I’m sharing another guest post today, I swear, I’ll write something original soon 😉 Marissa is someone who came to me and wanted to share about reducing anxiety using healthy snacks. As someone that has mild to moderate anxiety, I was happy to see that most of the foods I’m snacking on are on here. Additionally, there are helpful suggestions on stress-reducing activities, which again I’m doing on a fairly consistent basis. Hopefully, you find it as helpful as I did.
Let’s face it, we all stress out now and then. Life’s daily demands can sometimes be overwhelming, ratcheting up our anxiety levels. Worries about finances, parenting, work-related issues and family strife can leave us feeling burdened and anxious. A whopping 40 million of us here in the U.S. struggle with an anxiety disorder, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. That’s a whole lot of worrying going on.
When treating anxiety disorders, medications are typically the first line of treatment. But for mild to moderate anxiety, why not take a more holistic approach to quelling those nerves, starting with smart food choices? Increasingly, studies and clinical trials are pointing to the direct relationship between nutrition and mental health.
Regarding diet and anxiety, Drew Ramsey, M.D. posted a commentary about this important connection on Medscape.com, citing several studies on the topic. In a cross-sectional study in 2015 out of the College of William and Mary, it was found that eating fermented foods, such as the probiotics found in yogurt and dark chocolate, reduced symptoms of social anxiety. Another study in 2011 out of Ohio State University demonstrated the positive impact of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids on reducing anxiety symptoms.
How Nutrition Influences Mood
To maximize the positive effects of nutrition for controlling mild to moderate anxiety, it is important to limit the stress causing foods in the diet. By avoiding stress-inducing foods, such as excessive caffeine, alcoholic beverages, refined sugar, fried foods, and processed foods, and eating more anxiety reducing foods, the effect on anxiety levels will be significant.
So stock your kitchen and load up your workplace fridge with these tried and true anxiety-reducing snacks:
- Avocados. It has been found that symptoms of anxiety coincide with a vitamin B deficiency. Avocado is a rich source of stress-reducing B vitamins, monounsaturated fat, and potassium, all which help lower blood pressure and reduce anxiety.
- Turkey and true whole grain bread sandwich. Here you get the dual impact of the tryptophan in both the turkey and the whole grain bread—renowned for inducing relaxation—and the magnesium in the bread as well. Both have a positive impact on stress.
- Berries, such as blueberries and acai berries. These powerful superfoods pack a variety of antioxidants, phytonutrients, and vitamins to cause a calming effect and relieve stress. Pop these in your mouth for a nutritious and delicious mid-day snack.
- Oranges. Packed with tons of vitamin C, oranges can reduce blood pressure as well as lower cortisol (the stress hormone) levels. Unsweetened fresh squeezed orange juice first thing in the morning can get you off to a steady start. Citrus fruits help reduce inflammation and prevent damage to cells that can promote anxiety.
- Yogurt or kefir. The evidence is mounting that the relationship between the gut and mental health is key. The healthy gut bacteria found in probiotics in plain Greek yogurt or kefir can help regulate blood pressure, reducing stress. They are also packed with magnesium, vitamins B6 and B12, and calcium, all helpful in fighting anxiety. Add blueberries for added stress reduction.
- Almonds and cashews. Rich in zinc, these nuts can help improve the immune system during times of stress. Almonds are rich in vitamin B as well, another anxiety reducer.
- Warm milk. When winding down in the evening, instead of reaching for an alcoholic beverage, grab a mug of warm milk instead. This soothing beverage is high in antioxidants, protein, calcium, and vitamins B1 and B12, helping to relax muscles and induce relaxation.
- Dark chocolate. Go ahead and enjoy pure dark chocolate knowing that it is a helpful aid to reducing anxiety. Chocolate helps reduce cortisol, and that in effect reduces anxiety symptoms. The resveratrol in chocolate, an immune system booster, can elevate mood as well.
- Tuna or other fatty fish. Omega 3 fish oil has powerful anxiety reducing properties. Found in fatty fish sources, such as salmon, albacore tuna, and sardines, Omega 3 can moderate cortisol and adrenaline when experiencing a stressful situation.
Combine the Anxiety-Reducing Nutrients With Stress-Reducing Activities
Just modifying one’s nutritional intake to align with the food choices above will go a long way toward easing anxiety symptoms. To further enhance those effects, there are several activities to add to the daily routine. These include:
- Just a 15-minute walk each day can have abundant stress-reducing properties. The cardiovascular effects of walking boost endorphins, which can help control cortisol levels.
- Mindfulness exercises. Worrying about things that happened already or are anticipated to happen can be anxiety provoking. Manage those emotions by practicing mindfulness, training your mind to stay in the present moment.
- Deep breathing exercises. Practicing deep breathing is an excellent stress management technique. Deep breathing produces a relaxation response almost immediately.
- Guided meditation. Sometimes just creating a vacation in your mind can have stress-reducing effects. Guided meditation focuses on mental imagery that fosters a sense of relaxation and wellbeing.
- When our thoughts become laden with worry and anxiety ramps up, it is helpful to get these thoughts and emotions out on paper through journaling. By journaling regularly, it allows one to transfer the obsessive thoughts onto paper for a more proactive and empowering result and reducing stress in the process.
- Yoga combines specific poses and purposeful breathing that culminates in a meditative and relaxed state of being. Practicing yoga can help reduce stress while lowering both blood pressure and heart rate.
Making these small tweaks in daily habits can have enormous benefits to not only your mental health but also to your physical health. Try these drug-free methods for reducing anxiety for a more centered and peaceful life.
Marissa Katrin Maldonado has been working in the behavioral healthcare industry for over 12 years. She is the founder of The Treatment Specialist, a national online resource and helpline for those seeking help for mental health conditions including rehab for depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, addiction, OCD, and most other mental illnesses. Dedicated to guiding individuals to the help they seek, Marissa believes that with the right support and guidance, those struggling will have the opportunity to turn their lives around and enjoy a healthy and happy life. She is a proud mother and wife and enjoys long distance running, traveling, and music.