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  • Writer's pictureEli

False anxiety with very real effects

Updated: Aug 31, 2023

How to reduce the unnecessary and preventable feeling of anxiety
"Anxieta" - trouble in mind about some uncertain event "Anxo" - to squeeze, to strangle or to press tight

Anxiety loudly alerts us that something is out of balance!

In our bodies - biochemistry, in our mind - ways of thinking and in our life - relationships, job-related worries, or a general sense of existential (lack of) meaning!
Silent epidemic of anxiety is on the rise! 19% of people experience some form of diagnosable anxiety disorder, and it is estimated that one in three people will experience anxiety at some point in their life.
Nervousness, tension, unease or constant worry, restlessness, irritability, trouble concentrating, mood swings, fatigue, gastrointestinal problems, and sleep issues. But the real epidemic of anxiety is reflected in 70% of us who feel overwhelmed by the negative effect of life-related stress. A lot of the time, anxiety is not caused by psychological problems!
Our modern lifestyle adds unnecessary and preventable sources of stress that might lead to anxiety.This form of anxiety, aka “false” anxiety, is entirely avoidable!

The source of false anxiety is our body, not our mind!

When we upset our body's natural balance through an unhealthy diet, disrupted sleep, or a busy lifestyle, our body tries to restore that balance by activating our immune system. This mobilization triggers the stress response - activating particular circuits, hormones, and chemical messengers in the brain – neurotransmitters – leaving us anxious. Since our brain is a meaning-making machine, it must find an explanation to justify a stress response in our body. Therefore, many unpleasant feelings and scary thoughts that we refer to as anxiety are just the brain's interpretation of a stress response.

By changing our lifestyle, we can reduce false anxiety - including stress response and gut-related systemic inflammation and be able to focus on deeper anxiety, if there is any left.

  1. Nutrition and supplementation a). Reduce drug-like food b). Reduce alcohol c). Micronutrient deficiency

  2. Behaviour a). Sleep b). Physical activity c). Meditation d). Breathing e). Cold exposure

 

Nutrition and supplementation

Lack of healthy balance between helpful and harmful bacteria in our gut is one of the strongest reasons for the epidemic of false anxiety. The gut microbiome is home to trillions of microorganisms, including bacteria, fungi, and viruses, which produce hormones and communicate with the central nervous system through the gut-brain axis, which plays a critical role in digestion, nutrient absorption, immune system function, and mood regulation. Food is not just a source of energy - it is a chemical message triggering the process inside of our body.
For nerds: Microbiome & Anxiety
Navigating the world of healthy nutrition can be overwhelming. However, experts agreed on some rules to follow that that will keep false anxiety at bay.
  • Reduce drug-like food: Sugar & Processed Food

Most people suffering from false anxiety are “addicted” to drug-like food: sugar or processed food.
Sugar
It is highly excitatory to our brain, and it creates a sugar rollercoaster. Eating a lot of sugar can provoke anxiety due to fluctuations in blood glucose levels. By choosing a diet that keeps the sugar level relatively stable, we can avoid the drop in glucose and the domino effect of hormones that make us irritable, stressed, and anxious.
For nerds: Sugar rollercoaster
Processed food:
It is designed to exploit the reward circuitry in our brain, literally making us want it more.
Additionally, they are often high in sugar, salt, and unhealthy fats, which can promote the growth of harmful bacteria in the gut.
  • Alcohol Reflect, Reconsider, and Reduce

Many of us have been led to believe that alcohol can help us deal with anxiety, cope with difficult situations or provide an escape from reality.
We may believe that we need alcohol to help us relax, but in reality, it only exacerbates our anxiety, leaving us trapped and unable to break free from the cycle. The truth is alcohol impacts GABA – the neurotransmitter that promotes a sense of calmness, worsening the situation in the long run. Although alcohol has inhibitory properties – it acts on GABA receptors making us feel easygoing and relaxed; our body was not designed to make us feel relaxed but survive. When we “calm ourselves” with alcohol, we must be aware that our body starts bringing homeostasis back by reabsorbing GABA and transferring it into a chemical messenger – glutamate that has the opposite function. It makes us feel more anxious.
  • Overfed yet malnourished

Despite having access to healthy and nutritious food, our modern lifestyle often leads to being overfed but malnourished.
Consuming foods high in specific micronutrients like tryptophan, vitamins D, B3, B6, and B12, folic acid, phenylalanine, tyrosine, fatty acids,and many othersare critical to promoting good mental health and reducing anxiety. Additionally, herbs and substances obtained from plants can calm the body and the mind. Yet, their complex action mechanism might not be suitable or safe for everybody and requires nutritional advisory. Moreover, by making several minor adjustments to your diet, you can significantly support a healthy gut. Like eating more fermented, fiber-rich food, a diet rich in whole, nutrient-dense foods, and anti-inflammatory spices (e.g., turmeric). And avoiding highly processed food (count chemicals rather than calories), man-made fats, artificial sweeteners, added sugar, refined carbohydrates, and anything with colouring or preservatives. The impact of food on our physical and mental health cannot be overstated. However, it's not just about what we eat, but also how we eat.
By working with a qualified nutritionist, you can receive personalized guidance to make sure that your diet doesn't negatively affect your mood, causing feelings of anxiety or depression
 

Behavioural change

Sleep

Sleeping long does not mean that you get enough quality sleep! Several important factors are needed to optimize the benefits of sleep, boost our cognitive function, strengthen our immune system, increase energy, and regulate our mood. During deep sleep, the brain processes and consolidates memories, including emotional experiences from the day. When we do not get enough deep sleep, our brain does not have enough time to integrate and make sense of these experiences. Additionally, low quality of sleep leads to increased stress hormone levels and decreased neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine that regulate mood. This can result in feelings of irritability, anxiety, and depression. Eating too close to bedtime, like having a small snack or some liquid calories - finishing a glass of wine while watching a movie at 22h00, increases the body's metabolism and core body temperature, making it harder to fall asleep and decreasing the amount of time spent in deep sleep. Additionally, drinking alcohol disrupts sleep patterns, even when consumed a few hours before bed. Alcohol, even a small dose, will impact REM sleep, a critical stage of sleep for emotional regulation, memory consolidation, and cognitive function. Disruptions to REM sleep are co-responsible for false anxiety, depressive mood, confusion, lack of concentration, and overall well-being.
A healthy sleep routine can promote better physical and mental health and reduce stress.

Offsetting stress with Meditation and Non-Sleep-Deep-Rest Practice A specific form of meditation or non-sleep-deep rest, like Yoga Nidra or self-hypnosis, positively impacts the hormones and neurotransmitters, like a decrease in cortisol and an increase in serotonin, GABA, endorphin, and dopamine. It leads to a decreased level of anxiety and promotes a feeling of well-being. Not all meditation practice is helpful. If you're trying to manage anxiety, it's likely that you're already highly conscious of your inner states, including your thoughts and physical sensations such as an elevated heart rate or accelerated breathing due to stress. To reduce anxiety, it's not recommended to practice interoceptive meditation, which involves focusing on your breath and internal sensations, as it may intensify your awareness of bodily symptoms and increase anxiety. Instead, opt for exteroceptive meditation, such as contemplating nature or external sounds, ideally with open eyes. This can help shift your attention away from your internal experience, calming you down and helping you feel more relaxed. Breathing techniques When we experience anxiety, it can cause us to feel tense and breathe shallowly, resulting in lower oxygen and higher CO2 levels in our blood. As the level of CO2 in the blood rises, it can cause us to breathe more rapidly, which can further increase the amount of CO2 in the blood, creating a vicious cycle. However, we can indirectly impact our parasympathetic nervous system through targeted breathing techniques, which can help us feel more relaxed.
Cold exposure – Cold showers
By deliberately exposing ourselves to stressful situations, we can learn to manage and overcome them more effectively in the future. Through regular exposure to cold showers and learning to stay calm during them, we can develop resilience and stress tolerance, which can help us better cope with stress and anxiety in our daily lives. Various techniques in science can help us reduce and control the anxiety we experience daily. If we invest our time and energy in comprehending how to modify our lifestyle to promote our physical health and alleviate anxiety, it can be a highly beneficial investment. Moreover, managing our thoughts and practicing mindfulness can have a life-changing impact and bring us peace of mind while promoting healthy habits and enhancing our overall well-being.

The source of real anxiety is our mind.

Meanwhile, real anxiety is a mental health condition influenced by genetic, environmental, behavioural, and personality factors. We experience anxiety on a spectrum, and it's normal to feel anxious at times as occasional anxiety is part of the emotional repertoire; it increases awareness and enables us to address any challenge.
As anxiety is an important survival mechanism, it is not a bug but a beneficial feature. By understanding and working with our anxiety, we can learn to manage it in a way that enables us to navigate daily life more effectively.
The old-fashioned belief that therapy is only necessary for those with severe mental health problems is finally fading away. Instead, more and more people are turning to professional guidance to improve their thought processes and behaviours. Therapy is becoming the new norm. By teaming up with a counsellor or psychologist, you can get valuable insights into understanding of yourself that can seriously boost the quality of your life.
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