Anxiety is an incredibly common mental issue. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, anxiety is the most common mental illness in the United States. While anxiety is extremely common, and can be overwhelming, it can also be managed.
There are a number of ways to manage anxiety, but sometimes we get in our own way, and without even realizing it, we make the situation worse. There are some things that we consume that can mimic anxiety, make anxiety worse, or even cause anxiety.
One of the biggest proponents of this is simple carbohydrates. Simple carbs are processed quickly and cause blood sugar levels to change rapidly. Low blood sugar, or hypoglycemia symptoms can include confusion, heart palpitation, shakiness, excess sweating, fainting, and nausea or vomiting. Sudden low blood sugar can feel just like anxiety, and can even cause it.
To avoid hypoglycemia, make sure to eat regularly and include complex carbs that contain fiber in your diet. These nutrients take a long time to digest and therefore help regulate blood sugar. Healthy snacks throughout the day and limiting processes foods (including savory foods) will help eliminate blood sugar related anxiety.
Caffeine is another substance that is known to cause anxiety. Caffeine is a stimulant that activates the fight or flight response of the sympathetic nervous system without there being a real threat, just like anxiety. This can both feel like anxiety and cause an anxiety attack. Because of this, it is a good idea to limit caffeine, or cut it out entirely, especially if you are prone to anxiety attacks.
Many of us use alcohol as a way to relax and get out of our own heads for an evening. While it may feel great at the beginning, it often takes a turn and leaves us feeling worse. Just like simple carbs in the bloodstream, alcohol causes serotonin levels to spike (making us feel good, relaxed, and inhibition-free) and then drop. Just like low blood sugar low serotonin levels can trigger anxiety and depression. To avoid this, avoid alcohol, or if you are going to consume alcohol, drink responsibly. Limit how much you drink, drink it slowly over time, drink water as well, and do not drink alcohol on an empty stomach.
While nicotine does not directly cause anxiety, it does play a significant role. When nicotine is used, it raises blood pressure and heart rate, mimicking anxiety. When quitting smoking, nicotine withdrawal can cause anxiety among a number of other symptoms. Nicotine is an incredibly addictive substance so if it can be avoided it should be.
Facts & Statistics. Anxiety and Depression Association of America, ADAA. https://adaa.org/about-adaa/press-room/facts-statistics.
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