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.
Here are some alternative treatments that can help with anxiety:
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.
Some people use alcohol and nicotine to relieve their symptoms of anxiety. This relief is only temporary. Alcohol and nicotine can make the symptoms of anxiety worse and more frequent.
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.
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 to eleven large glasses of water or other hydrating liquids per day helps your body perform properly. This can help relieve stress.
Getting regular exercise is good for 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. Developing a regular exercise routine can help you feel more in control of your health, which can also reduce your anxiety.
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
Muscles can become tight and tense due to stress. Massage therapy helps relieve muscle tension and promotes blood flow to key areas of the body to release stress and anxiety.
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. Successful meditation can help you better understand the source of your anxiety and possibly overcome it.
Meditation relaxes the body and may help in the treatment of phobias and panic disorder. One way to meditate is to sit still in a quiet place and focus on nothing but the task of breathing deeply. When another thought tries to enter your mind, acknowledge it, and then let it go.
Breathing techniques can help you learn to control your breathing, so you don’t hyperventilate during an anxiety-producing event. This can help to keep you calm. Try sitting down with your back straight. Then, breathe deeply, inhaling through your nose from your abdomen and try to get as much air into your lungs as possible. This will help bring more oxygen into your body, which will help you feel less tense, short of breath, and anxious. Once your lungs are full, slowly exhale through your mouth and repeat as needed.
Yoga combines breathing techniques, meditation, and stretching through both moving and stationary postures. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), yoga is one of the top 10 alternative practices used to treat a variety of disorders, including anxiety and depression.
When practiced regularly, it becomes easier to achieve the relaxed feeling you get from yoga into your daily life. Try signing up for a class or private lessons to help ensure you move through the poses correctly to avoid injury.
Acupuncture is a traditional Chinese treatment for anxiety, depression, and other health conditions. During acupuncture, a practitioner sticks thin, sharp needles into the upper layers of skin at points of the body that correspond with different organs. It’s thought that acupuncture works by activating natural painkilling chemicals in the brain. For some people, it’s effective at eliminating or reducing anxiety.
Studies continue to examine the effects of herbal remedies to treat mild to moderate anxiety. While researchers have found some positive association between the symptoms of anxiety and the use of certain herbs, no strong evidence that herbal remedies are helpful for anxiety doesn’t exist.
You should be aware of the potential risks and benefits of herbal remedies.
Nutritional supplements and herbs used to relieve anxiety include the following:
- Vitamin B-12 is a vitamin that plays a key role in the nervous system and can reduce feeling of anxiety.
- Chamomile in tea can have a soothing, anti-anxiety effect.
- Kava root is a supplement that can reduce anxiety but can also cause severe side effects, including liver damage.
- Inositol is a type of carbohydrate used as a supplement. It can reduce feelings of anxiety.
- Valerian is a supplement made from the root of a pink flower called Valeriana officinalis. It can help reduce anxiety and sleep problems.
- Passionflower supplement is derived from the passionflower plant, and it’s thought to be moderately effective at treating anxiety.
- L-theanine is an amino acid found naturally in green and black tea, as well as mushrooms. It’s also in supplements, and it can reduce stress and anxiety.
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 to take during pregnancy.
It’s always a good idea to talk to your doctor before beginning a new treatment regimen. This will help minimize potential complications. If your goal is to feel better, incorporating these practices into your treatment plan can be very helpful.