As you work to reduce the strain that anxiety puts on your body, start filling your tank with the right kind of fuel. With the right fuel, you’ll be able to operate at a better physical level. Be aware, however, that your definition of the right kind of fuel and mind might be very different.
Over the years, as I’ve worked with highly anxious people, I’ve noticed a trend. Often, when anxious people pull into the gas station, they choose the convenient packaged and processed foods as fuel, topped off with a supercharged dose of caffeine.
This fuel may provide that quick burst of energy, but at what price? A few hours after the fuel-up, the bottom drops out and you can forget about going another step, let alone up another hill. The yo-yo affect this fueling produces often matches the up-and- down, feast-or-famine, supercharged and drop-to-the- bottom mood swings of anxiety from catastrophe to apathy and back again.
A vital answer to anxiety is making healthy choices about what you eat and drink. Eating healthy is an intentional activity. You—not anxiety—must choose the types of food and drink best able to fortify and strengthen you physically as you heal from the ravages of anxiety. Below are 9 areas to consider as you look to make healthier strides in your life.
- Whole Foods – When fueling up for your life, you need to overwhelmingly choose whole foods, not processed foods. Whole foods are those found, generally, on the outside ring of grocery stores.
- Healthy Fats – Fats have gotten a bad reputation, but not all fats are bad. There are good fats from sources like fish, flaxseed, and olive oil. Your body was designed to need a small amount of good fat to operate optimally.
- Nutritional Supplements – When the body is stressed out physically because of anxiety, nutrients are depleted. A well-rounded multivitamin that includes vitamins, minerals, and amino acids is key to providing the components needed for health.
- Real Ingredients – There are people with real sensitivities and allergies to many of the artificial ingredients used in food processing. These sensitivities and allergies can lie under the surface, causing physical problems without revealing their source. Pay attention to the ingredient label on every food you buy and eat.
- Increase Water – Water is vital to healthy physical functioning. Our bodies are predominantly composed of water, including our muscles and our brains. We use water to digest our food and absorb nutrients. Water detoxifies the kidneys and liver and helps our bodies eliminate waste.
- Decrease Caffeine – I like coffee. I drink coffee, so I’m not going to say, “No coffee or caffeine.” However, there are people who practically live on coffee and caffeine drinks. A moderate amount of caffeine helps you stay alert. An excessive amount of caffeine helps you stay anxious.
- A Sprinkle of Sugar – a roller-coaster ride of jittery highs and crashing lows. When you add caffeine into this mix, the result is compounded. You don’t need to say “Never” to sugar, but most of us could learn to say “Not so much” more often. Sugar is a high-octane, potent, mood-altering fuel. In other words, a little goes a long way. Large amounts spike your blood levels, sending you on
- Chill Out – Anxious people have a tendency to, well, become anxious. Food anxieties are very real, with people becoming terrified to eat this or that for overblown or imagined consequences. The point of eating healthy is not to produce increased anxiety about what you’re eating! Don’t let anxiety take up residence in your fridge or pantry.
- Move – Your body was made to move, to engage in physical activity. Getting your body to move is a wonderful way to burn off nervous energy while increasing health, stamina, and strength.
You cannot disconnect your physical health from your emotional health and your spiritual health. When you deplete your body physically and do not give your body the proper fuel it needs to repair itself and run well, your heart, mind, and soul will suffer. When you make positive, healthy changes, your heart, mind, and soul benefit.