How I embrace my anxiety

Today, women are twice as likely to suffer from depression when compared to men and almost half of Australian women suffer from anxiety or depression.

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For those who have never experienced anxiety, it can seem like anxiety is a minor inconvenience or a choice – and the person should just “not stress about it”. But anxiety can be debilitating, as you’re filled with a sense of dread, worry, or terror. Plus bundle it with physical symptoms like nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, sweating, shortness of breath, and heart palpitations.  Personally, my anxiety also comes with a side of brain fog distracting me from my day-to-day activities and priorities.

When I was younger, I would try to ignore my anxious feelings. But by doing so, I would only let things build up until they explode. Now at 27, I have some strategies in place for working with – and not against – my anxiety.

Awareness:

First step is recognising the anxiety, becoming aware of how and what I’m feeling.

Acceptance:

I find that when I'm anxious, sitting with it and accepting it is the best response - rather than avoiding it, which really just builds the fear. This week I talked to my partner about how I was feeling - opening up this line of communication to your partner, best friend or family member is great for feeling connected. It shows that you respect and trust the other person to be vulnerable, plus it always makes me feel a little better. Seeing his calm reaction made me realise it’s not the end of the world and it made me feel less ashamed about feeling overwhelmed.

Adjustment:

Now that I’ve accepted the fact I’m feeling anxious, I ask myself - What is my intuition telling me to do? What's the kindest choice I have available to make myself feel a little bit better? There are two ways I essentially break down my self-care at this stage.

When we’re feeling anxious our cortisol levels sky rocket as your adrenals are hit with the natural "flight-or-fight " response.

Therefore things I focus on to support my body are:

  • Ensure that I’m drinking 2 litres of water -  and aiming for a sneaky third

  • Limit caffeine to 1 coffee

  • Add ashwaganda to said coffee: this herbal supplement is an adaptogen, meaning it enhances your body's natural response to physical and emotional stress. It's known for its ability to lower cortisol levels and prevent stress.

  • Ensure my diet is balanced and full of minimal processed, nutrient rich food: this is a huge one as my emotional eating can get the best of me . A favourite, smashed avocado and eggs on gluten-free toast with greens is great because avocados have vitamin B6 which helps the body make several neurotransmitters, including serotonin, which influences mood. Also eggs contain tryptophan, which is an amino acid that helps create serotonin (a chemical neurotransmitter that helps to regulate mood, sleep, memory, and behaviour).

  • Take magnesium before bed: this mineral is incredibly important to mental health and women’s health in general. In one study it was found that 250mg of magnesium daily reduced PMS-related anxiety. For all supps, always opt for a practitioner only brand to ensure you are taking the best quality without any dodgy fillers.

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Then I do something that I find comforting and that makes me happy:

  • Watch my favourite shows – current favourite is The Good Place, Queer Eye or an old time fave is Gilmore Girls (were you team Dean or Jess?)

  • Lay off the high intensity work out (cortisol doesn’t need to be anymore spiked) and opt for a walk and stretch. Yin yoga is also a great option if you’re into it.

  • Meditate: I really enjoy this 16 minute guided mediation for anxiety. I use the free Insight Timer app

  • Douse myself with my favourite essential oils; I choose lavender (inhalation of lavender essential oil reduces stress and anxiety) and frankincense (creates a calming and tranquil energy, spiritual grounding and can help to deepen meditation and quiet the mind).

    I put a couple of drops on my wrists, neck and the bottom of my feet (the soles of our feet have larger pores, so the oils act faster and more efficiently).

  • Jump into the kitchen: cooking is definitely therapeutic for me. I like to make my favourite almond meal choc cookies (sign-up to our newsletter for the exclusive recipe). Dark chocolate (at least 70%) has a high tryptophan content, which the body uses to turn into mood-enhancing neurotransmitters. It also has a good source of magnesium.

  • List it down - Similar to how I journal , I try for a stream-of-consciousness style of writing that basically purges thoughts without censoring. It’s a good way to list everything down that I’m worried about. Then I come up with priorities and action plans to solve.

  • Listen to a podcast - I like to listen to interviews as it brings me out of my own world and thoughts. Podcasts I’m currently enjoying are: Offline, Work Party, The Skinny Confidential: Him & Her

And remember there’s always help out there. If you or your loved ones need further support visit Beyond Blue or 1010.