Is stress or anxiety getting the better of you? Many of us are having to deal with the added uncertainty and overwhelm associated with loss of work, reduced freedoms and the inability to get up and go wherever and whenever we please?
Perhaps you haven’t been able to let off steam at the gym or swim or relax in the pool. I know I too have been feeling a bit caged. You might ask, what can we do to calm this overwhelm with stress or anxiety? Keeping the mind occupied is one thing but is it enough.
So What Can You Do To Calm Your Stress And Anxiety?
- Consider What You Eat And Drink
The first thing we need to think about is what we eat. We love our sweets as comfort food particularly when we get bored and cannot get out. But, unfortunately, those few moments of pleasure have a side effect. Too many sugary foods in the diet increase body acidity and anxiety so try to keep them to an occasional treat.
Sugars also feed bad bugs in your gut that promote inflammation, pain and brain fog.
Make a point to eat healthy nutrient rich foods with protein and 5 servings of vegetables each day to provide co factors to make those calming brain chemicals. Fast foods are lacking in essential brain nutrients and are usually loaded with sugars.
Sales of alcohol have increased since the COVID-19 lock-down began. You may rely on a drop to relax at the end of the day but in the long run it can increase your anxiety. Most do not realise alcohol is a sugar/carbohydrate and adds to whole body acidity. Preferably save the social drink to weekends and don’t go overboard. If you have severe anxiety the best advice is to avoid alcohol until you get under control.
Limit your coffee to one cup per day. Caffeine increases body acidity, increases agitation, and can affect your sleep. Some people have a genetic variant that means they cannot detoxify coffee. If that is you, drinking coffee could be one of your anxiety or agitation triggers.
- Make A Point To Exercise
It is well established that exercise helps to reduce stress or anxiety. It helps sleep as well. If you cannot get out for a walk, stand up out of your chair, shake your arms, take a few deep breaths, jog on the spot or dance to your favourite music. Getting the blood moving releases muscle tension.
- Understanding The Brain Connection
When on edge, you are in a stressed, fight and fright, aroused sympathetic nervous state. The Vagus nerve, the 10th cranial nerve travels direct from your brain to the heart, lungs, and digestive tract. When you are stressed, messages travel down the Vagus nerve to tell your heart to beat faster, your breath speeds up and becomes shallow, you get butterflies in your tummy and lose your appetite.
You may feel it is a struggle to digest your meal. Your tummy rumbles and you feel sick. Without eating well in times of stress, you struggle to concentrate or think clearly.
There a couple of ways you can balance Vagus nerve tone and restore a relax and digest parasympathetic state. The first way is amazingly simple. You just gargle for 30 seconds three times each day.
- Breathing To Switch Off Stress
The second way to restore a relaxed parasympathetic state is to practice slow deep diaphragmatic breathing.
When you can identify if you are breathing in the upper chest, as a physiotherapist I have a few tricks to help you switch back to a controlled deep breath and calm anxiety. A slow breath in followed by a longer relaxed breath out will shut down the stress hormone cortisol and restore calm.
- Sleep Tips
Getting a good night’s sleep is so important. Without sleep your brain heats up, cannot cool down or drain toxins causing agitation and anxiety. If you have trouble winding down before bed, make sure you eat early and turn off the TV or computer an hour before bedtime.
Try massaging downwards on the sides of your neck to improve lymphatic drainage from the brain. Write down your thoughts from the day and then do a list for tomorrow to offload that busy head. Taking a hot shower before bed helps to relax your muscles, wind down and sleep.
Acupuncture is a useful treatment to relax tension. It promotes relaxation and a better night’s sleep.
Above all, have a laugh with friends, and if not together try staying connected online.
If doing these simple things is not enough to calm your anxiety you may have a genetic block to making the calming brain chemicals. The good news is we can test to find out and allow you to find relief at last.
We’d love to hear about how the COVID-19 lock-down has impacted on you and what you have done to manage your stress.
Verona is an author, physiotherapist, acupuncturist, and nutritionist in private practice in northern NSW. She uses a 3-dimensional approach to treat complex conditions such as chronic and fatigue, anxiety and depression, and stubborn weight loss. Verona has studied extensively in environmental and functional medicine and understands how your environment can impact your health.
She is available for consults in her clinic and online.
To Learn more, visit https://getahealthylife.com.au