WHAT IS ANXIETY?
Anxiety is the feeling of fear, that something bad is about to happen. To begin with, it can manifest as stress, but over time, prolonged stress can erode our resilience and create feelings of overwhelm, helplessness and fear. When we feel anxious, our adrenal glands start to produce the “fight/flight”hormones such as cortisol, adrenaline and noradrenaline. This is to prepare our bodies to flee, freeze or fight. In prehistoric times, this was a very useful function for escaping from a mountain lion or chasing down our food! Cortisol liberates glucose from the body to fuel the muscles and brain to engage in fighting or running. Adrenaline gives your body a surge of energy, and noradrenaline puts the brain in high alert mode. Animals have the same hormones to protect them, and once the danger has passed they go back to grazing peacefully. They have already forgotten about the incident and get on with their day.In today’s modern times, instead of physical dangers, we have psychological stress. So if we are worried about meeting a deadline, have a presentation to make, or have a child in hospital, our body continues to make the stress hormones. Because we are not engaging in physical activity to use up the hormones, they continue circulating in our bloodstream and upset the balance of other hormones in our body.
If we continue worrying over the long term, sustained hormone production causes the following issues:
- Rapid heart rate and higher blood pressure, increasing risk of heart attacks.
- Disturbed sleep, resulting in reduced energy levels.
- Higher blood sugar and an increased risk of weight gain and diabetes.
- Digestive upsets: nausea, upset stomach, changes in bowel habits (leading to irritable bowel syndrome), formation of ulcers and loss of appetite (or stimulated appetite.)
- Fertility problems: in times of perceived danger, reproductive function is hampered by excess cortisol.
- Immune system problems: constant colds, coughs, sore throat, allergies or just feeling tired all the time.
- Accelerated aging.
3 Easy Ways to Relieve Anxiety
Help is at hand! If you implement the following strategies, you can start feeling better straight away.
- Get some exercise! By doing something physical that uses up the stress hormones, your body will start to equalise itself. The best type of activity is cardiovascular exercise. Going on a brisk walk, dancing, a short or long jog, or even using a skipping rope for 10 minutes will have you feeling better. As long as you get your heart rate up and are breathing a little harder, you will reduce the stress hormones. In addition, you will elevate the body’s endorphins (the mood elevators and pain relievers) instead. Make it part of your regular routine.
- Assess your Diet: Could you be eating foods that may potentially be increasing your anxiety levels? Caffeine containing drinks such as coffee, tea and energy drinks, as well as high sugar foods and soft drinks spike up cortisol levels. This may cause sweating, diarrhoea, shakiness and further anxiety. Instead, replace these with foods that support the nervous system. Oats, whole grains (brown rice, buckwheat) and good quality proteins such as kidney beans, lentils, fish, nuts and seeds are great ways to fuel your body. Replace the caffeine drinks with calming herbal teas such as chamomile, passionflower or lemon balm.
- Have regular time in Nature: Modern life means we are constantly inside. Inside our office, inside our car, or inside our homes. Being outdoors in the fresh air and sunshine, even for short periods, can make a huge difference to anxiety levels. This is further improved by spending alone time in a park, at the beach or in the forest. If the weather is cold, take a blanket, close your eyes and breathe! Feel the sun and wind on your skin, the earth beneath you and the beauty surrounding you. Our bodies emit positive ions, whilst the earth releases negative ones, so take off your shoes and let the earth equalise your body. Be present to the plants, animals, birds or insects that you see. Make this a regular part of your week, as often as you can, for maximum benefits.
WHAT ELSE CAN I DO?
Visit your Naturopath: If you already have symptoms of excess cortisol and adrenaline, make an appointment to address this as soon as you can. Relief is at hand, as I can assess your individual needs and tailor your treatment to have you feeling better, faster. Act now, life is too short; you are destined for a life of happiness and peace. Let’s make this happen, together. Call me or book your appointment.
Yours in Health, Lynda.