Written by BY SARAH VICKERS, REGISTERED NURSE & CERTIFIED INTEGRATIVE NUTRITION HEALTH COACH
Anxiety. We have all heard of it, and many of us have experienced this emotion, but what exactly is it?
Anxiety can be a fear of the future or past. It’s a form of stress - there are two forms of stress that we experience physiologically - Eustress or Distress.
- Eustress is a beneficial form of stress - you are alert, focused and ready to achieve things.
- Distress isn’t as beneficial - it’s the same chemical reaction being produced, but we feel a sense of overwhelm, racing thoughts and on edge.
Let's look into distress a little more and understand what this looks like and how we can support your system.
Have you ever noticed an unusual feeling in your tummy, a racing heart, shortness of breath or a feeling of unease? These are all symptoms people may experience on occasion or day to day.
The connection between the thoughts that we think and the emotions we feel, directly affect our physiological body. Have you ever experienced loose stools or feeling nervous before a big event? This happens directly from the response of your enteric nervous system - the connection between the brain and your gut. This is a clear indication that what we think, we become!
Why are we feeling so stressed and anxious?
These days we live a very fast paced life, we have the internet and smartphones literally at our fingertips. This enables us to have access to everything all the time. The news, social media, events, calendar, the list goes on. We are constantly switched on, and we feel the need to respond or act instantaneously. This state leaves you living in what is called your autonomic nervous system, the fight and flight state. This state drives a constant release of stress hormones in your body. Constantly living in this state is directly impacting your nervous system and leaving you feeling anxious.
We are anxious because of our preconceived ideas of our future. When things don’t go to plan or our ideas don’t come to fruition this causes our bodies to feel stressed. This releases the stress hormone called cortisol - cortisol is a catabolic enzyme, meaning it literally breaks down the mucolytic tissue in your gut causing degradation of the gut wall. When this occurs, it leaves space for inflammation to occur. People can experience food sensitivities, irritable bowel symptoms, mood issues and generalised lethargy.
How do we minimise this?
The best way to minimise anxious feelings is by reducing your stressors as much as possible. This may look like planning time off social media and your phone, taking time out for yourself and getting out into nature to switch off and allow a state of rest.
Regular eating times can also be an amazing support for your nervous system. In doing this, you are controlling blood sugar levels. A drop in blood sugars (not eating regularly) may cause hypoglycemia, this drop then stimulates cortisol (stress hormone) to be released in order to activate the body into a stress mode. The result… release of more sugar than what the body needs. This leaves you flooded with stress hormones, thus driving a breakdown in your gut causing issues mentioned above. Ideally you would aim to eat 3 meals a day, with each meal consisting of a protein (roughly 30g), carbs, fats and LOTS of greens. I also suggest trying to limit snacking during the day, if you need a snack Mitchells Bone Broth Powder is a great alternative - it's soothing for the gut and packed with amino acids that support healing of the gut wall.
Things you can practice to support your nervous system:
- Breathwork - Deep belly breathing is the ONLY way you can communicate to your nervous system that you are not stressed and the body can relax and drop into the parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest).
- Grounding - Getting outside and being on the earth connecting with nature. There is an energetic field that keeps you grounded. How magic is that?!
- Meditation - Commiting to 10 minutes a day to a daily meditation practice can be life changing and helps take the awareness away from the mind and back into your body.
- Probiotic Foods - Kombucha, kimchi, sauerkraut - these can be super helpful to feed your gut beneficial bugs - these also help with production of neurotransmitters (feel good hormones).
- Bone Broth - To support the healing of the gut wall, amino acids are the building blocks of your mucolytic barrier. Find Mitchells Bone Broth here.
- Protein - It's such an important macronutrient required for cell repair, healing and growth - it’s also fantastic at helping one feel grounded. Mitchells Bone Broth Protein Powder is such a great way to use this everyday to support your protein intake.
- Limit stimulants - Coffee is the most common stimulant used to give us energy, but can drive an unnecessary rise in stress hormones for someone that is already wired.
Overall, the most important thing you can do to support your body and mind when those feelings of unease or anxiety arise is to slow down. Commit to a breathing or meditation practice, get out into nature, and if you can, talk to others for extra support.
Written by Sarah Vickers, Registered Nurse & Certified Integrative Nutrition Health Coach