Is Your Thyroid Making You Anxious?
Are you always worrying about the little things, or things that haven’t even happened yet? Does thinking about the future stress you out? If so, you may be dealing with anxiety.
Anxiety can be a symptom of many health concerns, including thyroid disorders. But if your anxiety is rooted in the thyroid, there are steps you can take to minimise your symptoms.
Why do thyroid conditions make us feel anxious?
There a few different mechanisms related to the thyroid that can lead to anxiety.
Anxiety is a typical symptom of hyperthyroid conditions. This is because of the overproduction of thyroid hormones speeding up the body and stimulating the nervous system. You might experience nervousness, a racing heartbeat, trembling and even rapid breathing and dizziness.
However, it can also be caused by hypothyroid conditions. As the hormone levels fall, the function of your body is impaired, including your nervous system. This can express itself as anxiety, depression, or even a mix of the two. Even if you’re taking thyroid medication, you may not be converting enough into the active form to prevent symptoms such as anxiety.
For those who experience fluctuations between a hypothyroid and hyperthyroid state, it can be caused by the sudden changes in thyroid hormone levels.
There are also indirect factors that can contribute to anxiety. You might be worried about managing your condition or stressed over a flare-up. You may have had a pre-existing tendency towards anxiety and experienced symptoms as a teenager or even a young child. These symptoms may have gone unlabelled until your thyroid issues came to light.
How can we address anxiety caused by thyroid issues?
Anxiety can be a tricky beast, as it can be caused by physical and mental factors. However, there are some steps you can take that cover both sides of anxiety and minimise your symptoms.
Stabilise thyroid hormone production and conversion
If your thyroid hormone levels aren’t where they need to be, this is the most important step to take. Working with an experienced practitioner can help you to optimise your thyroid hormone production and conversion.
Calm your nervous system
At the root of it, anxiety is about a nervous system that is stuck in fight-or-flight mode. So we want to focus on calming down the nervous system so you can rest.
There are plenty of options, so find one (or more!) that works for you. Some ways to calm the nervous system include:
Epsom salt baths
Drinking a calming herbal tea
Cuddling a loved one or pet
Gentle exercise such as yoga or qi gong
Grounding yourself by walking on the beach or going for a swim in the ocean
Work with a mental health professional
If you have always tended towards anxiety, it can be a good idea to work with a mental health professional. A qualified counsellor or psychologist can help you to find strategies for coping with anxiety when it occurs.
You may also want to consider other supportive modalities out there, such as kinesiology, life coaching or even relaxation massage. Although these won’t eliminate anxiety, they will help you feel calmer and more in control.
Get a good night of sleep
Sleep is the time where the body heals, but it is also when the brain flushes out all of the waste from the day. If we don’t get a good night of sleep, the build-up of waste can affect brain function and leave you prone to anxiety.
Sleep can be a tricky thing to master when you’re dealing with anxiety. So set yourself up for a good night of sleep with these little tricks:
Create a little night-time wind-down routine, so your body knows it’s almost sleep time. You might take a warm shower, spend some time reading in bed, make a cup of calming herbal tea or spend some time cuddling with your loved one, kids and/or pets.
Once the sun goes down, switch the bright overhead lights for lamps or candles
Put away your phone or laptop and turn off the TV at least 30 minutes before bed
Keep your bedroom pitch-black and cool – around 16-19 degrees Celcius is optimal
Practice deep breathing for a few minutes or listen to a guided meditation as you drift off to sleep
Eat to reduce anxiety levels
You might not think about it, but the way that we eat and drink has a big impact on our anxiety levels. There are a few tweaks you can make to minimise your chances of anxiety:
Ditch the coffee, alcohol and processed sugars – these stimulate your nervous system and heighten your anxiety levels
Have protein with every meal and snack – this balances out your blood sugar levels, calming the nervous system
Eat frequently – many people find 5-6 small meals keep them feeling steadier and calmer because they don’t get the sudden crash in blood sugar levels
Stay hydrated – even 2% dehydration can impact your cognitive function, which can lead to anxious thoughts
There are also some nutrients and adaptogenic herbs that can be useful for reducing anxiety caused by thyroid issues.
If you’re ready to ditch the anxiety and get a tailored treatment plan to get you back on track, book an appointment with Tara here.