Corona got you feeling all crazy like? Isolation can make you feel totally alone, but I assure you, you are not. Being the most common mental health condition in this country, 1 in 3 Australian women and 1 in 5 Australian Men (more than 6 million people) will experience anxiety at some point in their lifetime.
Anxiety is experienced at different time points for different people. It can be a perfectly normal response to a one-off stressful period or worrying event like COVID. However, for some, anxiety can persist longer and eventually become a chronic mental health condition. In this instance, the triggers for chronic anxiety are multi-factorial. It encompasses genetic predisposition, work stressors, traumatic life events, family or relationship issues, abuse, and physical disease. Personality traits of low self-esteem and/or perfectionism can also predispose individuals to experience chronic anxiety.
What is becoming increasingly common is health anxiety as we are faced with a pandemic and many other chronic health issues, as a result. Whilst there is fear and feeling like it is beyond our control right now, know that you can do so much to support your anxiety and nourish your adrenals to prevent long term “burn out”.
Herbal medicine and nutrients
In addition to the plethora of dietary and lifestyle interventions available, several nutrients and herbs are also available that work to calm the nervous system and nourish a stressed body and mind. My favourites include:
Magnesium – When anxious, your body actively eliminates magnesium. This is a catch 22, as a magnesium deficiency actually leads to releasing more stress hormones. Ensuring healthy levels of magnesium inhibits the stress response. It increases the activity of your calming neurotransmitter gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA), working brilliantly to reduce anxiety.
Vitamin C – A dual purpose vitamin during COVID. Not only to strengthen your immune system but it is a very powerful adrenal and mood stabiliser. It has been shown to have antidepressant-like effects by activating the 5-HT1A (serotonin) receptor and modulating the GABA system. Vitamin C also has a synergistic effect with commonly prescribed conventional medications. Patients treated with vitamin C in conjunction to these medications had a significant decrease in depressive symptoms compared to those receiving medication and placebo.
B vitamins – The neurotransmitter called adrenaline, and the adrenal hormone cortisol, are the primary drivers of stress in the body. B vitamins are required to synthesise both of these, with anxiety therefore increasing the body’s demands for these vitamins. The B vitamin group is also needed for your brain to produce several key anxiolytic neurotransmitters. These include dopamine, serotonin and GABA. By taking a B complex, you can support your body during times of increased stress, while ensuring the production of calming brain chemicals.
Passionflower – This beautiful anxiolytic herb works fantastically to increase the activity of GABA, and does so without causing drowsiness (unlike benzodiazepine and other sleeping tablets commonly used during times of stress and insomnia).
Saffron – Has been used in traditional Persian medicine for supporting healthy mood balance and has emerged as a leading herb in improving symptoms of anxiety. Clinical trials show 30mg of saffron extract daily provided positive effects on mood and anxiety symptoms. A recent statistical review of five clinical trials also revealed saffron’s benefits on mood.
S-adenosylmethionine (SAMe) – SAMe is a naturally occurring substance in the body which helps maintain healthy mood. It has many roles, but one of the most important is in the production of serotonin, dopamine and noradrenaline. In numerous studies, patients with low mood were found to have lower than normal levels of SAMe. In fact, supplementation with SAMe led to improved levels of serotonin and dopamine and had beneficial effects on maintaining normal mood.
Creating Head Space
As a Naturopath, I have seen firsthand just how well natural medicines work to combat anxiety, both acutely and in the regulation of anxiety and adrenal health long term. This longer-term modulation of the stress response is particularly useful, as it’s hard for your brain to construct solution-focused and proactive thoughts when it’s constantly in ‘fight or flight’ survival mode.
We see the real strength of the ingredients such as those listed above – whilst they can’t undo a traumatic life event or cause a transfer out of an anxiety-inducing situation, they calm your mind, support your body, and give you some breathing space to address the cause head on.
It is important to practice self-care, check in, see what is coming up for you and most importantly, ask for help.
Eat three wholesome meals per day
Bring about the senses and create a soothing space. Light an aromatic candle or brew a pot of herbal tea
Aim for 24 hours of digital detox – switch off from social media particularly, but it could also be television, podcasts, etc
Listen to good music. Make a new playlist, explore new artists. You could find you enjoy world music or a genre you never had time for before
Find a quiet spot, read a book (can be an easy romance one to really switch the brain off!), meditate if you know how or try it again if you feel it’s not for you. Deep breathing also does wonders
Write and recite a gratitude list
Exercise outdoors – from slow stretches to skipping or high intensity cardio, do whatever works for you just get out there and start with what feels right. You will feel so much better as a result
Dance like no one is watching (it has to be said, because who doesn’t love a kitchen dance with the wooden spoon or shake around in the living room)
Anxiety and more
Small steps can take you far, including what you put into your body. Carmen Cooper is extremely passionate about aligning all body systems to address mood disorders. With extensive experience in treating anxiety, depression, mood disorders, insomnia, fatigue and adrenal fatigue, Carmen uses functional testing to investigate causes and imbalances and confidently uses nutritional, lifestyle and herbal medicine alongside prescription medication and/or work with your entire healthcare team.
To contact book an appointment or speak to one of our friendly reception staff please contact reception on 02 9555 8806 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Beyond Blue [Internet] (2020). BeyondBlue; 2019. Statistics and references. Melbourne, Australia. https://www.beyondblue.org.au/the-facts/anxiety. Available from: https://www.beyondblue.org.au/about-us/research-projects/statistics-and-references
Moretti, M., Fraga, D. B., & Rodrigues, A. (2017). Ascorbic acid to manage psychiatric disorders. CNS Drugs, 31(7), 571-583, doi:10.1007/s40263-017-0446-8
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Sarris, J., Panossian, A., Schweitzer, I., et al. (2011). Herbal medicine for depression, anxiety and insomnia: a review of psychopharmacology and clinical evidence. Eur Neuropsychopharm, 21(12), 841-860.
Braun, L., & Cohen, M. (2010). Herbs and natural supplements: an evidence-based guide (3rd eds.). Sydney: Churchill Livingstone Elsevier.
Ravindra, A. V., Lam, R. W., Filteau, M. J., et al. (2009). Canadian network for mood and anxiety treatments (CANMAT). Clinical guidelines for the management of major depressive disorders in adults. V. complementary and alternative medicine treatments. J Affect Disord, 117(1), S54-64. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2009.06.040
Papakostas, G. I. (2009). Evidence for S-adenosyl-L-methionine (SAM-e) for the treatment of major depressive disorder. J Clin Psychiatry, 70(5), 18-22.