Anxiety Relief Tips for When You Really Need Them

By Dr. Jessica McGuire, ND

Background Info

Anxiety is a common occurrence at any age. It is due to an overactive sympathetic nervous system, which is our ‘fight or flight’ response. This causes an elevation in cortisol, which can eventually exhaust your adrenals, making you unable to deal with stress in the future, exacerbating the risk on anxiety. As your body prepares to deal with this perceived threat it speeds up your
metabolism, heart rate, breathing rate, and can even change the composition of the blood, making it more prone to clotting. Anxiety can present in numerous forms: OCD, PTSD, social phobia and
generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), and can quickly manifest with physical symptoms such as palpitations, digestive issues, shortness of breath and hyperthermia.

Risk Factors

  • Learned behaviour during childhood growth and development genetics (family members with anxiety)
  • Traumatic experiences
  • Neurotransmitter abnormalities
  • Medical conditions such as: hyperthyroid, arrhythmia, pheochromocytoma, hypoglycemia

Nutritional Support

~Avoid stimulants such as caffeine (coffee, chocolate, black tea) and energy drinks, as these will increase your sympathetic nervous system response.

~Avoid refined sugars and simple carbohydrates. These foods can cause reactive hypoglycemia, which is a trigger for anxiety.

~Avoid foods high in glutamate as it is known to stimulate the sympathetic nervous system. This includes MSG, gluten, & casein.

~Eliminate any known foods that cause stress or sensitivity reactions (can take a food sensitivity test or keep a food/symptoms journal).

~Studies have shown honey can significantly improve anxiety in rats (there is promise in human studies).

~Dried fruit, asparagus, avocados, bananas, blackstrap molasses, broccoli, dulse, fish, garlic, green leafy vegetables, legumes, raw nuts and seeds, whole grains (these are good sources of calcium, potassium and magnesium, which are depleted during stress, and needed for relaxation).

~Inositol is an important nutrient for anxiety and proper mood health. Foods rich in inositol are cantaloupe, citrus, oats and bran.

~Foods high in EFA and omega 3 oils such as flax, hemp and fish are important, as well as food high in B vitamins, such as nutritional yeast.

Lifestyle Modification

  • Meditation and Yoga
  • Spending time outdoors (to increase vitamin D levels)
  • Acupuncture and massage
  • Aromatherapy – either in a diffuser or on a cloth inside your pillow case (lavender, chamomile, sweet orange)
  • Adequate sleep
  • Exercise – doesn’t matter what kind; a brisk walk, dancing, running, etc. (releases dopamine and serotonin)
  • Music and sound therapy
  • Deep breathing exercises

Extra Resources

Yoga With Adriene

What is Music Therapy?

Sleep Hygiene