Gill Stannard

Monday, October 09, 2006


Anxiety, whether acute or chronic, is an exaggerated feeling of worry and tension. This is largely due to the primitive survival centre of our brain being triggered, causing a ‘fight or flight’ (sympathetic nervous system) response. These chemical messengers cause greater blood flow and enervation to our heart, lungs, muscles and brain and result in a little less to the skin, digestive and reproductive systems. This explains why our heart might beat fast, we feel over focused or can’t concentrate, the bowels play up, we feel tension in our muscles and other such effects that cause havoc with our daily lives.

While an exam or event may cause us to feel anxious, long term anxiety and associated syndromes such as PTSD, OCD or panic attacks can be crippling over time.

The following are suggestions to take the edge off all forms of tension. But be aware anxiety is like a red flag being flown by your psyche that you feel unsafe in your world. Seeing a well experienced psychologist or psychotherapist may be the most logical way to help you work through your fears and begin to live an authentic life.


Caffeine and other stimulants are poisons to your over primed nervous system. Even one cup of coffee a day may push you over the edge. Giving up might cause some short term tension, but is well worth it in the long run. Don’t forget black and green tea, cola and ‘energy’ drinks and even chocolate as other forms of stimulants to avoid.

Remember to have at least 2 litres of water and some relaxing herbal teas such as lemon balm and chamomile, every day - to keep your brain well hydrated.

Hypoglycaemia, that drop in blood sugar levels after a sweet binge or from not eating every 4 hours, is a common physiological anxiety trigger. Check out the notes from my previous show on breaking the sugar cycle for help to overcome this.

Nothing beats a natural diet with no additives and plenty of wholegrains, nuts, seeds, vegetables and fruit. Rolled oats, in particular are packed with nerve calming nutrients, but remember to soak them first for the body to be able to utililise these goodies.


Many B group vitamins are needed in greater amounts when the body is undergoing a prolonged stress response. Look for a B complex or multivitamin with the full complement of B’s including at least 50mg of B6.

Magnesium is another useful nerve calmer. Also indicated if you feel twitchy or have muscle cramps.


Herbal medicine has so many wonderful plants with gentle, anti-anxiety constituents.

Kava – is the king of anti-anxiety herbs. It is now available in Australia as a tablet. This form is considered to be non-addictive.

St John’s Wort – especially when anxiety's “twin” depression, is part of your cycle. Not to be taken with many prescribed medications, it is best to see a herbalist if you are on any other drugs.

Chamomile, lavender, passionflower, lemon balm – as teas, tinctures or tablets, all wonderfully relaxing without knocking you out.

Essential oils

Aromatherapy is a powerful tool in convincing your primitive brain that you are not in danger. Use 1-2 drops in a bath, oil burner, or even on your wrist. Caution is advised in pregnancy; or directly on the body or bath if you have sensitive skin.

Chamomile – as quality really counts when using these oils therapeutically this is one oil that is rather pricey, but makes a great investment. Very calming.

Lavender – more affordable (but still go for quality), universally used to promote restful sleep and reduce anxiety.

Flower Essences

Though there are many essences which can be put together for the individual that addresses specific fears and symptoms, the famous Rescue Remedy formula is a great first aid medicine for anxiety. Take 4 drops under your tongue daily and as required.


There is so much more that you can do to give your anxiety and outlet. Number one is exercise which gives the pent up tension in your muscles somewhere to go. Try running, fast walking, swimming, skipping or dancing around your living room – the important thing is to do it regularly.

Also consider: Yoga, meditation, journal writing, creative visualisation, deep breathing, turning off the tv or selective viewing of only uplifting programmes for a while.

Finally, you don’t need to suffer – get help from a support group, psychologist, naturopath, meditation centre…


Anxiety Disorders Association of Victoria, Inc.

Bev Aisbett - books and workshops

PADA - Panic Anxiety and Depression Assistance

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