Anxiety is becoming increasingly more prevalent in our society. There are many different types of anxiety; for you it might manifest as social anxiety or panic disorder whilst for another person it may present as a phobia or a generalised anxiety disorder. What they all have in common is that they may stop you from living your life the way you would like to live, stop you from going to social events, or stop you from applying for a new job or stop you from having new relationships. Perhaps your anxiety is keeping you stuck in a circle of fear, doubt or unhappiness.
Can you relate….
You might be able to relate to one or more of the following (not a complete list):
- You want to run away/escape from a situation.
- You’re on edge and alert to everything around you.
- You can’t stop thinking obsessively.
- Feeling shaky.
- Increased muscle tension.
- Difficulty in catching your breath or dizziness.
- Needing to go to the loo more frequently or more urgently.
- Feeling nauseous or sick.
- Feel like you are losing control.
- You have excessive fear.
- You might simply avoid situations that make you feel uncomfortable or anxious.
- Palpitations – always worth getting this checked out by your health professional to rule out anything more serious.
Here in Australia 1 in 4 Australian adults will experience anxiety during their lifetime with more than 2 million of us succumbing to it in any one year whilst in the UK in 2013, over 8 million people were affected by anxiety. According to the AADA, in the United States, almost 1 in 5 adults are affected by anxiety disorders each year.
With all that has gone on in recent years with job insecurity, inflation, recession, and social distancing I cannot help but wonder if there will be a dramatic increase in these figures over the coming years.
Scarily, 50% of all lifetime mood and mental health problems, such as anxiety or depression, begin before 14 years of age and 75% by the age of 25. I also question the impact of the pandemic on the mental health of our children and adolescents with many having had no alternative but to study online from home with little social interaction with their peers beyond their devices.
What toll is this taking on their mental health?
What can you do about it?
Often, you can end up feeling that your life is out of your control. Talking to a counsellor or psychologist is often the first step to managing anxiety. The Beyond Blue organisation have heaps of resources and a helpline.
However, one aspect of supporting mental health that is frequently overlooked and that we may control, is eating a healthier diet and making sure that our brain is getting the right nutrients.
It’s so tempting when we’re feeling stuck or low to reach for the refined carbs, the chips or cookies or even a wine or beer, but their “lift” is usually short-lived and may result in a worsening of anxiety and/or other symptoms. Research has shown that eating a nutrient-dense diet can help mood disorders like anxiety and panic.
Variety is the key…
Variety is key with a good serve of protein, a plentiful dose of healthy fats and a selection of colourful fruit and veggies. The foods that we eat provide the foundations for many of our brain chemicals and the enzymes needed for optimal functioning of our nervous system. Thus, there is a definite link between anxiety and food and tweaking your diet is a great place to start.
Quality protein breaks down in to the amino acids that make many brain-friendly compounds such as the calming GABA, happy-hormone serotonin and pleasurable dopamine. Organic or grass-fed meats, eggs, poultry, seafood, nuts, seeds and legumes (if you can tolerate them) are all good protein sources.
Fatty acids are essential for the formation of cell membranes including the neurons which transport our brain messages. They help lessen inflammation and enhance the brain’s integrity and ability to perform. Coconut oil, olive oil, nuts, seeds, ghee and avocados are all good as well as omega-3 rich foods such as sardines, salmon, and mackerel.
Fresh fruit & veg
Fruit and veggies are packed full of the micro-nutrients that help make these brain-friendly compounds as well as being involved in hundreds of chemical reactions in the body. Think B Vitamins, Vitamin C, Zinc and Magnesium for starters. Eating a rainbow of colourful fresh produce, preferably organic or home-grown, at each meal is the best way to ensure that you are getting a good mix of nutrients.
You can find out which fruits and veggies have the least amounts of pesticide residues, such as avocado and cauliflower here. And the ones with the highest residues, which includes strawberries and spinach can be found here.
To get the most out of the food that you eat it is really important to make sure that your digestive system is working well, otherwise you can eat the best diet in the world but without getting the nutritious benefit.
How we can help
If you’re ready to take kick your anxiety in to touch and want a guiding hand, then please click here to make an online appointment with me. We can then arrange a convenient time to connect over zoom to tweak your diet and optimise your nutrient levels; we also review other lifestyle measures that may also be helpful.