Anxiety is an evolutionary response that helped us to avoid predators and other dangers in the wild. It is caused by the fight or flight response which itself is triggered by a range of troubling stimuli and stressors. However, while the stress response and anxiety is one that was once adaptive and helpful to us for our everyday survival, it is also one that is largely misplaced and unhelpful in today’s modern world. The reason for this is that we are no longer being chased by lions or leaping through trees where increased alertness and a god helping of fear helped, but are instead pursued by deadlines, bosses and relationship difficulties – any of which are made worse by an inability to focus or concentrate.
For some people the problem is worse than for others, and while a little anxiety on and off is something we all have to live with, for some of us the problem is great enough to prevent us functioning as regular members of society or from succeeding in our careers and love lives. At this point anxiety is something we need to address.
There are many factors that contribute to anxiety, from our general disposition, to our coping methods, to our particular hormonal cocktail in the brain. Here we are going to address one element that many people forget when addressing anxiety however – diet.
How Diet Affects Anxiety
There are many ways in which our diet can affect our anxiety levels. For instance any foods that include stimulants such as caffeine are something that need to be avoided. The reason for this is that stimulants increase our heart rate and trigger the ‘fight or flight’ response that we associate with stress through the release of adrenaline. Likewise our diet can affect our blood sugar levels, our cholesterol and our general health which can all contribute to mood. Here we will look at some great anti-anxiety foods which might help you to feel happier and more relaxed almost instantly.
Bananas are great for raising our mood and particularly bananas that are ripe and have black patches. The reason for this is that those black patches indicate concentrations of dopamine – dopamine being a happiness hormone that acts as a natural antidepressant. Furthermore bananas are a good source of carbs…
Complex carbs are sources of energy that the body breaks down slowly resulting in a steady stream of energy that keeps going and that doesn’t cause a slump. This is important as low blood sugar can cause many symptoms of both anxiety and depression. Complex carbs are carbs such as bread or pasta, while simple carbs are things like sugar and cake. You should avoid these simple carbs as they cause a sudden ‘sugar high’ as all the glucose is absorbed at once (because it’s already in a sugary form) and this then causes the mind to race before causing an insulin spike which uses up all the sugar and leaves us even more depleted than before. When it comes to blood sugar – slow and steady certainly wins the race.
Milk contains melatonin, melatonin being the chemical in the brain that signals when it’s time for sleep. This then helps to relax the body and mind and is perfect if anxiety is preventing you from dozing off.
Peaches contain a natural sedative which can help to reduce stress and anxiety and which can also help you to relax before bed.
Eating a lot of fiber can help to reduce cholesterol and blood pressure, which enables the blood to flow more easily through the body while maintaining a steady and gentle heart rate. Furthermore it can help to clear out other areas of the body, such as the intestinal tract, which can have positive effects on mood as well.
Red meat helps to increase our production of testosterone, which can help us to feel more confident and aggressive – a great counter to feelings of anxiety.
Vitamins and Minerals
You should also ensure to eat lots of vitamins and minerals which will improve your health and your mood in a variety of ways. Vitamins B6 for instance will help you to get more energy from your foods, while the mineral magnesium has been shown to be important for regulating the mood.