Address - The Physiological Side of Anxiety

Four Scents Team

What factors in our physical health can we address?

     Diagram explaining the connection between brain and gut  

The Gut/Brain Connection

The last decade has brought this fascinating factor to our attention. Each affect and communicate with the other. If the gut is healthy, the brain gets the all-clear signal, allowing for calm. However, if there’s an imbalance or intolerance, the gut will signal the brain to feel anxious. There are a few reasons for this. It could be a blood sugar crash, sensitivity to caffeine or alcohol or a food intolerance. There’s a wealth of helpful information out there, but for now, the questions to address are: does an episode of anxiety coincide with what I’ve had to eat or drink? Am I hungry? Having a sugar-crash? Taking notice can help to understand yourself better, in order to start the process of seeing if changing certain food/drink habits impact levels of anxiety.
     Woman sat at laptop with head in hands to represent anxiety and technology


Another vast topic which has implications on levels of anxiety. Notifications and getting a “like” on social media posts trigger the reward hormone, dopamine. This is why these things are so addictive! However, staring at screens tell the brain we’re anxious. The “tech neck” and shoulder position held during hours behind a computer or phone causes tension in the upper back and jaw too – all linked with the sympathetic nervous system (the stress response). The tension (and the impacted blood flow) then signals to the brain that we’re in a stressful situation when we’re not. Focusing on the screen can cause the eyes to widen similarly to when being in a fear state. This can be addressed through taking note of posture (see our Body Check post) and asking questions such as: Do I have conscious work boundaries? Are my communities digital or in person? Am I using tech or is it using me?
     Woman sleeping in dark room 


This is the obvious one – most of us know that after a bad night, we’re more prone to feeling anxious and emotional struggles. Sleep allows the brain to detoxify, so managing this and stress can decrease our levels of anxiety. How is your sleep? What measures are you taking to help this? Exposure to light and darkness is key – getting natural light in the morning sets you up well, and after sunset, ensuring lights are lower or have blue light filters. These help to signal to your brain when to wake up and wind down. Spending time outdoors encourages your body clock to hit reset, especially camping or being somewhere with very little artificial light. It can be as simple as going to bed when you’re tired – pushing past this can signal danger to the brain…and the result is anxiety. We each have a unique set of hours that help us feel recharged – discover it and honour it. Look out for mid-sleep jitters; they might be an indicator of a blood sugar crash or a post-midday coffee. Crucially, it’s easier to sleep if we don’t overthink it! There are many tips and tricks out there, so identify what helps and hinders you – it’s personal to each of us.
      Hand holding capsule to represent other contributors affecting anxiety

Other Physical Contributors

While we have covered some of the basic issues to address how physical health affects stress levels, we’re aware that there are other contributors out there:
  • Immunity and inflammation
  • Hormonal health
  • Medication
  • Being low in a certain vitamin or mineral, such as magnesium or vitamin D
If you suspect any of these might be affecting you, get in touch with a trusted professional, such as a GP, specialist or a qualified naturopath.

Bibliography: The Anatomy of Anxiety by Dr. Ellen Vora



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