Standing on the tube platform at South Kensington, a feeling of overwhelm came over me. I felt hot, light headed, wobbly on my feet, but unable to move – as though my feet were welded to the floor. I could see and hear everybody around me, but they were moving in slow motion. It came from nowhere, and there was nothing I could pinpoint as a trigger. I was in my twenties and it wasn’t until some years later that I identified that moment as a “panic attack”. So this is what anxiety really feels like.
In my forties, it happened again. This time it felt like hitting a wall. I was emotionally spent, going through the emotions of nurturing my son, running my businesses, keeping the house going and dealing with difficult neighbours objecting to a planning application – a saga which had lasted over a decade.
What anxiety really feels like
To the outside world I was ‘functioning,” but it was getting harder and harder. My emotional resilience to silly things was off the scale, and I would quickly lose my temper and my perspective. I didn’t want to socialise, and every time I went out the fear of others talking about me, or bumping into the neighbours or somebody I knew was crippling. I would break out in a cold sweat, feeling as though my knees could collapse from under me.
My sleep pattern was completely erratic and I was medicating my emotions with food, sugar, caffeine and wine and isolating myself.
I realised something had to change – but I had no idea where to start.
So I started by saying “yes!” to something completely out of my comfort zone in my current frame of mind.
The Power of “yes!”
A lady I had met once invited me to the One Woman Conference, as she had a half price ticket. We agreed to meet there, so I arrived to face the first of many fears – walking into a room full of hundreds of women. Oh my goodness – I had no idea what to expect!
I sat quietly at the back hoping I could just be invisible and thinking, well at least this is going to be a family pass for a weekend away in London.
That weekend reignited a healing journey for me. I realised that for too long I had neglected myself. My emotional tank was completely empty and I needed to rediscover what would fill that up for me.
I distilled this into one word: “reconnection”.
I had disconnected from my mind, body and spirit and needed to reinvest in those areas. Just like a bank account my emotional account was overdrawn and I hadn’t discovered a strategy to deposit and save energy.
My journey to reconnection
I discovered one of the most important elements of my recovery from anxiety: food.
Food is a huge passion of mine, but as I began to pay closer attention to my energy and moods I noticed something interesting. When I’m feeling crap and disconnected I gravitate towards bland food, crisps, cheese, “love in a bag” – sugar. It’s as though my taste buds are in “neutral”. I avoid colour – in the way I dress and the way I eat.
At first, I believed that my emotions were affecting my gut. But then I began to question if it might actually be the other way around. What if the emotions were the last link in the chain, and perhaps the “disconnection” started in inflammation in my gut?
The gut/brain connection
According to growing research, the vagus nerve is the longest nerve in the body. It runs all the way from the brainstem to the part of the colon that helps regulate many critical aspects of human physiology, including heart rate, blood pressure, sweating, digestion, and even speaking.
Learning this was an “aha!” moment. So this was the gut/brain connection that I kept reading about. Turns out, there was truth to the saying “gut feeling” – and it’s a physical connection, not a metaphorical one!
I kept reading about gut bacteria that live in your body naturally and help your intestines break down food. One fact I love is that the average lifespan of a bacterium in your microbiome is 20 minutes. That means you have the opportunity every time you eat to begin to change the population of your gut!
I decided it was time to Marie Kondo my gut and control my hormones, particularly cortisol, as my adrenals were exhausted. A blood test revealed that my vitamin D levels were non-existent.
Gradually I came to understand that the food I ingest is a metaphor for life, and how I view life. Think about it for a moment: Are you eating to exist, or eating to truly enrich your life and support your purpose?
I learned that a healthy gut would reduce inflammation in my body as a whole, and replenishing my good bacteria would allow me to process foods better as well as, critically, allowing me to absorb the mineral and nutrients in the food I ate. In turn, that would support my emotional resilience… at least that was the theory.
Testing and experimenting to find what works
I researched and I talked to friends and family and most importantly trusted my intuition – my gut. I took a number of natural supplements for the symptoms I felt needed to be addressed urgently, kept a detailed food and emotional diary… and slowly I found myself a new normal.
My husband is a natural pharmacist, and as I learned more and more about the importance of nutrition we were inspired to begin a new project together: “The Naked Pharmacy”, providing 100% natural remedies and supplements backed by science and expert advice.
The supplement that made the most difference to me was one called “Saffrosun”, made from organic saffron. I literally felt like the sun had been turned on inside me within 7 days and I just felt lighter and calmer, and as though I was able to make better positive decisions overtime. It tackled my overworked cortisol levels taking it in the morning when the cortisol levels were the highest allowed them to adjust to a balance over the day allowing for better restful sleep. The ripple effect of better cortisol for me was I lost weight, felt more energised and my brain fog was eased.
One of my favourite colours is orange so I instinctively loved this spice in cooking, but never realised that there was genuine historic and scientific evidence for its use for emotional balance – and that it contained vitamin D. Even now, 2 years later, it still works for me. I will take it and within an hour feel aware that my breathing is calmer and I feel more balanced.
As a One of many woman, I also connect with the Women’s PowerTypes, relating them to the chakra colours and integrating them as foods and clothes to support how I’m feeling. So if Lover is orange, and we’re struggling with self care, it might be time to eat more salmon, mangoes, and oranges and integrate spices such as turmeric and saffron.
How about you?
If you know what anxiety really feels like for you, and maybe you’re ready to make a real change, I urge you to take stock in a gentle way and discover your internal body and its relationship with food.
Start today and have a good look at yourself and ask “what’s working in me and for me, and what isn’t?”. Gently and with curiosity, park your preconceived ideas and set aside what other people have said, what you have read, what works for so-and-so, and reconnect with yourself.
You are unique. A unique collection of experiences, DNA, emotions, and food history.
As part of your routine you might find it valuable to keep a detailed food journal which doesn’t just monitor your food or drink in-take, but your moods, the weather, moon cycles, when you eat, who do you eat with? It’s the way we live and the way we are that creates our health – not just the food!
Patterns may emerge that can help you understand what supports or triggers an emotional state such as anxiety and how that manifests for you. Perhaps you’ll be able to discover tools that can support you holistically, so issues don’t escalate – and you can leave feelings like stress and anxiety behind.
Spice Queen | Recipe inventor | Inappropriate giggler
Abigail has over 20 years experience in relationship marketing having worked with clients within Global FTSE 100 companies, animation, film, nutraceuticals, education, and within her own companies. She currently works within the marketing and strategic arena of her family’s global business developing their interests in publishing, art, property, finance and agriculture.
Her family’s vision has been to create viable legacy businesses which supports culture and community. These are achieved through their umbrella company called “Village Sanctuary” with locations in Goa and Kenya, where they have built a thriving art, culture and heritage centre for residents, artists and the local community. In their first year alone the project welcomed over 1000 children from the local schools to explore the village of artists, workshops, crafts, a live radio station, and food venues.
Find recipes and read Abigail’s blog at www.reconnection.kitchen.
For a special discount at The Naked Pharmacy as a member of the One of many community, simply go to the website www.thenakedpharmacy.com and use the code OOM20 for 20% off all products – or just call Kevin for advice.