Beating Anxiety


Anxiety is a difficult subject to tackle as it can be very specific to a situation or generalised because of many other factors, such as your background, recent problems, lack of sleep or a medication, hormones, gut microbiome etc.  However, it is widely reported by people with Gilbert’s Syndrome, and recognised as a symptom.

I can offer a number of suggestions for why we experience anxiety:

One area with some research, although not conclusive, is the effect of Gilbert’s Syndrome on neurotransmitters – the chemicals that work in our brain.  Some scientists think that glucuronidation (the way things are processed in the liver) of these chemicals is affected, and this impacts our behaviour. 

It’s really important to remember that many things impact the levels of neurotransmitters and the way they operate, not just Gilbert’s Syndrome. A link or correlation does not mean something is inevitable, just that there’s a statistically greater likelihood, which may be small. 

As I’ve already mentioned, people with Gilbert’s Syndrome experience delayed gastric emptying which leads to stomach discomfort, as well as nausea (already a symptom that may be related to the build up of toxins in our system). It is widely known that stomach discomfort causes anxiety, even in brief episodes. As many sources will indicate, this is a circular issue, when the gut is uncomfortable it sends signals to the brain, and when the brain is uneasy it sends signals to the gut, each affecting the sensations in the other. 

You can find out more about food, the gut and anxiety below

One issue that adds to anxiety, which is integral to our physical symptoms, is the very fact that feeling unwell much of the time causes anxiety! The two go hand in hand and this is being increasingly recognised by the  medical community as a feature of chronic health issues. 

diagram of gut and brain

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My video story

Text of my video story

The cycle of anxiety can be overwhelming when you have chronic health problems. As well as Gilbert’s Syndrome I have a number of other chronic health problems that cause me pain and discomfort physically and mentally. In my experience and in talking to other people who have multiple health problems, the biggest hill to climb is the anxiety. 

You can feel sad and angry for not being well or ‘normal’. We try to pretend that we don’t face a change in lifestyle and want to carry on regardless. We don’t accept our condition and so we don’t accept ourselves. 

The result can be longer and deeper periods of ill health. 

Like any problem, you can only move past it when you accept it. 

Self compassion and self acceptance practices are scientifically proven to reduce anxiety and depression. 

You won’t lose anything by trying it out, and maybe it will help you deal better with your anxiety. Check out Kristin Neff’s work and meditation downloads in the link under ‘challenge your thinking’. 

Tools to take control of your anxiety

Regardless of where the source of anxiety lies, there are tried and tested tools you can use that may help manage it. The approach to reducing your anxiety has to be rooted in looking after your physical as well as mental wellbeing.

As well as looking after your overall health to reduce your anxiety levels, there are specific actions you can take that may help to deal with the anxiety when it arises. These aren’t tailored to Gilbert’s Syndrome specifically, but could help you deal with the symptom when it overwhelms you, and as regular practices to build your brain’s ability to remain calm.

Here are some tips to take away:


Slow deep breaths can slow down your buzzing brain and body. You can try different techniques such as 4/4 or ‘box’ breathing (in for 4 seconds, out for 4 seconds). Check out the video below. For more in depth and advanced relaxation you could try 4/7/8 breathing.  Breathing deeply acts to take immediate control of your nervous system (research is summarised here ), by signalling that there’s no threat, and so your body tells you to stand down your alert system, slowing your heart rate and reducing the flood of stress hormones through your body.

Even better, if you can build in at 10 minutes a day of focusing on your breath you could reduce your brain’s trigger sensitivity to fear and anxiety in the longer term.

You can also access this meditation using the breath that I’ve created for you, here:

Go for a walk

Going outside and walking has been shown by research to be relaxing (assuming you’re not charging down a busy high street packed with pedestrians and gridlocked traffic). Just 20 minutes can give you the space you need for your anxiety to reduce ( ). If you can find a green place to walk through you could gain even greater benefit as it is recognised as more soothing. You can find out more about the benefits of walking here

Challenge your thinking

Notice if you are stuck in a circular pattern of thinking.  Call it out, question it, and maybe write it down to put it out of your mind. This could give you a bit of distance to move away from being sucked in by worry.

Another way to distance yourself from negative thinking patterns may be to label the feeling – ‘I notice I am feeling anxious’ rather than ‘I am anxious’. The point is that it is just a feeling, but the feeling is not who you are. And the feeling will pass.

For ongoing practices which support self acceptance and self compassion, Kristin Neff has a great range of meditations, backed by her scientific studies

CBT or Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is used with some evidence to show that it can support your ability to move away from spiralling into ruminative or anxiety driving patterns of thinking. Combing with Mindfulness, it can be a powerful practice to reduce your brain’s automatic negative thinking. You can find much more information and free resources here.

If you want an online course that will help deal with anxiety and depression, using mindfulness, and which has been verified by published research – this online course from the Mental Health Foundation is low cost. The free introduction will help you explore if it’s right for you

Eat / drink to reduce stress

Some compounds in foods are shown to reduce stress. Chamomile tea soothes mind and body. Just the act of making a cup of chamomile tea can be soothing. Green tea and turmeric are also reputed to reduce anxiety.

A low sugar and caffeine diet may help with fluctuating energy and stimulation that can cause anxiety.

There are also supplements and adaptogens (thought to balance stresses) which it is suggested may support your nervous system and be calmative. These include magnesium, ashwaghanda and rhodiola.

If you want to keep your gut healthy and enhance your gut-brain connection then a healthy diet can help. There are many ways to optimise your diet, but basically you can start by reducing ultra-processed food and eating more whole plant foods. By increasing plant fibre you help the healthy microbes in the gut.

There’s a lot more information about the gut and the brain here

Need more help?

If your anxiety feels too much to cope with, then Mind – the UK mental health charity, has information here.