Anxiety is one of the most common mental health issues in our society today. An estimated 40 million adults in the United States suffer from this potentially debilitating condition. Anxiety may be a normal and natural reaction to stress and allows us to deal with difficult situations. However, when we experience anxiety when there’s no real threat, it may be classified as a disorder, causing unnecessary stress and emotional pain. Anxiety almost always involves a sense of fear, dread, or apprehension.
Possible Causes of Anxiety:
Common factors that may trigger anxiety can be nutritional, psychological, physical, emotional, environmental, and/or spiritual in nature. In addition, genetic tendencies and brain disease may contribute to this mental disorder. While it is typically believed that there is a biochemical cause, specifically brain chemicals called neurotransmitters being out of balance, it is not clear if the level of the neurotransmitters is the cause or the symptom.
Our Body’s Initial Reactions to Anxiety:
- Voice becomes squeaky – this occurs because fluids are diverted to more essential parts of the body, causing spasms in the throat muscles. Thus resulting in tightness, making it difficult to swallow.
- Skin – breaking out in a cold, clammy sweat, and flushed cheeks are due to a change in blood flow.
- Muscle tension – the body tightens up and creates strain on large muscle groups.
- Liver involvement – the liver produces more glucose in response to higher cortisol (stress hormone) production, engaging your “fight or flight” reaction. This can become an issue particularly for those already suffering from blood sugar regulation problems, like diabetes.
Our Body’s Reactions to Chronic Anxiety:
- Heart – increases risk for cardiovascular problems due to constant increased heart rate, elevated blood pressure, and overexposure to cortisol (resulting in hypertension, arrhythmias, heart attack and stroke).
- Lungs – some studies have shown that there may be a connection between anxiety disorders and asthma.
- Brain – chronic stress and anxiety can affect areas of the brain that influence long-term memory, short-term memory and chemical production, which can result in an imbalance.
- Immune system – elevated cortisol levels cause suppression of the immune system. This is why you’re more susceptible to colds, infections, and inflammation when stressed.
- Stomach – food digestion is adversely impacted when you’re stressed. This may lead to malabsorption of nutrients causing reflux, bloating, diarrhea, and even loss of bowel control.
- Metabolism – long-term stress and anxiety can alter the body’s metabolism, leading to weight gain and obesity. It also can reduce insulin sensitivity and cause ulcers.
Suggestions to Reduce Anxiety:
- Diet – avoid sugars, refined grains, and other processed foods; improve food quality; construct meals and snacks properly (include adequate amounts of high-quality protein and fats).
- Balance gut flora – it has been shown that balanced gut flora can be helpful with many disorders and disease states, including anxiety. It is suggested to consume fermented foods on a regular basis or take a high-quality probiotic supplement each day.
- Take omega-3 fatty acids – such as fish or krill oil ,which play an important role in brain function and your emotional well-being.
- Practice diaphragmatic breathing – slow exhalation helps the body to relax.
- Exercise – many experts strongly believe exercise is a primary form of treatment for anxiety and other mood disorders. Exercise creates new neurons (including those that release GABA, a calming neurotransmitter) and boosts levels of potent brain chemicals like serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine, which may help alleviate effects of stress.
- Get adequate amounts of restful sleep – scientists have found that a lack of sleep may play a key role in activating brain regions that contribute to excessive worrying.
- Meditate – mindfulness meditation can help ease psychological stresses like anxiety, depression, and pain.
- Practice gratitude daily – it has been scientifically proven that the regular practice of gratitude can dramatically change your body’s chemistry giving way to a more peaceful body and mind.
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