Being a mum of three kids, with one on the severe end of the autism spectrum, stress and anxiety is something that isn’t unfamiliar to me. I have, however, found some simple strategies that has helped me in managing this, that I would love to share with you.
Eat whole foods and stay away from processed foods – in an ideal world! As much as we have heard this over and over, at the same time I am realistic with this approach. There are some days I’m too exhausted or don’t feel like cooking and take out is the best option for me and that’s ok. On average I would say we eat take out at least once a week. Every other day I eat veggies, protein and healthy fats at every meal. To be honest I’m not a snacker or a veggie smoothie kind of person, I’d rather eat my veggies than drink them – so protein and fats at every meal is a must to keep my mental and physical energy up. In relation to anxiety, I ensure foods I buy at the grocery store do not contain preservatives or flavour enhancers (MSG). Reason being is that MSG disrupts our GABA/Gluatmate balance. GABA is an amino acid that acts as a calming neurotransmitter in the brain and glutamate is excitatory. MSG throws this balance out and competes with GABA, so MSG is a big NO in our household.
I don’t get a perfect nights sleep every night with young kids and an autistic teen, but adequate sleep is a priority that is up there with diet. Less than 8 hours of sleep and I notice the difference with irritability and lack of motivation, so I make sure I get at least 8 hours. I barely get out of bed later than 6:30am and I’d like to say it’s because I’m a natural early riser but in truth it’s because my kids wake up early! I’d love to be one of those people who wakes up before dawn, watches the sunrise at the beach, journals and meditates all before 7am but it’s not my reality, and may never will be being a full-time carer, but getting out of bed before 6:30am works in my favour and therefore I barely ever make it past 10pm.
Sunshine, nature and fresh air
We hear about this so frequently and it truly works for me. Vitamin D deficiency is a real problem in Australia and deficiency not only lowers the body’s immune response, it also results in low mood. As well as this, serotonin (stabilises our mood which gives us a feeling of well-being and happiness) increases with sun exposure, and breathing in fresh air raises oxygen levels in the brain, which also boosts serotonin. Serotonin also converts to melatonin at night, which helps assist in drifting off to sleep much easier.
Nutrients and herbs to assist with anxiety
The main nutrient I feel everyone needs is magnesium (glycinate or citrate form). I take 400-600mg per day. Also, a multi vitamin with activated B vitamins has been a saviour for me. Other herbs/nutrients I love and that have worked for me are ashwaganda, holy basil, L-theanine, rhodiola and ginseng. These will all nourish your nervous system and adrenals to help your body to cope with stress.
This has been an interesting one for me. I used to go cardio crazy and for a long time this worked well for me. Years later I noticed that crazy cardio workouts weren’t helping and my anxiety was still ramped up. I realised that my adrenals were taking too much of a thrashing and I really needed to pull back on this. Now I incorporate more strength work into my workouts and that has allowed me to slow down and breath more deeply. The post work out stretches and breathing has been just as important to me than the workout itself and I ALWAYS allow time (at least 15 mins) for this.
With what is going on in the world right now, it is understandable that anxiety is ramping up. There is a lot of fear and anger circulating on social media. Though I love social media so that I can connect with friends and follow brands and trends that I love, it has also left me feeling down, anxious and negative. I haven’t de-activated any of my social media platforms but I have made it more inconvenient for myself to access. For example, have deleted Facebook off my phone and only access it on my laptop (as I’m on my laptop far less) and this has worked really well for me.
About the Author: Victoria graduated at the Australian College of Natural Therapies in Sydney and has a Bachelor of Business from the Australian Catholic University. Victoria is the co-owner of Jimalie Coconut Products. More information about her on her website www.centralcoastnutritionist.com.au. Image courtesy of Coast Photography.