Anxiety and Stress
If we do not eat regularly, this can lead to low blood sugar levels and feelings of dizziness, trembling, weakness and low energy levels. Everyone is unique and has different levels of tolerances to foods, but the following should be considered if suffering from stress/anxiety.
If we eat a lot of sugary snacks, the effect is that we will get bursts of energy shortly after eating, which can lead to feelings of restlessness, tension and irritability, but this energy burst will drop rapidly as the glucose in the sugary snacks is burnt off very quickly. Result – blood sugar levels go from too high to too low, leaving you feeling low, tired therefore requiring a further pick-up such as another sugary snack, and so a vicious circle occurs. The ideal approach is to eat complex carbohydrates such as whole grains, potatoes, fruit and vegetables, as the sugar in these foods digests slowly and is released into the blood circulation very gradually – not overwhelming the body’s ability to handle it.
Caffeine is contained not only in coffee but in many types of tea, cola, chocolate, cocoas and over the counter drugs.
Caffeine has a stimulating effect on several different symptoms in the body. It makes you feel alert and awake. It also produces the same symptoms as when you are anxious, i.e. it speeds up the body, so too much caffeine can make you feel anxious, tense and aroused. After the initial pick-up people with anxiety/excessive stress may find that caffeine intake makes them more tired than before. Recommended daily consumption of caffeine is no more than 100mg (1-2 cups of coffee/tea depending on strength) and the average chocolate bar contains 25mg. However, cutting down on your caffeine intake should be done slowly to avoid withdrawal symptoms such as headaches, depression, and fatigue. Excess amounts of caffeine (more than 4 or 5 cups a day) can dramatically trigger anxiety, irritability, and mood swings.
Caffeine depletes the body’s store of B-complex vitamins and essential minerals like potassium, which are important in the chemical reactions that convert food to usable energy, so deficiency of these nutrients increases anxiety, mood swings, and fatigue. Coffee, black tea and chocolate all inhabit iron absorption, thus worsening cases of anemia.
Nicotine is as strong stimulant as caffeine. It stimulates physical arousal and makes your heart work harder (which it may already be doing due to anxiety), therefore making it twice as hard to relax. It is advisable not to smoke before bedtime, as this may impede sleep.
Alcohol has a depressant effect on our bodies, reducing inhibitions and effecting our judgement and perception, thus giving the false impression of being relaxed. The body can easily develop tolerance to alcohol and physical dependence can occur as more and more alcohol is consumed.