One of the most debilitating health issues that I have struggles with (and, sometimes, still do struggle with) is anxiety. It reached a head after Matt and I had been married for about a year, and I honestly didn’t know what to do with myself. I had always been the type of person that didn’t get stressed out, let things roll off my back, and was all-around easygoing. Suddenly, my heart would race if Matt wasn’t getting over to an exit lane quickly enough, or if I couldn’t find my dog, or for really any reason at all. I wasn’t myself and I didn’t know how to handle it.
One quick doctors appointment later (with a primary care that I had never met before, I might add) I had a lovely little pill to take that would solve my problems- at least, that’s what I was told. In the three months I took the medication, I only had negative side effects and never felt that my anxiety was alleviated. To make matters worse, I stopped taking the pills cold turkey, which made things much worse before they got better (apparently, my doctor should’ve told me not to do that, but that never happened). I became very aware that I had only done my body harm, and that I wasn’t going to get better (or at least manageable) without some life change.
One of the biggest things that I did (and most effective) was to eliminate caffeine, alcohol, and refined sugars. I was so, so addicted to coffee, and I love dessert like no other, so this was very difficult for me. However, caffeine and sugar both put the nervous system under stress, which allows anxiety to thrive. Instead of coffee in the mornings, I drank some anti-anxiety tea. You can make your own; any of these herbs work well (starred ones taste better than others):
Dandelion (young leaves, older taste bitter)
St. John’s Wort
Many of these are available in blends or solo bags from Yogi teas or Traditional Medicinals, both of which are becoming readily available in local supermarkets. Make sure that you read up on how to prepare certain herbs- some must be boiled (like Valerian) while others are steeped like normal tea!
A hidden gem in the natural health world is a magnesium supplement called Natural Calm. Magnesium has an almost immediate calming effect, and this supplement (a powdered drink mix, much like Crystal Light) delivers deliciously. I loved having some before work, or before bed, or really anytime I needed a bit of a calming boost. Most health stores will carry it, and I have even seen it at a supermarket here and there. Very well worth it.
In addition to cutting out certain foods and adding in others, I strived to avoid processed foods and instead add whole foods into my diet- a change that now has become lifestyle for me. Our bodies readily receive the nourishment they need via whole foods, instead of having to drudge through processed foods for the sub-par nutrition available there! Keeping our bodies whole helps us function as we should.
Another key part of my recovery was the addition of exercise into my daily routine. I fell in love with yoga (thanks to the lovely Debra Corso), started rock climbing, and generally tried to stay as active as I could. Not only did this take my mind off of stressors in my life, but the exercise helped my body to function properly, which allowed me to handle situations with grace and ease that was hard to come by beforehand. These days, I practice a bit of yoga in my home, and run 3-5 times a week.
The most important part of my battle with anxiety has been conversations with people that care about me, love the Lord, and help me to focus on what is important. Christian counselors are invaluable if you are struggling with anxiety- the time that I spent speaking with trusted people about my struggle, the more I realized that focus on Christ and his Kingdom was necessary and missing from my life. Regaining vision for my life and praying through panicky situations helped me tremendously.
Please understand that I write these things from my experience and studies, not from a professional standpoint. My experience with anti-anxiety medication may vary drastically from someone else’s, nor can each persons case be treated the same. These are simply changes that helped me, and I pray that they help someone else, too.
Peace be with you,