What is Anxiety?
Anxiety is a broad term, which is used by many to describe a wide range of emotions. Anxiety can arise in regard to all manner of things, from worrying over a presentation to suffering from a panic disorder, which encroaches on every area of your life.
Anxiety is a feeling of uneasiness, which presents itself as worry or fear. Most people will experience a form of anxiety in their lifetime.
Anxiety can be traced back to the cavemen days during which the ‘fight or flight’ mode would activate to keep them alive. This would result in ‘a boost of adrenaline that would increase the heart rate and boost the amount of oxygen going to our limbs, so we were better able to fight or run from danger’.
Evolution has meant that the fight or flight reaction is somewhat redundant. A certain level of anxiety can have a positive effect on a person; it can motivate them to do their best. However, for many people, anxiety can be debilitating and scary.
Anxiety is also connected with other mental health problems, such as panic attacks, social anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, health anxiety and body dysmorphic disorder.
The wide-reaching effects of anxiety are almost unimaginable, but to those who suffer daily, it is a lonely and frightening situation.
What does anxiety feel like?Anxiety presents itself in many different forms, including but not limited to:
- Muscle aches and tension
- A strong, fast or irregular heartbeat (palpitations)
- Trembling or shaking
- Shortness of breath
- Excessive sweating
- Stomach ache
- Feeling sick
- Dry mouth
- Pins and needles
The list of symptoms above demonstrates the numerous different ways anxiety can affect a person. It is a terrifying situation to be in when your mental health is presenting itself with such prominent physical signs. Anxiety blurs the line between mental health and physical health and so therefore poses the question as to how closely these two are connected.
The relationship between mental and physical health
When considering your mental health it is important to be aware of your physical health. ‘Physical health problems significantly increase the risk of poor mental health, and vice versa.’ We have long been aware that exercising releases endorphins and serotonin, which help to improve your mood.
The chemicals released inside of your brain encourage happiness. Scientific research is beginning to unearth further connections between the mind and the body to recognise that physical changes can impact on your mental health.
Whilst many people have understood this connection for a number of years it is now becoming part of people’s mainstream understanding of health.
How can your Physical Health impact on your Mental Health?
It is widely understood that your mental health can impact on your physical health. For example, when you’re feeling stressed your immune system is affected and you become more susceptible to viruses. However, it is important to also understand that ‘poor physical health can lead to an increased risk of developing mental health problems’.
For example, those suffering from distress are 32% more likely to die from cancer and those with depression are more likely to suffer from coronary heart disease.
Your mental and physical health support each other, therefore if one is compromised it will greatly impact on the other. Your physical health is relatively easy to maintain – a good diet and exercise. However, less is known about how to maintain good mental health.
Taking Vitamins and Supplements for Anxiety
There has been extensive research into how your diet can positively impact on your mental health. For example, foods high in tryptophan encourage your body to create serotonin, which improves your mood.
Foods high in this include; cheese, eggs, peanuts, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, milk, tofu, soy and chocolate. Therefore, in theory your diet can improve both your physical and mental health.
However, I know from my own experience sometimes achieving a balanced diet can be difficult.
My anxiety is closely connected with depression and therefore some days I eat for the sake of eating, I cannot even imagine attempting to achieve a balanced diet.
It therefore could be beneficial for both your mental and physical health to take vitamins and supplements. This would ensure that your body is receiving all the nutrients it needs to maintain good physical and mental health. There is extensive research that suggests different vitamins can positively impact on your mental health. For example,:
- Vitamin B1 – Balances sugar levels, which is a factor in anxiety.
- Vitamin B3 – Helps to create serotonin.
- Vitamin B5 – Supports adrenal glands, which reduces stress and anxiety.
- Vitamin B9 and B12 – Balances depressive moods.
- Vitamin B6 – Balances anxiety and connected to PMS.
- Calcium and magnesium – Supports the nervous system and can prevent anxiety and panic attacks.
The above vitamins each support a different element of your mental health. Therefore, scientifically speaking it is possible for the correct diet or vitamins and supplements to improve your mental health. On the flip side, it is also possible for a diet that is lacking in these vitamins to negatively impact on your mental health.
My experience with Mental Health and Vitamins-
With the above research in mind a few months ago, I decided to try taking some vitamins. I’m a fussy vegetarian and gluten intolerant, so I suspect my diet may be somewhat lacking and therefore I decided that if vitamins did not impact on my mental health, they might at least give me a physical boost.
Before taking the vitamins, I had been suffering from a continuous cold, and however, since then, I have successfully fought many off. I know that taking a multi-vitamin has generally improved my physical health, which in turn puts me in a better position to confront my mental health.
My mental health also feels as though it has improved. Whether this is because I physically feel healthier or if it has replenished vitamins in my body that help mental health, I’m not sure. Either way, I’m happy with the result and the scientific research carried out suggests that the vitamins have enhanced my natural ability to ward off anxiety.
If I go a few days without taking them, I feel my moods begin to dip, and my mental health becomes more difficult to confront.
I cannot say that I have recovered from my anxiety because of taking these vitamins. However, I do believe they have given me the boost I needed to fight against my mental health problems.