"Feeling anxious is a normal part of life. However, when anxiety becomes all-encompassing and disabling, it could accompany a long-term debilitating stress that can affect your overall mental and physical health."
Today's video with Dr. Nancy Lin, PhD, holistic nutritionist, is part one of a three-part series on mental and emotional health. We will discuss how to improve our physical well-being by taking care of our mental and emotional wellbeing.
This video will focus on anxiety. We'll talk about what anxiety looks like, as well as a number of important and effective tools to address anxiety and improve your health and quality of life.
- 1:47: Healthy Anxiety vs. Chronic Anxiety
- 6:14: Common Causes of Anxiety
- 6:35: Characteristics of a Typical Anxiety
- 7:51: Physical Symptoms of Anxiety
- 8:45: Common Anxiety Medications
- 10:38: Fun Facts about Stress
- 20:06: Top all natural tips for addressing anxiety
- 21:03: Meditation
- 23:22: Anti-Inflammatory Diet
- 28:17: Avoid Processed Foods
- 29:52: Limit Caffeine Intake
- 32:00: Reduce anxiety with Essential Oils Eos
- 33:20: Increase Physical Activity
- 40:51: Quality Sleep
- 42:28: What to do to improve the quality of sleep
- 45:11: Find support
- 48:11: Art Therapy
- 48:53: Tapping
- 51:03: Wrap Up
Healthy Anxiety vs. Chronic Anxiety
Anxiety is among one of the most common mental health issues people suffer from. In the U.S., nearly 20% of adults are affected by anxiety disorders each year, with many others experiencing occasional periods of anxiety. Not all anxiety is bad… some anxiety is a normal part of life. It’s a byproduct of living in an often modern or chaotic world. Anxiety is a normal response to stress or a dangerous situation. It’s absolutely normal, and it’s often referred to as “fight or flight” response.
Normal or healthy levels of anxiety make you aware of danger, motivate you to stay organized, and help you stay aware of your focus and attention on things that are important to you. So we need some sort of awareness.
However, anxiety can also become all-encompassing and even disabling. It can be a condition that’s accompanied by long-term debilitating stress that affects your overall mental and physical health. That’s not good. Chronic or extreme anxiety is a serious issue and it can even contribute to many chronic diseases, even when treated with conventional medications.
Common Causes of Anxiety
There are many things that can trigger anxiety, especially with the modern American lifestyle. Common causes of anxiety include:
- Traumatic life experiences
- Thyroid problems
- Imbalanced serotonin levels
- Chronic Inflammation
- Hormonal imbalance
While these are the most common causes, there can be plenty of other anxiety triggers as well.
Characteristics and Physical Symptoms of Anxiety
Anxiety is typically characterized by some of the following:
- Constant worrying, nervousness or tension
- Living in the future. This can involve a lot of fear or trepidation about things that haven’t happened yet
- Living in the past: Regret, doubt, anger, and resentment about the past are common.
When you’re constantly worrying about things that haven’t happened yet, or dwelling on things that happened in the past, the present can become tainted. It’s easier said than done, but it’s important to try to be present in the moment you are currently in, and try to let go of both past resentments and fears about the future.
Anxiety also often causes physical symptoms, including:
- Muscle and joint pain
- Tightness in your chest
- Increased blood pressure
- Digestive problems
- Panic attacks
- Irritability and agitation
- Difficulty concentrating
Common Anxiety Medications
Typically, medical professionals will recommend that you treat anxiety with a combination of prescription medications and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). Commonly prescribed anxiety medications include:
- Serotonin Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitor (SNRI)
- Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRI)
Some people require these prescription medications to deal with anxiety, but it can be really hard to get off of them once you’re on them. Others could better benefit from treating anxiety naturally. For others, a combination of both approaches and treatments may be required. Whichever way you choose to treat your anxiety, please do so under the guidance of your healthcare professional or your doctor. It’s really important that you work with your doctor to determine the best course of action for you to treat your anxiety. This may change depending on what you’re dealing with right now in your life.
Facts about Stress
- Stress does not cause hair to turn grey, but it does actually cause hair loss.
- According to surveys, the top most stressful jobs are: surgeon, commercial airline pilot, account executive, taxi and Uber driver, police officer, firefighter, enlisted military personnel, real estate agent, photojournalist and advertising account exec.
- The least stressful jobs are: nutritionist, astronomer, software engineer, massage therapist, jeweler, university professor, audiologist, and hairstylist.
- Stress makes the blood stickier. This reaction occurs because your body is preparing for an injury, thickening the blood sot that it coagulates at the site of a wound. This reaction increases the probability of developing blood clots, which are extremely dangerous.
- Laughing lowers stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. It also boosts our immune system. So you can literally laugh yourself to being well again.
- The top three most stressful cities in America are: Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York.
- Stress can make acne worse. This is because it’s the rise of sebum: the oily substance in skin that causes your skin to break out.
Top All Natural Tips for Addressing Anxiety
Regardless of what treatment option you choose, and even in addition to prescription medication designed to reduce your anxiety, there are a number of natural ways to better address your anxiety. Unchecked anxiety may greatly impact your quality of life. Take control by trying some of these top all natural tips for addressing anxiety.
Try meditating every day. This isn’t something mystical. The main goal of meditation is to remove chaotic thoughts and just quiet your racing mind. Replace stressful thoughts with calm and mindfulness in the present moment. Remember when we are present, we are not not living in the fear of the past, characterized by regret and anger. Also we’re not living in the future of “what if”— the fear and anxiety and worry. Meditation is known for relieving stress and anxiety. Important research from John Hopkins suggests that 30 minutes of daily meditation may alleviate some anxiety symptoms, and act as a natural antidepressant. This can take some practice, but try it every day and it will get easier.
You want to eat an all natural organic anti-inflammatory diet. What you eat not only affects your physical health, it’s affects your mental and emotional health as well. When it comes to eating healing foods, anxiety is no different than most other health conditions. Eating too much of the wrong foods and too little of the right foods has a profound impact on your emotional health, including increasing the symptoms associated with anxiety. So try eating a diet that is rich in natural anti-inflammatory foods as a natural way to address your anxiety. Chronic inflammation affects the neurotransmitters responsible for controlling your anxiety levels. This is especially true of foods that are organic, live, and rich in omega 3- fatty acids. These are essential to supporting healthy anxiety levels.
That’s why we recommend taking the inflammation-fighter Smarter Curcumin every day. Remember to also include a balance of wild caught fish like salmon, mackerel, and tuna, organic lean meats, organic dark leafy greens like spinach, kale, Swiss chard, organic vegetables and fruits, healthy fats like olive oil and avocados, beans (especially black beans, kidney beans, and chickpeas), walnuts, almonds, nuts, flax seeds, chia seeds, hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds, quinoa, unrefined whole grains, and more.
Avoid Processed Foods
Processed foods are very damaging to your mental health. These foods are loaded with chemicals, fillers, sugars, and simple carbohydrates that cause all kinds of problems in your body. For example, these foods can trigger severe blood sugar swings, which result in a number of health issues such as increased production of cortisol, the stress hormone, and causing you to feel more nervous or experience more anxiety. Processed foods also cause inflammation and contribute to chronic inflammation throughout the body, including your brain.
Limit caffeine intake
Some people aren’t affected by too much caffeine, while others are very sensitive to it. Too much caffeine can cause you to feel jittery or nervous, and it also contributes to increased levels of anxiety. If you are super sensitive to caffeine, it is best to avoid it altogether. If you are a coffee drinker and are experiencing anxiety, then you really want to limit your intake of coffee to a cup or less per day. Try something soothing like chamomile, peppermint, lavender tea, or filtered clean water. You can also try switching to decaf. Black and green teas also contain caffeine, but not as much as coffee.
Reduce anxiety with essential oils
Lavender essential oil, or other natural essential oils, can help reduce anxiety. You can spritz lavender oil on your pillow for a good night’s sleep or drop a couple of drops in your bath tub for your bath. It is a wonderful way to calm and slow down. Research has continued to show that lavender essential oil or sandalwood can help reduce anxiety and relax the body. It calms your central nervous system. When feeling anxious or on edge, you can put your lavender on your wrist, underneath and behind your neck, or behind your ears. Drop about two to three drops then massage it into your temples. You can also diffuse these essential oils in your home, office or in your car to relieve your anxiety as well.
Increase physical activity
Increase physical activity to decrease anxiety. Exercise is important for so many reasons: it’s great for our muscles, and also our mental and physical health. It’s a great way to reduce stress, lower the risk of heart disease, improve cardiovascular health, strengthen muscles and bones, improve flexibility, and reduce chronic inflammation. Exercise is also important for reducing anxiety levels.
Regular exercise improves your energy and helps you sleep better at night. Keep your body moving. Don’t sit and be immobile, as this will make you feel more anxious. You should get a balanced combination of cardio exercises, body movement, and exercises that increase your heart rate such as walking outside, running, jogging, swimming, biking, dancing, playing tennis or ping pong... anything that gets your heart rate up. Get some resistance bands and stretch with them, do yoga or pilates, weight training, or whatever you enjoy. Both cardio (aerobic exercises), and strength training (anaerobic exercises) have been shown to release endorphins, which make you feel happy, and reduce anxiety.
Head outside for a walk. Wherever you are, find a place, a park or a lake with birds and running water or wind through trees. These are the most calming to your ears and to your being. Go to a place where you are engulfed and wrapped in nature.
People with anxiety also benefit from exercises such as tai chi and yoga. This promotes relaxation and incorporates breathing techniques to help you reduce stress and relieve muscle tension. Remember to also breathe and stretch. Try a standing forward fold, or try lying on your back, raising your legs up and leaning them against the wall. This is an easy, restful pose that helps anxiety.
Make sure you are getting enough quality sleep. This is so important for your overall health. Lack of sleep increases anxiety levels. It stimulates the areas of our brains that are associated with our emotions and then we get all emotional. This results in anxiety that is increased with all the bad symptoms associated with it. Sleeping seven to eight hours each night ensures that your body and brain have time to rest and repair themselves. It also helps to balance your hormones, reduce stress levels, reduce inflammation levels, and increase your energy levels, all of which decrease anxiety levels.
What to do to improve the quality of sleep?
There are many tips you can practice that improve your sleep. Try a few of the following if you’re not getting quality sleep at night.
- Practice deep breathing in order to relax and fall asleep. Inhale and exhale through the nose fully or just sigh out loud or silently.
- Unplug. Put down your phone and turn off the TV. Electrical gadgets emit a blue light that stimulates the optic nerve to tell you it’s time to be awake. This disrupts the circadian rhythm. Switch the phone off so that our bodies know to release the melatonin, which tells our bodies to sleep and regulates our sleep cycle. Try blackout shades to keep your bedroom dark, and you can also use a white noise machine or noise canceling headphones to keep your environment dark and quiet.
Sometimes we just need someone to lean on and to help us deal with our anxiety and to validate us. There is nothing wrong with that. There is no judgment attached to it. Support from your family, your friends, your community or your professional therapist can be extremely helpful in dealing with any kind of anxiety. Some people believe in the benefits of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy; a type of therapy that focuses on a person’s underlying thoughts in determining how they act and feel. Professional therapists can help you change your thought patterns, modify your reactions, and shift your habits. If your anxiety is affecting your quality of life, then you can also consider joining a local support group or connecting with other people who are also dealing with anxiety. Seeking support is not a weakness; it’s actually a great tool. This in conjunction with the other natural ways to treat anxiety will give you all the tools that you need to monitor and address anxiety. Make sure you contact your doctor or your health practitioner before you undertake any form of medication for anxiety.
Art therapy, such as painting Mandalas, or sculpting with clay, or anything needed to get that tension out, is very effective. This increases your self-awareness and allows you to release any kind of frustrations in an artistic way. It’s one of the best ways to release anxiety.
This is part of the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT). Tapping is a way to just release anxiety. It’s literally taking your index finger and middle finger and tap. As you tap you just breathe in and out through your nose. You can tap the different pressure or acupressure points on the body including the head, the chin, the collar bones, underneath your eyes, or above your eyebrows. This technique is being used more and more in alternative medicine as a way to release anxiety.
Feeling anxious is a normal part of life. However, when anxiety becomes all-encompassing and disabling, it could accompany a long-term debilitating stress that can affect your overall mental and physical health. You should always work with your healthcare professional or provider when addressing chronic anxiety.
Additionally, there are a number of natural ways to address anxiety including eating an all natural anti-inflammatory diet, avoiding processed foods, limiting your caffeine intake, using chamomile and essential oils to reduce your anxiety, making sure that you’re getting enough quality sleep, and increasing your physical activity.
Remember that you should always seek a professional for help, guidance, or support when necessary. Stay tuned for Part 2 of the Mental Health series, as we discuss depression.