The best ways to combat anxiety, according to a naturopath
Add these 4 things to your daily toolkit
By Hannah Boyd
Anxiety is something many people experience; some know they have it, while others think it is just a normal response to a stressful situation.
The impact of COVID-19 meant that according to the Black Dog Institute people with pre-existing anxiety disorders and mental health problems were and are at increased risk of experiencing significant anxiety and distress
So what is anxiety? Many of my clients experience it in different ways – intrusive thoughts, constant worrying, sleeplessness, a feeling of being nervous all the way up to full blown panic attacks. These days anxiety is often seen as a normal response to modern life – we have many things to worry about – from work, relationships, the environment, finances, our children, and it can feel like these worrying feelings will never stop.
However there is freedom from anxiety.We may not be able to change some of the things that cause concern, but we can change how we respond to these anxiety inducing triggers.
Naturopathically we help people overcome anxiety by moving them from the Sympathetic Nervous System response – or fight and flight – to their parasympathetic nervous system, which is called Rest and Digest. I find that herbal medicine is fantastic at improving anxiety, along with balanced eating and making small changes to lifestyle.
Here are some things you can do to improve anxiety.
1.Three deep breaths
It may sound very simple and silly but when you’re feeling anxious and worrying excessively, stopping and checking your breathing makes a huge difference to your nervous system. It is the circuit breaker to get you out of fight or flight and into rest and digestion. You can take three deep breaths in and out of your nose and take air deep into your belly wherever you are without anyone knowing; at your desk, waiting for the traffic lights, at the dinner table.
There are so many ways to meditate these days; online, with an app, in local classes, and it works. I am a huge fan of Compassion Meditation for anxiety, it starts with helping you feel better about yourself which helps anxiety a lot. Mindfulness meditation is also fantastic but sometimes hard work for anxious people. The ultimate goal of mindfulness mediation is more than just doing your 15 minutes a day with headphones on, it is about changing your thinking and behaviours to become more mindful in all we do, which is why it is so great for anxiety, but also can be really challenging to start on your own.
3. Balance your blood sugar
One of the most important changes to make to improve anxiety is to eat regularly and to include fats, fibre and protein with every meal. Low blood sugar can often look a lot like anxiety, so regular eating and less quick hits for energy will improve mood in a huge way. With all the fasting that people are doing these days I’ve seen a huge increase in anxiety and insomnia and put this down to irregular blood sugar – or people just being hangry. So if you’ve jumped on the fasting bandwagon check in and see how it is making you feel – or speak to a naturopath for a professional opinion.
4. Herbs to the rescue
As a herbalist, I am very passionate about herbal medicine and guess what? They work so well for anxiety. How they work isn’t magic, although it can feel like it sometimes. They work by helping your brain produce more of the relaxing and happy feeling chemicals instead of the panicky ones that your brain makes when you are feeling anxious. Herbs like passionflower, lemon balm, chamomile, lavender and motherwort are all amazing in tinctures or even herbal teas to help you get on top of your fears and worries. If you haven’t spoken with a herbalist or naturopath I can not recommend it enough. I’ve seen such radical change in my clients with herbs.
Hannah Boyd is a naturopath, clinical nutritionist and owner of Newleaf Naturopathic Health and suggests reaching out to Beyond Blue or Lifeline if feelings of anxiety are becoming overwhelming