8 Ways Nutrition & Lifestyle Changes Can Calm Your Anxiety
1. Take a shower
It may be simple, but taking a shower can be a wonderful way to break through the cycle of swirling thoughts in your mind and bring you back into feeling more present in your body. The hot water relaxes tense muscles, so spend a few moments directing the water onto your neck and shoulders. For bonus points, take a hit of cold water for 30 seconds at the end of your shower. This stimulates the vagus nerve and wakes up your parasympathetic nervous system, a fast track to feeling calmer.
2. Connect with someone you love
Bees need a hive, and humans need a tribe. We crave a sense of community, belonging and connection. This is deeply linked to our survival instincts. Anxiety is all about going into “survival mode” in the brain. As early nomadic groups, our survival depended on being part of the group and knowing others had your back. If you were cut off from your tribe, your chances of survival were much lower. Call up a friend, schedule in a date with a friend or find the nearest person to hug. Reaching out for support when you feel stressed and overwhelmed reminds you that you have a community looking out for you, helping you to feel safe.
3. Move your body
Exercise is recommended as a first-line treatment for anxiety, yet many of us are not aware of its powerful impact on our mental health. One study of over 3,500 people with anxiety established that across the world they respond just as well to moving their bodies more regularly as they do to both therapy and medication (Wipfli et al, 2008). It doesn’t really matter how you move, just start moving in a way you enjoy. If you’re able to do this with friends or a team, that’s even better.
4. Eat regular meals
Blood sugar imbalances are something that impacts many people with anxiety. Often we’re living such busy lives, we literally forget to eat. Sometimes, we skip meals deliberately due to the popularity of eating styles like intermittent fasting. This is not something I recommend for people with anxiety, although it can benefit others. When your blood sugar levels drop too low, anxiety and panic attacks are more likely to occur. If you are feeling anxious, you’re better off eating three square meals a day, plus snacks if you need.
5. Get to bed earlier
A bad night’s sleep is a sure-fire way to wake up anxious the next day. Our brains are much more sensitive and easily triggered when we are sleep-deprived. Make sleep a priority. Get to bed earlier if you need and avoid screens late at night, as the blue light interrupts our brain’s production of the sleep hormone melatonin, meaning we don’t feel as sleepy at night or we get a disrupted sleep. Seek professional help if you experience insomnia.
6. Stop scrolling on your phone
Comparing your real life to the edited, highlight reels from everyone else on social media is a great way to make yourself anxious and make it worse. We feel like we’re not good enough like we are missing out on something or simply not as happy as other people. We think thoughts like, “maybe there’s something wrong with me.” Take a break from your phone when you can, switch it on airplane mode or leave it in another room for an hour or so while you go about your day.
7. Spend some time in nature
Just looking at green spaces makes us feel calm, and there are studies to prove it. Seeing green lowers your stress hormone cortisol (Park et al, 2010). Be sure to take in the gardens and parks you pass when you walk around your neighbourhood. Being immersed in nature is even more beneficial, as inhaling the chemicals emitted from plant aromas has a similar, stress-relieving effect. How can you spend time in nature more often?
8. Eat foods that contain iron.
Red meat, tuna, dark leafy greens, legumes, quinoa and pumpkin seeds are good sources of iron. If you have low iron levels, this may be contributing to your anxiety and panic attacks. Iron is required to make haemoglobin for our red blood cells, which is the part that carries oxygen around our body. A brain deprived of oxygen and higher in carbon dioxide is more susceptive to anxiety and panic attacks (Wemmie, 2011). Women who have regular periods are pregnant, breastfeeding and have recently given birth, in particular, are more susceptible to low iron levels. Your doctor can refer you for a blood test to have your iron levels checked.
Guest Post By Georgie Collinson
Georgie is an anxiety mindset coach, gut health expert and nutritionist. She works with the Anxiety Reset Method to help determined women find freedom from fear and anxiety, live in alignment and take back control of their lives. The Anxiety Reset Method is a holistic approach unlike any other, considering the thoughts you think, the health of your gut, your hormones, your genes, your nutritional status and your lifestyle. The next round of Reset Your Anxious Mind In 90 Days, the online program, begins March 2020. Find out how you can work with Georgie here: http://georgiecollinson.com/
You can follow Georgie on Instagram @georgiethenaturopath for free daily anxiety support and tips.
Mikawa, Y. (2013). Low serum concentrations of vitamin B6 and iron are related to a panic attack and hyperventilation attack.
Park, B. J., Tsunetsugu, Y., Kasetani, T., Kagawa, T., & Miyazaki, Y. (2010). The physiological effects of Shinrin-yoku(taking in the forest atmosphere or forest bathing): evidence from field experiments in 24 forests across Japan. Environmental health and preventive medicine, 15(1), 18.
Wemmie, J. A. (2011). Neurobiology of panic and pH chemosensation in the brain. Dialogues in clinical neuroscience, 13(4), 475.
Wipfli, B. M., Rethorst, C. D., & Landers, D. M. (2008). The anxiolytic effects of exercise: a meta-analysis of randomized trials and dose–response analysis. Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 30(4), 392-410.