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Anxiety: What to do.

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by the Center for the Study of Natural and Preventive Medicine – University of Leicester, UK.

Stress is a natural, necessary adaptive reaction which makes the organism more receptive when facing demanding conditions. However, the excessive accumulation of tensions may severely limit our performance and even originate incapacitating moods or – in some cases – even some actual physical and psychological pathologies.

Distress, or chronic stress, is the inability to come back to a condition of calmness and deep rest after the activation and effort spent to overcome obstacles and solve issues.

Chronic stress generates deep alterations in breathing, in the basic muscular tone as well as in the postures and movements, and it is often the cause of cardiovascular diseases, hypertension, insomnia, tiredness, cephalea, gastritis, colitis, intellectual exhaustion, excessive sweating, muscular tensions, backache, irritability, skin diseases, diminution of the sexual capacity, reduction of the desire, frigidity and premature ejaculation.

Epidemiologic studies run by the World Health Organization in 2008 report that 14 % of the European population, i.e. approx. 70 million people, suffer from anxiety disorders. Higher percentages have been found in the USA. In Italy, approximately 3 million people are affected by such disorders, with a social cost, in terms of working hours lost every year, of some 400 million Euro per annum.

 

Changing our lifestyle, paying more attention to our nutrition and behavior is the safest way to prevent chronic stress and keep good health.

Nutrition

Eliminating every sort of caffeine, theine, taurine or other stimulants from your diet and reducing the consumption of alcohol may significantly reduce the anxious symptoms. This can be particularly efficient for those people who are particularly sensitive to the aforementioned substances.

Reducing the consumption of carbohydrates(rice, pasta, bread, corn, wheat, cereals, tubers, potatoes and sweets), privileging a more proteinic diet (fish, beans, green peas, soy, milk, cheese, yogurt and eggs).

The group B vitamins and magnesium can be of help in reducing the anxious symptoms. The food rich in group B vitamins include the dark green leave vegetables, spinach, lettuce, cabbage, peanut seeds, beams, green peas, meat, fish and eggs.

In particular, Vitamin B1 or Thiamine is required in the metabolism of the carbohydrates, and it helps in fostering the general nutrition state of the nervous tissue.


Vitamin B12 or Hydroxocobalamine
plays an essential role in the metabolism of the nervous tissue, fostering its appropriate functioning. It participates to the generation of the red cells. It is involved in the metabolism of proteins, fat and carbohydrates, transforming them into energy and thus fostering a regular development of the body. It also stimulates the appetite.

Vitamin B12 is found only in the food of animal origin, whilst the vegetables do not contain it. Lots of B12 are contained in liver and – in general – in meat, fish, eggs and dairy products. This vitamin is sensitive to light and humidity.

Vitamin B6 or Pyridoxine is essential for some brain functions. Furthermore, it plays a significant role in the metabolism of amino acids, proteins, carbohydrates and lipid. Its highest concentrations are in yeast and wheat germ. Its main sources are meat, fish and liver.

Magnesium regulates the permeability of the cell membrane to all the minerals, with particular reference to sodium, potassium and calcium. Such regulation is very important for nervous conduction and muscular tension. The food containing this precious element includes cocoa, walnuts, almonds, beans and lobsters but also – even though in lower quantities – some fruit and vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflowers, turnips, carrots, onions, egg plants, lettuce, tomatoes, raspberries, blackberries, melons, cherries, strawberries, oranges, pineapples and grapes.


Excessive physical and/or psychological stress may cause excessive consumption of magnesium
. On its turn, a too small presence of it in the organism generates reduced resistance to stress and – subsequently – a vicious cycle starts, hindering the regaining of the balance and making the individuals hypersensitive even to stress conditions they would usually tolerate.

Also alcohol can impoverish the contents of magnesium, since it increases its excretion and makes its absorption more difficult because of the alterations it can generate to the intestinal bacteria flora. Hence, it is easily understood that any cause of alteration in the intestinal bacteria flora, such as the consumption of antibiotics, may generate shortage of magnesium. The metabolism of magnesium can also be altered by cortisone, which – amongst its numerous side effects – reduces the concentration of this mineral in blood.

The ingestion of excessive quantities of sweets inhibits the assimilation of magnesium and – therefore – may cause its shortage in the organism.

The organism eliminates magnesium also through sweating: this last way of excretion can be significant in case of intensive sport activities, excessive use of saunas and – in general – abundant sweating.

Often, an anxious state, excessive irritability, difficulties in falling asleep and insomnia, physical and psychological exhaustion, chronic tiredness, light depression, extreme sensitivity and nervousness, alterations in the cardiac rhythm with palpitations whose cause cannot be understood, but also dysmenorrhea, digestion disorders or alterations of the intestinal functions and diminution of the immune defense may be due to lack of magnesium. Said disorders are sometimes interpreted as somatizing anxiety and treated with anxiolytics, whilst an additional integration of magnesium would be sufficient to see them diminish fast, or even vanish.

Passiflora incarnata, an aromatic plant, has calming, sedative, narcotic and anti-inflammatory properties. It can also be drunk as herbal tea.

 

Lifestyle

Breathing exercises and sport activities

One of the most efficient measures to prevent chronic stress is represented by moderate sport activities and breathing exercises: Pilates and Yoga are certainly the most appropriate activites. In order to be efficient, it should be practiced constantly, at least 4 to 5 times a week. Breathing is coordinated to the movements. The anxious individuals tend to either hold their breath or hyperventilate, without being conscious they are doing it. The breathing exercises offer immediate release of the tensions and a feeling of strengthening.

Furthermore, Pilates and Yoga help to keep fit, toning the muscles, stimulating the cardio-circulatory system, facilitating the elimination of toxins through sweating, contributing to keep the weight under control and increasing the release of endorphins, the good mood molecules.

Nature and leisure time

Taking some leisure time is important too, because it helps setting free from concerns and negative thoughts, thus reducing anxiety. Simply walking in a park for at least one hour a day, some short vacation (1 or 2 weeks) in contact with nature 4 or 5 times a year, can also be as efficient and regenerating. Observing art and nature are very pleasant ways of distracting one’s mind and diminishing the stress. Also dancing, music and singing are of help, if they are practiced regularly.

Meditation and prayer

Meditation and prayer can be of help in alleviating the effects of anxiety, training the mind to remain in the present moment, thus preventing fears which are often linked to future events. Meditating regularly may significantly reduce the anxious states.

Media break

Eliminate completely any television, Internet, newspapers and magazines for at least 7 days in a row: you will find out how much the media can affect your behavior and thoughts: your mind shall be definitely less stressed and you will have more time to dedicate to your well-being.

Massage and aromatherapy

Also a good massage and acupressure can be of help in preventing stress. Rebalancing your senses, which are inhibited by the overload of stimuli we perceive all the time, is of utter importance. In particular, acupressure and aromatherapy are used to give a break to your nervous system and release your muscles through touch and smell.

Journaling

Writing in detail your own concerns and symptoms in a journal may help reduce the stress and identify ungrounded fears, monitoring your progress.

Coaching

This technique is used by the professionals to help identify the distorted schemes of thinking, rediscover one’s own potential or learn new skills to face and overcome one’s fears.

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