By David Saunders, Health Editor | UPDATED: 21:42, 25 November 2019
A sleepless night can trigger up to a 30 percent rise in emotional stress levels, including anxiety levels, according to a new study. Our experts have shared five tips to help relax the anxious mind naturally.
Support your sleep
“Many of us experience feelings of pressure, tension, and nervousness. Especially after a busy and stressful day and these feelings can feel more prominent at bedtime,” explains Martina Della Vedova, Nutritionist at Nature’s Plus (www.naturesplus.co.uk).
“Sleep is a significant part of living a healthy lifestyle, and many of us simply do not get enough. Stress, sleep and anxiety are all related. If we don’t get enough sleep we can find it harder to adapt to challenging situations, and when we can’t cope as efficiently with stress it can be harder to have a good nights rest.”
“Magnesium is known as ‘nature’s tranquiliser’ and is needed to relax our muscles and nerves, which helps us to fall into a peaceful sleep. To ensure you’re getting enough magnesium try and include plenty of magnesium-rich foods in your diet such as, pumpkin and sunflower seeds, fish and leafy green vegetables.”
“I’d also recommend taking the KalmAssure Magnesium Powder by Nature’s Plus (£24.50, www.naturesplus.co.uk). This is naturally chelated magnesium, which is very easy to absorb, and easily delivered to the tissues.”
Watch the caffeine
Dr. Marilyn Glenville, the UK’s leading nutritionist (www.marilynglenviile.com) and author of Natural Alternatives to Sugar explains, “Caffeine is a stimulant, which prompts your body to release the stress hormones making you feel more stressed and jittery than you should be. “
“Also caffeine is addictive. Tea and coffee act like a drug. As the effect of the caffeine wears off, you will want another one and then you are back on that roller coaster again of highs and lows, exactly like the highs and lows of blood sugar. If you add sugar to the tea or coffee the roller coaster highs will be higher and the lows lower making you feel even more stressed.”
Because caffeine acts like a drug, you wouldn’t be advised to stop suddenly and go ‘cold turkey’ because you could experience quite dramatic withdrawal symptoms such as headaches, nausea, tiredness, muscle cramps and depression.
To minimise these effects, try cutting down gradually, substituting some of your usual drinks for healthier alternatives. It’s much better to cut down slowly over a few weeks. Begin by substituting decaffeinated coffee for half of your total intake per day, and then gradually change over to all decaffeinated. Then, slowly substitute other drinks, such as herbal teas and grain coffees. You should, ideally, eventually eliminate decaffeinated coffee as well because coffee contains other stimulants (theobromine and theophylline), which are not removed when the coffee is decaffeinated.”
Add a probiotic to your diet
People who experience anxiety symptoms might be helped by taking steps to regulate the microorganisms in their gut using probiotic and non-probiotic food and supplements, suggests a review of 21 studies. Of the studies that had used probiotics as the intervention, more than a third (36%) found them to be effective in reducing anxiety symptoms.
Dr Nigel Plummer, creator of ProVen Probiotics explains, “Our intestine is connected to almost all other parts of our body by way of nerve or chemical signals, and the billions of bacteria we have lining our gut seem to be able to change the signal process. If the right signals are sent, then we see health benefits such as lowered infections and better mood. That’s why we call these probiotic bacteria ‘friendly’ – because they send the right signals”. Opt for the brand new ProVen Probiotic, ShapeLine (RRP: £29.50, www.provenprobiotics.co.uk). ShapeLine is born from 15 years of clinical trials, which provide evidence that Pro-Ven Probiotics have an array of health related benefits, including digestion and gut health.
“If you feel the symptoms of stress coming on, learn to get your priorities right. There is nothing in your life right now more important than your health. Learn to say no if you feel that you have taken on too much. Being assertive is invigorating and empowering. It also helps to make lists of what is or is not a priority and to tackle the priority tasks first. This will help give you a sense of control over your life,” explains Marilyn.
Change your response to the cause of anxiety
We can control how we respond to things we find challenging in our day-to-day life. “Anxiety can be experienced as a racing mind, an inability to slow down, feeling out of control with our thoughts or trouble staying on track and focusing. It can show up in our body as muscular tension, pain, jitteriness and difficulty relaxing. It affects our breathing, making it short, tight and held in the chest which has other knock on effects for mood, mental health, the nervous system and cardiac health.
Anxiety can also diminish our mood and energy levels, it can make us more prone to anger and reactivity, teariness and emotional sensitivity for some,” explains qualified psychologist and health & fitness coach, Suzy Reading, working in association with ThinkWell-LiveWell (www.thinkwell-livewell.com).
The Postcard to Anxiety module on the new mindfulness toolkit, ThinkWell LiveWell (RRP: £8.00 a month), can help you become aware of your triggers whilst changing the way you respond to the cause of anxiety.