Health Spotlight: Natural Anxiety Relief
Photo by Carolina Heza on Unsplash
Let’s face it – it’s normal to get a little stressed and overwhelmed sometimes. But overwhelming anxiety and constant worry can take a major toll on your body and mind. Anxiety currently affects roughly seven million people in the US. Those with diagnosed startle easily, have trouble focusing, sleeping and eating, and may suffer from sudden, debilitating panic attacks. Other symptoms of anxiety can include insomnia, fatigue, headaches, muscle tension, irritability, sweating, nausea, light-headedness, and more.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is a chronic mental illness characterized by excessive, long-lasting anxiety and worry about nonspecific life events, objects, and situations. GAD sufferers often feel afraid and constantly worry about health, money, family, and work but they have trouble identifying the specific fear as well as controlling their worry.
The basics of the meditation, such as listening to your breath or paying close attention to specific parts of your body, are great for relieving anxiety. Meditation can be easily introduced into your daily routine – even just a few minutes of deep breathing can be very beneficial.
Through stretching, relaxation exercises, and controlled breathing techniques, yoga can be a major tool to help relieve physical and mental stress. A study at the Boston University School of Medicine found that doing yoga can help regulate brain levels of the neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), which is responsible for your body and brain’s response to stress, worry, and anxiety.
On average, patients who exercised regularly reported a 20 percent reduction in anxiety symptoms compared to those who did not exercise. Jerry Hickey, R.Ph, Scientific Director at InVite Health reports, “Exercise has many-many benefits; helping to burn belly fat, lower cholesterol and blood pressure, and improve glucose sensitivity. Exercise is also an excellent antidote for stress and anxiety; aerobic exercise can reduce anxiety by up to 50% according to research. Exercise also improves sleep disorders. This is important because adequate rest improves the ability to respond to stress properly. The correct amount of sleep each night for most healthy adults averages 7 to 8 hours.”
Omega-3 supplements such as fish oil can reduce anxiety symptoms long-term, if taken on a regular basis. Other supplements that help with anxiety include calcium, zinc and magnesium.
Eliminate Caffeine, Smoking, and Alcohol
Caffeine, alcohol, and cigarettes can all over-stimulate your body, making your anxiety symptoms worse. All of these unhealthy lifestyle factors also affect your sleep, which is further linked to higher anxiety levels.
Jerry Hickey, R. Ph reports, “Decrease the amount of caffeine you consume; 2 cups of coffee doubles the amount of epinephrine (a stress hormone) your adrenal glands release. Epinephrine is a “fight or flight” hormone, and it plays a central role in the short-term reaction to stress. It is released from the adrenal glands when danger threatens or in an emergency, or if you are stressed out. When secreted into the bloodstream, epinephrine rapidly prepares the body for action in emergency situations. The hormone boosts the supply of oxygen and glucose to the brain and muscles, while suppressing other non-emergency bodily processes such as digestion of food. Epinephrine increases your heart rate, dilates your pupils, and constricts the small blood vessels in the skin and gastrointestinal tract while dilating those in muscle improving the supply of blood and energy to muscle. Epinephrine elevates your blood sugar level. Like some other stress hormones, epinephrine has a suppressive effect on your immune system increasing your risk of upper respiratory tract infection (usually a flu or cold infection).”