Catching The Butterflies, Calming The Spirit
In this article we look at how the right foods, behaviours and nutrients can help keep us calm and in control during the day. We will look at:
1. Eating the correct foods to keep energy levels consistent and keep the body functioning optimally;
2. Specific nutrients which assist mental calm
3. Cognitive techniques to control feelings of anxiety and panic.
We all know that if we eat well, our bodies feel better. But feeling healthier can and does have a strong impact upon mental strength and calm. The opposite is also true – anxiety and stress can have a strong negative effect on physical health.
There is a tendency when feeling worried or anxious to not focus on your nutrition as much. Many people are ‘stress eaters’ in that they choose to relieve their stress and anxiety by eating comfort foods. Unfortunately this can simply compound the problem. We all have external stressors in our life. We do not need to be battling our own bodies as well.
Here are some simple nutritional guidelines to follow, particularly when stressed or anxious. They are easily said, and hard to implement, but in combination with the cognitive techniques discussed below, success can be achieved.
1. Avoid simple sugars
Simple sugars (the best example is white refined sugar) hit the blood stream extremely quickly and create a rapid insulin response. The body receives an immediate energy rush which may temporarily offset anxiety. But the effect wears off quickly and leaves you feeling weak and hungry. In order to tackle the problems causing the stress and anxiety, you’ll need a more consistent form of energy like whole wheat, grains and starches.
2. Consume more nuts and leafy greens
Nuts are filled with essential nutrients, including healthy fats and have a tendency to leave people very satiated. So instead of a handful of gummi bears, go for almonds. Just keep the serving size modest. Leafy greens are also nutrient dense but also high in fibre, which slows down energy absorption from the other foods you eat. This has the effect of moderating your energy levels, flattening out the metabolic cycle.
3. Avoid excess alcohol
Alcohol is a globally used stress reliever. But again, its effects are temporary and ultimately illusory if usage exceeds the very modest medical guidelines (about 2 standard drinks a day maximum). Whilst alcohol relieves anxiety in the short term, in the longer term it operates as a depressant. Being hung over, depressed and anxious is far worse than the starting point. Consider taking a short but brisk walk outdoors to clear your head and get the blood pumping. You’ll be much less likely to want that drink afterwards.
4. Eat lean meat or take a Vitamin B Supplement
Vitamin B group
is essential to proper metabolic function. It can keep energy levels up and consistent. Most B group Vitamins are found in sufficient quantities in meat, but you aren’t consuming much meat then consider a Vitamin B supplement.
Some of the Vitamin B compounds (Thiamine, Pantothenic Acid and Folic Acid) are so important that deficiency has been associated with depression. This leads us to our next section.
Nutrients for mental calm
We’ve discussed how important Vitamin B is to mental health, but there are many other nutrients, herbs and minerals which can assist us.
Magnesium has more than 300 known uses throughout the human body. It is essential to energy generation and certain brain functions related to memory as well as the detoxification of cortisol (the stress hormone) from the body. Magnesium is found in many foods such as spinach and beans, but the Australian Guidelines also say it can be safely supplemented up to 350mg per day.
Amino-Acids are the building blocks of proteins and play important roles in maintaining neurotransmitter balance. Neurotransmitters are chemicals essential to proper brain function. Taurine and Tyrosine are both particularly useful in controlling anxiety in stress-producing situations.
St.John’s Wort is used clinically in a number of countries (including Germany) to treat depression. It can in some instances be just as effective as prescription medicines designed to treat the same thing. So if feelings of depression are manifesting themselves, this natural supplement is worth looking into.
Garlic appears to reduce fatigue by limiting the amount that adrenal glands respond to stress, effectively dampening the effect of stress on the body. More research is needed to better understand the process, but the benefits of garlic on general health are so well established that this is one product any stressed or anxious person ought to consider.
Ginseng has long been known in the East as a calming medicine. Ginseng appears to influence the adrenal glands by slowing down their release of stress hormones. So Ginseng needs to be taken as a preventative supplement, as it cannot influence stress hormones already in the body, only those the body is yet to produce.
Take Control of your Anxiety
Eating well and taking appropriate supplements can set you on the right path for less anxiety in your life and a calmer soul. But there will always be external events which threaten our resolve and put us into very stressful situations. Ultimately, utilising the strength of your own mind to overcome this stress is one of the most powerful tools at your disposal.
There are many clinicians who have developed methods which can train us to be better at handling stress and anxiety.
Dr Sandra Cabot is world renowned for her contributions to human health and her book,
for Depression and Anxiety’
is an excellent starting point.
Dr Rick Collingwood is a leading hypnotherapist who has specialised in
CD’s on many topics in this field, from ‘Enhance Your Calm’ to ‘Relaxation & Stress Management.’
Here at AHS we wish you all the best in taking control and enjoying a healthier life.
. We can be contacted on 9879 4994 to discuss any of the matters raised in this article or you can visit our website at www.myhealthstore.com.au