Panic and anxiety is too prevalent today. To guide and educate on the holistic approach to anxiety and panic attacks, I partnered with 2 other Holistic Nutritionists (and ones' a chef!) to give you a full morning of calming anxiety (March 4 we do it again in Kelowna) luncheon and workshop, and deep education on how to implement these tools into your life.
Truth be told, it is scary to navigate. But it can feel easier when you have help and friends to support you.
Tools to Relieve Anxiety/Panic Attacks
1. In, Out .... Breathe
You knew this one was coming! But it’s true, you’ve got to stop yourself and start breathing. If you do one thing, it’s this…....take a moment to breathe. It can be hard to focus on your breath when it feels hard to get a full breath, I know. Before I knew what panic attacks were, I would suddenly feel nauseated, my hands would tingle or go numb and there was a lump in my throat. Sometimes during attacks my chest would tighten. I thought I was dying…...for real. Experiencing something so unfamiliar was terrifying. Everyones' attacks are a little different but all steeped with the same underlying cause - nervous system overload. I soon learned that the moment I felt panic coming on, I should become very present and focus on my breath. This is something you learn to do in yoga or meditation classes, but you don't need to be in class to do it. Use it whenever you can remember to, even if you aren't having an attack but are just feeling stressed. Deep breath, hold, exhale. Then I repeat. Deep breathing changes things on a physiological level. When you get in tune with your breath, it can help bring you out of an attack, you'll notice yourself calming down and coming back to earth.
2. Support your brain health with steady blood sugar.
There are many things you can do to support your adrenals through diet. One big one is to have stable blood sugar levels. You can do this by eating more often and having little snacks through the day. If you do notice you go a long time in between meals, make sure you pay attention to your hunger levels and have ready snacks available so it isn't inconvenient when you get hungry in between meals. You need fats too - so eat a spoonful of coconut oil, coconut butter or a handful of raw nuts (that have been soaked) to keep your blood sugar level. Eat starchy vegetables instead of grains and glutinous foods like pasta and breads, my favourite is roasted sweet potatoes as a side (or main!) meal. Here's hundreds of sweet potato recipes to choose from or try my sweet potato oats for breakfast!
3. Minimize the white stuff - refined sugar.
When you minimize your sugar intake to fruits and starchy vegetables and eliminate excessive sugar in sodas, processed snacks, high-fructose corn syrup, refined sugars and sugar substitutes you make a statement to your body - that you really care. Refined sugar spikes our blood sugar and can spur on anxiety. My favourite way to eat special treats while taking care of my blood sugar is to have a whole foods cheezecake from my friend Connie. The real food movement tastes SO GOOD. Healthy fats and whole foods sugars (which means minerals and no huge blood sugar spike!) means I can eat it without worrying how my body can handle this or thinking this might mess up my day.
4. Avoid those peppy stimulants.
Stimulants? Who needs them when we are already over-stimulated. Avoiding known stimulants such as coffee and chocolate (I know, not fun, but I promise it will help!) is vital for lessening your anxiety. If you have a stimulant addiction (dependence on coffee or daily sweets) you have the option of working with a nutritionist to help you find the source of the issue. To curb your cravings you may simply need more food, more fats, or the support to turn off your mental dependence on these stimulants. Food itself isn't always addicting, it's our thoughts about the food being addicting that turns them problematic. Another common coping mechanism we can use is alcohol. But for those of us who are anxious, avoiding alcohol is a really good idea. Especially excessive alcohol. It can actually put additional stress on the adrenals and affect your mood – not supportive of our healing, is it?
5. Calming Food Diet-Additions.
Add whole, free range eggs, soaked raw nuts, pumpkin seeds and dark leafy greens to your daily diet (if these foods are well tolerated). Note – dark leafy greens such as spinach, kale, swiss chard, and collards are beautiful foods but they do have goitrogenic properties, especially when eaten raw so take care not to eat them in large amounts and always recommended to cook or steam them to reduce the goitrogenic effect. Here's how I learned to introduce and then love swiss chard. BACON!
6. Use aromatherapy
Fragrances really do have a physiological effect on our moods. Burning incense, lighting a candle or using calming essential oils like lavender or chamomile or a grounding essential oil that's spicy and earthy can calm our bodies (slowing heart rate, lowering blood pressure and relaxing muscles). Find a friend who sells high quality essential oils (easy now a days) and pick out some healing, calming scents. It’s a winning combination.
7. Scrub a Dub Dub.
Bath Time. Pour 2 cups of Epsom Salts in a warm bath and get in. This raises magnesium levels in your body and will have a calming effect on your mind by relaxing the nervous system, lowering cortisol levels and reducing the excitability of the brain. It works EVERY time! And hey, throw a little of that lavender oil in there for some extra relax in your remedy. Bonus points for doing deep breathing while IN the bath.
Stressing about not stressing?
So now that you have physical proof (panic) that you’re being challenged by stress and anxiety (and you know why it’s important to mitigate it, as evidence by you still reading this), you may start to stress about not stressing.
OH THE IRONY! This used to happen to me! I was so committed to reversing my anxiety at one point that I tried to put a ban on ALL stress in my life. Except that life doesn’t work like that. Stress comes and goes but the moment I would perceive it, I’d tried to get a handle on it and control it and then I’d start stressing that I felt stress and that created more stress.… don’t do this! Don’t let your desire to reduce stress actually create more stress to you and your nervous system. The best thing you can do is to relax about it all. Be aware but be relaxed. You have many tools now, listed above. When stress arises, talk to it, see what it asks of you, and if there's no real danger (there isn't, 99% of the time) give it a little wave, breathe, and let it pass you by.