Everyone feels anxious at some time or other, but for some people anxiety is an overwhelming part of their everyday life. For some, stress or depression walks alongside, and insomnia likes to drop by too.
Modern life moves so fast and our lives are constantly changing. Upheavals such as moving house, redundancy, the passing of a loved one, or even something joyful like a wedding or a birth, can set up the arena for feelings of anxiety. Your body recognises the feelings as stressful and responds by sending out a flood of stress hormones to deal with the situation. If you are healthy, you deal with the feelings, and move on. But for others, unable to move past the feelings, anxiety interferes with their daily life to such an extent they cannot cope well with everyday things. This is an anxiety disorder.
Anxiety is not stress. Anxiety is a fear-based emotion that results in a physical and emotional response in the body. Stress is the body’s response to stimuli, which can be a problem is if is ongoing or overdone.
There are a number of different forms of anxiety including Panic Disorder, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Social Phobia and Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) phobias, Separation Anxiety.
Anxiety is experienced in many, many different ways. It may show as constant and obsessive worrying, panic attacks, feeling overwhelmed and teary, repetitive thoughts, huge emotional swings, having concentration difficulties and being easily distracted, trouble remembering things, difficulty learning, insomnia, tension that makes relaxing difficult, low libido, appetite changes such as cravings, loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting, or weight change. A combination of life experiences, hereditary tendency and chemical imbalances in the brain leads to the symptoms. It develops gradually and runs in families.
The conventional treatment calls for a combination of strategies to deal with the symptoms, which include a number of effective natural methods. But there are many other very effective ways to reduce anxiety in the long term that are not a part of the normal conventional treatment plan, but are well worth trying. They can be used to treat both anxiety disorder or a simple anxious response to a life event.
Some of the common Conventional ways of dealing with anxiety:
- Relaxation techniques
- Breathing techniques
- Diet changes
- Cognitive Behavior Therapy
- Behaviour Therapy
So How DO You Reduce Anxiety?
Homeopathy has a great track record when it comes to dealing with anxiety. Remedies such as homeopathic Aconite is a very useful first-aid remedy for dealing with panic attacks or fear of flying. Homeopathic Gelsemium is one of the remedies that can help exam nerves. There are many others which are very effective when they are closely matched to the exact nature of your individual anxiety symptoms. Other remedies can be used for long-term anxiety issues but again, need to be matched to your own particular symptoms. Certain remedies are helpful when you wake during the night with worry and anxiety that keeps you awake, others for when you avoid social situations due to anxiety, others for control issues, others for anxiety due to a range of particular stimuli and so forth. Consulting with a qualified Homeopath will identify which remedy suits your needs the best.
Emotional Freedom Technique or Tapping, is so simple, anyone can learn it and do it anyplace as it only takes a few minutes. It works on the principle that the cause of all negative emotions is a disruption in the body’s energy system, and seeks to shift the points along the body meridian system where energy is blocked.
Affirmations are employed in conventional treatments but you can take this much further to get a greater impact by combining them with ‘Tapping’. Stimulating acupressure points on the body helps awaken the chi energy and keep it flowing smoothly. By tapping on certain points on the head while you say the affirmations, you can help to set the self-reprogramming in place quicker and stronger. Temporal tapping influences your thinking, your nervous system and the cellular activity of the body. Watch this demonstration by Donna Eden of the Temporal Tap method. She explains how it works and demonstrates the process very clearly and simply.
Essences are a very gentle form of natural medicine that work directly on the emotions. Bach Rescue Remedy is extremely effective for panic attacks and can be carried with you in your bag. It is simple to use and gives fast, gentle results. Australian Bush Flower Emergency Essence has a similar effect to Bach Rescue Remedy. Some people respond better to the Bach and others to the Australian Bush Flower remedies. Try both to see which works best for you. Bach Mimulus is the remedy to use for a known fear, such as public speaking or dogs. Bach Aspen is better when there are more general, vague fearful or anxious feelings without a specific cause.
Because the sense of smell bypasses the part of the brain that does all the worrying, aromas and smells can be powerful helpers. Light some (100% natural and plant-based) incense such as frankinsense or sandalwood which are very relaxing, or lavender if you need calming. The incense slows the heart rate and soothes nerves. Or burn quality pure essential oils such as lavender, geranium or bergamot, which are all calming and effective relaxants. If you soak in a bath with added essential oils or add the oils to a massage oil base, you get added relaxation benefits.
Caffeine is a stimulant that triggers the body to release adrenaline, a major stress hormone and the one you need to avoid. You find caffeine in coffee, cola, guarana, chocolate, diet supplements, and now it is also added to many other soda drinks so always read the labels and don’t assume that if you avoid the cola drinks you will be ok.
Eat small meals frequently. Stable blood sugars help maintain stable moods. Eat every couple of hours and make sure the meal contains some protein. You can get protein from a boiled egg, a handful of almonds or other nuts and seeds, a small tin of tuna, a quinoa salad, a slice of turkey or organic chicken breast, nut butter, hommus, tempeh, grain fed organic beef.
There has been much research recently into how anxiety originates in the gut, so it is no surprise that it also affects digestion and the bowel. Reduce caffeine, sugar, dairy, increase vegetables, fruits, seeds, nuts and grains to ease the load on your gut – basically, eat healthy!
Magnesium is a mineral that is often deficient in much of the population, but more so in anxiety sufferers. Available in many foods including green leafy vegetables, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, brazil nuts, brown rice, bananas, and dark chocolate, to make sure you are getting adequate amounts it high-quality supplement can be better.
Vitamin B is also often deficient in the diet of anxiety sufferers and a daily Vitamin B complex is worth taking. Take a high quality complete B rather than single B vitamins.
Calming herbs include passionflower, kava, oats and chamomile which are also good for helping with sleep problems, and St John’s Wort.
Holy Basil, or Tulsi, is one herb that helps the body respond to stress and anxiety, whether that is emotional or physical, by reducing the levels of stress hormone. It produces feelings of calm and relaxation.
A cup of chamomile tea in the evening eases stress and promotes sleep by helping you relax and easing tension before bed. Chamomile is a useful relaxant and will help sedate you to sleep
Passionflower (Passiflora incarnate) is an old folk remedy for anxiety that acts as a mild tranquilizer, calming without sedating. It can be taken as a tablet, a tea, or a liquid tincture from your practitioner. It also assists with insomnia. Don’t use passionflower if you are already taking sedatives, or if you are pregnant, nursing or have established kidney or liver disease.
Kava Kava (Piper methysticum) is widely known and used to reduce anxiety symptoms by activating GABA receptors in the brain.
OTHER NATURAL STRATEGIES
Muscle tension can be an effect of anxiety, particulary if it is ongoing, and body therapies such as massage, reflexology or shiatsu can relieve the muscles and help you relax. Yoga, Tai Chi and Qi Gong are other techniques to help the body relax. Yoga incorporates good breathing practices and is especially useful.
Cranialsacral therapy uses more gentle techniques than massage on the head, spine and pelvis, the source of the nervous system. Gentle manipulation of this area of the body leads to reduced nervous, as well as muscle tension.
In meditation controlled breathing techniques are used to free the mind of chatter and activity. By practicing meditation on a daily basis you can develop a more relaxed outlook. Meditation does not need to be difficult. There are many different ways of meditating and it is simply a matter of finding the one that suits you. Take a look here to discover some different forms of meditation for beginners and find the one that is right for you. If even the idea of meditating freaks you out start here instead.
Learn to breathe correctly. When you get anxious you start to breathe more and more shallowly, using just the top of your chest. Breathing deep down in the belly helps to bring about calm. Learn more about controlled breathing techniques here.
Using positive affirmations can be very effective. When you form an affirmation try to phrase it as if it already is happening. For example, instead of saying “all will be well” use “all IS well” instead. Placing the thought in the present is more effective. “I am coping, breathing deeply, and feeling relaxed” is more likely to calm you because it is strongly placed in what is happening now, in the present, rather than “I always cope if I breathe and relax” which is far more general.
To create calm in the moment place both your palms on the side of your face and rest your fingers gently on your closed eyelids. This cradles and quiets the mind, allowing you to centre yourself so you can face things again.
Release the built-up adrenaline
Move your body about. Play some up-beat music and dance, scrub the walls or floor, weed an overgrown patch of garden, go for a run or a bike ride. Exercise burns up the stress chemicals , promotes relaxation and helps circulate blocked energy that contributes to anxiety.
Put on your favourite music, take the dog for a walk, make a cup of soothing herbal tea, revisit your favourite beach holiday photos, especially if they were in the tropics or whatever calms you in the moment.
Taking steps to reduce your anxiety in a more natural way allows you to experience more of life. Try out some of these strategies for yourself.
What natural strategies do you find most useful to reduce the symptoms of anxiety, tell me in the comments section below? For me it is homeopathy, flower essences and EFT.
All information and opinions presented here are for information purposes only and are not intended as a substitute for professional advice offered during a consultation. Please consult with your health care provider before following any of the treatment suggested on this site, particularly if you have an ongoing health issue.
- Inside the Anxious Mind: Living with an Anxiety Disorder (strangelandia.wordpress.com)
- Anxiety Disorders (apecewamogo.wordpress.com)
- Managing Anxiety with Biofeedback (psychcentral.com)