Fortifying and Protecting our Body to Weather the Anxiety Storm

Racing thoughts. Restlessness. Irritability. Rapid heartbeat. Shaking. Sweating. Feelings of impending doom. The signs and symptoms of anxiety paint a picture of an ominous, threatening storm on the horizon. When the symptoms present, we batten down the hatches and pray for the sun to come in.

In our world, feelings of anxiety are a part of life. In fact, from the earliest days of mankind, our anxiety has kept us alive when predators or foes have threatened our survival. When faced with a life threatening danger your body springs into action releasing catecholamines to speed up our hearts, engage our brains, energize our bodies, and ready us to “fight” or “flee” from danger.

In today’s face paced, disconnected world, “threats” come in newer, different forms and in many shapes and sizes. I suppose many of us would be hard pressed to remember a time when we were last threatened by a tiger or warring clan. Yet, modern day “threats” are just as harrowing as the hungry predator. They are far more prevalent and unrelenting.

Stress comes in the form of bosses, lovers, neighbors, family, finances, school or illness. It can be at our doorstep or on our tv screens. It starts from the moment we wake up and follows us on our way home. We are triggered to “fight” or “flee” on a moment to moment basis and the resolution rarely comes.

Stressors are inevitable, like the storm. Whether the clouds part to let the sun back in is often times dependent on us. Yet many of us find ourselves living in the shadows and drowning in stress. We are anxious for the threatening storm.

“Over-eating” or “stress-eating” is an obvious response to feelings of anxiety. I guess that is why they call it “comfort” food. In fact, many patients have presented to our office with unwanted weight following a recent divorce, family member’s illness, loss of income, or work conflict. Whether it is through disrupted sleep, body aches and/or headaches, high blood pressure, nausea, or weight gain, there is no doubt that chronic stress and anxiety takes a toll on our bodies.

How do we fortify and protect our bodies to weather the storm?

ASHWAGANDA

Adaptogens, like ashwaganda, increase the body’s tolerance to stress and help the body to recover from it. Ashwaganda can help to reduce elevated cortisol and reduce anxiety symptoms. It can lower perceived intensity of stress and help with fatigue and insomnia. In a study of 64 subjects with chronic stress, 300 mg of daily Ashwagandha improved stress assessment scores and lowered serum cortisol levels.

L-THEANINE

L-theanine is an amino acid found naturally in green tea. EEG studies have shown that L-theanine significantly increases activity in the alpha brain waves— indicative of relaxation, focus, and creativity. It has also been found to boost levels of GABA and other calming brain chemicals like serotonin and dopamine. It has been used to reduce anxiety and stress, improve mental performance, and help with depression. At a dose of 50 to 200mg of L-theanine, studies show a calming effect is usually noted within 30 to 40 minutes and typically lasts 8 to 10 hours. In addition, it has also been found in two separate studies to improve sleep satisfaction in participants with generalized anxiety or ADHD.

MAGNESIUM

Magnesium is involved in over 600 reactions in the body. Despite being readily found in nature (nuts, whole grains, legumes, fish, meat, dairy, and leafy greens), the typical American diet of fast and processed foods is insufficient in Magnesium.  Magnesium deficiency has been linked to anxiety, depression, and panic attacks. Hypomagnesemia can also worsen insulin resistance leading to weight gain and diabetes. In a study of depressed older adults, 450mg of daily magnesium improved depressive symptoms just as well as a tricyclic antidepressant. This same dose has been found to significantly lower blood pressure.

MINDFULNESS MEDITATION

Meditation has become increasingly popular in the mainstream wellness community. Over 47 studies reviewed by Johns Hopkins University suggest that mindfulness meditation, in particular, can improve psychological stress induced by anxiety, depression, or pain. Mindfulness meditation is a mental training practice that brings you and your thoughts into the present.  One might say that the practice of mindfulness allows us to separate the elements of the storm. Separate the wind. Separate the rain. Separate the lightning. Separate the thunder. Mindfulness teaches you to see the elements of the “anxiety” storm for what they really are. It teaches you that though you may not be able to change the storm, you can change your response to the storm.

 

Author
Krissi Reeber, PA-C Krissi Reeber, PA-C, is a beloved certified physician assistant working at Weight Loss and Vitality in Alexandria, Virginia, and Washington, DC.In her role, she works closely with the physician's to offer compassionate and comprehensive care to patients. She’s trained in noninvasive, in-office procedures to enhance the body and face along with optimizing intimate wellness of both males and females. Krissi’s love for knowledge is evident through her impeccable academic record. She received two bachelor’s degrees with highest honors from the most prestigious universities in Florida. Following this, she pursued a Master of Arts in Sociology and Equity Studies in Education from the University of Toronto in Ontario, Canada, graduating with highest honors. Krissi also decided to earn another master’s degree at Nova Southeastern University in Davie, Florida, where she graduated in the 99th percentile of her physician assistant class.

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