What to do when you’re feeling anxious

Being a worry wort is not an easy thing to live with. Prolonged worry can easily turn into anxiety and a world of unjustified mental agony. Sometimes you can control the mental looping with things like mindfulness and therapy, but the physical manifestations of anxiety are much harder to resolve.

With time, practice and help from natural medicine, you can quickly settle your nervous system when entering a stressed or anxious state. This is how to do it.

Avoid caffeine at all costs

When you are anxious you stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline are running high. As caffeine also stimulates these hormones it can contribute to anxiety and make you feel more stressed out. So in anxious times avoid it altogether. Coffee especially but also green tea, white tea, black tea, cacao and yes I am sorry to say chocolate. (NB: decaf coffee also has a tiny amount of caffeine in it but is a much better option).

Avoid alcohol

Alcohol is a depressant that inhibit your ability to consciously deal with stress. It might feel good temporarily to drink with anxiety but usually the effect is short lasting. Popular alcohol choices like wine and beer are also fermented which can make anxiety worse (see more below on amines). So when you’re feeling stressed out and anxious, it’s best to give booze the flick.

Avoid amines

Amines are tiny molecules created by the breakdown of protein in foods or fermentation. Whilst they provide great flavour to certain foods they may cause health problems if you are sensitive to them. For some they can increase anxiety, depression, pain, insomnia and a host of other symptoms. The list of amine-rich food is not short, but in times of anxiety it may help eliminating the high amine foods such as anything fermented (including wines & beer), pickled, dairy, soy, banana, broccoli, baby spinach, mushrooms, avocado, dried fruit, melons, tinned fish, deli meats, chocolate, yeast and anything with peanuts.

Drink a lot of chamomile tea

Chamomile tea is incredibly calming. Drink as many as you can throughout the day. A jug of chamomile tea on your desk for the day is a good idea too if you are anxious and stressed at work. Literally use 4-6 chamomile tea bags, soak them in a litre of water then drink up.

Take some magnesium

A high quality magnesium supplement will instantly quench that nervous feeling in the body you get with anxiety. It works by reducing stress hormones and binding to/stimulating GABA receptors in the brain. Magnesium glycinate is the best option when it comes to anxiety and it also comes with a reduced risk of magnesium-induced diarrhoea. You may also like to consider taking Epsom salt baths which are rich in magnesium as well.

Rescue Remedy

Rescue Remedy is a Bach Flower essence spray is extremely effective. It is available for purchase at most health food stores and pharmacies.

Nervoheel

Nervoheel is a homeopathic complex that works to quickly diminish that super uncomfortable, jittery feeling in the body you can get with anxiety. Take one very 30min until you feel relaxed again.

Kava

Kava is an anxiety remedy made from Piper methysticum (a plant native to the western Pacific islands) which can be taken as a beverage or extract. Sometimes it can make the inside of your mouth and throat go numb/ tingling, but for most will induce relaxation of the muscles, reduced anxiety and often sleepiness. Like Magnesium glycinate, it reduces anxiety by reducing stress hormones and binding to/stimulating GABA receptors in the brain. Kava is available at most health retailers over the counter but is best taken under supervision of a naturopathic practitioner.

Lavender

Lavender is a great anxiety aid. It works by activating GABA receptors in the brain via the olfactory neurons (in the nose) in order to produce its relaxing effects. You could sip on lavender tea, diffuse lavender essential oil, drop a few drops of it into a hot bath or put a few drops on a hanky to put by your pillow before bed.

Exercise exercise exercise

The best way to get out of your head and to burn off adrenalin & cortisol is to exercise. It is the best thing to get rid of the unused excess (nervous) energy in the body that can be making you feel strung out. It brings cortisol levels back into check and produces a flood of endorphins, which makes you instantly feel better. To get rid of the physical feelings of anxiety, do something that will make you sweat and puff, like running, dancing or aerobics. If you suffer from any sort of chronic disease or fatigue syndrome, slower options like yoga, swimming and walking are best. In the case of exercise intolerance (when you need to sleep after workout) it is best to do under 20min and to drink an electrolyte rich drink as you do (coconut water is a good option).

Hypnosis

Self-hypnosis recordings are one of the most effective and inexpensive tools you can invest in to quench your anxiety. They work by suggesting to your subconscious mind new ways in which to interpret stressful events, as well as helping your mind gain control over anxiety triggers. Listening to the recording every day (if not twice a day) will give you the greatest effect. I recommend Uncommon Knowledge Hypnosis downloads regularly. They also have a very easy smartphone app that makes recordings easy to manage.

Avoid MSG

MSG (monosodium glutamate) is a well-known trigger of anxiety. If you’re sensitive it can give you palpitations (making your heart race) which makes the feeling of anxiety worse. It also leaves many with nightmares and night sweats. So avoid MSG when you can – checking Asian foods and packaged foods such as frozen dinners, gravies, salty snacks and chips. Avoid anything with “preservative 620”. Especially remember to ask the wait staff at Asian restaurants too.

Opt for high quality carbohydrates

High quality, non-glutinous, starchy carbohydrates can be very comforting as they help calm the stress response. Some of these include any type of rice, sweet potato, potato, beetroot or squash. Eating low GI carbohydrates will also calm you by working on GABA receptors in the brain (as per above). Other foods that might also help as they contain glutamic acid (which makes GABA) include almonds, halibut, mackerel, oats, walnuts, rice bran and lentils.

Avoid refined sugars and glutinous grains

Both of these food groups are inflammatory and increase HPA dysfunction (described above) more than any other food groups.

Sit in nature

Science has shown that being in nature, and/or with animals, is a huge stress relief. It reduces your blood pressure, improves your breathing and reduces the production of stress hormones generally. Being in and around nature will make you a much calmer person. It also provides respite for our overactive minds as we naturally focus on the external, sensory experience itself. Domestic pets such as cats and dogs can also be huge stress relievers. If you have one give them a hug or let them sit on your lap for a while.

Meditate

Meditating is a good thing to do daily if you are anxiety prone, but it is not always useful in an acute situation. Anxiety is generally caused by an overactive mind that provides unrealistic, fearful thoughts we can’t get perspective on. With a regular meditation practice, you begin to train you mind to be able to choose which thoughts are helpful to you and which are not. You create a space that you take out into your day that allows you to watch and investigate them one by one. Meditation also has the added bonus of calming your nervous system down. So when it comes to stress, meditation is the best medicine out there. If you find meditating on your own difficult consider a meditation app (like Calm), a recording (there are thousands on YouTube) or meeting in a group.

Talk to someone

If your mind is on a loop, call a friend and have a chat. With their permission, designate 1-2 particular friends as your go-to people for those occasional melt down moments. When you’re gripped with fear you would be amazed at what a little love, support and outside perspective can do for you. However if your anxiety is ongoing, it is worth booking in with a professional psychotherapist who can help you retrain your mind and get a balanced perspective on things. (NB: Good therapists are hard to find so always make sure you get a good referral).

Leave a comment