Anxiety is a word that gets thrown around and joked about a lot, but the reality is that over 40 million Americans and counting reportedly suffer from anxiety, which disrupts their ability to feel peace and joy. To heal anxiety, you have to get to the root cause, just like any other physical or mental disorder. For me personally, learning what anxiety was in the first place is something that helped me to understand and investigate where it might be coming from, so I could properly address it.
WHAT IS ANXIETY?
Anxiety is simply a fear response. It's a response to the unknown, the uncontrollable, and how we will manage. It's your body's stress response, which triggers your body and mind to start working overtime to predict future events and keep you 'safe'.
When you have anxiety, your body is in a stress state, otherwise known as 'fight or flight', which is a normal survival response (think of a tiger chasing you or another life-threatening situation). When you are stressed, your body starts to pump cortisol, the stress hormone, throughout your body, you are running on adrenaline, and your nervous system goes on high alert. For many people, their nervous system is in a chronic 'fight or flight' state, due to trauma, but for others, their diet or lifestyle can be triggering it (both of these things can also be true at the same time). So now that you understand what anxiety is, you can start asking yourself what the root of your worry or fear is.
TRUE ANXIETY VS. FALSE ANXIETY
While anxiety is commonly classified as a mental health issue and is usually very nuanced, it's also a physiological issue. In 'The Anatomy of Anxiety', by Dr. Ellen Vora, anxiety is split into two categories - True Anxiety and False Anxiety. Anxiety rooted in the body is usually what she refers to as 'false anxiety', which is really just an imbalance in the body, whether it be inflammation, nutrient deficiencies, an unregulated nervous system, hormone imbalance, impaired GABA transmission, or all of the above. So the next step is to bring your body back into balance and into a state known as 'rest and digest'. Below is a lifestyle checklist to consider when you want to get to the root of it and possibly avoid it altogether.
My Tips for Reducing Everyday Anxiety and Managing it Through Lifestyle Choices
Replace your coffee with tea; if you can't do that at least don't drink coffee on an empty stomach. Caffeine is a stimulant that alters your nervous system and puts the body into a 'fight or flight' state. Also, hydrate with a glass of water when you wake up before you have coffee or tea. Dehydration is not a friend of anxiety.
Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of spring water daily. You can also add fresh lemon to your filtered water, drink fresh green juices, and coconut water.
Supplement with Magnesium Glycinate. Most people are deficient in this important trace mineral responsible for many bodily functions, including relaxation. Most doctors recommend about 400 mg per day.
Eat organic animal protein at every meal and once you know your body's cues better, eat intuitively. This is a more intuitive tip, but protein satisfies hunger and stabilizes your body. It's also a recommendation mentioned in Dr. Ellen Vora's book.
Stop eating preservatives (ie, Citric Acid and Natural Flavors), refined sugars, and refined oils (ie, Canola Oil) that throw your gut off balance and cause inflammation throughout the body.
Consider cutting out inflammatory foods like gluten and dairy.
Reduce/eliminate alcohol (anxiety is a common hangover symptom).
Work on reducing your toxic load, which includes heavy metals. Changes you can make include swapping out Tylenol for turmeric, eating organic produce and meat, switching to organic cleaning products that don't contain artificial fragrance, using clean makeup brands, and getting out in fresh air daily.
Stop watching mainstream media and tuning into programs, news, instagram accounts, or listening to songs that trigger your anxiety.
Move your body on a regular basis through walking or another form of exercise you enjoy.
Develop a meditation practice. It's an important self-regulation tool that calms your mind and puts your body at ease.
Make sure you prioritize sleep and rest, so you don't feel overwhelmed.
Start investigating and asking yourself questions like: "What is causing me to worry or stress about in this moment?" "What is making me feel overwhelmed right now? or "Is there anything in my power that I can do to manage or prevent a potential outcome that I am afraid of?" "Will I be ok if X happens?" You can also use these tips as a checklist to ask questions like "Do I feel this way because I didn't sleep?" or "Did I eat enough protein today?" "Have I had enough water?"
Use affirmations or create your own mantra like "I am safe" and "Everything is always working out for me" to repeat when you feel anxious or uncertain to remind yourself that everything is ok and make yourself feel safe.
After you have addressed the above and feel more relaxed in your body, the true anxiety that may be trying to tell you something about where you may be out of alignment or off balance in your life can be addressed. This can be more complex and personal, but it's important to listen to it rather than suppress or numb it because it's there to communicate with you so you can make a change.
Photo Credit: @darjabarannik