Anxiety is fast becoming one of the most common mental illnesses in the world. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America reports around 40 million adults being affected by anxiety disorders in the United States alone. And while many anxiety disorders are treatable, only 36.9% of those suffering from such disorders receive treatment.
For the purpose of understanding, it is essential to differentiate between anxiety and anxiety disorder. Anxiety is a normal bodily response to a stressful situation, characterized by a fight or flight state in the face of tension, worrying thoughts and/or alarming circumstances. However, when this anxiety persists, and feelings of fear, worry and nervousness are difficult to control, it is usually an anxiety disorder.
The signs and symptoms of such anxiety disorders usually present themselves as having an impending sense of doom, feelings of restlessness, high blood pressure, increased heart rate, profuse sweating, and hyperventilation.
Some of the common types of anxiety disorders are a generalized anxiety disorder, specific phobias, agoraphobia, panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, and selective mutism, among others.
While the common response is to seek help from a medical professional who often suggests prescription medication, counseling/therapy or a combination of the two, it is worthwhile to explore natural remedies to control and treat everyday anxiety and anxiety disorders. This is particularly helpful for individuals seeking to avoid the harmful side effects of prescription drugs, such as nausea, headaches, insomnia, and weight gain, among others.
Following is a list of some excellent natural remedies to help combat anxiety and allow you to improve your mental and emotional health.
Exercising regularly is a great way to relieve anxiety and stress in the body by channeling that energy into doing something productive.
Essentially, physical activity helps release endorphins – which are natural chemicals in the body that behave like painkillers – and allow the body to improve its overall cognitive function. With the release of serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine, which are basically ‘feel good’ neurotransmitters, you feel refreshed and ready to take on a challenge.
In fact, studies have shown that regular exercise has been linked to elevate the mood, reduce stress and anxiety, lower the incidence of panic attacks, improve focus and help with sleep.
While intense periods of exercise can relieve anxiety symptoms for a few hours, regular exercise, such as jogging, running, yoga, swimming, biking, hitting the gym or even simply walking can alleviate anxiety over time. Just 30 minutes of exercise every day for at least 5 days a week can bring about positive effects in your daily mood and help you cope with anxiety.
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Cannabidiol, or CBD, is a compound found in the cannabis plant that is used to treat anxiety and anxiety disorders. Research and studies have shown how CBD has been successful in treating individuals with social anxiety disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, and panic disorder, among others.
CBD is very safe to use and is not addictive. Side effects may include altered mood and appetite, dry mouth, dizziness, and nausea. Chances of overdose are extremely rare as the human body can handle doses as high as 1500mg for extended periods of time. Moreover, it does not contain Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the substance responsible for the ‘high’ that is commonly associated with cannabis use.
CBD oil for anxiety works by regulating the levels of serotonin in the body, so that dulls the feelings of stress and anxiety. As for the dosage, researches say that it depends on factors such as weight, age, and intensity of symptoms. It is recommended to start with a low dosage and gradually increase the quantity.
It is advised that you purchase CBD oil from known and reputable brands to avoid any inconvenience. Also, be mindful of the laws in your state or country before purchasing CBD oil. Often times, doctors will prescribe CBD oil for mental health problems such as anxiety so it is best to get a prescription.
Having its origins in Buddhism, meditation is a practice whereby the body and mind are focused on reflecting with inner feelings to reduce the pressures from psychological stress and anxiety. It encourages a deeper sense of awareness and calmness that helps individuals take control of their thoughts, gives them greater clarity, and puts them at ease.
In essence, meditation helps by countering the stress hormones released during periods of anxiety. Over time, the practice of meditation can teach the body to regulate its response to stressful situations by regulating the amygdala – responsible for the body’s emotional responses – and this can be witnessed in MRI imaging.
Whether you practice mindfulness meditation, breath awareness meditation, Kundalini yoga or transcendental meditation, meditation has been known to alleviate anxiety symptoms by managing anxiety.
Massage therapy falls under the ambit of Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) that involves the manipulation of different muscles in the body to relieve pressure and stress.
Massage therapy has been known to help with lowering the heart rate, releasing muscle tension and improving flexibility. On an emotional level, it helps to manage anxiety symptoms by lowering the level of cortisol in the body and inducing feelings of relaxation and calm. Massage therapy helps to regulate the mood by regulating emotional and stress responses from the amygdala.
Studies have also shown the positive effects of massage therapy in helping people cope with chronic anxiety, generalized anxiety and everyday anxiety arising from stressful situations.
Always remember to schedule a massage therapy session with a certified and licensed massage therapist who follows standard procedures and targets certain pressure points.
Diet and Nutrition
A balanced, healthy diet can have great long-term effects on your physical and emotional well-being. This means avoiding excessive alcohol and caffeine, inflammatory foods and staying hydrated throughout the day. Importantly, avoid skipping meals as it could affect your blood sugar that could worsen feelings of anxiety.
Specific types of food have been known to reduce the symptoms of anxiety. This is because such foods help release neurotransmitters such as dopamine and serotonin that help to manage anxiety and stabilize mood.
Examples include foods rich in zinc, such as beef, liver, oysters, and cashews. Magnesium-rich food is also great and includes spinach, whole grains, and legumes. Food rich in omega-3 fatty acid has been known to reduce anxiety and can be found in fatty fish such as salmon. Vegetables such as asparagus, kale and broccoli and foods rich in vitamin B such as avocados, have also been known to curb anxiety and reduce stress.
Additionally, complex carbohydrates, as opposed to simple carbohydrates that are often found in sugary drinks, are highly recommended as they take a few hours to breakdown and slowly release energy, thereby balancing blood sugar and facilitating feelings of calm. Some studies have also stressed the benefits of anti-oxidants in lowering anxiety levels. Such foods include fruits, nuts, berries and some spices such as turmeric.
Hypnotherapy, performed by a certified mental health professional, is a very safe procedure of guided relaxation that involves intense concentration in order to focus the mind and achieve feelings of relaxation and calm. It is a great way to deal with anxiety as it allows individuals to take greater control of their emotions.
A hypnotherapy session involves deep relaxation to essentially help reprogram the brain so that it manages anxiety. Contrary to popular belief, it does not involve any kind of mind control.
During a session, individuals may ease into a trance-like state where attention is focused on improving their mental wellbeing. Hypnotherapists often talk throughout the process to help the subconscious deal with anxiety and stress. Basically, it taps into the root cause of the problem and helps remedy it to alter the body’s natural response to stressful situations in the future.
A hypnotherapy session may involve deep breathing and visualization by the individual. While there is no particular number of recommended sessions, one study found that people start feeling its positive effects after six sittings.
If anxiety has become a daily struggle and you are struggling under its crippling pressure, be sure to try out the above mentioned natural remedies rather than getting hooked on medication that can often be addictive.
While simple measures such as getting enough sleep and going outdoors to increase social interaction are great steps to lower anxiety, natural remedies such as those listed above can help you maintain and manage your anxiety levels in the most stressful situations.
Always remember to talk to your doctor before incorporating any drastic changes in your lifestyle.