Greetings from Little Miss Anxiety. Last week I divulged the rather bleak emotional details of my ongoing struggle with anxiety, (thank you all for the very encouraging and heartwarming comments) but this week, we're going to put the 'poor me' attitude on hold and get a little more practical. These are a few tips that work for me - they won't work for everyone but it's all about finding what you respond to.
So let's take a deep breath and begin, shall we?
The dreaded cortisol.
So apart from the emotional ups and downs that go along with anxiety, what's actually happening in our bodies? Well, I'm no doctor, but at this stage I've done so much research in my quest to better understand my situation, it's safe to say I've learned a thing or two.
From my research, I've discovered that when you find yourself in a period of heightened anxiety, chances are that your body is high as a kite on cortisol. This is the stress hormone, and while your body absolutely needs it, things can go all out of whack when you begin to over produce it (and boy, does mine). So first of all let me reassure you; the anxiety you're experiencing isn't necessarily all your fault, because you're 'just a worrier'. If hormones are all over the place, then you will be too. Too much cortisol, I've learned, also reduces your serotonin and dopamine levels (the good hormones), so the fact that you feel low and generally crap, isn't for lack of trying. The good news is, this can be rectified.
Currently I'm on a course of various supplements to help reduce my cortisol levels and foster all of the good feelings that my body deserves.
But as always, speak to your doctor or specialist before embarking on a course of supplements.
In my experience, here are some natural supplements that can help:
- Magnesium - Known as the original chill pill, this mineral plays a huge role in terms of biochemical reactions all over the body, but in today's Western diet, chances are we're not getting enough of it. I take this at night to improve my sleep - hugely important for anxiety as tiredness serves only to fuel it. It's also said to help stave off depression. Rectifying your magnesium deficiency can drastically improve your situation.
- Phosphatidylserine - I take this every night before bed. It improves overall well being, cognitive function and takes great care of cells in your brain.
- Ashwagandha - Touted as your best friend when it comes to anxiety, this Indian herbal supplement can help to reduce cortisol and also reduce free radicals that can be linked with other cognitive neural disorders.
- Vitamin C - A daily dose of vitamin C can also help to keep your cortisol at the sweet spot - not too high, not too low - by diminishing oxidative indicators produced when cortisol is running high.
- Taurine - I currently take this three times daily. This is a common stress eliminator. Taurine is an amino acid that calms the nervous system by facilitating the production of the neurotransmitter GABA, which stands for gamma-aminobutyric acid, all of which helps to reduce anxiety.
Your adrenal glands
This is where all of your hormones are controlled and it's here that things can very easily go awry. It's well worth considering a supplement that helps to strengthen your adrenal function, whether it's lagging or running away with itself. I had been taking Dr Wilson Dynamite Adrenal, but it's so horrendously impossible to take (it tastes like liquid, lumpy fish mixed with vomit inducing vanilla, and I've to take it DAILY) I'm going to try to swap it for a capsule form.
I try to avoid alcohol, caffeine and refined sugar like the plague. The thing is, when you're feeling good, you're bound to want to go hell for leather on enjoying the things you've been missing out on but it's during the times that you feel good that you need to put in the work to maintain that good feeling.
And as with every ailment we'll experience, drink lots of water, it makes a difference. Dehydration has been linked to increased cortisol levels so do what you can to keep it under wraps.
I'm currently trying to work a yoga routine into my daily schedule. This or another low impact type of exercise will serve you well in terms of centering your body, toning you up and keeping the oul cortisol in check.
This deserves a full feature all of its own, it's that important. It's tough enough to get into, especially if you do what I did and try to get stuck in when you're at your worst. Stick at it, it will help. It's so important in terms of maintenance that you take five to twenty minutes each day to focus on your breathing, focus on the moment that you're in, and, in the process, train your mind not to wander off down a dark alley way. Going it alone isn't easy, but if you download Headspace from your app store, you'll be guided through the process, day by day, and before you know it, you'll be a mindfulness pro. I can't recommend this app enough. It may seem a bit wishy washy at first, but have faith, it will really really help.
Do you have any tips to share? What helps you when you are feeling anxious?