Ora's Favourite Women Share How They Combat Anxiety
The countdown to Christmas is on.
And as we crawl towards the finish line, anxiety can rise to an all-time high. An estimated 264 million people worldwide have an anxiety disorder. What’s more, women are nearly twice as likely as men to be diagnosed with an anxiety disorder in their lifetime.
It’s statistics like those that inspired us to create Ora Adaptogen Tonic+, which we have formulated for women (and men) seeking help with stress, mild anxiety, mood balance and physical and emotional exhaustion. Featuring a potent blend of adaptogenic herbs including Affron®, a clinically-trialled saffron extract that has proven itself a positive role in low mood support, it's what we're turning to this festive season!
This week, we also spoke to three of our favourite superwomen - Sarah Wilson, Leah Simmons, and Elizabeth Hewson - about anxiety, and how they combat it.
Sarah Wilson, author of First, We Make the Beast Beautiful: A New Story about Anxiety and This One Wild and Precious Life
"Exercise is so good. Even in COVID, I would dance around my lounge room. I'd put loud music on, and I would dance out my fear or my anxiety. It's a necessary process.
I'm sure everyone knows that when you're freaked out or you're anxious, doing some form of exercise, particularly high intensity, can make a difference. That's just one simple technique for doing it, but we have a responsibility to turn our fear into action.
In the book I refer to the fact that courage is rage of the heart. Coeur is the French word for heart. Rage of the heart. Courage requires rage. We've just got to basically process it properly. Walking is so powerful. There are literally tens of thousands of studies that explain it. I go into a bunch of them in the book. I've always known that hiking helps. I've just intuitively done it to help with my anxiety and to help with my creative process. I was aware that some of the most incredible thinkers and leaders throughout history hiked to process their thinking."
Leah Simmons, founder of KAAIA
"I've had panic attacks before. I've had that feeling where you get that tunnel vision, your heart rate speeds up, and you get sweaty palms. Your physical response to stimulus is completely normal, but it's what you do in those situations that will help bring you out of feeling anxious.
The fact that we can now employ tools to be able to help us calm the nervous system, whether it's in breath or affirmations or whatever it is that you need to do to be able to bring yourself out of those moments, it's great that we're having those conversations.
Women put so much pressure on themselves to be everything to everyone. There's an expectation that you need to be a superwoman, that you need to be the best mother, that you need to be the best wife, that you need to be the best lover, that you need to be the best worker, that you need to be the best sister, all the stuff. Where's that pressure coming from? It comes from ourselves. We put it on ourselves.
If you can give yourself a break, cut yourself a bit of slack and just be like, "I'm doing the best that I can, and so what, the house is a mess. Who cares?" Really come back to what's important in your day.
The first thing to removing that anxiety is to remove the pressure that we put on ourselves, and one thing that I've found a really good tool, and it's a cliche, but it works, is gratitude. It can be small, but it instantly shifts the mood from a lack into something that you have, and that will alleviate that feeling of anxiety. Also know that nothing urgent is important, and nothing important is urgent, and that will also dissolve away any kind of pressure that we put on ourselves to be everything."
Elizabeth Hewson, author of Saturday Night Pasta
"I’ve always experienced anxiety, which is most often brought on when I’m stressed – and I stress about a lot of things! I’ll run through situations in my head and even though they could be so unrealistic, I’ll spend time going over and over every possible scenario. That’s what anxious people do – they think too much in the past or in the future, not in the present.
When I started working, I really started to feel the effects of anxiety. For a long time, my sense of self was based on my productivity, my performance and, probably most damaging, how others perceived me. It wasn’t until I went through a particularly stressful situation a few years ago that I realised I needed to find something to help me manage it.
A period of anxiety that I will always remember led me to the mother of all meltdowns. I had a terrible day – one of those days where everything goes wrong. My anxiety levels were high, I had been riding the wave now for a few months. I decided that I needed comfort and wanted to roast a chook for dinner – not for the chicken itself but for the roasting juices that I would toss through some eggy pasta, a dish that’s inspired by the famed bolito misto and agnolotti del plin, two dishes tied to Piedmont, my Italian home for a year.
By the time I left work, the butcher was closed, so I drove past the supermarket to pick up a chicken. I wanted to cut the chicken up to speed up the cooking process, as I knew it wasn’t ideal to start roasting a chook at 7:30 pm. I cut down the backbone of the chook easily enough, flipped the bird over and pressed down hard until I heard the rib cage crack. I then reached for my blunt kitchen scissors and disaster struck.
I hit bone and spent the next five minutes hacking at the poor bird, stamping my feet and huffing and puffing. Sweat started to form and I could feel a wave of emotion come over me. A tear ran down my face. My husband Tom peered into the kitchen to see what all the commotion was about and that was it. It was over. I hit the floor and cried, like an emotionally disturbed child.
Poor Tom had no idea what was going on and tried, lovingly, to reassure me that it was just a chicken. Naturally, through my tears and short breaths, I blamed the supermarket chook and the blunt scissors for being so tough and stupid. He nodded away and agreed with me, like only someone that really loves you can do. He picked me up off the floor and packed up the chicken to cook another night. That night we got takeaway and ate on the couch. It was the moment that I realised I needed to start searching for a coping mechanism.
It was a few weeks later – when I was home alone – that I reached for the flour and eggs and made pasta for the first time, and found that release.
I think when you suffer from anxiety the most important thing to do is acknowledge it. I don’t think my anxiety will ever go away, it’s part of me, but it’s about learning how to manage it. Identifying it when it starts to creep in.
The ironic thing about my book is that I started making pasta as a way to cope with my anxiety and now I’m so nervous and anxious about having my book/self-care ritual out in the big wide world. The difference is that I can recognise it’s my anxiety.
I’m a visual person, so I visualise those thoughts coming at me and then I bat them away (in my mind it’s with a cricket bat). And of course, there is always lots of pasta-making to knead away those stresses."