Would you follow an anxiety and stress reduction diet?
We, more or less, agree on the fact that, to be healthy, we need to keep our weight under control through diet and exercise. We do not hesitate to put money and time into our physical appearance, but are we ready to go to the extent we go to lose weight when it comes to our mental health?
We are very conscious of what we eat or, at least, we can find all the information we need about food by reading its labels. We spend time in the gym, count the calories we eat to look better but not really to improve our physical health.
Now, when it comes to mental health there are no scales that measure our weight and no mirror to tell us if we are going in the direction we want, nor we have labels that tell us the stress and anxiety content of our life choices. We often treat what goes on inside of us as if it was not real and had no importance. We consider our thoughts and emotions as "unwanted" and we dismiss them to the point that we don't know what we are thinking and feeling anymore. Try asking yourself "what am I thinking?What am I feeling?" a couple of times a day, and you will see how difficult it is to answer.
Imagine that a scientist just discovered that good mental health leads to weight loss... would we start paying more attention to our feelings and thoughts? Unfortunately, I am a teacher and a psychotherapist, but not a scientist, so I will never do that research.
Instead, I can tell you what you are likely to be doing with your anxiety. You might be anxious to the bone to go to a social situation, and your efforts go into how you appear: You want others to see you happy, strong, healthy and successful. You try to ringfence your anxiety until the moment you stop sleeping well, or, even worse, have a panic attack and you don't know why.
Let's go back to diets. Imagine that life situations come with anxiety and stress content labels. For example, job adverts would come with a salary and also expected stress and anxiety levels. Would that make you think twice before applying to a stressful and anxious-provoking job? Stopping anxiety and stress when we are in situations that are full of them, is like wanting to lose weight while eating only food full of fat; it is just not going to happen.
So, are we ready to go to the extent we go to lose weight when it comes to mental health? I don't think we are there yet, but we are going in the right direction. There are plenty of self-help books and videos and also plenty of well-trained mental health experts who can help you start your diet for anxiety and stress. It all starts with becoming aware of what is causing stress and anxiety right now in your life.
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About Alessio Rizzo
Alessio is a BACP counsellor and psychotherapist working in Shoredtich (Central London). In addition to years of experience working with mental health, he holds an MA in psychotherapy and has been through a 15-year long journey of self-discovery and healing. Alessio integrates humanistic, CBT, mindfulness and motivational interviewing.