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 adult population, experience some kind of anxiety disorder.
If you’re experiencing mild anxiety that doesn’t require traditional treatment, you may want to try alternative therapies. Also, with your doctor’s approval, alternative treatments can be used with traditional treatment.
The basic goal of alternative therapy is to improve your general health and relieve anxiety symptoms with few or no side effects.
Keep in mind
Alternative therapies may help reduce 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 with traditional treatment, such as medication and counseling. It’s always best to consult a healthcare professional before beginning any alternative treatment program.
Anxiety is a natural response your body has to stress.
Life events like starting a new job or needing to make a presentation in front of a large group may cause feelings of anxiety.
Some types of anxiety may be extreme or last for a long amount of time, which may be a sign of an anxiety disorder.
Some anxiety disorders include:
Some mild cases of anxiety may not require medical treatment. Instead, they may just require certain lifestyle changes.
In more severe cases of anxiety, medical treatment may be necessary. Common types of medical treatments include medications such as antidepressants and sedatives, or certain types of therapy, such as psychotherapy or cognitive behavioral therapy.
Here are some alternative treatments that may help with anxiety:
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.
Anxiety-related effects of caffeine noted in these studies included:
- sleep disturbance
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has set
The FDA points out that this amount is just a guideline. People differ in their sensitivity to caffeine and how fast their bodies break it down, so you have to discover your own limits.
Also, highly concentrated caffeine products like energy drinks and powdered caffeine pose a danger if not measured and consumed very carefully.
Consuming more than
Avoid alcohol and nicotine
Some people use alcohol and nicotine to relieve symptoms of anxiety. This relief is only temporary, though. Alcohol and nicotine can make the symptoms of anxiety worse and more frequent.
Eat a balanced diet
For example, research shows that the following dietary approaches can help reduce anxiety:
- Omega-3 fatty acids sourced from the sea help regulate the transmission of the neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin, which can
help decrease anxiety.
- Key nutrients such as B vitamins, vitamin C, magnesium, and zinc are associated with
lower risk of anxiety.
- Diets low in saturated fats and high in fresh vegetables and fruits, such as lacto-vegetarian, vegan, and Mediterranean diets, have been associated with
decreased risk of anxiety.
Not all researchers agree on diet’s ability to improve anxiety. Results vary among the many studies and clinical trials. For example, one
To help avoid anxiety, experts suggest the following dietary measures:
- Eat a well-balanced diet. Fill up with adequate fruits, vegetables, lean meats, and healthy fats.
- Avoid processed foods. Processed foods often contain minimal nutrition and harmful ingredients.
- Avoid foods high in sugar. A sugar rush can mimic or trigger a panic attack.
- Eat regular meals. Regular meals can help reduce low blood sugar, which can produce anxiety symptoms.
- Hydrate. Drink 6 to 8 large glasses of water a day.
- Avoid sodas. Many sodas contain caffeine and have a high sugar content, both of which can contribute to anxiety.
- Avoid smoking. Nicotine can raise blood pressure and heart rate, and mimic symptoms of anxiety.
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.
Get regular exercise
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.
The Anxiety and Depression Association of America says even 5 minutes of aerobic exercise can begin to stimulate anti-anxiety effects. A 10-minute brisk walk can provide several hours of relief.
The second edition of the
These guidelines recommend regular exercise. They also point out that a single session of moderate to vigorous physical activity can reduce anxiety symptoms on the same day you perform it. The guidelines say this benefit may increase with regular exercise.
Anxiety increased for many people during the COVID-19 pandemic. One 2020 study showed the powerful effects exercise can have in reducing anxiety and improving mental health when isolation and uncertainty crowd in.
During the pandemic, people who could not get access to exercise facilities often turned to exergames, or fitness-oriented video games, to help reduce their anxiety.
Exergames are available in almost any sport you can think of, including:
Get plenty of sleep
Try to get at least 6 to 8 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 1 to 2 hours before bed, and making sure you sleep in a darkened, cool room
- getting regular exercise
Massage your muscles
Massage therapy helps relieve muscle tension and promotes blood flow to key areas of the body to release stress and anxiety.
Practice relaxation techniques
- relaxation training
Read on to see what relaxation techniques might work the best for you.
Meditation doesn’t change the world around you, but it can change the way you respond to it. Successful meditation can possibly help you better understand the source of your anxiety and overcome it.
According to the
Meditation relaxes the body and may help in the treatment of phobias and panic disorders. One easy way to practice meditation is:
- Sit still in a quiet place.
- Focus on nothing but the task of breathing deeply.
- When a thought tries to enter your mind, acknowledge it, and then let it go.
Breathing techniques can help you learn to control your breathing, and may help prevent you from hyperventilating during an anxiety-producing event. This can help keep you calm.
Here is a deep breathing exercise you can try:
- Sit down with your back straight.
- Breathe deeply, inhaling through your nose from your abdomen.
- Try to get as much air into your lungs as possible. This will bring more oxygen into your body, which will help you feel less tense and anxious.
- Once your lungs are full, slowly exhale through your mouth.
- 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, yoga is one of the top 10 alternative practices used to treat a variety of disorders, including anxiety and depression.
Less conclusive results were reported in a research review also conducted in 2018. The review of eight trials found improvement among people with high levels of anxiety, but no effect in people with diagnosed anxiety disorders. The review concluded that more research is needed to explore just how yoga helps reduce anxiety.
When practiced regularly, it becomes easier to achieve the relaxed feeling you get from yoga into your daily life. You can try following along to yoga videos at home, or signing up for a yoga class.
Studies continue to examine the effects of herbal remedies to treat mild to moderate anxiety. While some research exists that there are some positive associations between the symptoms of anxiety and the use of certain herbs, there’s no strong evidence that herbal remedies are helpful for anxiety.
If you have an anxiety disorder, it is very important to use supplements only as additions to your primary treatment, not substitutions.
Supplements are regulated by the FDA as food, not as drugs, which have stricter requirements. Any supplement that promises to improve or cure an anxiety disorder is going against FDA regulations.
Always check with your doctor before starting any supplements. Some can have dangerous side effects or interact negatively with medications or health conditions. Also, some supplements are not safe during pregnancy.
Nutritional supplements and herbs often used to relieve anxiety include:
- Vitamin B12. This vitamin plays a key role in the nervous system and may help reduce feelings of anxiety and depression.
- Chamomile. This herbal tea can have a soothing, anti-anxiety effect. A
large 2016 clinical trialfound that using chamomile long term significantly reduced moderate to severe generalized anxiety symptoms. However, it didn’t significantly lessen relapse.
- Passionflower. This is a climbing vine native to the southeastern United States that was used as a sedative by Indigenous peoples. It is currently used to promote anxiety and sleep. According to the
National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, it hasn’t been studied enough to make conclusions about its effectiveness in reducing anxiety.
- L-theanine. This is an amino acid naturally found in green and black tea, as well as mushrooms. It is often taken as a supplement to reduce stress and anxiety. One
2019 clinical trialfound that 4 weeks of use improved stress-related symptoms, such as anxiety and depression.
- Omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3s are necessary for nervous system development. A
2018 research review of 19 studiesfound that omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids significantly helped reduce anxiety symptoms.
Some supplements, such as chamomile and valerian, are also available as essential oils that can be diffused and used as aromatics. Some
It’s also important to note that CBD products aren’t regulated by the FDA. If you choose to use CBD to help manage anxiety symptoms, make sure you are choosing a reputable brand.
Is CBD legal? The 2018 Farm Bill removed hemp from the legal definition of marijuana in the Controlled Substances Act. This made some hemp-derived CBD products with less than 0.3 percent THC federally legal. However, CBD products containing more than 0.3 percent THC still fall under the legal definition of marijuana, making them federally illegal but legal under some state laws. Be sure to check state laws, especially when traveling. Also, keep in mind that the FDA has not approved nonprescription CBD products, and some products may be inaccurately labeled.
It’s always a good idea to talk with a doctor before beginning a new treatment regimen, whether conventional or alternative. This will help minimize potential complications.
If your goal is to feel better, incorporating these practices into your anxiety treatment plan may be helpful.