Occasional bouts of anxiety and stress are experienced by all of us periodically. Typically, acute stress and anxiety are triggered by temporary situations such as increased pressure at work, exams, social events or specific personal issues. In an ideal world, stress and anxiety dissipate when the stressor has passed or the environment has changed. However, modern society has created an environment that perpetuates chronic stress and anxiety without offering periods of reprieve. An increasing amount of people are reporting feelings of anxiety and stress due to the current state of the world. Thankfully, there are natural lifestyle and dietary strategies that can be implemented to tone down anxiety and quiet those stressful thoughts and sensations.
5 Natural Strategies to Relieve Anxiety
- Decrease Caffeine Consumption
We know, this is probably not what you want to hear. But the science is out, and excess caffeine can trigger or exacerbate anxiety. Why is this? Well, caffeine is a stimulant that prompts a sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight) response. This response is also activated in anxiety. If anxiety is present, adding a caffeine induced sympathetic state can heighten these feelings of anxiety. You don’t necessarily have to give up coffee completely, but cutting back and finding your threshold can be helpful. 1 or 2 cups might still be okay, or it could be 0- every person is different!
Tip: opt for green tea instead! It still contains caffeine, but also a calming compound called ‘Theanine’, more about that in a bit!
- Take a Magnesium Bath
Since anxiety upregulates the fight or flight response, countering it with practices that promote the opposite response, known as the parasympathetic System, can have profound effects on anxiety. Taking a magnesium bath has a two-pronged effect on upregulating the parasympathetic response. First, magnesium is a calming mineral that diffuses through the skin, and second the warm water exerts a relaxing effect. How to: Add a cup of either Epsom salt or magnesium chloride flakes to your bath water.
Tip: Make your bath as relaxing as possible. Think, dimmed lights, candles, essential oils, a good book or Netflix.
- Establish a Mindfulness Practice
From meditation, to sitting in nature, to journaling- there are several practices you can engage in that bring you into the present moment. When anxious or stressful feelings and thoughts begin to surface, take the time to ground, get present in your body and engage in your favorite mindful practice. This helps ease the mind and reduces the perception of fear/anxiety and calm the body by allowing the body to sink to the parasympathetic state.
Tip: Choose 1 activity that resonates with you to implement when anxious feelings arise. Overtime, as the body gets use to a certain practice, it will instantly signal the body to settle in a calmer state!
- Load up on Fat & Fiber
Believe it or not, what you are eating might be contributing to your anxiety. This is due to the fact that the food we consume alters both the microbiome and neurotransmitter levels. Our Suggestions?
- Increase fiber. Fiber feeds the good bacteria in the gut. The more fiber, the more good guys we have and the more diversity our gut has. This is important because the bacteria in our gut communicate with the brain, and make certain vitamins as well contribute to neurotransmitter synthesis. Try adding a serving or two of vegetables/fruits to your meals!
- Increase good fats. Fat provides nourishment for the brain and helps regulate blood sugar- two important pillars to address when looking at anxiety. Examples of good fats are: Avocado, coconut, olives, nuts/seeds and grass-fed butter!
- Use Theanine
L-Theanine is a unique amino acid because it evokes an instant feeling of calmness, without inducing drowsiness. Anxiety is characterized by high beta brain wave activity. Theanine is able to slow down the beta waves and produce relaxation through an increase in alpha waves. Alpha waves are a natural brain wave state, and they occur many times throughout the day and when we first begin to sleep- as this is the mechanism of action there is no dependence on theanine.
L-theanine is found in high concentrations in green tea. It’s the reason you can consume several cups of green tea without experiencing the caffeine jitters. (Life Tip: If you accidentally consume too much coffee, theanine will counteract the excess caffeine)!
Theanine promotes relaxation while also increasing focus, making it the perfect tool to help fight off acute anxiety.
Theanine typically works within half an hour of taking it. This makes theanine, a first line remedy when stress, nervousness or anxiety start to emerge.
Tip: Keep a few in your day bag for when anxious feelings come up.
Anxiety and acute stress are not ideal to deal with, but training the body to exist in a parasympathetic state through targeted nutrition, and adapting practices to help ground can go a long way in helping fight the feelings. What are your tried, tested and true anxiety remedies?Author: Lisa Kowalyk, B.Kin, CNP