Anxiety can have many causes and presentations – not everyone experiences it the same way. It ranges from irritating to totally debilitating. There are, of course, some food and lifestyle measures that can be put in place to find calm and lessen anxiety. Sometimes change can be anxiety-inducing in itself. Whether you are a ‘cold-turkey’ person or prefer ‘baby-steps,’ notice how these changes make you feel.
Eat Regular Meals and Include Protein – When we are hungry and our blood sugar drops, our stress hormones are what kick in to raise blood sugar to functional levels. This can include symptoms such as irritability, shakiness, anxiety. Not only will protein keep your blood sugar on a more even keel, it provides the very fabric of our brain chemicals (the neurotransmitters). Protein sources include quality lean meats and fish, nuts and seeds, organic soy and dairy, beans, peas, lentils, and quinoa. Whole grains and brassicas (broccoli family) vegetables contain some protein too.
Omega 3 Fats – Fat lines every cell in our body and the omega 3s help keep this fatty layer flexible, so that the cells can communicate their chemical messages. This function is critical for balanced body chemistry such as a calm mood. Have 2-3 weekly servings of quality cold-water fish or 2 daily tablespoons of flaxseeds (ground or cold-pressed oil).
Chamomile – Quietening to the nervous system, a simple cup of chamomile tea will promote calm. Swap this for your afternoon coffee and notice how you feel. A spritz of our ‘I am Calm’ spray imparts the aromatic and energetic properties of chamomile.
Avoid/Reduce Stimulants – Personal tolerance to stimulants is variable. Coffee, tea, kombucha, cola, and chocolate can be acceptable to some but can promote anxiety in others. Change to decaf if you feel jittery, shaky or anxious after ingesting coffee. Swap chocolate for another sweet fix like a tiny amount of dried fruit.
Avoid Alcohol – A quick fix for anxiety which diminishes calming neurotransmitter production and leads to more melancholy and anxiety.
Supplements (with guidance from your nutrition practitioner)
Ashwaganda – This adaptogenic and tonic food/herb can do wonders for an anxious and unhappy person, along with a laundry list of other benefits including immune system support and regulation of circadian rhythms.
Magnesium – Often absent in sufficient quantities in the diet, this calming mineral promotes muscle relaxation- along with 300 other functions in the body! Magnesium is the central molecule in chlorophyll and chlorophyll is what makes plants green. Therefore, eat green things to get your magnesium! Also include nuts, seeds, and whole grains.
B-vitamin Complex – These are co-factors (helpers) to our brain chemicals, they enable smooth neurotransmitter production and function. A balanced diet with plenty of vegetables, pulses, whole grains, nuts and seeds should provide a base amount of B-vitamins but a supplement may be warranted if calmness remains elusive.
Get Enough Sleep – There is just no way a sleep-deprived person is going to feel or perform well. By getting at least 7 hours of sleep you are giving yourself the opportunity to feel and perform as your best self. If you cannot fall asleep then trouble-shoot for stimulants: bright lights, screen time, thrilling TV/books, working late, and vigorous exercise within 2 hours will contradict sleepiness.
Food/Lifestyle Journal – A journal can provide amazing insight to your anxiety triggers. It also provides a ‘third person’ perspective on a situation, which immediately diminishes an anxious situation.
Minfulness, Breathing, Yoga, Meditation, Exercise – Regular exercise or any activity that encourages breathing and being ‘present’ promotes calm. A wise person once said (actually, our massage practitioner, Paul Cramer) that if you don’t have time to do yoga or meditate, you need to do it twice as much!
Mood and anxiety can be linked to other factors not discussed in this article (such as gut or thyroid health). For a more individualized approach, find a trusted nutrition consultant or speak to your general practitioner.
Anna Cott is a nutrition consultant whose lifelong passion for health and wellness evolved into a BSc (hons.) Nutritional Science and a Naturopathic Nutrition Dip. Anna loves to find creative ways to feed her family healthily, despite the business of life.