How Holistic Health Got Me Off of My Anxiety Medication
Last week, I had the pleasure of participating in an event benefitting the Cameron Gallagher Foundation, whose mission is to increase awareness around teenage anxiety and depression. In response, I felt inspired to speak on this subject as I too have struggled with both; it's so important to be vocal in order to remove the stigma (not to mention it is so much more prevalent than people realize). I have gone down the road of medication, and looking back on it now, I think it was the best course of action to take at the time. However, given what I know now about my personal journey with anxiety, I believe very strongly in the holistic approach to health and happiness*.
First of all, you can't separate the way you feel mentally from the food that you eat. There is a long nerve called the Vagus nerve that runs the length of your spinal cord, connecting your brain to your digestive tract. It is a highway of communication between these two systems and they are constantly sending signals to one another. Furthermore, it is estimated that around 90% of your serotonin (those feel good chemicals attributing to a positive mood) are manufactured in your gut. Studies are showing that anxiety and depression are symptoms of inflammation, and therefore those high-inflammatory foods (sugar, gluten, and dairy to name a few) could be factoring in as well. Cleaning up my diet five years ago gave me the confidence I needed to get off of my medication, knowing that when I fuel my mind and body correctly, these systems have the amazing ability to heal.
But I don't believe nutrition tells the whole story. I'm evidence that you can eat the right things, move your body every day, get 7-8 hours of high-quality sleep and still struggle with anxiety. At first I would beat myself up, wondering why if I was doing all the right things (or worse yet, tell myself I had every reason in the world to not be sad), this issue still plagued me. I now know that mindset and the thoughts we think play a huge role. It might not feel like it sometimes, but we actually have complete control over this aspect of our life.
Human beings are funny creatures. Often, relishing in places of anxiety, stress, fear, and victimization can not only be familiar, but comfortable (whether conscious or sub-conscious). I have seen it in myself and in others. Your mind-body connection, coupled with those oh-so-very strong survival instincts can keep you in a negative space. So while rewiring a new neural net might be difficult, it's not impossible, and can be done!