I’ve been there. Palms sweating, voice shaking, short of breath, extreme fear, no control. When anxiety hits, its no joke and it can feel like there is no way out of it. I was too ashamed to admit I was anxious for 6 years of my life. As a college student I was your steroetpical dietetic student type-A, overachieving, control freak. so naturally admitting I couldn’t control my own mind & physiology was not an option. I chose to ignore it. I medicated my social anxiety with excessive alcohol on the weekends, over exercising and diving head first into all my work. I left no space to listen to the anxious thoughts. Postgrad I dreaded presentations at work I knew I would be left in a sweaty-anxious panic, my voice would likely crack. As for dating, well lets just ay it took me two shots to calm my shit before I could even think about leaving the house.
Its been a journey. I literally woke up one day and realized that I’ve lived most of my life anxious or depressed and I needed to find peace, a middle ground. The pendulum had been swung long enough, it was time to change. I committed to doing whatever it took to find inner-peace. Today I live free of anxiety. I’m well aware that those sweaty palms and the spiral of thoughts might creep back in one day but I’ve chosen to look at it differently. I’ve committed to using the anxiety as a warning instead of a “condition”.
Anxiety has always been a warning that I’m out of alignment emotionally, spiritually & physically. I just get that for a long time. For me its a sign that something is not in balance. 6 hours of sleep, constant food restriction, over-caffeination, excessive alcohol intake, a fear-based mindset and a complete ignorance of my own intuition led me to a chronically anxious state.
That being said I’m sharing with you all the things I’ve found helpful since starting on my journey from nutrition & lifestyle to mindset this is what has worked for me.
Nutrition- Not many people think about nutrition as a factor when it comes to anxiety but its HUGE. Blood sugar fluctuations can leave you feeling more anxious. Especially you ladies who tend to be a little more sensitive to shifts in blood sugars. Certain nutrients help with balancing blood sugars while things like caffeine and refined grains/sugar can make ‘em go a little wonky. Gut health can also play a role not only in hormonal regulation but also with those lovely blood sugar fluctuations.
So lets start with meals. You’re going to want to balance those babies out. If you’re eating a huge plate of pasta & marinara sauce you just hijacked your blood sugars (that carb bomb breaks down into a whole lot of sugar) to the moon and they are bound to come crashing down. Hello roller coaster, I see you.
Each meal you consume, focus on having a small serving of carb (1/2 cup), 3-5 oz protein, 1+ tablespoon of healthy fats & fiber (non-starchy veggies GET AT ME). Eating high carb and low carb meals are a no-no. A huge plate of pasta will spike you up then drop you down very quickly and avoiding carbs all together can leave you in a low-energy state. Don’t forget to eat every 3-4 hours to prevent extreme drops in sugar levels!
Second lets talk gut health. Yes there are bacteria hanging out in your gut and yes they have been correlated with anxiety! Gut health is extremely complex and I’m not going to dive into that here but if you want to know a little more check out my Gut Health Guide. There are also several strains of bacteria that have been shown helpful for improving anxiety! Life Extension FlorAssist Mood, Natural Factors Calm Biotic, Now Women’s Probiotic 20 Billion & Pure Encapsulations ProbioMood are probiotics that contains these specific bacteria!
Amp up your nutrients! There are several key nutrients that are helpful in regulating those blood sugars and turning down the physiological responses to stress & anxiety! Magnesium, B12 & zinc can all play roles in anxiety management! I recommend incorporating more of the foods below into your diet!
o Magnesium: nuts, pumpkin seeds, leafy green vegetables, bananas, organic tofu
o B12: meats, dairy, eggs, chicken, fish
o Zinc: kidney beans, pumpkin seeds, spinach, shrimp, beef, flax seeds
Last but definitely not least stay hydrated! Water is key for regulating cortisol the stress hormone! So be sure to drink at minimum half your body weight in fluid ounces each day!
Supplements - Covering my butt here but seriously chat with your healthcare provider before starting any sort of supplements especially if you’re on other medications! That being said there are many supplements that can be extremely helpful when it comes to cooling those anxiety jets!
Magnesium - Magnesium L-threonate is especially beneficial for brain function. 70-90% of Americans are deficient in magnesium! Think you eat healthy and are getting enough? Well it would take 1 oz pumpkin seeds, 2 cups spinach & 1/2 cup black beans just to maintain a normal level. If you’re under stress, drinking lots of cocktails or excessive caffeine well, you need more babe.
B12 - AGAIN if you’re consuming alcohol, caffeine, under stress, not eating animals products or not sleeping well you’re at increased risk for deficiency! B12 is a very low risk supplement and its essential of nearly every energy producing reaction in your body. Its kind of important.
Zinc - CAREFUL! You don’t want to supplement zinc more than 6 weeks at a time and if you want to continue it make sure you take at least a 2 week break between supplement doses. Why? Zinc supplementation can waste copper and can lead to neurological complications. NO BEUNO! That being said if you’re noticing white spots on your nails, brain fog and acne along side that anxiety you may have a zinc deficiency and its not a bad idea to trial supplementation, again only for 6 weeks.
Vitamin D - Get yours tested by your primary care provider. A “normal” range is 30-100 but its best to be in the 50-80 range. If you come back on the low end of normal talk to your provider about a Vitamin D supplement!
Adaptogens - Ashwagonda and other adaptogenic mushrooms are beneficial for buffering the body’s stress response! Drink a lot of coffee? I would recommend pumping the breaks on Starbucks which not only will waste many of the nutrients important for regulating blood sugars but it can exacerbate the feelings of anxiety. I personally love Four Sigmatic Coffee which doesn’t cause the coffee crash and contains adapogentic mushrooms for an improved stress response!
Seems like a no brainer but I’ll say it again. SLEEP make those 7-8 hours a non-negotiable.
Second exercise! Just 20-30 minutes a day can improve mood and endorphins!
Third spend time in nature! Studies show that being in nature can improve mood and decrease stress levels! Put your feet in the grass, go for a walk on your lunch break, or if you’re a fellow mountain dweller spend your Saturdays in the mountains hiking!
Fifth belly breathe.
Last but not least, be aware of your thoughts. Are you living in a fear based mindset. How many times a day are you allowing your brain to spiral into the anxiety loop? Changing a fear mindset is work, it takes daily practice. Each morning I wake up and start with gratitude, then I get real. I think about everything that is causing me to feel fear in that moment and I journal “I release the fear that..…” and release every fear that could send me down the spiral.
If that doesn’t do the trick and I’m standing on the edge of the black hole of an anxiety loop I walk myself through some basic questions:
“but will I die?”
“why is this really making me anxious?”
“what core wound is this triggering?”
“how can I see this through the lens of love?”
“has the universe ever dropped me on my face? If, yes, did something good not come of that?”
For me this process usually does the trick. It makes me aware of how silly my fears actually are, grounds me back into reality and sometimes it makes me giggle. My spiritual practice is a very big reason I’ve been able to let go of the reins on life. Let life flow through you. If you’re looking to start on a spiritual journey to help heal your anxiety I have recommended picking up Gabby Bernstein’s The Universe Has Your Back.
Like I said earlier, anxiety has been a real trip. Its something I chose to change. I had the right to choose to live with it & that is the beautiful part about it we GET to choose. We don’t always have control over the hand we’re dealt but we get to choose fear or we get to choose love. Its always a choice.