If you are reading this page, you have probably been searching for a cure for anxiety. You have come to the right place.
The bottom line on curing your anxiety, stress and burnout.
- Be careful with what you put into your body. No stimulants that may make your ‘gut brain’ cry out.
- Exercise more, outside in the sunlight and increase the feel good chemical, serotonin
- Engage in practices to change your automatic way of being.
Each of the above points will be explained below.
We are going to look at your brain (your mind) and your second brain (your gut) for a complete overview of what you need to do to tackle anxiety.
As they can all originate from the same root cause.
Anxiety, stress and burnout can originate from;
- chemicals and patterns in your brain
- the things you do, and do not do
- habits and well trodden paths in your brain, that you may not be aware of
- what you put into your body
Chemicals and how you feel.
You will be used to people saying “There was no chemistry” when they meet someone, meaning there was no attraction. Or if someone is moody, blaming it on their hormones. There is a good reason why these phrases exist.
Think about falling in love, you feel “butterflies” in your stomach, your heart rate speeds up when you are near your beloved.
When you are nervous or excited, the butterflies make an appearance, but you might call them now “sick to the stomach.”
These feelings are all down to chemicals!
How you feel in your body and mind, has a lot to do with chemicals. These chemicals can provide answers to anxiety, stress, burnout and even your digestive problems.
In this post, I am going to tell you about one chemical in particular, that will throw some light on how you are feeling: serotonin.
Serotonin is important for
- Keeping your stomach feeling good, as it helps to
- digest your food
- regulate your appetite
- Regulating your mood
- Regulating sleep
Think of your body and mind, operating at its very best; as a well oiled machine.
Now, think of serotonin being the “oil” that you need to keep everything running smoothly for you.
Person 1: The car polisher every Saturday afternoon
This person, shines and polishes their car every week, checks the oil. They take their car out every day, but lovingly maintain it regularly
Example 2: The racer
This person has their foot on the gas before the door is closed! Every where they have to go, they have their foot on the gas. They bring their car home late, and don’t have time to check it. Back up early in the morning, foot on the gas, and off they go!
6 months down the lie, let’s take a look at the two cars. The car polisher’s car, is running smoothly. The racer’s car needs a bit of work, oil was used up more often than he had time to replace it. It has now affected the not only the engine, but all parts of the car.
Are you a car polisher or racer?
If you are a car polisher, you probably won’t be reading this post. More than likely you are a racer, and running low on oil, or maybe burned out some time ago.
Your “oil” is serotonin. Like ‘the racer’ you may be doing things that are depleting your levels of serotonin.
Read more on burnout:
Your gut health and anxiety
Did you know that your gut is referred to as your second brain?
Your gut has its own nervous system. Even though it can operate independently from your brain, there is still communication between the two – coming from your gut to your brain.
In the example above, the “car polisher” will use to his mind (his first brain) to take care of his car, give it rest, top up the oil when needed.
His second brain (the gut – or in this case the engine) will signal back that everything is okay and running well.
If you are feeling butterflies in your stomach, this can signal your brain “hey, you’re anxious.” The second brain in your gut does not process thought, that is all left to your thinking brain. If you get a signal from your gut that you have “butterflies” it is your thinking brain that can run wild on how to interpret this.
Your thinking brain can come up with all sorts of scenarios such as I am anxious, I can’t cope, I am sick of this.
Your second brain – your gut, can have an impact on your mood, on how you are actually feeling.
What you eat can affect your mood.
Whatever you choose to eat, your gut has no choice then, but to digest it. It can’t talk in words that you understand or it would say
hey you, don’t eat that or it will make you anxious once I digest it
but your gut does communicate with you. Serotonin is the messenger between your gut and your brain.
What you need to know about serotonin.
Serotonin is a neurotransmitter. A neurotransmitter sends signals throughout your body and brain, to do, or not do something. The signals are important as they tell your heart to beat, your body to breathe, all the things that you do not have to think about.
Neurotransmitters are either
- excitatory – meaning they stimulate your brain, or
- inhibitory– they calm you and keep everything in balance.
Serotonin is an inhibitory neurotransmitter and can get used up quickly cooling the fires and calming the stimulating neurotransmitters.
In the car example above, if you are a “racer,” serotonin is the oil needing to keep everything going. To keep pushing forward at the speed of the racer with his foot on the gas, in addition to the oil running low, serotonin will get used up quickly, sort of like a cooling system, trying to regulate everything.
It is important to have a good supply of the regulating serotonin to keep anxiety at bay.
Maybe people think that medication is the only option available in relation to serotonin, but you can increase it naturally.
How to increase serotonin naturally
Poor quality sleep, stress and anxiety, and lack of exercise can result in lower levels of serotonin.
What you put into your body affects serotonin
If you drink too much coffee, you could be affecting your levels of serotonin as it is working to calm the stimulating effects of caffeine that you keep putting into your body.
Be careful what foods you reach for when you are feeling stressed. Often these are “comfort foods.” You should bear in mind before you eat them, that if you are feeling stress or anxiety, your digestive system is not working at its best.
During periods of stress your digestive system sort of shuts down to allow your body to do others things that it deems important, you can read about this here and come back to this page.
Introduce some dates and bananas into your diet.
Read more on foods to combat stress
Exercise and serotonin
Lack of exercise can affect serotonin
Exercise will increase your serotonin levels naturally.
Try some exercise outdoors if you can, as bright sunlight can help to increase serotonin
Read more on exercise to release your happy chemicals
Exercise calms parts of your brain. Studies have shown that the brains of runners where able to respond to stress when needed, and quickly calm down again. They did not get overwhelmed. For more information on this research please see Journal of Neuroscience.
You can be lying in your bed, exhausted, but either hyper with anxiety, your mind racing, or in extreme pain from your gut.
Getting a good nights sleep is more about what you do during the day, as opposed to last thing at night.
If you are over worked during the day, find it hard to switch off when you come home and have a racing mind, this will affect your ability to sleep at night.
Have a look at your own lifestyle. Are there things you need to change? You might have to change your eating habits, increase some things, and decrease others.
You might decide that you need to exercise more, or start some exercise.
This is easier said than done and needs to be planned for carefully.
How to get over your stumbling blocks
Where do I find the time?
Making “lifestyle changes’ can be done, you just need to take it seriously. I am going to outline some stumbling blocks that you might encounter.
Thoughts that keep it going
- I don’t have time to commit to changing things in my life.
- My work is more important (than me?)
- Working all day
- Working at weekend
- Working without taking proper breaks, and working through the breaks that you have
The guilt complex
- I can’t take time for myself
- Taking on too much work
- Not doing things for yourself
- Doing too much for other people
These type of thoughts and behaviors not only keep you anxious and burned out, they also will start to affect your health.
Read more on guilt:
How to change
The well trodden path to anxiety, burnout and fatigue
These thoughts and behaviors, are habits. You can change them, but you have to understand them first.
Your brain is really only good at paying attention to one thing at a time. Try it for yourself
- Count to ten in your head. Well done!
- Count to ten in your head, and spell your name backwards at the same time.
You see? One thing at a time.
Practically all of the time, you will of course, be doing more than one thing at a time. You could be reading this, drinking coffee (which requires your brain to co ordinate your movements) and half listening to the radio.
In order for you to be able to do this, only one thing can really take your attention; the rest are automatic processes in your brain – autopilot.
Your thoughts and behaviors can be automatic – your autopilot may be keeping you anxious and burned out.
If you have spent years working hard. You will have spent years teaching your brain that this is how you operate in life.
Like a well trodden path in your brain, you will have strong connections wiring you to keep doing the same.
It is a similar story with your thought processes. The more you have particular thoughts, the more likely you will be have them in the future as your brain comes to expect them.
- You need to watch for habitual thought processes that contribute to anxiety
- You need to understand the importance of diet and exercise
- Understand your own autopilots
- You also need to understand how your brain works