At the peak of my corporate career I honestly thought that being in a constant state of anxiety was what it takes to climb the ladder. I was seriously high strung and reactive to everything. Emails needed responses no matter what hour of the day. Loud noises made me jump. I always had to be doing something. I felt like I never had a moment to rest unless it involved sitting with a glass of wine in front of a Netflix show. I was wound up in my anxiety so much that seeing my husband sitting and “doing nothing” while I busily fixed dinner made me mad. How dare he just sit there when it’s clear there are things that need to be done (laundry, cleaning, walking the dog, cleaning the cat litter)!
Of course I kept my cool around most people most of the time but inside I was what my friends would call a “hot mess.”
The thing about anxiety is that it’s so hard to turn off. If you’re a dog owner, which I was at the time, you can relate. Dog’s don’t have tools to calm them down like meditation or journaling. They just keep going at their high anxiety state until they wear themselves out and take a nap. That’s how it can feel. Like a treadmill that won’t stop until everything stops. But I wasn’t really aware of this until I did finally “take a nap.”
Now, for me, jumping off the treadmill took years because I was half heartedly trying out things I had read but not putting in any full effort before abandoning it for something new I had read. This lack of focus really drew out my efforts to destress and put my anxiety down for a long nap.
I’ve divided the strategies into areas and you can tackle these in any order you feel drawn to do. I recommend keeping focused though on this process even if it means bookmarking this article so you can read it every week until you feel amazing again.
Now, this might get me in a bit of trouble but sometimes we need a little help while we’re adjusting diet and lifestyle habits. I’m talking about supplements. As always, talk with your doctor about any contraindications with your current medications.
These are supplements that I have found helpful for winding down in the evening without relying on a glass of wine. I recommend not taking these for more than 12 weeks as these aren’t a solution, they’re a tool.
Adrenal Support – Specifically a supplement that will help soothe or lower your cortisol levels in the evening is extremely helpful. Common ingredients in many of these supplements include Ashwagandha, Skullcap, Rhodiola, Reishi and Albizia and are usually called Adrenal Soothe by the manufacturer.
CBD – Gaining in popularity for use in treating anxiety, this can be a very helpful temporary supplement to help reduce anxiety .
Stop Eating/Drinking These
At least temporarily until you feel back to your normal relaxed self at which point consider having a cheat meal once or twice a week.
Alcohol – Alcohol can change serotonin and other neurotransmitter levels in the brain  & increase anxiety. I like to replace alcohol with sparkling water with lime, cucumber or berries. I also love to Seedslip Drinks  as an alternative to distilled spirits.
Caffeine – High levels of caffeine can increase anxiety and nervousness  and decrease serotonin in the brain. Want to still drink coffee? You can try the swiss water method decaf, organic coffee instead!
Deep Fried Foods – Once a vegetable oil is heated in a deep fryer it develops trans fats as it oxidizes in high heat for prolonged periods of time . Fried foods (high in trans fats) have been shown to decrease resilience to depression . Instead skip the fries and go for a side salad.
Fermented or Aged Foods – Foods that have been aged have a bacteria that breakdown food proteins into amines including histamines. For many with histamine sensitivities this can cause digestive issues, hormone imbalances, and negatively affect the nervous system. For those who are sensitive, these foods can trigger anxiety and insomnia. Instead, opt for fresh foods.
Added Sugar – The average American’s consumption of sugar has increased to 152 pounds  of sugar per year. That’s up from 2 pounds of sugar per year just 200 years ago. Sugar not only causes inflammation in the body, it’s been shown to increase anxiety levels  and mood disorders. If you’re craving something sweet, reach for whole fresh fruit and always look for foods that have no added sugar.
Start Eating More of These
Salmon – Omega 3s have been proven to boost your mood . They also help make your skin and hair shiny!
Mushrooms – This is one of the few foods that have vitamin D naturally. Vitamin D has anti-depressant qualities! Also consider getting some more sun by walking outside after lunch.
Dark Chocolate – Contains flavonoids which have been shown to raise endorphin levels . Don’t want the sugar? Try Lily’s brand dark chocolate bars.
Chicken – B6 vitamins are needed to convert tryptophan into serotonin, a neurotransmitter that plays a primary role in mood, learning, appetite and impulse control. Are you a vegetarian? Dark leafy greens also contain B6.
Brazil Nuts – These nuts are high in Selenium which is often deficient in the general population. Selenium is shown to help boost thyroid function  and improve mood. Eating just 3-4 Brazil nuts per day should meet your daily requirements.
Bok Choy – High in folic acid, this helps to keep your serotonin levels at an optimum level.
Dark Leafy Greens – Such as kale and spinach also contain B6 vitamins (see Chicken)! So if you’re vegetarian, eat plenty of these.
When you think of lifestyle changes you might be thinking of things that take a lot of time, like going to the gym for an hour three days a week, doing 30 minutes of meditation 7 days a week or signing up for a class to learn something new. But I’m all about bite size lifestyle changes that you can do in less than 10 minutes and sprinkle into your usual daily routine.
In my practice as a health coach, I ask my clients to add something into their day or week that feels good to them. A quick walk right after lunch, taking an epsom salt bath, or spending a couple minutes to put on a face mask. How does this help reduce anxiety? It forces you to stop for just a few minutes and focus on your needs and the present.
In my article 4 Ways to Increase Happiness – What Science Says, I share my favorite ways to boost happiness including gratitude. Gratitude is a positive emotional state where you recognize and appreciate what you have in your life. The wonderful thing is that the more you do this, the more you find things to appreciate. It’s like exercising a neurological muscle. To do this, take just a few minutes at the start of your day or end of your day to jot down 5 things that you’re grateful for.
Exercise increases endorphins, making you feel happier ! But this doesn’t have to mean spending 30 minutes a day jogging or an hour doing an online class. Take 5 minutes in the morning, while in your pajamas, to do some push ups, sit ups and squats – the next day some lunges, planks and jumping jacks. Really it doesn’t have to be hard! You can do squats while you’re waiting in line at the grocery store or at home while you’re waiting for water to boil. Do you have a small child like I do? Do some deadlifts while holding her! Think of this as a bit of fun instead of a chore.
Laughing lowers stress . I don’t mean the menacing laugh of a villain. I’m referring to laughing at something silly. Maybe it’s a stand up comedian act or a funny movie. I like to jump on a zoom call with a couple of my favorite gal pals (who I’ve known since college) and together we laugh at ourselves til we start crying and our cheeks hurt. Now this may take more than 5 minutes so if you’d like something shorter, search for “make me laugh” memes and add them to your social media to help make others laugh as well.
By adding in a some helpful supplements, adjusting diet, and making some simple lifestyle changes, you can jump off the anxiety treadmill. If doing everything at once sounds overwhelming to you (as I imagine it does), start by picking out one thing to take out of your diet, pick one thing to add into your diet and pick one lifestyle activity to add into your life. Do this consistently for one week. The following week, pick one more thing to add, subtract and start. Before the end of 2020, you should be feeling a whole lot better.