Now, let’s be clear: we all experience moments when we are nervous. Yet, we would say the individual who has intense, debilitating nervousness is one who suffers with anxiety. Regardless the reason for being anxious, there are some common symptoms each person shares:
- Fear, uneasiness
- Not being able to stay calm, or fall asleep
- Cold, sweaty, numb, or tingling hands or feet
- Shortness of breath or hyperventilation
- Racing heartbeat, panic
- Dry mouth or nausea
In his book, Telling Yourself the Truth, the late Dr. William Backus tells the story of Suzie. One evening, Suzie broke some dishes she was stacking. Her mother becomes enraged and calls Suzie clumsy, careless and useless, and physically punishes the child. So, when the mother asks Suzie to stack the dishes the following night, Suzie becomes nervous and makes excuses to avoid doing the task. Suzie is anxious because stacking dishes is now associated with being yelled at and spanked.
Backus writes that like Suzie we are conditioned to feel anxiety because of our interpretation of life’s experiences. Backus states that anxiety leads to avoidance. When our beliefs fuel our emotions, we will do everything we can to avoid situations that cause negative feelings.
Anxiety can be summed up as our belief that what happened in the past will happen again. It has a way of convincing us that trying new things, or trying something we failed at previously, will have catastrophic results. What the anxious person doesn’t realize is, the harder they work at avoiding situations, the more anxious they become.
Unpleasant things happen and sometimes things don’t turn out well. But we have the power to control our thoughts about those encounters. The goal of anxiety is to convince us that future results will be as bad as they were in the past. To sort things out and be able to see the fallacy in this, it may be necessary to get professional help.
In addition to getting coaching or therapy, there are some things that can be done to reduce anxiety through diet changes and environment. While our thoughts play a huge part in nurturing nervousness, so does what we eat. One of the ways to manage anxiety through diet is what is known as the blood sugar balance strategy. This is accomplished by eating proteins and fats at every meal and by staying away from sugars and stimulants (caffeine) as much as possible. Balanced blood sugar eliminates the up and down moods we experience due to spikes and drops in our blood sugar. Foods that help maintain balanced blood sugar are:
- Complex carbs (sweet potatoes, brown rice, quinoa, lentils, plantains, etc)
- Eggs (contain lecithin and choline to assist nervous system functioning)
- Walnuts and Flaxseed (rich in Omega-3’s)
- Herbal tea (changes brain waves that indicate being in a restful state)
- Bone broth (promotes a healthy gut, leading to calmer emotions)
- Oysters (have zinc for both immune and nervous systems)
- Cobalamin (Vitamin B12)
- Green leafy vegetables (magnesium)
- Oat bran (tryptophan – serotonin and melatonin’s first cousin)
- Coconut oil and grass-fed ghee (fats to improve cognitive functioning)
Those on vegan and vegetarian diets may have to rely of high-quality supplements to get the calming nutrients they need, but it is possible.
Now, on to making some changes in our environment that will help maintain an atmosphere of calm. One way to do this is through aromatherapy. Specific to anxiety, there are certain essential oils that have a calming or anti-anxiety effect. While some overlap, please note that blending oils from the same category is recorded as being beneficial. Here are some oils you can add to your diffuser.
Calming: Lavender, Bergamot, Mandarin, Geranium, Ylang Ylang, Jasmine, Melissa, Neroli, Palmarosa, Patchouli, Petitgrain, Sandalwood
Anti-Anxiety: Lavender, Geranium, Roman Chamomile, Marjoram, Sandalwood, Valerian, Bergamot, Jasmine, Black Pepper, Tangerine, Orange, Melissa or Lemon Balm
Remember, you have more control over your emotions than you may think. Be mindful of the thoughts and memories that are connected to what you feel. Seek professional help if you need to, get a good night’s sleep, consume foods that are known to improve the nervous system, and diffuse essential oils that have a calming effect. Despite previous experiences, you can beat anxiety!
Backus, William (2000). Telling yourself the truth: Find your way out of depression, anxiety, ear, anger, and other common problems, by applying the principles of misbelief therapy. Bethany House Publishers, Minneapolis, MN.