When combined, a series of lifestyle adjustments can prove to be very effective in alleviating anxiety and depression. Although medication is often the go to bandaid for anxiety and depression, it is not a long term solution and simply masks the message that is trying to be received. Don’t get me wrong, there will be many who will benefit from Meds and need to use them. But, for a lot of us they can be used as a bridge to a series of lifestyle adjustments and interventions.
Anxiety and depression are multidimensional. Many factors play a role in influencing their severity, pathology and frequency. Because they are multidimensional, they need to be looked at from several angles. When most angles are accounted for through lifestyle change, a cumulative benefit can be experienced.
Anxiety and depression can be addressed with biochemistry in mind.
What foods you eat vs the foods you don’t eat
Certain foods amplify anxiety and depression whilst others pacify it. Some of the big players in amplifying are:
- Refined Sugar
- Trans Fat
- Hydrogenated oils
Most nutrient dense whole foods help to pacify Anxiety and depression. Nutrients (B Vitamins, Vitamin C, Zinc, Magnesium + Amino acids mainly) are the building blocks for brain chemicals known as neurotransmitters. The more raw materials there are, the more quality neurotransmitters are available for the brain to communicate properly. Anxiety is felt when the brain has a communication breakdown. Balanced brain chemistry is a result of a nutrient rich diet:
- Fatty Fish + Omega – 3 oils – helps brain build receptors to accept neurotransmitters
- Quality meats – Chicken, beef…. for B12 + amino acids
- Grains – some people who are gluten and lectin sensitive may experience anxiety from eating grains – in this case look at Paleo/ketogenic eating.
- Leafy greens – abundant phytonutrients, magnesium + Vitamin C
- Legumes (for those tolerate them well)
- Coconut oil, grass fed butter, avocado, nuts + seeds. Saturated fats help build strong cell membranes for neural communication. Like the omega 3 DHA, they help to build receptor sites where NTM’s like serotonin bind. Saturated fat is not your enemy here.
- Probiotics for healthy gut flora. Healthy flora ensure that all the nutrients from our food are properly extracted and assimilated, and help synthesise neurotransmitters.
Depression and anxiety are pro inflammatory conditions – look to consume antioxidant rich, anti-inflammatory foods.
We all know how beneficial exercise is, but what about for anxiety and depression specifically? What type of exercise is best?
Bending yourself into a pretzel may not be everyones cup of tea but it certainly shows promise in providing a peaceful and calming wake to its practice. A lot of tension is held in the musculature of the body and has accumulated over – time. Releasing this tension can bring release to the body.
By releasing the body, the mind is also released. Much of the tension from the body has been passed on from the mind. When the body is allowed to release so is the mind.
by reducing cortisol – one of the bodies primary stress hormones and elevating serotonin levels, both long – term and short term. Serotonin is a big player in the anxiety and depression matrix. Low levels can expose us to anxiety and depression.
Aerobic & Anaerobic exercise
Simply running, sprinting or dropping for some press-ups can provide you with a hit of endorphins. As little as 10 minutes of exercise is enough to get your hit.
Endorphins make you feel good. Staying topped up with endorphins means that your resilience to stress will be greater and your brain chemistry conducive to a more calm and centred state of mind.
The sense of achievement and boosted self – esteem makes exercise a great method to deal with anxiety and lift your spirits. Look to exercise outdoors as immersion of oneself within nature is calming and connects you to the peace and harmony around you.
Deep, diaphragmatic breaths help to activate the branch of the autonomic nervous system which corresponds to rest and relaxation. Due to the nature of everyday life many people live under the activation of the sympathetic nervous system. This branch of the ANS causes the flight or fight response which signals DANGER.
Often our threats are psychological and we cannot outrun that which does not exist, so anxiety persists. Breathing deeply can help to bring you back to a calm centre.
Ensure sufficient human contact
Being socially isolated doesn’t just cause anxiety but affects your health at a cellular level. Humans are social beings who need connection to stay sane. Make sure you have regular human contact, tell people how you feel, express gratitude and enjoy every moment with friends and family. A sense of community is a powerful way to stay on top of anxiety and stay connected.
Cognitive behavioural therapy is an effective anxiety management tool. It reframes the way that anxiety affects you through examining your thoughts (cognitions).
An example of one tool is the school bus analogy. You have many voices going through your head day to day, doubting voices, adventurous voices, angry voices…… picture all these voices as people on a school bus. Your true voice is driving most of the time and you want to keep it that way, but sometimes an anxious voice can take the wheel and hijack the direction of the bus.
Stop here and remember which voice is meant to drive the bus – your authentic voice shines through, the driver is in control, not the punk kid who has stolen the wheel.
In order to really address anxiety and depression we need to get to the root of why we are experiencing them. What are they in relation to? What are the triggers? Is there something wired into your belief system which is causing them?
Sometimes a job, relationship or general lifestyle as a whole brings about anxiety and depression. Sometimes, something as simple as checking social media less and cutting down on news updates can be beneficial. It will be different for everyone – tune into Your anxiety and depression and listen to what it is telling you and in response to what.
The suggestions above are all ways of dealing with anxiety and depression, but what about moving past them? Many people say that in order to move past anxiety, it needs to be accepted. Instead of resisting it, we can accept it as part of who we are.
Moments of serious introspection can give insight on how to move past anxiety and the blues – Yoga, meditation and the use ofcan provide pure moments which point to a direction of how to move past your anxiety and banish the blues.
Everyone experiences anxiety and some sort of depression, some more than others but building resilience to anxiety through the steps above can give you strength. When you have strength, you can look at why it is happening, how you move past anxiety and accepting it as part of you. When we stop resisting and start accepting, things get a lot easier.