A toolkit for anxiety

Written for Diskreet by our wonderful contributor Mel San Juan

It has been one hell of a day. From the moment you woke up, through to right now; it has been a battlefield to simply carry out your day as business per usual.

Let us take a moment to reflect on the feet that the day had brought us. When you are supremely stressed or anxious, your body enters survival mode. Which biologically, should only be done in a life or death situation; not at work, because of an argument or in a social situation.

When your body enters survival mode, adrenaline and cortisol is released which affects your lungs, heart, circulation and metabolism. While the adrenaline triggers an emotional response to what your body perceives to be a life-threatening situation (i.e. being chased by a tiger), the front part of your brain which concerns short-term memory, concentration and rational thought is compressed.

On top of this, your immune system and metabolism take an ass whooping, while your blood flow can increase by 400%.

So right now, you’re probably exhausted. Close your eyes. Take some deep breaths. In through your nose and out through your mouth.

Take 15 minutes now to reflect and wind down. Today was rough, your body went through responding to your day to day activities as if it were a life-threatening situation and your mind and emotions were no less put to the test.

Right now, the day is over. Everything that you were worried and scared about are no longer affecting you. Thich Nhat Hanh, in his book ‘No Mud, No Lotus’, teaches a Buddhist breathing practice that might help you in this moment. Take a deep breath in through your nose and as you do this say to yourself ‘breathing in, I calm my body’. As you breathe out through your mouth say ‘breathing out, I calm my body’. These breaths are slow and deep. Here, your mind is solely focused on your in and out breath, nothing else. No deadlines, pressures or anything external. In this moment you are completely safe, bringing your mind and body back down after one heck of a day.

If you’re a person who likes meditation or is willing to give it a try I suggest typing “guided meditation for anxiety” into the search bar of YouTube. You’ll find an abundance of great guided meditations, where a speaker will help you to calm your mind, which is also great for people who are new or have never tried meditation before.

Now let’s talk about a game plan for the next couple of days, just like any great hangover, after you’ve had a day where your anxiety has almost rendered you inoperable. It is very important you take measures to help your body and mind recover to avoid getting sick and burnt out.

It is likely that you might feel a bit down, sad and tired over the next couple of days. This is your body doing the behind the scenes work to recover from what it thinks was a near death experience. Load up on water and by water, I mean water. No soft drinks, cordial or sugary drinks.

Next, to all my fellow coffee drinkers out there. Don’t do it. I don’t mean forever, just for the next couple of days while you’re getting back on your feet. Caffeine is a stimulant which is known to encourage your body’s flight or fight response. If you’re a coffee addict like myself, here are a couple of ideas to try as a replacement:

• Chai Latte or as Ryan Reynolds once said, like Christmas in a Cup
• Decaffeinated coffee
• Green tea (really good for anxiety)

Next contributor to anxiety? ALCOHOL! That’s right ladies and gents. Alcohol and anxiety are best friends. Alcohol directly affects the nervous system, triggering those reactions you’ve been unable to control all day; including hypersensitivity, increased heart rate and dehydration.

Next is processed foods. In general, when you eat processed foods, you’re ingesting a whole lot of additives, preservatives, high levels of refined sugar and high level of refined salts along with gluten. Those four things are basically an anxiety cocktail. And I know what you’re thinking; when you feel like crap, you don’t want to cook or go anywhere fancy. But the thing is, you’re making yourself feel worse. Part of practicing self-compassion is nourishing your body with foods that help your mind, body and soul.

If you want to eat out tonight, find a restaurant or take away joint which also serves wholesome meals. If you’re up for cooking, I’ve put a list together for you of foods that are known to help with anxiety.

Wholegrains - that’s bread and pasta
These are rich in magnesium, tryptophan and are filling. When the body is lacking in magnesium, the effects of anxiety may be increased. Your tryptophan, after being processed in the body, releases serotonin in the brain.

Fish high in Omega Threes
The omega threes found in fish, like salmon, are known to decrease inflammation. In other words, the adrenaline and cortisol that has been pumping through your body today. It can assist in controlling these.

Rich in potassium and Vitamin B. Potassium is a known source to lower blood pressure in the body and Vitamin B is very good for brain health.

This is another one for the Vitamin B team, and additionally, it is high in sulfur. Depletion in sulfur can contribute to anxiety.

Rich in magnesium. Again, depletion in magnesium is attributed to anxiety.

These bad boys are high in zinc, which is known to help regulate your mood.
And finally, to wind down after a big day, here is a list of teas which are great for anxiety.

• Peppermint Tea
• Green Tea
• Rose Tea
• Lavender Tea

To conclude, today has been a big day on your body. You’re going to need more sleep then what you normally would have to allow your body to fully recover.

Never treat your anxiety with shame, denial or judgement. Things are a little bit out of whack at the moment and that’s OK. It will happen to everybody at some point in time. For you, it just happens to be happening right now. Remember that everything is temporary and although at times it seems like the feeling will never end, I promise you it will. Life and death, day and night, everything is temporary and this too shall pass.

I hope this post offered some interesting points and I’d love to hear your comments.

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