In a previous podcast interview with Dr. Anna Symonds, a trusted friend and Clinical Psychologist, I paraphrased the wisdom of Chinese Philosopher Lao Tzu. While Anna told me that it may oversimplify things, it still resonates a tad:
With this perspective in mind, we embark on a journey to explore the complex and often misunderstood realm of anxiety. In this slightly longer blog than normal, my aim is not just to share insights and strategies for those wrestling with anxiety, but also to create a haven of safety and belonging in the process. So, let's venture into the world of anxiety, where we'll uncover strategies for better mental well-being and cultivate a sense of solace together.
Anxiety: A Common Struggle
Anxiety is a natural and universal human emotion that serves as a crucial survival mechanism. It's that feeling of unease, tension, or worry that often arises when we confront a challenging situation, an important decision, or an upcoming event. In its moderate form, anxiety can be adaptive, propelling us to take necessary precautions and make informed choices.
However, anxiety can become a formidable adversary when it spirals into a constant, overwhelming presence in our lives. This persistent form of anxiety, often diagnosed as an anxiety disorder, can disrupt our daily routines, hinder our decision-making abilities, and rob us of the joy in life. It's at this point that anxiety transcends the boundaries of ordinary stress and becomes a formidable challenge that many of us face.
One valuable tool I often share with individuals dealing with anxiety, especially in specific scenarios like the fear of flying, is to see 'fear' as an acronym: 'false expectations appearing real.' In some instances, reminding yourself of this acronym can offer a helpful perspective shift.
Another interesting thought is to consider the case of my brother, who used to be an ardent viewer of the 10 o’clock news. However, he began to realise that the constant barrage of negative stories left him waking up in the middle of the night with a sense of unease. Several years ago, he made a deliberate decision to disconnect from the news entirely.
This experience underscores a broader lesson that applies to many forms of anxiety. Sometimes, it's beneficial to step back from the relentless flow of news channels and the noise of social media. While turning inward is not always the answer, there's merit in distancing yourself from aspects of life over which you have no control. This conscious disconnection can often serve as a calming antidote in the journey to reduce anxiety.
Anxiety disorders come in various forms, each with its unique characteristics and symptoms. These may include:
- Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD): Characterized by excessive worry and tension about everyday events or activities, often with no apparent reason.
- Social Anxiety Disorder: Involves an intense fear of social situations and an overwhelming concern about being judged or embarrassed in public.
- Panic Disorder: Marked by recurrent panic attacks, sudden and intense episodes of fear that trigger physical symptoms like rapid heartbeat and shortness of breath.
- Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD): Involves persistent, unwanted thoughts and repetitive behaviours or rituals to alleviate anxiety.
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): Can develop after a traumatic event and leads to intrusive memories, nightmares, and severe anxiety.
- Phobias: Specific phobias result in intense fear of particular objects or situations, such as heights, spiders, or flying.
It's important to distinguish between stress and anxiety, as they are distinct emotional responses with their own characteristics. Stress is often triggered by external factors, whether short-term like work deadlines or conflicts, or long-term such as job insecurity, discrimination, or chronic illness.
Those dealing with stress may encounter a range of mental and physical symptoms, including irritability, fatigue, muscle tension, digestive issues, and sleep disturbances.
On the other hand, anxiety is characterised by persistent, excessive worries that persist even in the absence of an identifiable stressor. Anxiety manifests in a similar set of symptoms to stress, such as insomnia, difficulty concentrating, fatigue, muscle tension, and irritability.
The good news is that both mild stress and mild anxiety can benefit from similar coping strategies. Initiating a routine that includes physical activity, a healthy human diet, and proper sleep habits is a solid starting point. However, additional coping mechanisms and products are also available to support your journey toward well-being.
3 Modern Causes of Anxiety
In our complex and fast-paced world, anxiety takes on various new forms, each with its unique set of challenges.
Additive Anxiety: A concept that emerged in California in the 1970s, suggests a link between artificial flavourings and colourings and heightened anxiety levels. For those eating a lot of Ultra-processed foods, a brilliant book called “Ultra Processed People”, by Chris Van Tulleken, is a very worthy read.
Socially Prescribed Perfectionism: As discussed by Thomas Curran in "The Perfection Trap," explores how the relentless pursuit of perfection can lead to both depression and anxiety, unravelling the myth of an unattainable ideal.
As I have written many times before, I believe that comparison is the theft of happiness and therefore I really believe when suffering anxiety, we have to be aware of excessive use of social media, which has been linked to anxiety and depression.
- Comfort Anxiety: In Michael Easter's insightful book "The Comfort Crisis," the concept of Comfort Anxiety highlights the impact of our stress-averse society, where unmet needs for adversity and personal growth may contribute to feelings of depression and anxiety.
Together, these three forms of induced anxiety shed light on the intricate relationship between our modern environment, our expectations, and our mental well-being.
Regardless of the specific type, anxiety disorders share common threads of relentless worry, physical tension, and a pervasive sense of unease. These conditions can affect anyone, regardless of age, gender, or background, making it one of the most prevalent mental health challenges globally.
At Health Results we understand that anxiety can often make you feel isolated and alone. It's easy to believe that no one truly comprehends what you're going through. But you are not alone. Our community is here to help you.
We are committed to providing hope and inspiration to those dealing with anxiety. While medication may be appropriate for some, in this blog, I would like to explore the effect of exercise, mindfulness, getting out in nature and some highly effective supplements that can help you manage anxiety and find the path to positive change.
Exercise stands as a powerful antidote to anxiety, with its effects extending well beyond the physical realm. When you engage in physical activity, your body responds by releasing endorphins, the body's natural mood boosters. This flood of 'feel-good' chemicals helps to alleviate anxiety and elevate your overall mood. Additionally, exercise acts as a stress buster, reducing the levels of stress hormones in your body and promoting a profound sense of calm. Beyond the physiological changes, exercise fosters a sense of control and accomplishment, empowering individuals to confront anxiety head-on. It provides a sanctuary where worries can fade, making it a cornerstone in managing and even overcoming anxiety.
The beauty of exercise is its versatility. You don't need to become a gym enthusiast to reap its anxiety-reducing benefits. It's important to choose an exercise routine that suits your preferences and fits seamlessly into your life. The key is consistency. Start slowly, set achievable goals, and gradually build up your routine to ensure long-term success.
I recently read a great book called “Ultra Processed People” written by Chris Packham; in it he wrote, “According to Ponzter’s data, we burn around 2,500 calories per day at desk jobs, the same number of calories as if we were walking a long distance. Since we’re not spending that energy on walking, we spend it elsewhere, on things like being stressed. The hypothesis says that office workers will likely have increased levels of adrenaline, cortisol and white blood cells, all of which make us anxious and inflamed…And it may explain why exercise is such an important treatment for many chronic conditions and seems to reduce depression and anxiety”.
It might be worthwhile checking out our MARS exercise and fitness course here.
Yoga and Mindfulness: Finding Inner Peace
Yoga and mindfulness practices are like a balm for the anxious mind. They combine gentle movements with focused breathing, promoting relaxation and mindfulness. Here's why they can be your allies in the battle against anxiety:
Mind-Body Connection: Yoga emphasises the connection between the mind and body, encouraging you to become more aware of your thoughts and physical sensations.
Breath Control: The controlled breathing techniques in yoga help regulate your nervous system, reducing the fight-or-flight response often associated with anxiety.
Stress Reduction: Mindfulness meditation, often integrated into yoga sessions, teaches you to stay present, easing the burden of worrying about the future.
Improved Sleep: Practicing yoga and mindfulness regularly can lead to better sleep, a crucial factor in managing anxiety.
Nature Walks: Embracing the Outdoors
Connecting with nature through walks or hikes offers a calming and grounding experience.
The simple act of being in nature can have a profound impact on your mental well-being:
Stress Reduction: Spending time in nature lowers cortisol levels, the hormone associated with stress.
Mood Enhancement: Natural surroundings promote the release of serotonin, the "feel-good" neurotransmitter, which can alleviate anxiety and depression.
Mindful Presence: Nature encourages mindfulness as you immerse yourself in the sights, sounds, and sensations of the outdoors.
Physical Activity: Even a leisurely nature walk can double as gentle exercise, promoting relaxation.
To make the most of nature walks, consider exploring local parks, hiking trails, or scenic areas. Whether it's a serene forest, a tranquil lakeside, or a picturesque mountain path, nature provides an escape from the hustle and bustle of daily life.
Group Activities: Building Community and Support
Joining group fitness classes or sports teams can provide more than just physical benefits; it can create a strong sense of community and support, which is invaluable in managing anxiety:
Social Connection: Group activities foster social bonds and reduce feelings of isolation, a common aspect of anxiety.
Accountability: Committing to regular group exercise sessions helps you stick to your routine and goals.
Shared Experiences: Sharing successes and challenges with others who understand your journey can be incredibly motivating and comforting.
Group activities come in various forms, from dancing and team sports to boot camps and yoga classes, ensuring you can find a group that aligns with your interests.
Participating in group activities can be an excellent way to break the cycle of anxiety and enhance your overall well-being. You'll not only gain the physical benefits of exercise but also the emotional support of a like-minded community.
Supplements for AnxietyAs previously noted, there's now substantiated evidence linking ultra-processed foods (UPF) to the onset of anxiety. Therefore, a compelling recommendation is to shift toward a diet consisting of whole, unprocessed foods—those that bear a resemblance to the kind of nourishment your grandparents would have recognised. For instance, fish should resemble its natural form, not a processed fish finger, and bread should ideally contain just four ingredients, avoiding the cocktail of additives often found in commercial loaves. In addition to adopting a real-food approach, consider exploring certain supplements that have demonstrated their efficacy in clinical trials for alleviating anxiety symptoms.
Omega 3, especially if it is high in DHA, has long been associated with improving multiple brain activities.
A 2018 meta-analysis of 19 different clinical trials across 2240 participants (in 11 countries), found that treatment with omega 3, especially those of 2 g per day, significantly improved anxiety compared to the placebo group. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6324500/
This meta-analysis, as published by the US National Library of Medicine, opens the report with the following introduction, which I find quite useful. “Anxiety, the most commonly experienced psychiatric symptom, is a psychological state derived from inappropriate or exaggerated fear leading to distress or impairment. The lifetime prevalence of any anxiety disorder is reported to be approximately 1 in 3. Anxiety is often comorbid with depressive disorders and is associated with lower health-related quality of life”.
Based on the evidence from this collective piece of research, if you suffer from Anxiety, while our Primal Living Omega 3 already has a very high concentration of DHA, we would recommend taking 2 soft gels daily.
Magnesium plays a pivotal role in the body's stress response. Research suggests that magnesium supplements may be beneficial for people dealing with anxiety.
A comprehensive 2017 review concluded that magnesium supplements are likely to bring relief to individuals with anxiety. (National Library of Medicine USA - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5487054/)
Another 2017 study found significant improvements in depression and anxiety symptoms after supplementing with 248 milligrams of elemental magnesium daily for 6 weeks. (National Library of Medicine USA - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5487054/ )
Primal Living’s Magnesium is really powerful and for anxiety, it might be a good idea to start with 2 per day.
Vitamin D is a critical nutrient for brain function and mood regulation.
Deficiencies in vitamin D are common among individuals with anxiety disorders.
Research in 2019 with results titled by the USA, “Vitamin D supplementation ameliorates the severity of generalised anxiety disorder (GAD)” found that taking high does of vitamin D significantly improved symptoms. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31478182/
High-dose vitamin D supplementation has shown promise in reducing the severity of anxiety symptoms. A 2020 study reported significant improvements after 1,600 IU of vitamin D per day for 6 months. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7667301/
Just one Vitamin D tablet taken once per day from Primal Living, would provide a dose sufficient to surpass that used in the clinical trials.
Vitamin C acts as a powerful antioxidant, fighting oxidative stress linked to anxiety.
Multiple studies have demonstrated the benefits of vitamin C supplements in reducing anxiety. A double-blind, randomised and controlled placebo study in high school students showed that 500 mg of vitamin C per day for 14 days increased blood vitamin C levels and decreased anxiety levels. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26353411/
A very important piece of research of women with both anxiety and diabetes found Vit C supplementation was effective in reducing anxiety as well as stress-induced blood pressure. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5537779/
Primal Living has various forms of vitamin C, all of which are at doses higher than those used in these clinical studies.
Curcumin, derived from turmeric, possesses potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. A 2017 study in individuals with major depressive disorder revealed that curcumin supplementation led to significant improvements in anxiety symptoms. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27723543/
Curcumin has also demonstrated anxiety reduction benefits in people with diabetes and obesity. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31788880/
Primal Living’s Turmeric features a patented delivery mechanism called Bioperine, which provides the supplement with maximum bioavailability.
Multivitamin supplements containing B vitamins, vitamin C, calcium, magnesium, and zinc may alleviate anxiety symptoms. The study reported a significant decrease in anxiety symptoms in young adults after taking a multivitamin for 30 day, compared to a controlled placebo group. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6574322/
An meta-analysis review of 8 different studies found that multivitamins and multimineral supplements reduced perceived stress and anxiety in healthy individuals. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23362497/
As nutrient needs can vary by individual, I would recommend answering the nine questions on the MYVIT area of our website and having your multivitamins tailored specifically for you.
So if I were to conclude on nutrition, my recommendation would be to avoid UPF, eat real foods and try a supplement routine like this:
Personalised multivitamin and multimineral with MYVIT
Vitamin C (not needed if you take MYVIT as 500mg included)
At Health Results, we are dedicated to providing you with a holistic approach to managing anxiety. Whether you find solace in the serene practice of yoga, the grounding experience of nature walks, or the sense of community in group activities, there is a path to anxiety relief that suits you. And don’t underestimate how food and nutrition can play a big part too.
Remember, your journey to better health and a better life begins with the first step. We are here to inspire, encourage, and empower you. Together, we can overcome anxiety and unlock your full potential.