I was fortunate to be equipped with knowledge from my psychology degree and the various self-help books I have read. In addition to this knowledge I also had an upbringing which supported self-reflection and meditation. Therefore, despite the trauma I experienced I felt like I eventually learned and acquired the tools to bring myself up out of depression and anxiety. Even then I still needed help from others. This really proves that we may need all the information and support we can gather in order to overcome mental illness. I couldn’t help but wonder how would I have coped without the people in my life that came at the right moments, who offered the guidance and emotional support I needed. I am aware that others may not be as lucky as I was to have a smooth transition to recovery. Therefore I wanted to do something about this, hence why I published these blogs in the first place. My goal is now to raise the global standard of mental health awareness, self-help knowledge and facilitate self-awareness.
Hence, as far as generalised anxiety disorder is concerned, I believe that there are numerous ways to treat yourself that are not well known to many yet. For example, studies have shown that natural herbs have therapeutic effects rivaling that of anti-depressants for anxiety. For instance, chamomile is a known plant extract which has been attributed to reducing the symptoms of anxiety. Chamomile tea is the most common way of ingesting this substance. You can also buy pure chamomile extract from your nearest healthy eating retailer (e.g. Holland & Barrett) if you want a stronger effect. This herb is one out of a dozen of other options, which just shows that you don’t need to invest all your money on medicines. Here is a short list of some of these other options:
- Curcurmin (turmeric)
- Manasamitra Vataka (Ancient Ayurvedic herbal remedy formula)
Other studies suggest that a high glycemic diet can heighten the severity of anxiety symptoms. See figure 1 below for a list of foods with a high glycemic index.
Of course you wouldn’t need to completely stop eating all of these foods, I would say just minimising your intake should do the trick, and generally having a balanced diet where you aren’t consuming too much refined sugar. For example, I myself took the challenge to stop drinking coffee and also coca cola, so instead I would drink more water. The result of this was that I felt less stressed and had a sharper focus throughout the day. I would always recommend starting small in trying to cut out certain foods in your diet, as this is a difficult lifestyle-change to adjust to. You also need to give your body time to adjust since your body may become reliant on this initially.
You may wonder how does a change in diet reduce symptoms of anxiety if this mental illness is more concerned with your mind and your thoughts? Well upon reviewing a lot of articles and books related to nutrition, biology and the nervous system it is clear that there is a direct effect on the food you eat and your mood. The reason for this is due to the fact that your nervous system is not limited to just your brain, there is a substantial amount of neurons wrapped around your organs in your “gut” area. If the stomach is not kept in a healthy condition, it may be liable to getting stomach bacteria, and hence you will also start feeling in a low mood.
Healthy diets are a good alternative to medication, but alone this will only alleviate the symptoms but may not address the root cause of your anxiety. In my opinion, we also need to challenge the negative over-thinking habits and the “fear of the unknown” mindset.
In my experience a routine that incorporated tai chi, meditation, going to gym, playing the violin and making time for fun with friends or family is what helped me to ease my anxiety and increased my sense of peace. This routine as you can notice incorporated a lot of creative activities within it (e.g. violin playing). In my blog post “break boundaries with the power of creativity and music” I did emphasise the fact that engaging in creative activities are beneficial for the mind, so please check this out for more information. Nevertheless looking at all of these activities as a whole, they all helped me to become present with the body, so that I was able to shift from dwelling so much on my worries into actively engaging with the sensations and feelings that arised from the present moment.
Should you ever find yourself experiencing difficulty switching off your mind, you may need to consider the following:
- Is your lifestyle organised?– It is quite common for people who have many things to do, to not record these things in a calendar or journal. This simple habit alone can remove the mental strain of having to remember all of this and constantly think about it.
- Are you overworked? – Often we tend to take too much work on without thinking about how it can effect our mental health. Do yourself a favour and be realistic with your goals, have at least one day in the week for doing nothing. Holidays are an option, however this will only provide a temporary sense of relief from stress.
- Are you a perfectionist? – Often when we hold high expectations for ourselves we can never allow ourselves time to be grateful or be happy for who we are right now. We spend a lot of our time thinking about our flaws and thinking about how we can be better. This whole thinking process can also create stress.
- Do you compare yourself to others? – The process of constantly monitoring what other people do and attempting to beat it or replicate it, is in itself stressful. Keep life simple and only seek to compete with your former self, if you want to continue to evolve in your own stride. You have your own timezone and your own unique set of gifts. So see life as a process of discovery, it doesn’t always have to be you against everyone else.
The answers for all the questions above are found when you engage in the practice of self-love. When you make your health and happiness a priority then you will find that your anxiety will lessen. In addition, you will be freeing yourself from the burdens of the mind and as a consequence you will be free to act based on your authentic desires and become more realistic with yourself and productive. For more information about self-love please check out my previous blogs titled: “self-compassion as an alternate motivator” and “self-compassion and self-love revisited”.
The more your lifestyle is focused on doing the things you love and enjoy, the less time you will spend in a state of worry or panic about the future. After all, when was the last time you experienced so much joy that you couldn’t care less about the stresses of tomorrow? If you haven’t experienced this amount of joy before, then do not despair. Simply, take the opportunity to do the self inquiry and evaluate how much of your routine is spent in fear and hesitation rather than pursuing fulfillment. Then after you have highlighted certain parts of your routine that don’t ignite joy in you then discard these activities. You may have certain responsibilities that you need to keep and this is a natural part of life. However, ultimately there is nothing you “should” do; only what you choose to do.
If you ever need help transitioning into this new open mindset, then feel free to seek help from close friends and relatives and even seek advice from a counsellor. As always you are never alone in any of this. Mental health professionals generally will be supportive towards facilitating your growth and recovery from anxiety. From utilising all this self-help information you can go into a therapy session with more ammo and more determination, so that they can more easily guide you to recovery.
All in all, I wish your journey to recovery will be met with ease.
Monique Aucoin, Sukriti Bhardwaj. Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Hypoglycemia Symptoms Improved with Diet Modification. Case Rep Psychiatry. 2016 ;2016:7165425. Epub 2016 Jul 14.
Tubaki BR, Chandrashekar CR, Sudhakar D, Prabha TN, Lavekar GS, Kutty BM. Clinical efficacy of Manasamitra Vataka (an Ayurveda medication) on generalized anxiety disorder with comorbid generalized social phobia: a randomized controlled study. J Altern Complement Med. 2012 Jun;18(6):612-21. doi:10.1089/acm.2010.0778.
Jay D Amsterdam, Yimei Li, Irene Soeller, Kenneth Rockwell, Jun James Mao, Justine Shults. A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of oral Matricaria recutita (chamomile) extract therapy for generalized anxiety disorder. J Clin Psychopharmacol. 2009 Aug;29(4):378-82.