5 Healthy Ways to Overcome Anxiety Without Using Medicine
With modern pressures to contend with, existing anxiety levels are apt to skyrocket. If you’re feeling like everyday life is getting to be an insurmountable struggle due to your anxiety, then know you’re not an anomaly: anxiety is one of the most common mental illnesses in the Western world, affecting an estimated 40 million people in the US alone.
Many anxiety sufferers will, upon diagnosis by a GP, be propelled towards treatment – usually via prescription drugs. But though anti-anxiety medication can be effective in alleviating angst, the side effects of pumping your body full of these mood-balancing chemicals are no bueno. If you’re concerned about unwanted corollaries like weight gain and decreased sex drive, and would prefer to put your holistic health first, try shaping your lifestyle around the following natural principles. There’s no all-in-one cure for anxiety, but these mantras will get you well on your way to managing your illness.
The cliché’s true: your body is indeed a temple, and so what you feed it with matters (not least because increased anxiety has been positively correlated with inflammatory or unhealthy foods). Eating a diet rich in whole foods – including folate-rich vegetables and minimally-processed proteins – will aid digestion and help to stabilise moods. If you want to go all-out on the DIY homoeopathy front, moreover, seek out some valerian root to help with sleep, or a probiotic to up that healthy gut flora.
Oh, and here comes the bad news: you may want to lay off anxiety-inducing caffeine. If you’re well and truly addicted, trial a weaning process – for example, if you drink three cups of coffee per day, decrease to one or two before switching to herbal tea. Particularly calming options include chamomile or green tea (the brain receptors respond to chamomile as they do Valium, and green tea contains amino acids which reduce bodily stress).
Lastly, make sure you’re eating regularly. When blood sugar drops, cortisol and adrenaline are released, meaning that the body’s stress levels are increased. Learning how to stabilise your blood sugar levels, then, is a sure-fire way to avoid the emotional lowness that characterises anxiety.
Find what’s referred to as an anxiety aunt: a trusted friend, confidante, or professional therapist to turn to whenever you feel your anxiety becoming too much to bear. Bottling stress up in the midst of busy or daunting life events only exacerbates anxiety, and expressing your feelings in words can allow another (perhaps more clear-headed!) person to check you before you run yourself into ruin.
One of the most reliable ways to overcome anxiety without using medicine is to breathe. Attending a hatha yoga or meditation class is a great introduction to the general principles of deep breathing, but if you want a quick-fix, try the following method whenever you feel your anxiety getting worse. Exhale totally to a count of three, inhale for a count of three, and hold your breath for a count of six. Repeat three times as necessary.
Exercise has been proven time and again to improve mental condition, both in the short-term (due to endorphin release) and in the longer run (since a fit body means better self-esteem – something many anxious people suffer with).
It only takes 20-30 minutes per day to reap the benefits of physical exercise, and if you hit upon an activity you like – whether it be yoga, ballroom dancing, or even CrossFit – you might be able to find a new passion at the same time.
- Rediscover natural rhythms
Constant commuting, disrupted sleep, screens, unnatural light – modern environments are not conducive to internal calm. Even if you can only escape for a weekend or a couple of hours, making an effort to digitally and socially detox in order to reconnect with natural rhythms will do you a world of good.
If you’ve got a park, beach, or nature reserve near, go for an untimed walk, and breathe in the sights and smells of nature at your pleasure. Learn how to live in the present by practising mindfulness meditation; and finally, rediscover your body’s natural circadian rhythms by ensuring that you achieve the requisite 7-9 hours sleep per night.
Guest Post by Harper Reid, a freelance writer from Auckland, New Zealand who has a passion for healthy living and fitness. When she’s not writing, you’ll find her sweating it out in the gym, practicing yoga or checking out the latest fitness trends. You can find more of her work on her Tumblr.