By Natasha Turner, ND
Whether you battle with it daily or it hits you only when your stress levels spill over the brim, anxiety is one of the worst feelings in the world. A constant, reoccurring feeling of fear, often undefined and its source unknown, can be frustrating to both the sufferer and surrounding family and friends. While there is no magic bullet for anxiety, there are many things you can do to take the edge off, naturally. During this time of stress with COVID-19 and perhaps a sense of isolation it’s important to take steps to ease your mind.
Workout at home: Starting an exercise plan will change your life. Exercise causes the release of phenylethylamine, a compound which has a natural antidepressant and anti-anxiety effect. In studies, the beneficial effect of exercise on mood (particularly the increase in levels of phenylethylamine) was found to last for at least 12 hours, so attempt some form of physical activity every second day, if not every day. IF your workouts are more than 48 hours apart they will not help your mood. Do not overdo cardiovascular exercise – it can further increase your stress hormone levels and be sure to incorporate weight training and yoga your program for maximum results. There are excellent workout programs online as well as yoga check out www.poweryoga.com. There are also lots of free online programs available due to the Covid-19 crisis – I found this great article with 24 apps/websites that are offering free programming during this time.
Revamp your diet and ditch the caffeine. Caffeine is stimulating to the brain and will increase feelings of anxiety. Green tea is the only caffeine-containing product that you should consume because it also contains L-theanine, which is calming. Avoid consuming products that contain added sugars and ensure you eat every three to four hours to stabilize blood sugar levels. Symptoms of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), which happens if you are skipping meals or eating high carb/sugar foods, can worsen or mimic the symptoms of anxiety.
Add in calming supplements. You can decrease your stress hormones (cortisol) with phosphatidylserine and herbs like ashwagandha or relora. Phosphatidylserine (PS) belongs to a special category of fat-soluble substances called phospholipids, which are essential components of cell membranes. According to various research PS may help preserve, or even prevent destruction to, brain cells related to the exposure of elevated levels of cortisol. PS may also help reduce the negative effects of cortisol on muscle tissues during exercise (physical stress) and periods of psychological stress. Ashwagandha and relora are two herbal products which are also useful to help reduce the release of cortisol as well as rebuild the adrenal glands from the negative effects of high anxiety. These are both found in Vitamin Cortisol. Select one of the above and use it for three months before judging its effectiveness.
Boost your feel-good hormone (serotonin) levels with 5-HTP. Low levels of serotonin have been linked to anxiety, depression, insomnia, memory loss, fibromyalgia and eating disorders like binging. Taking one of these supplements may help reduce your symptoms of anxiety and improve sleep, especially if it is disrupted by your anxiety. 5-HTP can be taken at 50 to 400 mg per day and is best taken with food.
Increase levels of the calming brain chemical GABA. GABA is a calming brain chemical which is great for inducing the relaxation response. Supplements of GABA can be taken directly at 500 to 1000 mg one to two times daily. Other compounds which increase GABA are Ashwagandha, valerian and the amino acid L-theanine (a component of green tea mentioned above).
Focus on sleep. The hours between 10 pm and 2 am is the time when your body is truly resting and recuperating. At 2 am your adrenal glands start working by increasing cortisol to prepare you for the next day. So, when your sleep matters – for stress recuperation go to bed before 10 pm.