Could you ever imagine a world without water?! Being one of the elements, it is a fundamental source of life. In adults, our bodies are up to 60% water and a whopping 71% of the planet is covered in water too! So let's learn more about this intriguing molecule, H2O and how it affects not just our physical reality but our mental state as well.
What Is Anxiety?
Anxiety is the body's way of self-preservation and adaptation. It is a response of fear to situations that seem dangerous or stressful, even if they aren't. Almost everyone has experienced anxiety at some point- Have you ever felt that sinking feeling in your chest or stomach, with your heart beating faster during an exam? Yup, we're talking about that feeling. This is caused by the production of cortisol, a stress hormone, in the blood (1).
Often, it is not a bad thing and it is our body's way of telling us something is wrong in an attempt to protect us from harm. We've all felt that uneasiness, but for some of us, it can leave us mentally and sometimes physically, paralyzed. And when it is sustained over prolonged periods is when it becomes a problem.
Causes Of Anxiety:
There are multiple causes for anxiety disorders that are specific to each person. It also depends on the type of anxiety that one battles. Some of the causes are:
- Genetic components
- Environmental factors
- Physical/Medical conditions
- Lifestyle choices
Anxiety disorders can disrupt regular function in a professional and personal capacity. Here are a few symptoms to look out for in anxiety disorders:
- Excessive sweating
- Rapid heart rate and breathing
- Difficulty concentrating
Understanding Water And Mental Health Together
Now that we know the contributors to anxiety, where does water factor in? Well, every system in the body relies on water to function. It impacts the blood volume in the brain and can result in shrunken brain tissues. Did you know that 73% of brain tissue is water? It makes sense that this universal solvent can influence mental well-being. The connection between the body and mind is increasingly apparent when we deprive our bodies of water. Dehydration produces negative effects on psychological function and specifically, anxiety. Even in Indian households, water is considered sacred and is a significant part of pujas and religious ceremonies to promote overall health.
Mental Symptoms Of Dehydration
Dehydration occurs when there is a lack of sufficient fluids in the body which prevents the body from functioning efficiently. It can show up as fatigue, headaches and dizziness, but it doesn’t stop there. These are the symptoms that indicate that you need to pour yourself a tall glass of water:
- Brain fog and lack of concentration
- Shallow breathing
- Cognitive function like memory
- Mood fluctuations
How Does Dehydration Trigger Anxiety?
Dehydration does not directly cause anxiety but it has been found to heighten and prolong the symptoms – severe cases can ultimately lead to panic attacks. Shallow breathing is impacted by the lack of fluids in the lungs. This causes an increase in histamine (Histamine is a part of the immune system that causes the symptoms of allergies) which makes it harder to take deep breaths. Hence, as the brain receives lesser oxygen, stress and anxiety tend to worsen. Another dehydration reaction is the elevation of cortisol levels which, as mentioned earlier, gives rise to anxiety. Panic attacks in specific are often affected by physical triggers like hydration. So, by consuming sufficient water, we can keep our brain energized and full of serotonin- The happy hormone. This may not completely stop stress and anxiety but can reduce the risk of these disorders, especially for people that are naturally prone to them.
A study was done with participants in good moods. When subjected to fluid deprivation, they experienced a decrease in calmness, stamina and general happiness (2). Another experiment conducted amongst women showed a correlation of dehydration with depression and tension (3).
How To Boost Your Mood With Water
- Keep tabs on how much water you consume. This can be done with an app, a reminder on your phone or even a journal if you want to go old-school.
- Take a bottle of water with you wherever you go. Ensure one is always available at an arm’s distance for easy access. It will act as a constant reminder too!
- If you are someone who doesn’t like the mundane taste of water, you can resort to hydrating foods like fruits or you can jazz up your water bottle with some cut-up fruits to make infused water.
Have you ever experienced something as satisfying as drinking a cold drink when you are thirsty? In our opinion, nothing quite feels the same. If all the information presented to you in this article hasn't convinced you to drink more water, we hope this feeling does the job! But how much water should you be drinking? Well, it depends on your lifestyle, physical activity, gender, etc., but the general verdict is 11 ½ cups a day for women and 15 ½ cups for men. We often turn to temporary sources of happiness to care for our mental health – in the long run, however, staying hydrated gives our body and mind the boost it needs to help us stay healthy and happy.