I’ve lived with anxiety since I was 8 years old. I’ve developed my own ways of dealing with it, and have learned much from working with a variety of health professionals as well as through my own self-study. I’ve got a good selection of things in my “tool kit” to help with cope with anxiety issues when they arise.
In the past year I noticed something new about my anxiety experiences. While I’ve always been aware that WHAT I eat impacts my moods and my ability to cope with what life throws my way, and while I’ve been doing my best to eat regularly throughout my day to help keep my low blood pressure in check, I DIDN’T realize how much putting off eating was impacting my emotional & mental health. When I don’t eat enough and/or regularly I’ve definitely felt my anxiety getting the better of me.
Don’t get me wrong, unless I’m violently ill, I have my protein shake within ½ hour of waking up every day BUT sometimes if I’m already feeling anxious or worried the churning sensation in my tummy would keep me from eating enough. Sometimes it is a straight up queasy sensation other times it is too much adrenaline that suppresses my appetite and occasionally it is because I am actually being pulled in so many directions during a day that I simply am so busy that I forget to eat (full disclosure, before I had kids I would roll my eyes at people who said they “forgot” to eat – whoops! I get it now, lol.). Obviously when I don’t eat regularly my blood sugar levels drop and while I’ve never been diagnosed with hypoglycemia, I recently read an interesting article featuring the research of Harry Salzer (1966). He found that vulnerable individuals can experience a relative drop in blood sugar that profoundly affected them even though their levels never entered the official range of hypoglycemia. This reactive (or functional) hypoglycemic state could induce symptoms such as depression, anxiety, insomnia, irritability, crying spells, forgetfulness, trembling, racing heart, and dizziness.
I’m very mindful of the quality of food that I eat. No, I’m not “perfect” in that I don’t eat 100% organic or whole foods, but I do make the best choices I can in the moment. I love making food from scratch and love my fresh produce! I am very aware that my food choices can impact how I feel on every level.
Being a mom with a full schedule, I know first-hand that there are times when getting all of us organized for the day and to where we are supposed to be, when we are supposed to be there, can make proper mealtimes a challenge. And often I’m getting the kids dealt with before I get my own shit together. That said, this year I really became aware of what was happening with my anxiety issues if I didn’t make my morning meal a priority. I’ve since put it at the top of my list of things to do each & every morning. As a family, we start with a fruit smoothie and move on from there. (Actually, I start with my supplements/protein shake which sets a firm foundation for everything else! https://healthyjen.le-vel.com/ ). When I have to be at work or an appointment in the early morning I make sure I have a decent breakfast to take with me. I’ll take a couple boiled eggs with me to eat in the car once I’ve parked at my destination, or a protein bar/granola bar, or I’ll have some oatmeal packets that I can whip up in a flash at work. All great sources of protein for my system! If I get to be at home that morning, then breakfast may or may not look the same… I do love a hot breakfast so I’m very much loving a baked potato with loads of cheese to get me going for the day! If I’m not home on the weekend, I’m often treated to breakfast in bed which can be anything from yogurt & fruit, to crepes, to eggs with all the fixings. Yum!
I also have a good supply of snacks on hand for wherever I’m going to be. NOT stuff like chips or sweets, as a spike in blood sugar (and the subsequent crash) can really play a number on your body and the anxiety issues. Again, whole fruits & vegs are great as are whole grains in the form of sandwiches, wraps, breakfast bars, and muffins. Find what appeals to you most. My purse always has a protein bar in it… actually so do all of my different backpacks and overnight bags. That way no matter where I am or what I’m doing I’ve got the right stuff on hand to support me both physically and emotionally/mentally.
If you think that your own eating habits might be affecting your mood in a negative way, please check with your health practitioner. It’s always best to do this before implementing any changes. And if you feel like you need to do a complete eating overhaul I recommend, with the guidance of your health practitioner, to do it gradually but consistently so as not to shock the system.
Some basic tips to consider:
- Eat a healthy, balanced diet & eat at regular intervals throughout the day
- Cut back on sugar and processed foods
- Cut back on caffeine, alcohol, cigarettes
- Increase your consumption of foods high in zinc such as whole grains, kale, broccoli, legumes, and nuts
- Increase your consumption of food rich in magnesium like fish, avocados, dark leafy greens
- Up your intake of foods high in vitamin B: asparagus, leafy greens, meat, avocados
- Look for foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids such as wild salmon
- Add or increase probiotic-rich foods like kefir, yogurt and other fermented foods
“Let food be thy medicine, and medicine be thy food.”