RD CLASSIC: Escape From Cuba
switching from one thing to another are associated with poorer attention, cognition and mood).
There’s also some evidence that what you eat may play a role in your ability to calm your mind. A 2015 study in the journal Psychiatry Research found that eating foods high in probiotics (pickles, kefir, sauerkraut) may protect against symptoms of social anxiety.
And a 2011 U.S. study found that fare high in omega-3s (such as fatty fish) has been linked to lower anxiety.
Staying the Course
Although you can reduce—or even overcome—GAD, maintaining solid mental health remains a lifelong process. Mark Virgin, a 54-year-old lawyer in Vancouver, was diagnosed two years ago and sees his psychologist twice a year for checkups. “I still suffer from anxiety, but now I’m equipped with coping mechanisms,” he says. Virgin tries to meditate daily. He’s also reduced his coffee and alcohol consumption and stays committed to an exercise regimen.
Afraid of how the stigma associated with mental illness might affect his work and relationships, Virgin initially attempted to mask his symptoms, until they became crippling. He would worry about potential issues— usually work related—and build up improbable, worst-case scenarios in his head. “It got to the point where I was having a hard time leaving my home—and I’m a pretty extroverted person,” he says.
CBT helped Virgin recognize the implausibility of the catastrophic narratives he had been constructing. One of the strategies he found to be most useful was writing out the scenarios, then reading them back. “I was suddenly struck by how disproportionate what I’d constructed was to reality,” he says.
Virgin now speaks openly with co-workers and friends about his experience, with the goal of encouraging others to address their symptoms. He also serves as the board president of AnxietyBC. “I decided to share to try and de-stigmatize it,” he says. He hopes that dialogue will allow others to speak freely and learn about treatment options. “It’s exceptionally liberating when you finally have the tools to manage this disorder.”