Anxiety is a very real but often invisible mental health problem that affects a large number of people throughout their lives. Official estimates suggest that at least 18% of the population will experience some form of ongoing anxiety problem in their lives. In previous blog posts I have discussed physical ways in which we can combat anxiety but today I want to address dietary issues that can make it worse. When a person is already suffering with an anxiety disorder, it is incredibly important not to add to this problem. There are several dietary triggers that are easy to avoid and in doing so you can potentially promote a greater sense of calm and control.
Sugar is a big one when it comes to our mood. Consuming even small amounts of refined sugar can wreak havoc with our energy levels and state of mind. This is because it causes a rapid boost in blood sugar which is then inevitably followed by a crash. When this crash occurs we can experience fatigue, irritation and anxiety. Avoiding sugar altogether and eating foods which regulate our blood sugar, as opposed to spiking it, will help us avoid this problem.
Caffeine is known to be a trigger for people with anxiety. Drinking too much coffee can have powerful stimulant effects and for many people it does become a sort of addiction. When you drink coffee you become more alert and this can lead us to overthink certain situations. Even if you do not recognise this as a trigger for your anxiety, try avoiding it for a couple of days and monitor your mood during this time. You may find that you are calmer and more relaxed throughout the day.
As well as avoiding sugar and coffee you should certainly check if you are getting enough sleep. People who have an anxiety issue can often find it more difficult to get to sleep but then this lack of sleep can cause the anxiety to intensify. This vicious cycle of sleep deprivation can be incredibly damaging to your mental health and it is important to try and get 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep each night. Yoga and meditation late in the evening are both positive ways to promote relaxation and encourage sleep. Try 30 minutes of either practice before bed and see if this makes a difference to your sleep pattern. You might also find that without sugar and caffeine sleep comes more easily to you!
If you eradicate sugar and caffeine from your diet but still find that your energy is low and your mood is unstable, then it would be advisable to analyse the rest of your diet. Make sure you are eating a variety of wholesome, plant-based foods that will keep your blood sugar steady throughout the day. Also, make sure that you do not skip a meal and try to include some healthy snacks during the day. You will keep your metabolism stimulated as well as satisfying your stomach and mind!