Mental health awareness has definitely become more prominent recently and has largely been helped by the Heads Together campaign, from the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry. Dr Chatterjee, from the ‘Doctor in the House’ programmes, also covered mental health in a recent episode, highlighting the important role that food plays in mental health. This is all extremely encouraging as mental health is a serious issue and people need to know what help is available and what they can do themselves, to make a difference.
At Inside Out Health shop we have a passion for supporting people with their health and we’ve certainly seen a growing number of people coming in with anxiety looking for natural products to support them with this.
What is anxiety?
Anxiety is an emotional state characterised by persistent feelings of worry, unease and fear. It is normal to feel anxious in certain situations, for example before an exam or job interview or when faced with important decisions or an uncertain situation. However, when the feelings become severe or persist after the stress has passed, then the anxiety has become a problem.
Anxiety disorders include generalised anxiety disorder (GAD) which is when you feel anxious and sometimes fearful for a long time, but not about anything specific. Other disorders include: social anxiety disorder, panic disorder, specific phobias, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
According to the mental health charity ‘Mind’, anxiety can include physical and psychological sensations. These can include:
- Experiencing panic attacks
- Feeling light headed or dizzy
- Faster breathing
- Difficulty sleeping
- A fast, thumping or irregular heart beat
- Churning in the pit of your stomach
- Feeling tense, nervous, on edge
- Fearing the worst, a sense of dread
- Feeling restless and not being able to concentrate
What can we do?
If possible try to identify what your triggers are. Are they coming from workload, finances, certain situations or people, for example? Then look at what you can realistically change and what area you need support with.
Here are some specific areas you can look at to support a positive response to stress. It takes time to change our habits and the way we react, so keep at it and be kind to yourself!
10 Top Tips to support anxiety
1. Support your body with the right nutrition:
- Eat fresh, unprocessed foods with plenty of vegetables, wholegrains, good fats (olive oil, coconut oil, avocado, nuts and seeds) and quality protein, to ensure a good foundation of nutrients, needed for mental health.
- Eat Omega 3 fats (found in Salmon, mackerel, sardines and anchovies. Vegetarian sources include flaxseed, chia seed and walnuts) – these are essential for brain health, including moods, memory and cognition.
- Avoid caffeine and alcohol – as these act as ‘stressors’ on the body, so have the opposite effect of inducing calm. If you do have a tea or coffee, have it before 2pm, as the effects of caffeine can stay in your system for a number of hours. This is especially important if you have trouble sleeping.
- Avoid sugar and refined carbohydrates – they cause an imbalance in your blood sugar levels, which has a negative effect on mood, as well as energy levels.
- Consider a mini consultation with one of our Nutritional Therapists, to review your diet and help you make changes where necessary.
2. Try a natural food or herbal supplement — like the ones listed below, to support the body’s nervous system and stress response.
3. Communication is key — find someone to talk to who can support you. This might be friends and family or via a support group, mental health charity or a professional such as a counsellor or psychotherapist.
4. Time management – make time for something YOU enjoy, every day. Schedule it in!
5. Get in touch with nature — walk bare feet on the grass, put your feet in running water, breathe in the sea air, or even just a simple walk in the countryside or park.
6. Breathing exercises — try the following (as suggested by the NHS):
- Let your breath flow as deep down into your belly as is comfortable, without forcing it.
- Try breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth.
- Breathe in gently and regularly. Some people find it helpful to count steadily from one to five. You may not be able to reach five at first.
- Then, without pausing or holding your breath, let it flow out gently, counting from one to five again, if you find this helpful. Keep doing this for three to five minutes.
7. Take time out — to do breathing exercises, meditate, pray or listen to calming music etc, to induce a peaceful, calm response in the body.
8. Reduce the stress or life load — what can you realistically change? Do you need help making those changes? What can you do now and what preventative measures can be taken?
9. Exercise — one of the great benefits of exercise is that it produces endorphins (chemicals released in the brain) which have a feel good factor. Choose a physical activity that suits you best, whether it’s something energetic like running, or more relaxing such as a gentle stroll. Most of all make sure it’s something you enjoy, so you can stick to it!
10. Try Lavender or Roman Chamomile essential oils — drip a few drops into an aromatherapy burner or add lavender oil to a tissue. Try essential oil ‘rollerballs’, specifically for relaxation, to put directly on to pulse points.
What can we take?
There are a number of herbs and nutrients that support the balancing of the nervous system, so may be beneficial for anxiety and stress. Some of them in particular support GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid), an inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain that helps you feel calm.
- Lemon Balm – has traditionally been used in herbal medicine as a sedative and relaxant.
- L-Theanine – an amino acid found in green tea, that promotes a feeling of calm and relaxation, without drowsiness. Evidence suggests L-Theanine can stimulate GABA production.
- Chamomile – traditionally well known as a calming herb, it also has anti-spasmodic properties and studies have shown it to be useful where anxiety is associated with IBS.
- Magnesium – naturally found in our bodies, it is often referred to as ‘nature’s tranquiliser’, it is particularly useful for helping the body relax and unwind and also supports GABA. Official studies show that many people are deficient in this mineral.
- Lavender – already well known as a calming herb, it also has anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) properties.
- Ashwaganda – an adaptogenic herb that helps balance the body’s response to stress and relax the nervous system.
- B vitamins – vital to support the nervous system and combat fatigue. B6 in particular is an essential co-factor in the production of GABA.
- Omega 3 essential fatty acids – essential for brain health, including moods and cognition.
- Probiotics – these are beneficial bacteria that support gut health. There is a strong link between the gut and the brain so these may also be helpful.
Australian Bush Flower Essences – traditional flower remedies to support ongoing, every day stress or more severe stress and trauma.
Along with nutritional support there may be other support that’s needed. We can put you in touch with other professionals, such as a psychologist, reflexologist or homeopath, who may be able to help. Come and talk to us to find out who else is working with us this month!
We ourselves offer full and mini Nutritional Therapy consultations to give more in depth support. These consultations will provide you with diet, supplement and lifestyle advice that is tailored to your individual needs.
So whether you want some product advice or more in depth support from a consultation, come in and talk to us at Inside Out Health and find out how we can help! Let us be part of your support network.
Please note that if you are on any medication, always check with your GP or healthcare practitioner before taking any supplements.
Sources: www.mind.org.uk, BioCare, Lamberts, Pukka, www.nhs.uk, www.draxe.com
I’m Alison and I’m a Nutritional Therapist. I love encouraging people to try healthy foods and to show them how simple, quick and easy it is to eat healthily. I’m a busy mum with 2 children, one of whom has a disability and special needs, so meals have to be easy! I love getting my veggie box each week, baking healthy treats and being out in the countryside.