Anxiety or Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is one of the most common mental health conditions in Australia, many of you reading this blog can probably pin-point at least one person who is suffering – you may even be one.
For all those familiar with the condition, it can be debilitating on your social and professional life, and on your mental well-being. Feeling of impending doom and constant worry overwhelm those that are suffering with no conceivable way to switch off.
Alongside the external effects, ongoing anxiety and stress is also one of the causes of many other health conditions such as, depression, fatigue, insomnia, brain fog
Some unique signs and symptoms of those with anxiety includes, but is not limited to (1):
- Think, worry, and obsess over certain things ahead of time and plan way ahead in the future to avoid any issues that may arise.
- Working long hours and overdoing all work to ensure no errors are made.
- Fear of letting people down or saying no.
- Constant need for reassurance of everything done.
- Exceptionally high standards of themselves and never satisfied of their performance.
Does this sound like you, or someone that you know? The great news is it is manageable. Common management techniques include Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), and prescribed medication from your GP. Nutrition can have both negative and positive impacts on the prevalence of anxiety. Health professionals advise to ensure a “good diet” to help improve your mental health, but what does this really mean?
Eat all of your required meals.
This means no skipping breakfast, lunch, or dinner. There is a common misconception around skipping meals and generally individuals do not understand the importance of ensuring adequate nutrition in their diet. Especially with those who have an increased susceptibility to mental health conditions such as, anxiety and depression. The importance of eating all your meals is that it helps to regulate your blood sugar levels and does not put added stress onto your body. When you do not eat, your body wonders when its next meal will be and enters “survival mode” to ensure it stores adequate energy in case of starvation, alongside putting unnecessary stress onto your body. Added to this, missing out on meals means that you are missing out on adequate nutrients that are required for daily function.
There are several studies that have investigated the impact on decreased hydration and the effect that it can have on an individual’s overall mood. One study has shown that increased water led to increased mood and restricted water intake led to a decrease in mood (2). We’ve all done it, think back to when you have been way too busy to think about drinking water, you may get irritable, lightheaded, feel fatigued, and if you’re prone to anxiety you may be overthinking situations that normally wouldn’t bother you. This is what occurs when your body reaches dehydration.
In another of my previous blog posts, I explored tips on how you can stay hydrated during the winter, see this for added inspiration for staying hydrated.
Exercise, exercise, exercise (I know, not nutrition, but so crucial).
Exercise is another important aspect of keeping your mental health in optimal condition. Studies have shown that individuals suffering from chronic stress or anxiety who participate in regular exercise may help to significantly reduce their symptoms over time (3).
Also, when thinking about nutrition and aiming to reduce symptoms associated with anxiety, think about whether you are consuming enough of the correct nutrients to support your mental well-being. Examples being Magnesium, B-Vitamins, Zinc, Omega-3, and Tryptophan. All of these nutrients in some way help cognitive function.
If you are reading this and you are experiencing any difficulty, or needing someone to talk to, give one of these hotlines a call:
- MensLine Australia – online support service for men having trouble coping (1300 789 978).
- Beyond Blue – aims to increase awareness of those suffering from depression and anxiety (1300 224 636).
- Headspace – mental health support for young people aged 12 to 25 years old (1800 650 890).
- Lifeline – a 24-hour crisis hotline (13 11 14).
Written by our in-house Nutritionist. If you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to call us on (03) 9318-3455 or visit us in store.
- MensLine Australia n.d., What is high functioning anxiety?, accessed on 12th August 2020 from <https://mensline.org.au/deal-with-anxiety/signs-symptoms-high-functioning-anxiety/>
- Pross, N, Demazieres, A, Girard, N, Barnouin, R, Metzger, D, Klein, A, Perrier, E, & Guelinckx, I 2014, “Effects of changes in water intake on mood high and low drinkers”, Plos One, vol. 9, no. 4, accessed on 22nd August 2020 from <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3984246/>
- Anxiety and Depression Association of America 2020, Exercise for stress and anxiety, accessed on 22nd August 2020 from <https://adaa.org/living-with-anxiety/managing-anxiety/exercise-stress-and-anxiety#:~:text=Scientists%20have%20found%20that%20regular,to%20stimulate%20anti%2Danxiety%20effects.>