Avoid these dietary & lifestyle triggers – use natural remedies instead
Anxiety is often fuelled by stress and challenging situations.
It is an emotional response that can manifest both physically and emotionally. It is usually characterised by feelings of panic and fear, increased heart rate, excessive worry and racing thoughts.
Learn what causes anxiety, the symptoms to look out for and ways to reduce anxiety through diet, lifestyle and natural remedies.
Anxiety causes and triggers
Some individuals are more prone to experiencing anxiety than others. The cause or trigger of someone’s anxiety is usually multifactorial and it will differ person to person. Anxiety can be triggered or exacerbated by particular life experiences, dietary and lifestyle factors, or underlying health conditions such as an overactive thyroid or lung diseases.
Common anxiety triggers include:
- Trauma and abuse (seek the help of a homeopath)
- A stressful or challenging situation (loss of job, family death, relationship breakdown)
- Feeling out of your comfort zone (meeting new people, giving a presentation)
- Financial burdens or worries
- Being unhappy at work (stress with colleagues or seniors, not being organised, working long hours, feeling unappreciated and unrewarded)
- A poor diet that is high in sugar, refined carbohydrates (bread, biscuits, pastries), processed foods and junk food. These types of food contain additives, colours and preservatives, some of which can cause physical and emotional changes in the body, including anxiety. Fizzy drinks and fruit juices are loaded with sugar and additives.
- Stimulants – coffee, energy drinks, alcohol
- Low blood sugar levels or a sudden drop in blood sugars
- Drug abuse or withdrawal from substances including nicotine
- Ongoing stress that is not dealt with
- Fear of the unknown or world events
- Bullying and being socially isolated
- Certain medications such as corticosteroids and anti-seizure drugs
- Rapid breathing or shortness of breath
- Racing heart and palpitations
- Change in body temperature – feeling hot and sweaty or chills
- Shaking or trembling
- Chest pain
- Muscle tension
- Panic attacks
- Feeling nauseous or vomitting
- Dizziness or feeling faint/ light-headed
- Blurry vision
- Ringing in the ears
- Burning or prickly sensation on the extremities and other body parts
- Compulsive behaviour
How to reduce anxiety naturally
- Find ways to manage your stress and difficult situations. If stress or a challenging predicament is giving you anxiety or making your anxiety worse, you need to look at how this can be managed and find suitable solutions. For example, if you’re struggling with your current workload:
- Write down everything you need to get done.
- Get the easy and urgent jobs done first.
- Then complete the complex tasks.
- Get organised and put systems in place to become efficient.
- Only complete tasks that fall under your remit. Learn to delegate.
- If still feel overwhelmed, seek support from your line manager.
- Stay physically active by moving daily and doing physical exercise at least three times per week. Daily walking is fantastic for getting the body moving. Regular exercise stimulates endorphin production; these are the hormones that create feelings of wellbeing.
- Eliminate all stimulants – coffee, alcohol, energy drinks and illicit drug use. Stimulants like coffee put your body into a stress response by stimulating the production of stress hormones (adrenaline and cortisol) which can make you feel wired and jittery – exacerbating your anxiety further. Caffeine and alcohol also negatively affect your sleep as they interfere with melatonin production (your sleep hormone).
- Practice self-care and taking time out for yourself. This is important as it supports your emotional and physical health, and is essential for maintaining balance in your life. It could be anything from having a massage or reading your favourite book to making time to meet up with your best friend. Create a ritual where you dedicate a specific amount of time just for you. Setting yourself daily goals and planning your week also helps keep you on track and stay motivated. If you schedule in your self-care time, it takes away any unnecessary stress and anxiety.
- Minimise screen time and phone use, especially using social media which can lower your mood and self-esteem. Even though there are many positives for using social media such as connecting with others and creating communities, it can also bring insecurities and self-worth issues to the forefront. A reliance on social media for social connections can also cause you to become more isolated, exacerbating anxiety symptoms.
- Eat a nourishing diet that is rich in organic vegetables and nutritious foods that optimise brain health. Have some good quality protein (nuts, seeds, legumes) and healthy fats (avocado, flaxseeds, chia seeds, flaxseed oil) with each meal too. Key foods for mood regulation and anxiety include Brazil nuts, almonds, pumpkin seeds, eggs (organic), turmeric, small oily fish (sardines, mackerel, herring), oats, bananas, turkey (organic), chia seeds, bell peppers, blueberries, fermented foods, beans and legumes.
- Avoid mood-depleting dietary habits including sugar, refined carbohydrates and grains (white bread/pasta/rice, cereals, snack bars), junk food, damaged oils (margarine, vegetable oils, baked products, fried foods), flavoured yoghurts (high in sugar), processed and packaged foods.
- Use herbs known to reduce anxiety like Lemon balm, Lavender, Ashwagandha, Passionflower, Chamomile and St John’s wort. These herbs exert a calming effect on the mind and body, reduce the stress response and lift mood. They can be taken as a tea, liquid herbal or tincture, capsule or tablet. Learn more about herbs for anxiety.
- Try Bach flower remedies which are fantastic for emotional healing and addressing feelings of panic, fear, worry and overwhelm. Each flower remedy works on specific emotional feelings e.g., sadness, anger, trauma, loneliness. They are easy to administer (as drops or a spray), and are safe to use in children, pregnancy/lactation and the elderly. Learn more about Bach flower remedies.
- Increase your intake of magnesium through food and supplementation. Magnesium is an important mineral needed for over 300 processes in the body, but it is particularly helpful for those with anxiety. Magnesium is a calming mineral that helps relax the body and mind by producing GABA, a neurotransmitter that can switch off the mind and promote relaxation. It also helps to lift mood by regulating serotonin levels (your feel-good hormone) and increase energy levels. Learn more about the benefits of magnesium.
- Adopt a healthy sleep routine. Good quality sleep is essential for regulating mood and stress levels. Having a regular routine trains your body to wind down after a busy day and promote the onset of sleep through melatonin production (your sleep hormone). Here are herbs to help with sleep.
- Breathing techniques and exercises can be very useful for those with anxiety. Taking in deep, slow breaths is very effective for preventing the onset of a panic attack and slowing down rapid, shallow breathing. It signals the brain to calm down which sends a message to your body to relax. Try breathing in slowly for 10 seconds and then exhaling slowly for 10 seconds, and see how you feel.
- Check to see if you have any vitamin or mineral deficiencies. Lack of essential nutrients such as magnesium, B vitamins, zinc, vitamin E and omega-3 can impair the production of neurotransmitters (chemical messengers) and hormones needed for mood regulation and brain health, increasing your risk of anxiety and mood disorders. Consult with a nutritional therapist or naturopath who can advise on the best tests to check vitamin and mineral status.
Kick anxiety to the curb
Anxiety is a debilitating condition that can interfere with your daily life. Learning what exacerbates or triggers your anxiety is the key to overcoming or managing it. Avoid negative dietary and lifestyle habits such as drinking coffee and alcohol, eating too much sugar and processed foods, excessive screen time and going to bed too late. Instead, eat a nourishing diet, make time for self-care, incorporate daily breathing techniques and try natural remedies like Bach flowers and herbal medicine.