How Nutrition Can Help Us Manage Post-Lockdown Jitters
As we slowly begin to emerge from life in lockdown, after more than a year of tough restrictions and previously unthinkable conditions, experiencing some level of anxiety about adjusting to our new normal is totally understandable. However, if you feel that your anxiety has become unmanageable there are ways you can support yourself with nutrition.
WHAT EXACTLY IS ANXIETY?
Anxiety is part of the body’s normal reaction to stress, known as the ‘fight or flight response. As our nervous system fires into survival mode, the hormones involved in anxiety and stress help us act quickly in the face of danger. We might feel our heart racing and we may begin to sweat and this is completely normal for example when preparing for a job interview or waiting for exam results, but if anxiety becomes severe and persistent it can interfere with daily life.
So, short term anxiety can help to protect us, but during the pandemic, we have all lived under a prolonged period of stress and uncertainty which for many of us may have manifested in heightened anxiety.
There are specific nutrients in food that nourish the mind and body, which in turn, can support the stress response:
Eating balanced meals with complex carbohydrates, good quality protein and fats can help to regulate blood glucose levels and stabilise mood and energy, while refined carbohydrates and sugars may disrupt blood sugar and exacerbate anxiety. Magnesium is something of a wonder mineral found in leafy green vegetables, nuts and seeds.
Anxiety sufferers have been found to have low levels of magnesium and because it is involved in over 600 processes in the body, we need make sure we consume enough daily. Known as ‘nature’s tranquiliser’, it helps to calm the nervous system, relax muscles and promote sleep. There are many forms of magnesium but if supplementing, choose taurate or glycinate to best support anxiety.
You can’t beat a good cuppa - theanine is an amino acid found primarily in green tea that has been shown to stimulate alpha brain waves and relax the mind. This is why despite tea containing caffeine you might feel a sense of calm while you drink it.
B vitamins support the nervous system and are crucial for our ability to handle stress. Under stress we produce adrenaline which provides energy to help us deal with our stressors, B12 is vital in the production of adrenaline, while B5 is required for making cortisol, and the more stressed you are, the more you need. Vitamin B6 is required to produce the calming neurotransmitter ‘GABA’ and the formation of feel-good hormones serotonin, dopamine and adrenalin.
Omega-3 fatty acids are very important in supporting the nervous system and our mental health. The human brain is made of around 60% fat and EPA is especially helpful when dealing with anxiety.