercise may help the nervous system overactivity and managing anxiety.
- Do calming activities such as playing music and art therapy.
- Avoid recreational drugs as they can trigger anxiety and interfere with prescribed medication
- Speak to a counsellor or psychologist who can give you some techniques to help manage your anxiety
- Talk to a naturopath about taking control of your mental health through natural medicine and healthy lifestyle changes.
Anxiety can be very isolating for some people and you may not even realise that the symptoms you are experiencing are anxiety. If you feel overwhelmed when trying to change around your diet and lifestyle, then just pick one thing you would like to change, master it and move onto the next. Make small sustainable changes. Seek help even if it’s just talking to a friend and know you are not alone.