Feeling stressed, strung out, wound up, can’t sleep, grinding your teeth, have neck and shoulder pain, irritable bowels or a racing heart? It could be that you are experiencing some anxiety.

Anxiety is the body’s response to stress or pressure. It is what happens when our sympathetic nervous system is stimulated and we engage in what is called the fight or flight response. The fight or flight response is nature’s way of protecting us from threats. It is designed to make us very mentally alert for quick decision-making, and gives us the ability to run away from the threat.

While this response is very useful in the short-term response to stress or a threat (especially when we are in the jungle and there is a tiger approaching), it becomes harmful to the body over a long period of time and can turn into anxiety. When you are anxious, you are quite often responding to a stress that is not even there! You may feel those fight or flight feelings even when there is no tiger or even when the stressor is minor – and it is no fun at all.

Luckily, there is plenty that we can do to reduce the feelings of anxiety in the body and the mind. Natural medicine is extremely helpful in the management of anxiety symptoms because we have so many beautiful herbs and nutrients to help calm the nervous system and reduce the sympathetic nervous system response. Another benefit to using herbs and nutrients to assist with anxiety, is that they are unlikely to produce any negative side effects such as drowsiness or poor mental performance.

While it is important to address the physiology of anxiety symptoms with calming herbs and nutrients, it is also important to take a look at your health on a holistic level – addressing some of the external and internal drivers of anxiety.

Many of us are sensitive to stimulants such as caffeine and glutamate. Most of us are aware of caffeine found in coffee, tea, energy drinks and coffee milks. Glutamine can be found in the form of monosodium glutamate (or MSG) and is commonly found in flavoured packaged foods – such as chips, noodles, soups and in many takeaway foods. For some people, this ingredient can cause feelings of irritability and increased anxiety. Steering clear of the food ingredients that cause a stimulatory action on the nervous system is a very important aspect in the management of anxiety.

Also important is managing your internal environment – the brain! This is no easy feat, but there are some simple tools you can use to help keep your brain machinery clean, and working well:

1. Daily meditation – even if you can only manage 10 minutes per day, do it! Sit down, switch off and meditate. There are so many great guided meditations online to help you get into the zone. Meditation has been shown to change the way our brains are wired and reduce feelings of stress and anxiety.

Meditate

Meditation helps to relieve anxiety

2. Gratitude – being in a state of gratitude calms the nervous system and radiates positive energy. Start a gratitude journal, or spend 10 minutes per day acknowledging the things you are grateful for in life.

Consider these techniques as part of your mental hygiene plan – just the same as cleaning your teeth is part of your oral hygiene plan. The brain needs looking after just as much as the rest of the body!

If you need assistance with any anxiety symptoms, please contact the clinic on 07 3367 0337 – we are happy to help.

Gemma Martin – Naturopath
Bachelor of Naturopathy

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