Anxiety conditions aren’t just afflictions of the mind – they have physiological causes and consequences too.
An overload of the stress hormone Cortisol and a lack of feel-good chemicals Serotonin and Dopamine can have an anarchic effect on our ability to function as happy human beings.
Robbie Smith shares his story and gives some advice…
I’ve had an anxiety condition for as long as I can remember, an unnecessary fear of situations and realities that was unexplainable. I battled through my formative years and was finally diagnosed with an anxiety disorder by a psychiatrist two years ago. Since then I’ve overcome panic attacks and debilitating anxiety, because I embraced modern pharmacological medicine and went that extra mile to research alternative therapies in my quest to best anxiety and the scourge of Cortisol overload.
First and foremost in fighting anxiety, you must accept that what goes up must come down – if you’re feeling stressed and can’t focus, then you need to banish the excess Cortisol in your bloodstream. The best way to do this is moderate to intense exercise, and swimming and weight training rank among the most effective ways of de-stressing.
This exercise is vital in combating chronic stress and its harmful effects on the immune system, but it may surprise you why. Moving the body, as opposed to laying at rest, will literally burn Cortisol to a crisp in the bloodstream. Leading a sedentary lifestyle on the other hand will allow stress to build up in the body.
Essentially this ‘fight or flight’ stress response in the body needs to be worked off in order to return to a normal physiological and psychological state. Activity will also promote production of the aforementioned pleasure chemicals Dopamine and Serotonin.
The Camellia Sinensis plant (aka tea) is the best source of nature’s anti-anxiety chemical L-Theanine. Green and white tea from Asian plantations are generally incredibly rich in this compound, but it’s the shaded Japanese Gyokuro which harbours the highest content of L-Theanine, and because of this it’s highly lauded as a tonic for mood disorders.
Caffeine is an anxiety ‘trigger’ for many people, and tea harbours a substantial quantity of this psychoactive drug, but anyone can easily decaffeinate a cuppa. The plant naturally contains the stimulant to ward off bugs and insects that nibble on the tea leaves, thus protecting the nutrients and integrity of the plant in the process. To decaffeinate, simply brew the leaves for 45-60 seconds then tip the water out and re-brew those leaves ’second-hand’, as caffeine is one of the first chemicals to seep out from infused tea leaves.
Calendula, Rooibos and Ginger teas are also known for their mood-boosting properties – and as antioxidant powerhouses. Calendula, hailing from the Marigold species of flower, has been used in countless HIV trials as a complimentary therapy (coupled with anti-retroviral drugs) to inhibit the replication of the virus in human T-cells.
Sunlight and sea salt are crucial anti-anxiety weapons in the fight against fretting. Adequate sun exposure (the darker our skin colour the more sun you’ll need) will regulate Serotonin production, while inhaling the ions from salt water (something we do innately when we are at the beach) is believed to promote Serotonin as well.
Work hard to find your own curative combinations and keep fighting, because you’ll undoubtedly find a way to beat your condition. We all possess an innate strength – and it bares its teeth when we need it most.
Robert Edward Smith is a 24-year-old communications graduate and freelance writer from Melbourne, Australia.