Updated: Oct 30, 2019
A Natural Approach to Stress & Anxiety
Feeling overwhelmed? Having difficulty managing intrusive thoughts, worries, and expectations? Naturopathic medicine has some great tools that are gentle and effective to help you manage the overwhelm and re-take control.
The Difference between Stress & Anxiety.
Stress is the physiological tension that we feel when we have a lot of things on our plate. If you are juggling your kid’s schedules, making meals, work deadlines, and various other engagements, you are probably feeling stressed out.
Anxiety is a sense of unease and discomfort related to an uncontrolled outcome or upcoming event. It also includes excessive worrying and thoughts like “I should have done this” or I shouldn’t have said that.”
Simply put, stress relates to the physical issue while anxiety is our response to that stress. It is normal to feel both anxiety and stress from time to time. It is part of being a living, breathing human. However, when it goes on too long or becomes too big, it can interfere with our lives.
Here are some simple tools & remedies that can help you manage when you are feeling overwhelmed
Tips for Managing Stress & Anxiety
1. Don’t forget to eat
Many of us stop prioritizing our nutrition when we get overwhelmed. We also tend to eat quick and easy food that tends to be sugary.
Low blood sugar can feel exactly like anxiety. Your body is panicking because it thinks you don’t have enough fuel. When you don’t eat, your blood sugar drops. When you eat sugary foods (pastries, chocolate, granola bars) you get an initial spike in blood sugar but then it quickly drops.
To curb this “fake” anxiety, I use two strategies. First is to prioritize two full balanced meals per day. This may require some forethought but I promise it is worth it. Second is to snack better. You do this by adding a protein and/or fat to your snack. Good add-on options are nuts, plain yogurt, avocados, and hummus.
2. Ground yourself
You started thinking about one thing then all of the sudden you have a million things going through your head. Women are amazing multitaskers which is ultimately our downfall with anxiety because we can focus on too many worries at once.
Take a deep breath and audibly sigh it out. Do this a couple times. It stimulates a relaxation nerve in the back of our throats called the vagus nerve which can help us feel more grounded and in control. You can also achieve a similar effect by singing (whether you think you sound good or not!).
Another great option is the 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 tactic. Look around the room and point out: 5 things you can see, 4 things you can touch, 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can smell, and one thing you can taste. It doesn’t matter if you make it through all of these, the point is to bring you back to the present moment and out of your head.
3. Consider swapping your coffee for green tea
Green tea contains an awesome molecule called L-theanine which increases several mood modulating chemicals in your brain. This helps you feel more relaxed, happier, and more focused. Plus green tea still has caffeine so it gives you an energy boost like coffee with less of the jittery side effects.
Not a tea drinker? That’s okay, L-theanine can also be found in supplement form so you can take it alone, pair it with your coffee or use it before bed to help you sleep.
4. Keep GABA handy
GABA is a relaxation neurotransmitter, which means it promotes feelings of calm in your brain. You can get this in capsule form or in chewable tablets. The nice thing about GABA is that it acts quickly and leaves your body quickly. It can be a great tool for in the moment feelings of panic.
You can also increase GABA naturally through exercise or eating foods high in glutamic acid. Bananas, spinach, oats, and almonds are all great sources.
5. Get some Lavender in your life
Lavender is an amazing anti-anxiety herb and it works in many forms. You can use it as an essential oil as the smell has been shown to promote relaxation. You can also brew it as a tea or take it in capsule form as there is a growing body of research showing it is great for anxiety, depression, and sleep.
If you are brewing your lavender, make sure you don’t let it steep too long or you will end up with a rather soapy tasting drink. Other great anti-anxiety teas are lemon balm, chamomile, and passion flower.
6. Get Moving
If you need another excuse to exercise, it has been consistently shown to decrease anxiety and relieve stress. Not a fan of the gym? That is fine. Just get yourself moving. Dance around the house, vigorously clean, go for a walk, or take the stairs. Any bit of movement helps!
There are many different tools and strategies for managing stress and anxiety. It is always a great idea to check with a health care provider before starting any supplements to make sure they are safe for you.
Wishing you a happy healthy new year!
Dr. Melissa Bucking ND