By Dr. Denise Renye Licensed Clinical Psychologist, Sex Therapist in San Francisco, CA
I spoke with a friend of a friend recently who said he copes with anxiety solely through medication because that’s all he’s been exposed to. It got me thinking about how some people don’t know what else to try for anxiety other than pharmacological interventions because they may not have considered therapy as an option. Many people may not be financially able to get therapy. The art of learning how toAnxiety management can be done in healthy ways to make a positive difference.
The Anxiety and Depression Alliance of America (ADAA) states that anxiety disorders constitute the leading cause of mental illness in the US. Anxiety affects 40 million adults in the U.S. ages 18 and older — about 18.1% of the population. Although anxiety disorders are very treatable, only 36.9% get treatment.
Therapy and medication are two ways to manage treatment, but they’re not the only ways. Here are ways to deal with anxiety that don’t require medication or therapy.
7 non-pharmacological strategies to ease anxiety
You knew this one was coming, didn’t you? Anxiety is associated with energy; it’s why we have expressions like “fidgeting nervously,” or “a nervous tic.” Exercise is an outlet for that anxious energy. There are many studies showing that regular physical activity and exercise can reduce anxiety.
2. Change Your Diet
Did you know that 95% of the serotonin receptors in your stomach are located there? You can see that what you eat in your stomach will affect how your mood. That’s true and in fact, a 2016 study found healthy eating can alleviate anxiety. Do you eat a lot processed foods like frozen meals and cookies that are shelf stable? Your anxiety could be worsened by these foods. Is it possible to eat differently?
It’s not uncommon for a person to experience swirling thoughts when they’re anxious. Thinking about the future in a negative way can promote anxiety such as repeating to yourself: “I don’t look good in pictures,” “No one will come to my party,” “Everyone hates me,” or “What if I lose my job?” Writing those thoughts down, letting all your worst fears become expressed, can help release them from your brain and soothe the anxious parts of yourself. It is helpful to write down any anxiety-related insomnia.
Although it seems simple, because we all breathe throughout the day, conscious breathing can help alleviate anxiety. I’m a proponent of breathing into your belly, alternate nostril breathing, and circular breathing. A guided and free breathwork meditation is also available. Set a 30 second timer and work for up to 3 minutes. Then, feel how it feels after you have breathed with intention and awareness. Breathwork encourages you to pause. This is what I love most about it. We are often conditioned to fear silence and a pause. Your brain can imagine ten years into the future, and run wild with anxiety. By sat in silence for a while, your brain can return to this moment, where you are now. Noticing the present moment, being with the pause, the silence, you may notice things aren’t as terrible as they first seemed.
5. Yoga & Meditation
Many meditations and yoga are available, however almost all help to reduce anxiety. Try different styles until you discover the one that suits you best. Meditation and yoga include many of my previous characteristics: focusing, pausing and breathwork.
Because it helps me access the inner world, I see a spiritual practice in addition to therapy or depth coaching. The definition of spirituality is simply a feeling of being connected to something bigger than yourself. It can provide meaning and purpose for your life. You may experience emotions like peace, joy, and awe when you cultivate a relationship with someone greater than yourself. In other words, a spiritual practice — tailor-made for you — can help you cope with anxiety.
Emotional Freedom Therapy (EFT), or tapping, is a combination of cognitive therapies and acupuncture to treat psychological distress. EFT was found to significantly decrease anxiety scores even after adjusting for the effects of control treatments. In 2019, EFT was discovered to be physiologically beneficial by researchers. This means that participants reported feeling better and their bodies showed decreased resting heart rates and blood pressure, as well as a reduction in cortisol levels.
Adult Children of Alcoholics
Sometimes it’s really hard to manage anxiety on your own and you just may need support. Adult Children of Alcoholics meetings (ACA) are a good option if money is an issue. This meeting is available to all children who were raised in dysfunctional homes and alcoholic families. The program functions like other 12-step groups in that members share for a limited time and there’s a sponsor or fellow traveler to help a person through the steps. That means there’s a community of people to support you as you learn how toManage anxiety. However, what’s unique about ACA is that it also addresses post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and has literature devoted to nurturing an inner loving parent. A strong and secure attachment figure can calm anxiety, particularly if it is coming from within you.
If you’re struggling with anxiety, you don’t have to suffer through it. There are many ways to treat anxiety, including therapy and medication. If one method doesn’t work, try another. It may take some time to get used to it. You can get relief. Get started today in your search for a professional therapist.
Anderson, Elizabeth; Shivakumar, Geetha. “Effects of Exercise and Physical Activity on Anxiety.” Front Psychiatry. 2013;4:27. doi: 10.3389/fpsyt.2013.00027
Anxiety and Depression Association of America. “Facts and Statistics.” https://adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/facts-statistics, accessed November 18, 2021.
Bach, Donna; Groesbeck, Gary; Stapleton, Peta; et al. Emotional Freedom Techniques, Clinical EFT. Improves Multiple Physiological Markers of Health. J Evid Based Integr Medicine. 2019;24:2515690X18823691. doi:10.1177/2515690X18823691
Carpenter, Dr. Siri. “That Gut Feeling.” American Psychological Association. September 2012; 43(8): 50. https://www.apa.org/monitor/2012/09/gut-feeling
Clond, Morgan. “Emotional Freedom Techniques for Anxiety: A Systematic Review With Meta-analysis.” J Nerv Ment Dis. 2016;204(5):388-395. doi: 10.1097/NMD.0000000000000483.
Null, Gary; Pennesi, Luanne; Feldman, Martin. “Nutrition and Lifestyle Intervention on Mood and Neurological Disorders.” J Evid Based Complementary Altern Med. 2017 Jan;22(1):68-74. doi: 10.1177/2156587216637539.
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