We all get nervous from time to time. We get put in situations we can’t control. Like public speaking, a financial difficulty, a first date, or meeting someone for the first time. Your heart starts beating faster, you start to sweat, your breathing is shallow and your mind is imagining doom. Unfortunately for some people anxiety becomes more frequent, or so forceful, that it takes over their lives.
So how do you know if your everyday anxiety has crossed the line, and is now considered a disorder? Anxiety comes in many different forms, it can be a panic attack, or a phobia, even social anxiety, and the distinction between an official diagnosis and “normal” anxiety isn’t always clear. So let’s see if you are experiencing any of the following symptom on a regular basis.
Do you worry too much about everyday things, no matter how big or small they might be? What constitutes too much worrying. Normal anxiety does not disrupt your life and make you suffer or dysfunctional. It isn’t persistent and last for days or weeks. But if anxiety is interfering your life, it is accompanied by noticeable symptoms such as fatigue.
A lot of people have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, and of course it’s not unusual to toss and turn the night before a big event. If you chronically find yourself lying awake, because you’re worried or agitated about problems or nothing at all, or you wake up wired, your mind racing and you can’t calm down. It might be a sign that you have an anxiety disorder.
Some anxiety isn’t generalized at all. It is caused by a specific thing or situation, like flying, crowds or an animal. If the fear becomes overwhelming and way out of proportion to the risk involved, it’s a telltale sign of a phobia. Although phobias can be crippling, they’re not obvious all the time. I “A person who’s afraid of snakes can go for years without having a problem,” says Sally Winston, PsyD, co-director of the Anxiety and Stress Disorder Institute of Maryland in Towson. But then suddenly their kids wants to go camping, and they realize they need help.
Near-constant muscle tension, like jaw clenching, balling your fists, or flexing your muscles, often accompanies anxiety disorders. These symptoms can be so persistent that the person doing it may stop noticing them after a while. Exercise can help keep muscle tension under control, but if an injury or unforeseen event disrupts the workout schedule, they can’t handle their anxiety and become restless and irritable.
Anxiety might start in the mind, but it often manifests itself in the body, causing digestive problems. Like cramping, bloating, gas, constipation, and/or diarrhea. Our stomach is very sensitive to psychological stress and vice versa, having a digestive problem can make a person feel anxious.
Social anxiety disorder doesn’t always involve a large crowd. In most instances anxiety is provoked by everyday situations. It can be a one-one-one conversation at a party, or eating, drinking or the center of attention. In most cases anxiety is provoked by everyday situations, they feel that all eyes are on them, making them blush, tremble, sweat or develop an upset stomach. These symptoms can be so disruptive that they make it hard to meet new people.
Panic attacks can be terrifying. Picture a feeling of fear and helplessness accompanied by breathing problems, a pounding heart, tingling, sweating or dizziness. Not everyone who experiences a panic attack has an anxiety disorder, but people who have them repeatedly may be diagnosed with panic disorder. People with this disorder live in fear about when their next attack might happen, and they tend to avoid places where attacks have occurred in the past.
Reliving a disturbing or traumatic event, a violent encounter, or the death of a loved one. This is the hallmark of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), it shares some of the features of anxiety disorders. Some research, including a 2006 study in the Journal of Anxiety Disorders, suggests that some people with social anxiety have PTSD-like flashbacks of experiences that might not seem obviously traumatic, such as being publicly ridiculed. These people may even avoid reminders of the experience, another symptom reminiscent of PTSD.
If you are constantly judging yourself, or are anxious about making the right decision, or making a mistake. If you spend hours doing something to get it right and then start over again. This finicky obsessive mind-set known as perfectionism “goes hand in hand with anxiety disorders
Persistent self-doubt and second-guessing yourself is a common feature of anxiety disorders. In some cases doubt resolves around a question that is central to a person’s identity, like “Do I love my wife as much as she loves me?”
A lot of people are taking prescription medication for anxiety issues. But there are many safe non-drug remedies for anxiety, like supplements to calming teas. We will discuss these next.
So lets us discuss the remedies, supplements and mind-body techniques to help with anxiety. Some start right away, while other help lessen anxiety over time.
If you are having a jittery moment, a cup of chamomile tea might help calm you down. Some of the compounds in chamomile bind to the brain receptors, like Valium does. If tea is not your thing you can take a supplement, typically standardized to contain 1.2% apigenin, along with dried chamomile flowers. In a study at the University of Pennsylvania Medical Center, patients with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) who took chamomile supplements for eight weeks had a significant decrease in anxiety symptoms compared to patients taking placebo.
L-theanine (or green tea)
They say Japanese Buddhist monks could meditate for hours, both alert and relaxed. One reason may have been an amino acid in their green tea called L-theanine, says Mark Blumenthal, of the American Botanical Council. L-theanine helps a racing heart and lowers blood pressure. In a study, subjects were calmer and more focused during a test after taking 200 milligrams of L-theanine beforehand.
Yes, it’s in beer, but you won’t get the tranquilizing benefits of the bitter herb hops from a beer. The sedative compound in hops is a volatile oil, you can get in extracts and tinctures such as aromatherapy in hops pillows. Hops is used as a sedative to promote sleep. Do not take these if you’re are already taking a prescription tranquilizer.
Some herbal supplements reduce anxiety without making you sleepy. Valerian is in this category. It is a sleep aid, for insomnia. Valerian smells nasty, so you might want to take it as a capsule or tincture, rather than a tea. If you want to try it, take it in the evening. Valerian is also combined with other sedative herbs such as hops, chamomile, and lemon balm.
Lemon balm has been used since the Middle Ages to help reduce stress and anxiety, and also to help with sleep. Lemon balm is sold as a tea, capsule and tincture. It’s generally safe, but be aware that some studies have found that taking too much can actually make you more anxious. So follow directions and start with the smallest dose. This too is often combined with hops, chamomile, and valerian.
Exercise is safe, good for the brain, body and a powerful antidote to depression and anxiety. “If you exercise on a regular basis, you’ll have more self-esteem and feel healthier,” says Drew Ramsey, MD, Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at New York-Presbyterian Hospital, Columbia University. “One of the major causes of anxiety is worrying about illness and health, and that dissipates when you are fit.”
The 21-minute cure
Just twenty-one minutes is about how long it takes for exercise to reliably reduce anxiety. When you are feeling anxious, go for a walk outside, hop on a treadmill, you will feel calmer after working out. Try stair stepping anything you like that will get your heart rate up.
No you won’t fall in love, it’s a sedative. I can help reduce the symptoms of anxiety. Some people use it for insomnia. Remember it is like a sedative so if you are using a prescription sedative don’t take it. Also, be careful about using more than one sedative herb at a time.
The intoxicating aroma of lavender may be an “emotional” anti-inflammatory. In several studies, patients were less anxious while waiting in the sitting room that was scented with lavender oil. Students who inhaled lavender before an exam were less anxious. In one German study, a specially formulated lavender pill (not available in the U.S.) was shown to reduce anxiety symptoms in people with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) as effectively as lorazepam (brand name: Ativan), an anti-anxiety medication in the same class as Valium.
Hold your breath!
Okay I’m not recommending that you turn blue, but yoga breathing has been shown to be effective in lowering stress and anxiety. The reason it works is that you can’t breathe deeply and be anxious at the same time. To do this, exhale completely through your mouth, then inhale through your nose for and count to four. Hold your breath and count to seven. Now let it out slowly through your mouth while counting to eight. Repeat at least twice a day.
Eat something, quick
People seem to get more anxious and irritable when they are hungry. It may mean that your blood sugar is dropping. Have a quick snack, like a handful of nuts, along with a glass of water or hot teat. In the long run diet is the key to reducing anxiety. Eat whole foods, plenty of leafy greens, seafood, selected meats to get folate and a wide variety of phytonutrients.
This has always been the most important meal of the day. Stop starving yourself! Did you know that eggs are filled with protein, and are nature’s top source of choline. Low levels of choline have been associated with increased anxiety.”
We know fish oils are good for the heart. But did you know that they can protect against depression. You can add anxiety to the list. Experts generally recommend that you get your omega-3s from food whenever possible. Oily, cold-water fishes like salmon are the best sources of the fatty acids. Other good sources are anchovies, sardines, and mussels.
Learn mindfulness meditation
Start by paying attention to the present moment with curiosity and don’t be judgmental. Be aware and experience the moment as it really is. Hi let me introduce myself, I’m Mavis and I’m here to help you gain the confidence and wellbeing to live a healthier lifestyle. So let’s get started. For more information visit “The Lounge” for healthy tips or contact me to schedule your holistic health assessment at: http://NspireHealthyLiving.com.
Mavis Kelley, CHHC, AADP is a Certified Integrative Nutrition Health and Wellness Life Coach specializing in nutrition, health, well-being, fitness and lifestyle design. For more information or to schedule a holistic health assessment, please contact her at: Mavis@nspirehealthyliving.net or visit her website at: http://NspireHealthyLiving.com.