While small amounts of stress can actually be motivating, ever-present stress in our lives can wear us down. And when we feel powerless to change the situation, stress can easily become anxiety.
Recession, job loss, financial difficulties, the media headlines, economic ups and downs, rising prices, pandemics, schedules and routines disrupted, kids/school, home, your work environment—I could go on and on. Our world has certainly become a more stressful place to be lately. Even if you are not necessarily a person who gets stressed easily, the changing events in our lives can become stressful and anxiety-producing. Even if you don’t think you are affected by any of these outside events.
Other things that can actually exacerbate stress include hormone imbalances such as those in women in peri-menopause or menopause, and even the blue light from computers and telephones. Sure, it’s a great stress reliever to tune into Instagram or Tiktok before bed, but all that blue light is just adding more stress, affects your sleep and can multiply anxiety issues.
A combination of overexposure to blue light and lack of sleep increase stress and anxiety. Blue light suppresses melatonin—the sleep hormone. And blue light can also suppress the production of cortisol, the hormone associated with the “fight or flight” response to stressful situations. Suppressing cortisol makes us less capable to cope with daily stressors and increases anxiety build up.
While some stress in our lives is actually healthy for ambition, drive, and improved performance, chronic and uncontrolled stress will cause our bodies to suffer the consequences in many different ways, including weight gain, reduced immunity, irritability, and more serious health problems. We may not even realize that any of these negative issues actually come from stress.
A few of the many symptoms of stress you can be experiencing—even if you don’t think you are stressed:
• Weight gain especially around midsection
• Hormonal issues
• Digestive upset
• Sore jaw, clenching your teeth
• Lower or upper back pain
• Inability to focus
• Strange or scary dreams
• Jealousy or insecurity
• Skin rashes
• Loss of confidence
• Minor accidents
• Frequent colds or infections
• Increased anger and frustration
• Overeating or loss of appetite
• Sadness or loneliness
• Constant fatigue
• Problems communicating
• Heart palpitations
• Shortness of breath
• Feelings of impending doom
When stress feels uncontrollable, we get anxious. And that brings on that drowning feeling of overwhelm—especially when you feel helpless to change the situation.
All of these feelings, stress, anxiety and overwhelm can actually be boiled down to a fear-based reaction. When you are experiencing anything that feels scary and stressful and out of your control, you feel fear. When this happens adrenaline and cortisol flood your system, shutting down your ability to think rationally, feel organized and calm, and in control.
Anxiety and stress can become so commonplace, that many people tune it out and it becomes background noise. The problem is, stress and anxiety can build up until you have a serious problem that may manifest itself in panic attacks, loss of sleep, problems with relationships and serious physical health issues.
People often ignore some of the physical manifestations of stress which can harm the immune system, the digestive system, the nervous system and even the cardiovascular system.
Counteracting the manifestations of stress and lowering anxiety—before you overwhelmed
The goal here isn’t to be fearless–it’s to not let it rule your life. What to do when stress and anxiety seem unavoidable? Take control and take action. Action beats anxiety—and stress—and overwhelm.
• Avoid the news, especially at night
• Avoid social media—yes really!
• Take care of yourself—make healthy changes to diet, drink less, exercise more
Get your gut and your diet on track. The bacteria in our gut are responsible for creating something like 90% of the serotonin in our bodies. Serotonin is that all-important brain chemical made in the gut and sent to the brain. Serotonin is responsible for making us feel calm and happy. We all need more of that. Symptoms of low serotonin include anxiety, depression and low energy.
Alcohol can make anxiety worse. People often drink alcohol to lower anxiety but in the long run this adds to stress and anxiety by ruining sleep, interfering with relationships and your job/career.
Other things that add to anxiety include sugar, poor sleep, no exercise, estrogen dominance, too much caffeine and medications. And a lack of certain vitamins and minerals, including B vitamins, C vitamins and magnesium will also cause anxiety.
A few things I’d suggest trying to help lower that anxiety:
• Recognize your anxiety. Don’t try to push it in the background, because it won’t go away, instead it will simmer and overflow at some point. Acknowledge it. Look for that root cause.
• Do a detox diet. Cut back or eliminate dairy, gluten, sugar, caffeine and alcohol for a week. See how you feel.
• Eat more veggies especially leafy green ones. Get healthy protein in the form of grass fed meats, wild caught fish, and pastured eggs. If you’re vegan, you may need to consider eating meat. Many vegans have anxiety issues due to lack of certain nutrients.
• Avoid processed vegetable oils such as soybean oil, corn oil, canola oil and sunflower oil. Eat healthy fats including butter, coconut oil and extra virgin olive oil. Your brain needs healthy fats to work well.
• Certain supplements fight anxiety like B vitamins, vitamin C, vitamin D3, omega 3’s and magnesium. Magnesium is especially helpful but be sure to take the right form of magnesium.
• Other supplements that work for anxiety include GABA, a calming brain chemical, ashwaganda, which is an herbal supplement, valerian root and turmeric.
So even if the world seems like it’s falling apart, realize it is ok to sometimes feel a little stress, anxiety or even a sense of overwhelm on occasion. Just remember, don’t let it take over your life. It’s ok. We all get stressed sometimes. Acknowledge it, take care of yourself and take action!