Anxiety is an escalating problem, affecting an increasing number of people, with nearly 40% of Americans reporting heightened anxiety compared to the previous year.
We’ve all been there, anxiously Googling whether anxiety can cause this or that. But, let’s be real; finding solace in others’ experiences might not be the golden ticket. Sure, they’ll tell you to exercise and eat well, but ironically, isn’t that a source of anxiety itself? If skipping a workout or indulging in a burger induces guilt, we get it. When searching for anxiety symptoms online, common signs include:
- Feeling restless or on edge
- Difficulty concentrating or mind going blank
- Sleep difficulties
- Tense muscles
None of these are exclusively linked to food or exercise, yet incorporating them may help. Here’s a thought: Anxiety isn’t something that simply vanishes. Also, it’s essential to differentiate an anxiety disorder from feeling anxious. Philosophers and psychoanalysts have shown that life without feeling anxious at some point is nearly impossible; it is part of being human. On the other hand, an anxiety disorder could be very damaging to one’s life.
In 1621, Robert Burton described the symptoms of anxiety attacks in socially anxious people in his book ‘The Anatomy of Melancholy’:
“Many lamentable effects this fear causeth in man, as to be red, pale, tremble, sweat; it makes sudden cold and heat come over all the body, palpitation of the heart, syncope, etc. It amazeth many men that are to speak or show themselves in public.” In the same book, Burton cited Hippocrates’ writing on one of his patients, who apparently suffered from what we would call “social anxiety disorder” today: “He dare not come into company for fear he should be misused, disgraced, overshoot himself in gestures or speeches, or be sick; he thinks every man observed.”
Defining anxiety is a hard task. From the perspective of neuroscience, anxiety is, and I quote, “a nerve circuit disorder, marked by a power disruption in the brain’s wiring, affecting communication between one area of the brain and another. The nerve cell connections between the amygdala and the prefrontal cortex (PFC) are critical in anxiety.”
This is far from giving any final answer to the question. Another description of anxiety is:
“Excessive fear or worry about a specific situation (for example, a panic attack or social situation) or, in the case of generalized anxiety disorder, about a broad range of everyday situations. Symptoms last over an extended period – at least several months.”
Science still can’t say for sure that what goes on the brain- see through imaging and mapping- is undoubtedly what the person is experiencing; that’s why treatments for anxiety disorders can be either by psychotherapy or medication. One is about talking about anxiety; the other interferes with brain chemistry.
Be as it may, at the end, we all need to find our path to cope with anxiety, even if you have a psychotherapist or psychiatrist on this journey with you.
One of the paths to deal with anxiety, both for the ritual good for the mind and the nutrients good for our body, is a healthy diet. Here are important factors to ponder for natural ways to cope with anxiety. But, and I can’t stress this enough, no study has pinpointed a one-size-fits-all solution. People engage in various activities—whether working out, making music, or pursuing different careers—all as ways of dealing with anxiety.
From a diet perspective, you could:
- Incorporate Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Include foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as fatty fish (salmon, mackerel), flaxseeds, and chia seeds. Omega-3s support brain health and may help alleviate anxiety symptoms.
- Prioritize Whole Foods: Focus on a diet based on whole, nutrient-dense foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins. These foods provide essential vitamins and minerals that contribute to overall well-being.
- Explore Adaptogenics: Integrate adaptogenic herbs like ashwagandha and holy basil into your diet. These herbs are believed to help the body adapt to stress and promote a balanced mood.
- Consider Gut-Friendly Foods: A healthy gut is linked to improved mental health and may contribute to anxiety relief.
- Limit Caffeine and added Sugar: Excessive consumption can lead to energy fluctuations and may exacerbate anxiety symptoms. Opt for herbal teas and choose natural sweeteners.
It’s hard; we know. The supplement industry bombards us with promises. The catch? Quality takes a hit. Stay informed; ingredients matter! For instance, if a supplement contains Maltodextrin (read article), and your body reacts negatively, it could exacerbate anxiety symptoms, adding an extra layer related to gut and immune system imbalance.
Incorporating Reishi mushrooms and ashwagandha into your routine may offer additional support for managing anxiety and promoting overall well-being.
- Adaptogenic Properties: Reishi is an adaptogenic mushroom, helping the body adapt to stress and maintain balance.
- Immune Support: It contains compounds that may enhance the immune system, supporting overall health.
- Anti-Inflammatory: Reishi mushrooms have anti-inflammatory properties that may contribute to reducing inflammation in the body.
- Improved Sleep: Known for promoting relaxation, Reishi can contribute to better sleep quality.
- Stress Reduction: Ashwagandha is renowned for its stress-relieving properties, helping the body cope with everyday stressors.
- Cognitive Function: It may support cognitive function and memory, contributing to mental clarity.
- Energy Balance: Ashwagandha can help balance energy levels, providing a natural boost without the jitters.
- Hormonal Balance: It may assist in regulating hormonal imbalances, particularly cortisol levels linked to stress.
Need more motivation or would like to jump on a more holistic approach? Read also what are the potential anti-anxiety properties of Lion’s Mane.
Author: Nicolas Pantaleoni