It just made sense to me to have these together. The common theme is that focusing on making healthy choices can greatly lower anxiety and stress. Diet meaning the foods we eat, not starting a diet to lose weight. And exercise meaning how we get our body moving and heart rate up but, again, not necessarily with the goal of losing weight.
I tend to “stress eat” to either soothe my frustration (which doesn’t actually work) or as a reward for putting up with a crappy situation. As such, I usually go for the less healthy options in the house – sweets, fatty snacks, more sweets. Unfortunately these have been shown to potentially worsen anxiety. Sugary foods/drinks and caffeine are at the top of the list for sure, but did you know that processed and fried/fatty foods have also been linked to higher anxiety? The good news is that a piece of candy is not going to cause a panic attack. It’s all about moderation. The better news is that for every item on this list, there is another food that has the potential to help with anxiety.
Foods that help ease anxiety (from Harvard Health blog cited at the end of the post):
- Antioxidants – beans, berries, nuts…
- High B vitamin foods – almonds, avocados…
- Probiotics – kefir, sauerkraut…
- Omega-3 containing foods – salmon, supplements…
- High Zinc foods – oysters, cashews, egg yolk
- High Magnesium foods – leafy greens, legumes…
So we’ve covered Diet. What do we know about the anxiolytic (I’m starting to really love that word) effects of exercise?
If I’m honest, there are a TON of studies connecting exercise and reduced anxiety and depression. I’ve cited the ADAA page on this below. What I find most interesting is that “exercise” doesn’t have to entail 30 minutes of conditioning and 30 minutes of cardio 3 to 4 times a week to be effective. In fact, a 10 minute walk can have lasting anxiolytic (last time, I promise) effects. It’s a great refresher for the nervous system but it also serves as a break from any current stressors.
I probably don’t need to tell anyone with anxiety that the right foods and some exercise can be helpful. It’s not always as simple as feeling stressed, dropping everything you’re doing, and going for a brisk walk. Try working them in in bits rather than chunks, especially if it’s new to you. And don’t forget to add any thoughts or positive advice below!
- Harvard Health blog “Nutritional strategies to ease anxiety”
- Anxiety & Depression Assoc. of America (ADAA)
Photos from Canva