Anxiety is not just in your head, it’s in your body

The things we put into our bodies or do to our bodies contribute to our overall level of anxiety.    If we spend a few minutes on each area, we can increase the positive impact of change.   Even just 2% here and there can add up!

Here are some commonly overlooked areas with some links to further information:


If you aren’t getting good sleep everything else is tougher.  Use a free trial of an app like ShutEye to see how you rate if you aren’t really sure.  Look up “good sleep hygiene” online to see tips on how to optimize your sleep.  Talk to your health professional about it.  Small changes take time, but almost everyone I work with sees an improvement quickly.


So many clinical studies show that moving your body in any fashion is better for anxiety and depression than sitting still.  Even a short walk around the block increases the good things in your body and decreases the not-so-good things attributing to anxiety.  If the word “exercise” makes you cringe, just vacuum more often, take the stairs, and park far away from the door. Yes, you are likely in a hurry, but those extra steps will calm you down, making the rest of your day less frenetic.



This is a big one, I know.  There are so many tips here that I’ll just focus on the worst offenders.  Please talk to your health professional about your particular concerns.

Sugar - Scary, but the average American eats over 100 grams of added sugar per day.  We want to be under 50 (and ideally under 25, but that can be a later goal.) 

Added sugar is a number on the back of the box.  It’s easy to track.  Just look at “added sugar” and pay attention to your intake for the whole day.  Try it for 3 days to get an average.  This is a fun family activity.  Don’t deny yourself.  Just eat as you normally would.  Most people are really surprised.  Then commit to trying to keep your added sugar to less than 50 per day for a full week to see what that feels like.  Sugar affects our blood sugar which affects our mood (and a host of other metabolic activities) greatly!

Fake sweeteners - While sugar is overeaten, I’d rather have you eat sugar than sugar substitutes.  So many of them are linked to problems which include neurological issues.  For anxiety, fake sweeteners are terrible, aspartame being one of the worst.

Caffeine - anyone with anxiety would do well to cut out caffeine altogether.  If you must have it, wean yourself down to one drink per day, preferably in the morning with some food.  Caffeine charges our system, contributing to anxiety directly.  So many people don’t even see the connection until they cut it out (or cut it back.)  It’s worth the effort.  Ask for help with some substitutes or go slowly while your body adjusts.

Energy drinks - Please, please eliminate all energy drinks.  Even the “healthy” ones have ingredients that may be natural but are not good for anxiety.  My cardiologist friend has seen too many young people coming in with panic attacks and irregular heart issues due to these drinks.  People drink these like soda and they are not meant to be consumed that way.  More coffee is better than these if you really need the boost.

Alcohol - We can’t forget alcohol.  As much as our culture celebrates this beverage, overconsumption is just so easy for the anxious person.  You know all the reasons already, but I’ll remind you of a few things that alcohol harms that also contribute to anxiety: sleep quality, blood sugar metabolism, hormones, neurotransmitters, gut microbes, and liver detoxification.   You don’t have to give up alcohol forever, but if you are very anxious, this one thing change alone can have a substantial impact.

If you decide to cut back or give up some of these items, remember to only do one at a time and go slowly if you need to.  Remember why you are doing this so that it is a mindful choice instead of a short-lived experiment.  Talk with your health professional about your goals.

For more information about anxiety and a tie-in to hormones, listen to this podcast

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