We all experience anxiety. And it’s debilitating and crippling. I’ll get anxious over random things, I’ll have too much coffee and get anxious, not enough magnesium or sleep and I’ll get anxious, and I feel my anxiety levels and experiences are at the very bottom of the scale. I’ve got friends who I’ve experienced have anxiety attacks and it’s actually just so scary.
And so I want to talk about it (like I do everything), and explore how we can help minimise the grasp of anxiety and equip ourselves with tools to be able to decrease the amount of time we’re anxious.
Anxiety begins in the brain, with our limbic system the main player. Our limbic system includes the amygdala (fear and aggression) and the hippocampus (learning, memory and emotions). Within these brian regions, communication occurs via our neurotransmitters, particularly glutamate and GABA. Glutamate is our excitatory and arousing neurotransmimtter, with GABA being our relaxing, calming neurotransmitter.
As well as taking into account genetic predispositions to anxiety, we also have to remember that we can, at any time, help to alleviate and take control of the anxiety via lifestyle interventions.
Anxiety is seen to be associated with less GABA activity, and more glutamate activity, contributing to how we feel when we get anxious. An increase in glutamates are attributed to eating processed, refined foods and MSG rich foods, as these interact with the microbiome causing inflammation, increasing neuronal stimulation and also, are linked with over-thinking and ADD/ADHD. A decrease in GABA is attributed to lack of sleep, stress, fatigue and nutrient-poor diets. So eating real whole foods is the first and primary strategy to improving anxiety.
Accompanying in removing the processed foods is addressing the underlying exasperators of the anxiety. Where is the fear stemming from? What are we afraid of? What is it, within the anxiety, that is causing it to continually be present?
Anxiety also exists usually in the future. because it surrounds an event, experience, conversation, whatever, that potentially is going down in the future. We’re unsure of what’s going to happen, and so we start to work ourselves up, create perceived outcomes and this then signals to the body that we’re not okay, and our breathing becomes shallow, our cerebral cortex goes offline, our blood pressure rises, we go into a fight or flight response – all over out thoughts and fears (false evidence appearing real) of the future. (Don Miguel Ruiz’s “The Four Agreements” is also an EPIC read if this is resonating)
And if there’s one tip I can encourage everyone to work on and implement, its being present. Because when we step into the present moment, which is literally all we have (thanks Eckart), we’re experiencing life and we also learn to let go of anticipating future outcomes and events, we stop being so in our heads, and start being more in ourselves, in our body, in this moment, experiencing life as it is.
We also need to weirdly understand that we pretty much have fuck all control over what happens. All we can control is what is happening in the moment. We can think ahead, and plan and guess and manifest, but at the end of the day, the choices we make are in that moment. Whether we’ve thought about it ahead of time or not, we experience and live it out in the present. So even just bringing yourself back to the present moment, which we can practice through meditation, being in flow states, whether we’re playing sports, gaming, driving, training, moving our bodies, our creative outlets, its when we’re in that space that we’re so present because if we’re not, we’ll fuck up. Slowly but surely lean into handing the reigns over to fate.
We can feel anxious based upon other peoples reactions and behaviours, not just our own. We’re apprehenseive to how they’ll react, and thus, we create scenarios that aren’t real, have an emotional response, and just cascade ourselves into a made up future, based upon our own limited brain. Our brain legit just makes assumptions about pretty much everything, it’s a power saving mode thing. it’s l
ike how you can read the first and last letters of a word and instantly know what the word is – our brains preconceived assumptions fill in the blanks.
We do this with people and outcomes. We make our present selves anxious about a future thing we cant even control and don’t even know if it’ll play out like that. Practising trying not to live out and apprehend how a person will react, and just go with the flow. Which I know is wayyyyy more easier to say than to do. But it’s about everyday, just being more present of where your thoughts are going, and what is causing you to be anxious? Meditation also helps with this, as it starts to create a distance between your thoughts and “you”.
And then we have to go the uncomfortable work of diving into what gives you anxiety? Is it social situations? Is it conversations you might have to have? Is it life changes? Is it because you’re tired and worn down? Do you feel you have no control or direction? Is your bodies lines of defence have been beaten down so you’re more prone to just falling into that space? Start to notice when anxiety arises. Because when we bring awareness to something, not only are we forced to step into the present moment, but we’re also distancing it from our self identity.
And as part of our journey to discovering ourselves and what we want out of this lifetime - we need to dig into what’s triggering the anxiety. Where is it rooted? Did something go down in childhood or your adolescence or even adult life? Did an experience create and trigger these anxiety patterns? Why are you scared to let go and try not to control future situations? We have to go back to those moments and address where it started.
Another part is taking care of you - mentally and emotionally. What tools are you employing to handle the anxiety? What is your coping mechanism? Is it serving you? Are you surviving or thriving? I love and encourage my clients to journal. Journaling is so powerful to just open up your thoughts and emotions and create distance from being inside your head that enables you to see situations in a different light. It also empowers you to release, and create space in your brain from the thoughts that trigger habit loops. And there’s no rules on how long you journal for or what you journal about. Let your intuition guide you. Aim for 3x times a week for 20 minutes.
It’s also about respecting yourself, knowing where you’re at, what you can realistically bite off and take on. Because we get anxious when we over-exert ourselves, have deadlines, are pressed for time, try to please everyone, comparing ourselves, all these things just fuel anxiety. We (including myself) need to know that it’s okay to say “no thankyou” (as my queen @sabrinariccio speaks). And that we don’t have to be everyone’s everything and put pressure on ourselves to live up to expectations of others. You’re awesome where you’re at right now, and you’re awesome with who you are. Yes be better, improve, strive to be more, but remember where you’re at right now is exactly where you need to be and it’s amazing. You’re doing good boo.
Are you giving yourself you time? Down time to relax, refill and regenerate? Are you burning the candle at both ends? Are you carving out time to fill up your cup? Because when we fail to do this, our defences start to come down. We start to get more emotionally charged and fail to see the separateness from our thoughts, emotions and actions. They all become one and we get caught up in it all and get carried away by them. It’s silly to think you have to be ON and GO GO GO 24/7. Like you’re a human. You gotta have that chill time to even be able to be efficient and productive, so when you start to ACTUALLY ACT and take action to implement you time, you’re less likely to succumb to the wrath of over thinking and anxiety. Schedule in you time like you would gym time or a meeting. And stick with it. Give yourself a SMART goal.
And then another part is, are you taking care of yourself physically? Exercise and movement is phenomenal for helping with anxiety, as it not only produces endorphins and regulates our hormones, but it also moves our energy, literally. So if you’re all up in your head, exercising forces you to get out of your head. It also boosts your mood, and can give you that time and space to have realisations, calm down, get over it, and just learn to accept. I feel it also creates a better relationship with yourself, because you’re doing something that’s going to improve you and make you feel better, and this can take the edge off the anxiety, because at least you’re doing something productive and good for you - as anxiety is usually steeped in the scarcity mindset, and that we’re not enough. Exercise is also a hormertic stressor, literally, enabling our body to better deal with daily stressors, and anxiety and stress go hand in hand, so this can also aid in the reduction of anxiety. In his book “Spark” John J Ratey dives deep into the benefits of exercise for mental health, a killer read for anyone interested.
And then, what are you putting into your body? Are you fuelling yourself with earth grown nutrients, rich in antioxidants and protective polyphenols, or are you eating processed, nerve excitatory, nutrient-lacking food? This makes a huge difference, I can’t even tell you. Choosing to nourish your body ensure you have the tools to make GABA, our calming neurotransmitter, it ensures you’re able to create serotonin, it enables your microbiome to be thriving will beneficial bacterial families, as studies show the direct link between gut bacteria and anxiety.
L-Theanine the precursor to GABA is an amino acid, and is rich in green tea and matcha.
Magnesium is also another EPIC mineral to help with anxiety and promote relaxation, mag rich foods include cacao, spinach and all the dark leafy greens, all your nuts and seeds (activated is best though), all your cruciferous veggies (broccoli, cabbage, cauli, brussel sprouts etc), legumes, and fish.
B6 rich foods are also really important, we usually get adequate B6 from our diets if we’re eating real foods, but B6 rich foods include: avocado, spinach, sweet potato, chickpeas and tuna/salmon and eggs.
Consuming processed and glutamate rich foods, such as foods with MSG (flavourings), slow cooked meats and foods, release glutamate that is a nerve excitatory and can aggregate anxiety because were so over stimulated. Are we consuming lots of caffeine? This also has anxiety antagonising effects. Caffeine is nerve-excitatory, and releases cortisol, adrenaline and noradrenaline, hence why we get that hype feeling. When these hormones are released, it’s the same ones and feelings we get when we’re in our sympathetic nervous system too much, our fight or flight response, and this also happens when we experience anxiety. So if you are anxious, swap out your coffee for either matcha, green tea or medicinal mushrooms, or roasted dandelion root.
Are we drinking and taking drugs? That’s going to fuck with our neural chemistry and liver’s ability to detoxify and excrete nerve-damaging metabolites?
Are we getting optimal sleep? Sleep deprivation and insomnia is one sure as hell way to make yourself anxious. Because the cellular metabolism toxic by products get cleaned up when we sleep in our brain and nervous system, and when they build up, that also causes nerve excitation and opens the door to anxiety.
Also, when we’re eating shitty food, we’re disrupting our microbiome. And we have the vagus nerve, which connects our gut and our brain and is a communication route FROM the gut TO the brain. So when we’re consuming inflammatory foods – processed, refined, white, packaged, fast food, sugar latened, artificial colours and flavours. This all creates dis-ease and attributes to anxiety, because our bodies in an inflammatory state, our bacteria aren’t favourable, and this inflammation also occurs in the brain and creates brain fog and cognitive shit. In his book “Grain Brain” Dr David Perlmutter discusses this direct correlation.
It’s also important to remember – we’re all different. We all metabolise caffeine and foods differently, we all manage our time differently, we have different strengths and weaknesses, and just because someone you know is g with downing 2 coffees a day and is productive af and works well under pressure, doesn’t mean you “should” be also. Honour and respect who you are and do what works for you boo boo. There is no one size fits all when it comes to “humaning”.
Some tips for managing anxiety:
- Move your body.
- Do you.
- Learn what works for you.
- Optimise sleep.
- Meditate, journal, creative outlets.
- Be present.
- BREATHE. If you start to feel anxious, Aubrey Marcus says 6 deep breaths will help reset your nervous system
- Carve out self-serving time to fill up your cup.
- Eat real food and reduce the processed yucks.
- Heal your gut and micro biome.
- Supplement with magnesium, activated B vitamins/ B6, L-Theanine/GABA, and adaptogenic herbs such as Lion’s Mane, Reishi Mushroom, Withania, Kava, Passionflower, Valerian.
I also got you guys 10% off all of Teelixir’s adaptogens, use the code: themillennialnutritionist at checkout
ONE LOVE xxx