Clammy hands, rapid heart rate, trouble sleeping? Does the fast-approaching holiday season have you feeling overwhelmed and anxious? Enduring high levels of anxiety during the next few weeks can impact your health in many ways.
Anthropologists believe that what used to be a positive “fight or flight” response when our ancestors were hunting game in the wilderness is now wearing us down.
Stress and anxiety are growing issues in North America.
Anywhere between a fifth and a fourth of the population may suffer from anxiety or depression, and that number is increasing each year. Since stress increases cortisol, which can lead to weight gain, diabetes and heart disease, it shouldn’t be ignored and brushed off as a normal part of our lifestyle.
If you’re looking for simple ways to manage stress during the busy holiday season…
I’ve got some great suggestions:
Meditation is a powerful tool that Buddhist monks have been practicing for years. Western medicine appreciates the positive impact that meditation can have on an individual’s health and well-being – lowering blood pressure, decreasing feelings of anxiety, and reducing depression.
Researchers are discovering that meditation in fact works to re-train the brain, allows thought patterns to change, and reduces feelings of worry.
One study was published in The Journal of Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience.
Virtually all persons participating in this study completed at Wake Forest Baptist Hospital reported decreased anxiety after meditation.
“Although we’ve known that meditation can reduce anxiety, we hadn’t identified the specific brain mechanisms involved in relieving anxiety in healthy individuals,” said Fadel Zeidan, Ph.D., postdoctoral research fellow in neurobiology and anatomy at Wake Forest Baptist and lead author of the study.
“In this study, we were able to see which areas of the brain were activated and which were deactivated during meditation-related anxiety relief.”
Exercise does more than just improve physical fitness – it can lower inflammation, reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, and ease both anxiety and depression.
Exercise can also help with insomnia that may be associated with anxiety. Avoid working out intensely in the late evening as this may be over-stimulating and result in poor quality sleep.
3. Magnesium & Tryptophan
Consuming foods that are rich in magnesium or taking this mineral in supplement form may help relax a person and reduce anxiety. Dark leafy greens, nuts/seeds, dark chocolate, bananas, seaweed, and oatmeal are great sources of magnesium.
Foods high in tryptophan are also a wonderful staple in the diet. Since the body converts tryptophan into serotonin, certain foods can be very beneficial in elevating mood.
Choose from the following healthy food options:
- Organic dairy products – yogurt or cheese
- Protein-rich foods – turkey, chicken, deep-water fish, and organic eggs
- Non-GMO (genetically modified organisms) soy products – soy milk, tofu, or soybeans
- Legumes – lentils, blackbeans, and chickpeas
- Nuts and seeds – almonds, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, and pumpkin seeds
- Fruits – mangos and dates
- Vegetables – beets
- Whole Grains – oats and brown rice
4. St. John’s Wort or Passionflower Extract
If you’re still looking to naturally calm the nervous system, you may be interested in knowing that many Naturopathic Doctors recommend St. John’s Wort or Passionflower Extract. Both have been shown to be helpful for depression and anxiety.
Speak to a healthcare professional for appropriate dosing and to ensure these herbs do not interfere with medication that you may be taking. Also note that light-headedness and drowsiness are possible side effects.
Other extracts like kava kava can help with anxiety, but are banned in certain countries due to increased risk of organ damage.
A lot of people have this idea that being busy and stressed is “what life is all about.” However, this couldn’t be farther from the truth.
You decide to slow down.
You decide to rest.
And you decide that YOUR health comes first.
Be well and best wishes in finding what works best for you!