Alternative Natural Treatments For Anxiety

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Anxiety is a problem that occasionally affects everyone. However, some people suffer from more serious anxiety problems than others. Fortunately, there are a number of ways that you can treat anxiety disorders. Medications can be effective, but usually don’t treat the underlying condition.

Here are some tips that you should follow. Anxiety disorders are one of the most common mental health conditions in the United States. It’s estimated that 40 million adults ages 18 and older, or 18 percent of the country’s population, have some kind of anxiety disorder. Yet, many people with anxiety disorder are often hesitant to seek treatment.

Alternative therapies have become increasingly popular. If you’re experiencing anxiety and don’t wish to seek conventional treatments, you may want to try alternative therapies. The basic goal of alternative therapy is to improve your general health and relieve anxiety symptoms with few or no side effects.

Alternative therapies can be helpful in reducing anxiety, but it may take some time before you see results. If you’re having a panic attack or other severe symptoms of anxiety, alternative therapy alone probably will not be enough. Alternative therapies often work best when used along with traditional treatment, such as medication and counseling. It’s always best to consult your doctor before beginning an alternative treatment program.

Speak to a Counselor

Anxiety problems seldom stem entirely from biological factors. There is usually an underlying psychological factor that drives them. Unfortunately, it isn’t always easy to know what is driving your anxiety, since it is often a symptom of something that is affecting you subconsciously.

Working with a counselor is a good way to deal with some of these deep seated issues. They can help identify any problems that may be driving your problems. After discussing them with a professional, you may notice significant improvement that leads to lessened anxieties and better sleep.

Get More Exercise

Find a form of exercise that you enjoy. It will help release endorphins, which counteract the effects of anxiety. Recent studies have found that regular exercise can be as effective as anti-anxiety medication. You will want to try to work out for a continuous half hour. You will probably notice significant changes if you stick to an intense exercise regimen.

Consider Alternative Treatments

There are a number of natural treatments that can help alleviate the effects of anxiety. You will want to consider these before trying medication, because they don’t typically have the same side effects.

Cannabis is a good treatment worth considering. Of course, it isn’t legal everywhere, but a growing number of states are legalizing it for both medicinal and recreational use. If you live in Colorado, then you can purchase it through Denver dispensaries. You probably don’t need a prescription, but it is still good to speak with your doctor first.

Address the Problems that Are Weighing On You

There may be a number of things that are causing your depression. You may be struggling with debt, a bad relationship, workplace turmoil, or legal problems. Unfortunately, these problems can often take a long time to resolve, but there are usually a number of things that you can do to make progress.

Take the time to address all the problems you are facing in your life. Keep in mind that a number of small problems can add up and weigh on you, which lead to severe anxiety issues. Taking care of as many of these problems as possible may significantly improve your well-being and reduce anxiety.

Do Not Shy Away from Medication

While it is always worth trying to treat any condition without medication, there could be times when it is necessary. If your anxiety disorder is particularly severe, then you may need to speak with your doctor to see if you can get a prescription.

Complementary & Alternative Treatments

There is growing scientific evidence about complementary and alternative treatments.

Complementary medicine is used along with conventional medicine. An example is in-home treatment to help modify symptoms of panic attacks. Alternative medicine can include a special diet to treat cancer instead of undergoing surgery, radiation, or chemotherapy recommended by a medical doctor.

Limit your caffeine intake

That morning cup of coffee might help you get out of bed, but having too much can give you the jitters and decrease your ability to handle anxiety well. It can also cause your body to act as though it’s under stress, boosting your heartbeat and increasing your blood pressure. This can lead to a panic attack.

Treating Anxiety Disorders and Depression

The following complementary and alternative practices may be used to treat anxiety and depressive disorders. We advise that you speak with your primary physician and/or mental health provider before selecting any alternative/complimentary treatment:

  • Stress and Relaxation Techniques 

    Relaxation techniques may produce modest short-term reduction of anxiety in people with ongoing health problems. These techniques have also been shown to be useful for older adults with anxiety. Find out more.

  • Meditation 

    Moderate evidence suggests that meditation is useful for symptoms of anxiety and depression in adults.

  • Yoga

    Yoga, which combines physical postures, breathing exercises, meditation, and a distinct philosophy, is one of the top ten practices of CAM (complementary and alternative medicine). It may also help alleviate anxiety and depression.

  • Acupuncture

    Evidence for the use of acupuncture — the Chinese practice of inserting needles into the body at specific points to manipulates the body’s flow of energy — to treat anxiety disorders is becoming stronger.

Get plenty of sleep

A lack of sleep can increase negative thoughts and can place extra stress on the brain and body. Try to get at least seven to nine hours of quality sleep every night. If you have trouble sleeping, try to support your body’s natural sleep schedule by:

  • going to sleep and waking up at the same time each day
  • taking only short naps for 15 to 20 minutes in the early afternoon if you need to
  • exposing yourself to bright sunlight in the morning, spending more time outside during the day in natural light
  • avoiding bright screens one to two hours before bed and making sure you sleep in a darkened, cool room
  • getting regular exercise

Eat a balanced diet

It’s important to maintain a balanced diet whether or not you’re experiencing anxiety. Try to eat a wide variety of fresh, whole foods every day. Eating healthy food makes you feel better. Avoid processed or fast food and limit your intake of sweets. Eating unhealthy food adds stress to your body. This makes you less able to handle the other stresses in your life.

The key to a low-anxiety diet is avoiding foods that may contribute to your anxiety symptoms. You might consider eliminating the common foods that are known to increase the body’s stress levels in some people:

  • Fried foods are hard to digest, aren’t nutritious, and can contribute to heart problems.
  • Alcohol dehydrates the body and can upset the body’s hormonal balance.
  • Coffee contains caffeine. When consumed in large amounts, caffeine may trigger anxiety and sensations of a panic attack, such as a rapid heartbeat.
  • Dairy products may increase the body’s adrenaline levels when eaten in excess. This can contribute to your anxiety.
  • Excess refined sugar can trigger anxiety and panic attack symptoms.
  • Acid-forming foods, such as yogurt, pickles, eggs, sour cream, wine, and liver, may decrease the body’s magnesium levels, which can trigger anxiety symptoms.

Different Natural Remedies for Anxiety

No Rx needed

You’re anxious, worried, freaked. You’re upset about (pick one): money, health, work, family, love. Your heart is beating fast, your breathing is shallow and rapid, your mind is imagining doom, and you wish you could just relax…now! Whether you have a full-blown anxiety disorder or are just freaking out, you may not want to try medication—at least not yet.

There are many safe nondrug remedies for anxiety, from mind-body techniques to supplements to calming teas. Some start working right away, while others may help lessen anxiety over time.

Chamomile

If you have a jittery moment, a cuppa chamomile tea might help calm you down. Some compounds in chamomile (Matricaria recutita) bind to the same brain receptors as drugs like Valium.

You can also take it as a supplement, typically standardized to contain 1.2% apigenin (an active ingredient), along with dried chamomile flowers. In one study at the University of Pennsylvania Medical Center, in Philadelphia, patients with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) who took chamomile supplements for eight weeks had a significant decrease in anxiety symptoms compared to patients taking placebo.

L-theanine (or green tea)

They say Japanese Buddhist monks could meditate for hours, both alert and relaxed. One reason may have been an amino acid in their green tea called L-theanine, says Mark Blumenthal, of the American Botanical Council. You can also try CBD tea to help anxiety attacks as many people have got benefited from such products. 

Research shows that L-theanine helps curb a rising heart rate and blood pressure, and a few small human studies have found that it reduces anxiety. In one study, anxiety-prone subjects were calmer and more focused during a test if they took 200 milligrams of L-theanine beforehand. You can get that much L-theanine from green tea, but you’ll have to drink many cups—as few as five, as many as 20. 

Hops

Yes, it’s in beer, but you won’t get the tranquilizing benefits of the bitter herb hops (Humulus lupulus) from a brew. The sedative compound in hops is a volatile oil, so you get it in extracts and tinctures—and as aromatherapy in hops pillows.

“It’s very bitter, so you don’t see it in tea much, unless combined with chamomile or mint,” says Blumenthal. Hops is often used as a sedative, to promote sleep, often with another herb, valerian. Note: Don’t take sedative herbs if you are taking a prescription tranquilizer or sedative, and let your doctor know any supplements you are taking.

Valerian

Some herbal supplements reduce anxiety without making you sleepy (such as L-theanine), while others are sedatives. Valerian (Valeriana officinalis) is squarely in the second category. It is a sleep aid, for insomnia. It contains sedative compounds; the German government has approved it as a treatment for sleep problems.

Valerian smells kind of nasty, so most people take it as a capsule or tincture, rather than a tea. If you want to try it, take it in the evening—not before you go to work! Valerian is often combined with other sedative herbs such as hops, chamomile, and lemon balm.

Lemon balm

Named after the Greek word for “honey bee,” lemon balm (Melissa officinalis), has been used at least since the Middle Ages to reduce stress and anxiety, and help with sleep. In one study of healthy volunteers, those who took standardized lemon balm extracts (600 mg) were more calm and alert than those who took a placebo.

While it’s generally safe, be aware that some studies have found that taking too much can actually make you more anxious. So follow directions and start with the smallest dose. Lemon balm is sold as a tea, capsule, and tincture. It’s often combined with other calming herbs such as hops, chamomile, and valerian.

Exercise

Exercise is safe, good for the brain, and a powerful antidote to depression and anxiety, both immediately and in the long term. “If you exercise on a regular basis, you’ll have more self-esteem and feel healthier,” says Drew Ramsey, MD, Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at New York-Presbyterian Hospital, Columbia University. “One of the major causes of anxiety is worrying about illness and health, and that dissipates when you are fit.”

The 21-minute cure

Twenty-one minutes: That’s about how long it takes for exercise to reliably reduce anxiety, studies show, give or take a minute. “If you’re really anxious and you hop on a treadmill, you will feel more calm after the workout,” Dr. Ramsey says.

“I generally ask my patients to spend 20 to 30 minutes in an activity that gets their heart rate up, whether it’s a treadmill or elliptical or stair stepping—anything you like. If you rowed in college, get back to rowing. If you don’t exercise, start taking brisk walks.”

Passionflower

In spite of the name, this herb won’t help you in love. It’s a sedative; the German government has approved it for nervous restlessness. Some studies find that it can reduce symptoms of anxiety as effectively as prescription drugs. It’s often used for insomnia. Like other sedatives, it can cause sleepiness and drowsiness, so don’t take it—or valerian, hops, kava, lemon balm, or other sedative herbs—when you are also taking a prescription sedative. Be careful about using more than one sedative herb at a time, and don’t take passionflower for longer than one month at a time.

Lavender

The intoxicating (but safe) aroma of lavender (Lavandula hybrida) may be an “emotional” anti-inflammatory. In one study, Greek dental patients were less anxious if the waiting room was scented with lavender oil. In a Florida study, students who inhaled lavender oil scent before an exam has less anxiety—although some students said it made their minds “fuzzy” during the test.

In one German study, a specially formulated lavender pill (not available in the U.S.) was shown to reduce anxiety symptoms in people with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) as effectively as lorazepam (brand name: Ativan), an anti-anxiety medication in the same class as Valium.

Hold your breath

Ok, let it out now. We’re not recommending that you turn blue, but yoga breathing has been shown to be effective in lowering stress and anxiety. In his bestselling 2011 book Spontaneous Happiness, Andrew Weil, MD, introduced a classic yoga breathing technique he calls the 4-7-8 breath.

One reason it works is that you can’t breathe deeply and be anxious at the same time. To do the 4-7-8 breath, exhale completely through your mouth, then inhale through your nose for a count of four. Hold your breath for a count of seven. Now let it out slowly through your mouth for a count of eight. Repeat at least twice a day.

Eat something, quick

“Almost universally, people get more anxious and irritable when they are hungry,” says Dr. Ramsey, coauthor of The Happiness Diet. “When you get an anxiety attack, it may mean your blood sugar is dropping. The best thing to do is to have a quick sustaining snack, like a handful of walnuts, or a piece of dark chocolate, along with a glass of water or a nice cup of hot tea.”

In the long term, diet is key to reducing anxiety, says Dr. Ramsey. His advice: Eat a whole-foods, plant-based diet with carefully selected meat and seafood, plenty of leafy greens (such as kale) to get folate, and a wide variety of phytonutrients to help reduce anxiety.

Eat breakfast

Stop starving yourself, advises Dr. Ramsey. “Many people with anxiety disorders skip breakfast. I recommend that people eat things like eggs, which are a satiating and filling protein, and are nature’s top source of choline. Low levels of choline are associated with increased anxiety.”

Eat omega-3s

You know fish oils are good for the heart, and perhaps they protect against depression. Add anxiety to the list. In one study, students who took 2.5 milligrams a day of mixed omega-3 fatty acids for 12 weeks had less anxiety before an exam than students taking placebo.

Experts generally recommend that you get your omega-3s from food whenever possible. Oily, cold-water fishes like salmon are the best sources of the fatty acids; a six-ounce piece of grilled wild salmon contains about 3.75 grams.

Other good choices: anchovies, sardines, and mussels.

Stop catastrophizing

When you’re attacked by anxiety, it’s easy to get into a mind set known as “catastrophic thinking” or “catastrophizing.” Your mind goes to the bad terrible really horrible just unbearable things and what if they really do happen? “You think, ‘This could really ruin my life,'” says Dr. Ramsey.

Instead, take a few deep breaths, walk around the block, and consider the real probability that this problem will really spin out into catastrophe. How likely is it that you’ll lose your job, never talk to your sister again, go bankrupt? Chances are a catastrophic outcome is a lot less likely than you think when you’re consumed with anxiety. “Very few events really change the trajectory of your life,” says Dr. Ramsey.

Get hot

Ever wonder why you feel so relaxed after a spell in the sauna or a steam room? Heating up your body reduces muscle tension and anxiety, research finds. Sensations of warmth may alter neural circuits that control mood, including those that affect the neurotransmitter serotonin. Warming up may be one of the ways that exercise—not to mention curling up by a fire with a cozy cup of tea—boosts mood.

As one group of researchers put it, “Whether lying on the beach in the midday sun on a Caribbean island, grabbing a few minutes in the sauna or spa after work, or sitting in a hot bath or Jacuzzi in the evening, we often associate feeling warm with a sense of relaxation and well-being.”

Take a ‘forest bath’

The Japanese call it Shinrin-yoku, literally “forest bath.” You and I know it as a walk in the woods. Japanese researchers measured body changes in people who walked for about 20 minutes in a beautiful forest, with the woodsy smells and the sounds of a running stream. The forest bathers had lower stress hormone levels after their walk than they did after a comparable walk in an urban area.

Learn mindfulness meditation

Mindfulness meditation, originally a Buddhist practice but now a mainstream therapy, is particularly effective in treating anxiety, says Teresa M. Edenfield, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist in the Veterans Administration Medical Center in Durham, N.C., who often uses it to treat anxiety patients. “The act of practicing mindful awareness allows one to experience the true essence of each moment as it really occurs, rather than what is expected or feared,” she says. How to begin? You can start by simply “paying attention to the present moment, intentionally, with curiosity, and with an effort to attend non-judgmentally,” Edenfield says.

Breath and question

To stay mindful, ask yourself simple questions while practicing breathing exercises, Edenfield suggests. “Sit in a comfortable place, close your eyes, and focus on how your breath feels coming in and out of your body. Now ask yourself silent questions while focusing on the breath.” What is the temperature of the air as it enters your nose? How does your breath feel different as it leaves your body? How does the air feel as it fills your lungs?

Give yourself credit

Are you having anxious thoughts? Congratulations. You’re aware of your emotional state, and that awareness is the first step in reducing anxiety, says Edenfield. “Remember to give yourself credit for being aware that you are having anxious thoughts, and probably body changes. This is truly a skill of mindfulness that must be learned, and is essential in making the next steps of intervening through strategies such as positive self-talk, cognitive reframing, or the use of mindfulness or relaxation strategies.”

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