Feeling anxious and stressed seems to be normal for most people these days. However, nearly 40% of the American population is plagued by chronic anxiety. Contrary to mainstream medical beliefs, anxiety and persistent stress can be ameliorated through meditation, breathing mindfulness practices, and even supported through nutritional supplementation – rather than having to rely on pharmaceuticals for relief.
What may cause it?
Feeling anxious before you speak in front of a crowd or before an upcoming performance or event is totally normal. However, if you’re feeling anxious from day to day without any real reason and it’s sabotaging your normal routine, that’s when it becomes problematic. The good news is, there are steps you can take and habits you can adopt that are proven to reduce anxiety. Here at Hudson, we know how debilitating it can be to feel anxious and out of balance. Read on to explore effective methods to calm an anxious mind.
Steps to reduce anxiety:
1. Breath work
Conscious breathing has the powerful ability to affect our physical state and believe it or not, abdominal breathing (or diaphragmatic breathing) is one of the best ways to soothe the nervous system. Deep breathing can also help with deep relaxation, decreased pain, improved mental state, and increased focus. Begin by sitting in an upright position and placing one hand over your belly button and one on your chest. Take a deep breath and feel your abdomen push out as you take a deep breath in, hold your breath for a 4 count, then feel your abdomen fall as you slowly exhale. Repeat until your anxious thoughts have subsided.
Most people are constantly moving and working without ever thinking about slowing down or taking time for themselves. Taking time to relax, unwind, get quality alone time, and do things you enjoy has a huge impact on our life and our mood, either contributing to or alleviating symptoms of anxiety. Our providers at Hudson consider all aspects of your life when caring for your health, and recognize that self-care, whatever that may mean to you, is crucial to enhancing your mood and overall wellbeing. Carve out time during the week to do something you enjoy, spend some time alone, or even take a walk to get some fresh air, so you can continue giving 100% of yourself to your work, your family, and all other areas in your life.
We can’t talk about mental health without discussing nutrition, stress, sleep, and exercise – four crucial components that are often left out of the conservation. It may not be common knowledge to most, but the lifestyle you lead has an incredible effect on your mental health. There are many common nutritional deficiencies such as vitamin b12, D, and iron that are associated with anxiety and depression. Furthermore, the health of your gut has a direct impact on brain and cognitive function, which is strongly influenced by diet. Several bodies of research have demonstrated that gut dysbiosis can contribute to mental health status, and the gut is often referred to as the second brain (1). Sleep, stress, and exercise are also determinants of mental health and overall wellbeing. If you work towards finding balance in these areas of your life, anxiety symptoms will seem less likely.
Caffeine consumption is another factor that may affect anxiety. Caffeine does have clear health benefits due to its antioxidant properties, however it can deplete your body of essential B vitamins by interfering with their absorption(2), which may be the mechanism behind why coffee can make you feel jittery or anxious, since B vitamins play an important role in nervous system function.
As mentioned earlier, there are specific nutrients associated with anxiety-related behaviors. Magnesium, for example, has long been associated with calming the nervous system. If your diet is low in leafy greens, nuts, seeds, and whole grains, it may be a good idea to supplement with magnesium, as up to 80% of Americans are deficient. Zinc, b-vitamins, and omega-3 fatty acids are other compounds involved with the nervous system and reducing anxiety. If you’re curious about your nutrient status and if they may be contributing to your anxiety, consider working with our healthcare providers so we can make a specialized plan for you.
1. Lucas G. Gut thinking: the gut microbiome and mental health beyond the head. Microb Ecol Health Dis. 2018;29(2):1548250. Published 2018 Nov 30. doi:10.1080/16512235.2018.1548250
2. Wolde, Tsedeke. (2014). Effects of caffeine on health and nutrition: A Review. 30.
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