Dealing with the pandemic – especially while Hong Kong has been in the grips of its fifth wave – has certainly been challenging, both mentally and emotionally.
It’s no surprise that a growing number of the city’s residents are experiencing post-traumatic stress and anxiety, with mental health organisations and counselling groups reporting an increase of up to 60 percent in the number of clients and calls for help, with an estimated more than 70 percent of inquiries related to Covid-19.
Having feelings of anxiety aren’t unique to the pandemic, however. A 2019 study done by the World Health Organization and MindHK showed that more than 61% of Hongkongers are considered to have “poor mental well-being and unsatisfactory mental health”, due to various factors, such as work-related stress and financial difficulties, social stigma, and a shortage of professional mental health support.
Symptoms of anxiety
The symptoms of anxiety include feelings of fear, tension, excessive worry about everyday problems, heart palpitations or an elevated heart rate, difficulty concentrating, and muscle tension, including chest tightness. It’s important to remember that anxiety can affect anyone at any age. It’s also a common condition that affects millions of people around the world.
Thankfully, there is light at the end of the tunnel. Research has shown that anxiety sufferers may be able to alleviate symptoms through their diet.
In her book, The Anti-anxiety Food Solution: How the Foods You Eat Can Help You Calm Your Anxious Mind, Improve Your Mood & End Cravings, Trudy Scott delves into the different types of foods we eat and how these impact our brain chemistry and emotions. We may not realise how much our moods, thoughts and feelings can be impacted by our diets until we make a change. What and when you eat can make a big difference between feeling anxious and staying calm.
Food as medicine
According to Scott, the biggest factor in maintaining optimal mental health is eating real, whole, good-quality food. This means plenty of vegetables and fruit and staying away from processed food, sweetened desserts, fried foods, refined grains and high-fat dairy products.
She provides a step-by-step approach in eliminating foods that may be affecting our emotional state, including gluten, dairy and grains, keeping a food diary, and assessing every two weeks if there are changes in how we feel.
A look into some evidence-based studies reveal eight plant-based superfoods that you can start eating now to ease feelings of anxiety and lift your mood.
Green tea contains an amino acid called theanine which has calming effects and may increase the production of serotonin and dopamine. A 2017 study found that 200mg of theanine offered improved feelings of calm and relaxation.
Brazil nuts, mushrooms and soybeans are all high in selenium, which reduce inflammation levels that are heightened when someone is suffering from anxiety.
Another tea with anti-inflammatory benefits, flavonoids in chamomile tea offer a soothing effect, and a 2010 study showed significantly reduced symptoms of anxiety in those that received up to 1,500mg of chamomile extract per day.
Pumpkin seeds and bananas are potassium-rich, which may reduce symptoms of stress and anxiety by regulating electrolyte balance and managing blood pressure.
Adding turmeric in food or tea may help reduce anxiety as it contains curcumin, which reduces inflammation and oxidative stress. A 2015 study found that curcumin helped relieve anxiety and increase DHA in obese adults.
A 2015 review lists the nutritional and therapeutic effects of Chia seeds, which include help with digestion, boosting immunity, and your emotional health too. It is a great source of Omega-3, which helps prevent heart disease, controls eczema and arthritis, and a host of other conditions.
Sign up for the 8Shades weekly newsletter to get our top stories in your inbox!