Is it me or is there an anxiety bug going around? It seems like more and more people are experiencing it to some degree or another. And if anxiety isn’t enough of a bitch to deal with, its related symptoms are no picnic in the park either. I’m talking about insomnia, poor digestion, lack of focus at work … I could go on and on.
Personally, I have more stress in my life right now, working as an ER nurse practitioner and maintaining a health coaching/functional medicine practice at a Diabetes & Wellness Clinic. Between both gigs, I’m putting in anywhere from 70-100 hours a week.
When my friends ask me how I’m keeping my sh*t together, I tell them, “Who says I am, haha!”
Despite my life being super stressful right now, there are things that I do—and others that I should do—that help. And I’d like to share those with you right now…
Meditation/Prayer For Stress Relief And Anxiety
When I say “meditation” what comes to mind for you? Are you picturing New Age crystal-wearing hippies dancing around like it’s a Woodstock reunion? I get it, meditation sounds exotic and perhaps goes against your religion. But even Christianity.com approves of meditation. In fact, when I Googled, “Did Jesus meditate,” here’s what I found on the website:
“Meditation is the activity of calling to mind, and thinking over, and dwelling on, and applying to oneself, the various things that one knows about the works and ways and purposes and promises of God. It is an activity of holy thought, consciously performed in the presence of God, under the eye of God, by the help of God, as a means of communion with God. Its purpose is to clear one’s mental and spiritual vision of God….”
Ok, that doesn’t exactly answer the question about Jesus meditating. But the point is that mediation is a research-proven way to lower anxiety. There are dozens of studies (like this one) that suggest that meditation is a promising intervention for treating anxiety and mood problems.
The question then becomes, if you’ve never meditated before, well, how in the heck are you supposed to sit still and not drive yourself crazy trying not to think?
The answer: apps.
There’s tons of guided meditations on YouTube and apps like Calm or Insight Timer.
All you have to do is sit or lie down and follow along and just try to focus on your breath. In and out for a few seconds each. That’s it. Do this 5-10 minutes morning and night and your anxiety levels will go down.
Or, if you prefer praying over silent/guided meditation, pray your stress away.
I’m not going to lie to you but if I have a functional medicine client who has anxiety, I usually recommend a cocktail of supplements that calm the mind.
But I suppose if I had to pick one supplement to bring with me while stranded on a deserted island that would prevent me from talking nonsense to a volleyball (Wilson!) it would be…magnesium.
However, not just any magnesium supplement will do the trick.
For starters, most magnesium supplements have the potential to give you diarrhea (if taken in large amounts). But there’s one kind of magnesium that won’t give you the runs and crosses the blood-brain barrier. This means that it acts directly on the brain without having to go through your digestive system.
Research shows that in people with anxiety and depression, magnesium levels are lower than in those without mood disorders.
If you’re interested in learning more about this mineral that plays a critical role in nervous system function, get in touch with me here.
There are several forms of magnesium. Not every form of magnesium is the best for anxiety. And it goes without saying that not all supplements are created equal. So rather than waste your time and your money, let me help you form a supplement plan to conquer anxiety and stress.
In my practice, we don’t guess which supplements to take. Instead, we use comprehensive DNA testing to evaluate nutritional deficiencies. Spoiler alert: almost everybody is magnesium deficient!
Another anxiety relief strategy is taking L-theanine, which is the active ingredient in green tea. Green tea contains caffeine but the L-theanine counteracts the jitteriness. Coffee doesn’t contain L-theanine which is why it can make you feel jittery. Besides some varieties of edible mushrooms, it’s hard to come by L-theanine in the diet. And it’s hard to get enough L-theanine from drinking tea alone. That’s why it might be a good idea for you to take it in supplement form.
GABA is a chemical messenger in your brain (a neurotransmitter). The more GABA is activated in your brain, the calmer you feel. Because of processed foods and our hectic lifestyle, most of our neurotransmitter activity is on overdrive. Taking a GABA supplement can help calm the chatter that’s constantly in your head. Especially if you combine it with a meditation practice.
Omega 3 Fatty Acids
Studies show that the building blocks of healthy dietary fats called omega 3 fatty acids reduce anxiety. Researchers aren’t exactly sure why these fats, which are found in wild salmon and other cold water oily fish, help lower anxiousness. One theory is that omega 3’s are highly effective at reducing inflammation in the body.
With anxiety, inflammation is off the charts. This includes inflammation in the brain. I don’t mean to scare you by saying that. But if your anxiety is chronic and not dealt with, it could have neurotoxic effects.
Unless you can’t stomach the taste of fish, try to eat wild salmon 3-4 times a week. Sardines and mackerel are great choices, too. I know you probably don’t like to eat those so you can also take an omega-3 supplement. Again, I can help you decide which is the best supplement for your specific biochemistry.
Some studies suggest that a higher intake of B Vitamins is associated with a lower rate of anxiety and depression. Researchers believe B vitamins help regulate dopamine and serotonin, the feel-good chemicals in your brain.
I realize that taking all these supplements can cost a small fortune. You may not have to take all of them. Only a diagnostic test will reveal if you have deficiencies. And the first step to lowering anxiety and charting the best course of supplementation for you is to…
Give me a call.
Through the diabetes & wellness center I work with, financing is now an option!
Now there’s no excuse.
Start living your best life again soon!
Until next time,
Jenna Witt, NP