Anxiety. That dreaded word, feeling, recurring theme that affects as many as 1 in 25 people according to NHS statistics. It's that nasty, gnawing feeling that can start quite innocently in the pit of our stomach, and builds to a quick crescendo of dread and unease. Symptoms alone can be so horrible like a pounding heart, dizziness, nausea and sweating. What can we do to help control and manage our thoughts and habits then to curb anxiety?
Here at Good Zing our ethos is to share must-have health and wellness tips to help you manage or overcome issues that are holding you back. During our most recent event at The Hoxton Hotel in Holborn, we gathered four of our amazing experts and asked them to share their expertise and insight with our audience. Together they explained how nutrition, therapy, mindfulness and lifestyle changes can help you get rid of anxiety so that you can live your hapiest and healthiest self. Here's what we learned:
Naturopath & Nutritionist Sara Jackson explains how nutrition can help reduce anxiety
Sara Jackson is the founder of SJ Health and is a member of The British Association of Nutritional Therapists and the Complementary & Natural Healthcare Council.
1. Just eat real food
Really! Try to leave off processed and refined foods with numerous ingredients from your shopping list as much as possible. This is a great way to stop anxiety naturally. They tend to contain hydrogenated vegetable oils, preservatives, food colourings, additives, sugar, emulsifiers and enhancers – some of which researchers have shown can trigger anxiety. Instead go for whole foods that come from nature, not a factory. A good place to start is to increase seasonal fresh veggies and fruit, and put a new veggie in your grocery basket each week that you don’t normally buy.
2. Are you getting enough magnesium?
Magnesium is required for over 300 different enzymatic processes around the body and while it nourishes your nervous system, it helps prevent anxiety, nervousness and irritability. Take more complex carbs like brown rice and oats which are rich in magnesium as well as tryptophan, which is a precursor to serotonin – your feel good hormone. Green leafy vegetables like kale and swiss chard are full of magnesium, as are products like epsom salts, so you have a good excuse to soak in a tub to top up your magnesium levels after a long day.
3. Get fishy
It’s well known that omega-3s from fish oil (EPA and DHA) are helpful to treat depression, but some studies suggest fish oil may be very effective against anxiety too, along with it’s main role in preventing against inflammation. Aim for 3 portions a week of wild SMASH fish (salmon, mackerel, anchovies, sardines or herring) but if you know you don’t eat anywhere near that amount, consider having your levels tested as you may benefit from a good quality omega-3 supplement. A good starting dose is 1,000 mg daily if you are deficient.
4. Try essential oils
They’ve been around for centuries and used by different cultures around the world for their healing properties. They’re natural being extracted from flowers, bark or plants, pretty affordable and are relatively side effect free so you’ve nothing to lose. Buy as organic and pure as your budget allows – I like the Terra brand. Various clinical trials have shown the anti-anxiety properties of lavender, rose and vetiver so try and incorporate those as well. Always dilute essential oils or use in a diffuser rather than an oil burner for maximum effect.
Hypnotherapist & Nutritionist Chloe Brotheridge explains how therapy and being mindful can help curb anxiety
Chloe Brotheridge is a therapist and anxiety expert helping people around the world with her online programme, Your Calmest Self.
1. Question your thoughts
They aren’t facts. How would a wise and loving person help you to see your worries from a different perspective? This system will help you learn how to stop bad thoughts in your head.
2. Figure out how you want to feel
Organise your life around it. If you want to feel calmer, what do you have to do to achieve that? Make it your priority, you are absolutely worthy of feeling good.
3. What beliefs could be at the root of your anxiety?
Phrases like, ‘I’ll never be good enough’ or, ‘I must never make any mistakes’ can be things learned in childhood that still hold you back. Gather evidence why the opposite is true and remind yourself of the new, positive beliefs you’d like to take on board such as, ‘I'm great just as I am’ or, ‘Everyone makes mistakes and that’s ok’.
General Practitioner Dr Natalie Atere-Roberts shares her insight on how to deal with anxiety
Dr Natalie Atere-Roberts (MBBS BSc MRCOG DFFP) is a GP whose specialist interests are in women's health, mental health and medical education.
1. Get tested
If you're suffering from very physical symptoms of anxiety like poor sleep, a racing heart and/or excessive sweating, it would be worth getting tested for any underlying medical conditions such as hyperthyroidism, which can sometimes present itself in this way. Getting tested can help you learn how to calm anxeity before bed.
2. Don't self medicate!
When you're feeling anxious, one of the easiest things to do is to reach for a coffee, bottle of wine or a cigarette in the hope that it will destress you. Of course, you might feel better momentarily, but they will all make your anxiety so much worse in the long run.
3. Seek different resources
If you're on a waiting list for NHS counselling, have found private counselling too expensive or if face to face counselling just isn't your thing at the moment, then try some online resources. There are some great websites providing cognitive behavioural therapy, information on anxiety and an online support community. Check out Moodgym and The Big White Wall online.
4. A holistic approach to treating anxiety works best
Address diet, increasing exercise, relaxation techniques and counselling. Part of this package may sometimes need to include medication alongside, particularly if your symptoms are severe. Needing medication is not a failing! You're simply correcting a chemical imbalance in your brain, which may then allow you to make other changes in your life to address the root cause of the problem.
Meditation Teacher & Life Consultant Naomi Wright explains how mindfulness can help manage anxiety
Meditation expert Naomi Wright teaches courses, workshops and retreats with her practice B.Elemental in London and internationally.
1. Try breathing exercises
When we become anxious our breathing becomes compromised. It becomes shallow, rigid and constricted. To restore a feeling of calm, natural remedies for anxiety and depression include breathing exercises like this:
• Sit in a comfortable seated position, place your hands softly on your belly, and bring your awareness to the movement of your breath as it flows in and out of your nose.
• As you place your awareness on the breath, notice with each inhalation the breath filling your belly and chest, and as the breath flows out, how the exhalation releases tension from the body.
• While you continue to feel the flow of your breath, gently soften your navel region, allow your belly to relax. Feel the belly gently rise and fall with each inhalation and exhalation.
• Continue to slow and deepen the breath for 5 minutes.
• Deep belly breathing practised in this way calm the mind, and rests the body – allowing the anxious symptoms to subside.
Whenever we feel anxiety or fear, we're experiencing the effects of a hyper-stimulated area of the brain called the amygdala. Meditation works by soothing overactivity in the brain by engaging the valuable rest and recovery part of our nervous system instead.
Don’t be put off trying meditation because you think your mind is too busy. It’s a myth that you have to completely silence your thoughts to be meditating ‘correctly’. Comfort, ease and being able to welcome the activity of mind, without control or judgment, are essential tips in adopting an enjoyable daily meditation practice.
3. Heat up your diet
According to Ayurveda, an ancient scientific system of natural healing originating in India, anxiety is a symptom of an increase in the 'vata dosha' in the mind and nervous system. Diet can help bring the body back into balance and soothe the aggravation. Try upping your intake of warm, earthy, nourishing and grounding foods such a soups, curries, stews and porridge. Swap caffeine for herbal teas, and raw veggies for lightly cooked, steamed or roasted vegetables. Load up on good fats such as cooking your food with ghee.
4. Have a break from your digital devices and get outside
Take time to slow down, detach from your tech devices, and connect with your natural surroundings. Become aware of the birds singing, the flowers budding, the subtle breeze in the trees and the sky at sunset. Appreciating our outer environment influences our inner state, so give it a try, you’ll feel instantly more relaxed.
5. Use essential oils
If anxiety is affecting your quality of sleep, try massaging some warm oil on your scalp and on the soles of the feet before going to bed. Use organic sesame oil, heat gently and massage for a few minutes. Leave the oil on the scalp overnight and wash off in the morning and put some socks on after the foot massage. Great to do after a warm bath. You’ll soothe the nervous system, priming your body for a sound sleep.
Remember, you can take control of mindframe and finally manage your anxiety with healthy lifestyle changes. If your symptoms are severe or persist, please reach out to a medical practitioner to rule out any other health issues.
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