Anxiety Alternative Treatments

Written by the Healthline Editorial Team | Published on October 13, 2014
Medically Reviewed by Kenneth R. Hirsch, MD on October 13, 2014

What Are Anxiety Alternative Therapies?

If you are experiencing anxiety or have an anxiety disorder, you may want to try alternative therapies. The basic goal of alternative therapy is to improve your general health and relieve specific 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 are having a panic attack or other severe symptoms of anxiety, alternative therapy alone will probably not be enough. Alternative therapies often work best when used along with traditional treatment like medication and counseling. It’s always best to consult your doctor before beginning an alternative treatment program, especially one that includes herbal remedies. Some of these can have serious side effects, and some can be harmful if combined with certain prescription medications.

Here are some alternative treatments that can help with anxiety.

Eat a Balanced Diet

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

Drink More Water

Seventy percent of the body’s weight is water. Water is the essential component of a healthy body and mind, and we often don’t get enough of it. Drinking eight large glasses of water a day helps your body perform properly, especially under stress.

Limit Your Caffeine

That morning cup of coffee might help you get out of bed, but too much can give you the jitters and decrease your ability to handle anxiety well.

Avoid Alcohol and Nicotine

Some people use alcohol and nicotine to relieve their symptoms of anxiety. This relief is only temporary. In fact, alcohol and nicotine can actually make symptoms of anxiety worse and frequent, long-term use of both substances can lead to addiction and serious health complications later on.

Get Regular Exercise

Regular exercise is good for everything, especially relieving stress. Cardiovascular exercise has been shown to help lower stress levels and anxiety, and improve the immune system. Cardiovascular exercise means getting your heart rate up for 30 minutes.

Get Plenty of Sleep

Lack of sleep can increase negative thoughts. Try to get at least seven to nine hours of quality sleep every night.

Massage Your Muscles

Muscles can store stress. Massage therapy helps relieve muscle tension and promote blood flow to key areas of the body to release built-up stress and anxiety.

Take Time to Meditate

Taking time to clear your head can do wonders. Meditation doesn’t change the world around you, but it can change the way you respond to it. Stress can cause disdain, distrust, and anxiety. Successful meditation can help you better understand the source of your anxiety and possibly overcome it.

Other Relaxation Techniques

Relaxation may help in the treatment of phobias and panic disorder. Muscle relaxation and mental visualization can help you focus your attention on a calming feeling. Breathing techniques can help you learn to control your breathing so you don’t hyperventilate during a panic attack or other anxiety-producing event. This can help to keep you calm. Biofeedback can help you learn to recognize and control the physical signs of anxiety, which in turn helps to relieve the anxiety. Yoga combines breathing techniques, meditation, and stretching through its advvaphysical postures. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), yoga is one of the top 10 complementary and alternative practices used to treat a variety of disorders, including anxiety and depression.

Supplements

Studies continue to examine the effects of herbal remedies to treat mild to moderate anxiety. While there has been some positive association between symptoms of anxiety and the use of certain herbs, there is no strong evidence that herbal remedies are helpful for anxiety.

Doctors and patients should be aware of the potential risks and benefits of herbal remedies and consider incorporating nutritional and dietary changes.

Nutritional supplements and herbs used to relieve anxiety include:

  • vitamin B12
  • fish oil
  • chamomile
  • kava root
  • inositol
  • St. John’s wort
  • valerian

Always check with your doctor before taking any of these supplements. Some can have dangerous side effects. For example, kava has been associated with liver problems. It can also interact dangerously with medications that are metabolized by the liver. Valerian often causes headaches and upset stomachs and may not be safe during pregnancy.

Most alternative therapies involve general good health practices and have little risk, but it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor before beginning a new treatment regimen in order to minimize potential complications. But if your goal is to feel better, incorporating these practices into your treatment plan can be very helpful.

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