Anxiety is a tool of the human body that is meant to be a healthy response to stresses in life or even to a dangerous situation. When we are afraid, our metabolism speeds up, our muscles tighten, and our adrenal glands produce extra quantities of adrenaline (a hormone that makes our hearts beat faster).
Anxiety becomes a troublesome response only when we can't burn up the nervous energy it creates. When a meeting, a deadline, or a family problem sets us on edge, our bodies signal "danger" - however physical action is rarely appropriate. Instead, we endure the unpleasant sensation of a rapid heartbeat and tensed muscles; often while having to smile at the opponent who sits across the desk or the dinner table. We are all able to handle occasional bouts of unreleased anxiety, but if the anxiety doesn't go away, or if it recurs frequently, it can lead to serious health problems. People who are exposed to prolonged anxiety - those who are going through a divorce, for example, or who are subject to intense pressures at work---often suffer from high blood pressure, insomnia, digestive problems, skin disorders, mood swings, depression, and many other conditions. The effects of anxiety can also make any existing health problems much worse.
Sometimes people feel the symptoms of anxiety even when they're not facing a serious challenge or danger. Anxiety disorder is the name given to an excessive amount of worry that lasts longer than six months. What's excessive? Any nervous response that's out of proportion to its cause. A new job or a serious illness should naturally produce more anxiety than, say, planning a party. And if people cannot pinpoint the source of anxiety, or if it constantly changes, there's a good chance that they suffer from anxiety disorder.
People with anxiety disorders are vulnerable to the same health problems as anyone else with prolonged anxiety. They may also experience extreme states of nervousness and worry, called panic attacks. During a panic attack, the heart pounds and breathing becomes rapid or difficult. Sufferers may break into a cold sweat, experience tingling in the extremities, or feel dizzy and weak. Although panic attacks rarely last long - they can take anywhere from a few seconds to half an hour - they are quite frightening. People may feel certain that they are having a heart attack or a stroke or may simply feel overwhelmed by intense terror.
If you suffer from prolonged anxiety, whether as a result of an anxiety disorder or from a major unresolved source of tension, you can take certain steps to ease your symptoms. Bodywork and stress-reduction techniques will give you immediate relief but also can help on the root of your problem. Dietary changes and herbal therapies can have a calming, stabilizing effect on your mood.
As you employ these complementary healing strategies, it's also important to rule out any underlying physical causes. Disorders like low blood sugar, thyroid problems,heart problems and clinical depression can lead to the symptoms of anxiety as can nutritional deficiencies. Certain substances can also create anxiety or make it worse. Caffeine is perhaps the most notorious tension-inducing chemical but sugar and other food allergens, nicotine, alcohol, environmental toxins and allergens, and other causes can all be just as potent.
SYMPTOMS Restlessness and tension, trembling, heart palpitations, dry mouth, sweaty palms, diarrhea, lump in the throat, mood swings, high blood pressure, dizziness Sleep disturbances , appetite disorders, fatigue, impotence, chest pains, hyperventilation, headache, backache, muscle tension and/or spasms and panic attacks.
CAUSES Stress, caffeine, sugar, nicotine, alcohol and street drugs, prescription medications, disturbed sleep, food allergies, environmental toxins, poor nutrition, thyroid problems, mitral valve prolapse, low blood sugar, depression and adrenal disorders
Some foods can create anxiety, and others soothe it. If you're a victim of prolonged or frequent tension, a good diet can significantly-and sometimes completely-alleviate your symptoms.
An anxiety-healing diet starts with a good base of nutrients. Plan well-rounded meals of basic, clean foods. To keep your blood-sugar levels stable, eat smaller meals throughout the day, rather than three large ones. Complex carbohydrates contain serotonin, a neurotransmitter that has a calming effect on the brain. Have some whole grains, like brown rice or oats, at every meal. Make sure you get enough B-vitamins by increasing your intake of brewer's yeast, brown rice, and leafy green vegetables. If you have a bowel disorder, fibrous foods will help regulate your digestive tract. The whole grains and vegetables that were suggested earlier are an excellent source of fiber. Calcium and magnesium calm the body. Good sources include sea vegetables, green leafy vegetables (except spinach), soybeans, nuts, molasses, salmon, oysters, sardines (with the bones), broccoli, and unsweetened cultured yogurt.
Food to Avoid
Caffeine and alcohol cause anxiety or the symptoms of anxiety. Wean yourself off black tea, coffee, and alcohol, even if they seem to comfort you when you’re stressed. Ultimately, these substances just put a further strain on your system.
Refined sugars are another enemy of anxious people. Whole fruits and naturally sweet products are fine in moderation, but candy, cake, cookies, refined flour products, and soft drinks will cause your blood sugar to spike and then plummet. The resulting low levels of blood sugar produce feelings of irritability, tension, and depression.
If you suffer from anxiety, chances are that you’re short on B vitamins. Since refined flour and processed foods deplete your body of this nutrient, cut them out of your diet.
Stress can be a result of toxins, and stress itself is poisonous to your entire system. Consider doing a three-day supervised juice fast. Be sure most of your juices are made from vegetables, as too many fruit juices can give you unwanted sugar shock. A fast is also an ideal time to rest up and enjoy various types of therapy, like a massage or a hot bath, that combine detoxification with relaxation.
ANXIETY SUPER REMEDIES
Valerian (Valeriana officinalis) is a strong nerve relaxer and is especially helpful for insomnia caused by anxiety. Take 300 mg or 0.5 to 1.0 ml two to three times daily.
Saint-John's-wort (Hypericum perforatum) can lift anxiety that's accompanied by depression. Take 300 mg three times daily. If you're on medication for depression or anxiety, talk to your doctor before switching to an herbal preparation.
Ashwagandha (Withania somniferum) helps balance stress hormone levels and reduce tension. Take 2000 to 3000 mg daily.
Chromium balances blood-sugar levels. Take 200 mcg two to three times daily. Inositol has been shown in studies to be helpful for panic attacks. Take 4 grams three times daily.
Chamomile (Matricaria recutita) and oatstraw (Avena sativa) are great herbal nerve relaxers. They can be taken as a tea or in supplement form.
A regular full-body massage is a great way to relieve the tension that collects in your
muscles. If you don't have the time or the money for a professional treatment, you or a loved one can easily perform some spot techniques at home. A neck, a shoulder, or a foot rub can help you unwind. Use any of the essential oils recommended under aromatherapy for an even more relaxing effect.
If you suffer from insomnia, it's important to draw blood away from your head before
bedtime. Take a ten-minute hot foot bath to encourage the blood to move down and
out toward your limbs.
Many essential oils have relaxing properties, but lavender, melissa, jasmine, and ylang ylang are among the best for anxiety. Use them in a bath or a massage, or add some to a room diffuser for extended relief. During a panic attack, inhale frankincense to encourage deep breathing. If you have diarrhea, use chamomile, peppermint, lavender, and melissa to soothe gastric cramps. Add a few drops to a massage oil, and rub gently onto your abdomen. Bergamot will restore a lost appetite. Try some in a room diffuser, or simply inhale deeply over the bottle.
If you suffer from anxiety, it's wise to have a repertoire of stress-reduction techniques you can call upon.
GENERAL STRESS-REDUCTION THERAPIES
Use prayer to alleviate and prevent anxiety. The Bible contains many scriptures that address anxiety. It is also prudent to seek help from a counselor who specializes in anxiety disorder. Positive mental imagery and meditation are useful. Whenever you feel your mind racing ahead to upcoming deadlines or unpleasant situations, try to bring it back to an awareness of the present. Focus for a moment on something beautiful: the sound of a bird, the color of the sky, the steam drifting up from your cup of tea.
Many people with anxiety have cold hands and feet, because the panic response pulls blood away from the extremities. Thermal biofeedback can help you use this symptom to your advantage. During a thermal biofeedback session, you'll be asked to try to warm your hands. As you learn this technique, you'll actually learn to control the nervous-system arousal mechanism that is set off by anxiety. Soon you'll be able to ward off a panic attack just by mentally warming your hands. If you suffer from severe anxiety, consider EEG biofeedback. This form of biofeedback can be expensive, but it does have an excellent track record of helping people calm their brainwaves.
Don't let stress management itself become a source of stress. You’re not a failure if you have a panic attack or an episode of anxiety; no one can manage anxiety perfectly. Just keep practicing tension-relieving techniques daily, and try to accept whatever comes your way as best you can.
BACH FLOWER REMEDIES
If none of the remedies suggested here applied to you, consult the list of flower remedies to find one that suits your personality. Once you've found the appropriate remedy, place 10 drops of it under your tongue. Hold the drops in place for thirty seconds and swallow. Use as often as needed. If you are prone to acute anxiety, keep a bottle of Rescue Remedy on hand. When a panic attack strikes, it will restore your peace of mind.
Rock Rose is one of the primary components of Rescue Remedy and is extremely helpful in a physical or emotional emergency. If a bad shock or a fright leaves you feeling helpless or blank, Rock Rose will help you return to a calmer state.
Aspen is for people who are gripped by fears they can't name. Their anxiety may come on suddenly and may produce intense feelings of dread.
For people who cannot name the fears tat provoke their anxiety, Mimulus can help. This remedy is especially good for people who keep fears to themselves.
For anxiety brought on by excessive concern for others, Red Chestnut will help you pot things in perspective.
Exercise is still one of the best anxiety-relievers. A daily walk is enough for many people, although most methods of exercise will help reduce the effects of stress and anxiety.