Less than optimal food choices, which many find themselves drawn to at times of stress, have a negative effect on bio-chemistry that actually further supports stress in the body, thus putting a fragile and vulnerable system under even more pressure. There is a huge and pivotal link between diet and emotions, and this is particularly important to look at in the case of anxiety-related conditions. Brain functioning and endocrine gland functioning (the hormonal system – which is governed by the brain) are particularly affected by toxins in foods, which includes all manner of unsuitable substances broadly classed as “toxic” to the body, but all body systems are intimately inter-related as so affect each other in some way. There is much scientific research to back up this up. A whole body system that is deeply nourished with whole, healthy and clean foods (free from toxins) will be far less pre-disposed to anxious conditions, and will recover far more easily from challenges.
A habit of healthy eating that is made into a lifestyle goes a very long way to counter the risk of falling into unhealthy eating patterns at key moments when to nurture ourselves with nourishing foods would be a better choice. If we approach healthy eating as something very normal and fundamental, there is much less chance of being tempted to deviate from healthy choices when facing challenging situations. Another thing that is helpful is to carefully identity the areas where we are likely to be vulnerable to making poor food choices, such as during the experience of particular emotions, and make steps to ensure that we have other back-up options to make bad choices less easy. For example, having a stack of fresh fruit or some other healthy but enjoyable snack to reach for when we feel the urge to emotionally eat, or going the full hog and removing all unhealthy options from the house completely. A reminder could be set somewhere, or a piece of jewellery worn, to trigger us into remembering right when we are about to revert back to old patterns to choose differently. Again, mastering our eating is very empowering.
Foods that absolutely should be avoided, actually for everyone, but particularly in the case where anxiety is present, are refined flour and sugar products (white bread, white pasta, white sugar), all of which can be swapped for their whole food alternative. Artificial chemicals such as food colourings, additives and preservatives should also be avoided, and if animals products will be eaten, a hormone-free version should be chosen, as commercial animal products are laden with endocrine disrupting growth hormones. As the endocrine system governs our emotions, this is a very important factor to consider when considerable stress is present. Much research has also been done on the link between emotional and mental health, and taking good care of the physical body is a perfect way to tend to both of these.
Walking in Nature
Walking in nature is so incredibly healing to every level of our being. Nature is peaceful, calm, serene and enveloping… we feel embraced by sanctuary when we spend time in nature. Anxiety-related disorders are always related to am imbalance of the nervous system, which is electrical in nature, and in the case of anxious conditions is generally stuck in a hyper-electrical state, over-stimulated, and easily triggered. The Earth is magnetic in nature, which is the perfect balancing force for over-electrical activity. When the electrics and magnetics of our body are balanced, we feel at ease, and physical, mental, emotional and spiritual well-being naturally increases.
There is another aspect of spending time in nature that is incredibly beneficial in the case of anxiety, and that is how deeply still and silent nature is. There is something of paradox in this, as there is also the buzzing movement and noise of living creatures and elements everywhere, but beneath that is a deep silence that is all-permeating – all it takes is the willingness to tune in and notice. Nature is a wonderful tool to help us develop mindfulness and we allow ourselves to become still and listen, both to the noise and the movement, but also to the underlying quiet. It teaches us that even in the chaotic noise of our being when in states of stress, underneath the surface, there is always a deep reservoir of stillness that can be tapped into. Like with the other suggestions mentioned earlier in this blog, this realisation is deeply empowering and has the potential to change our life completely. When in nature, just take a few moments even if it can’t be managed permanently, to allow your mind and body to soften, your breath to deepen, and to sink into the loving embrace of the Earth (which is inherently feminine). See if you can notice the aliveness of lifeforms around you, and realise that the world is full of magic that is most easily accessible in nature, until such a time as we can realise it is always within.
A good strategy for management of anxiety-related conditions is to put in a little practice in to get acquainted with recognising our own stress signals before they hit full-force, a very valuable life skill. As soon as any kind of stress is noticed, or the possibility of it developing is sensed, go out for a walk immediately if at all allowable. If this is not possible, take a few moments to imagine the soothing presence of nature within and feel the calm surroundings of a tranquil environment. Even a walk of a few minutes in the fresh air will do wonders to sometimes completely stop an anxious episode in its tracks. This is one of my go-to strategies before attempting anything else, and it always works to lift me instantaneously. As mentioned in part 1, with anxiety-related challenges, there is the real risk of damaging relationships, and making a practice of going for a walk in times of stress before talking or interacting with anybody else is a life-saver when it comes to avoiding this.
A body that is dehydrated is absolutely guaranteed to be under stress. Our body is composed largely of water, and without enough of a regular intake of this primary resource, we are putting all of our systems under undue pressure. Among other functions, proper hydration is also needed to help with processing the general density of the day that we might encounter, much of which is what triggers anxiety in the first place. Metaphysically, being properly hydrated, much like being properly nourished with whole foods, makes it considerably easier to throw off the tyranny of stressful illusions such as fear for survival, fear or lack, fear of loss, etc. A proper ratio of water in the body helps us to be more fluid in our approach to life.