The stresses of everyday modern life can turn anyone into a gibbering mess, and stress out the most staunch and driven people. With bills, work, family, and the remnants of COVID, life can be difficult to handle sometimes. Anxiety is a normal part of life — a part of the natural “fight or flight” instinct that keeps you aware of potential dangers and motivates you to be prepared.
Anxiety symptoms are not easy to cope with and often manifest physically as an unsettled stomach, heart palpitations, general tension, or even panic attacks. Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the US, affecting millions.
Everyone reacts to stress differently so there is no cookie-cutter solution. Many turn to anti-anxiety medications but they come with a risk of side effects like sleep disturbances, decreased sex drive, dizziness, nausea, loss of appetite, constipation, headaches, dry mouth, and agitation, just to name a few.
Fortunately, there are a number of ways to reduce stress and control anxiety without taking medication.
1. Traditional Treatments
If your anxiety is severe, meet with a therapist. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is the traditional therapy for anxiety and depression, but other forms can be effective. Consider joining a local support group for people dealing with anxiety. Remember, these anxiety treatments are more effective than any type of medication because they address the root cause of the anxiety, not just symptoms.
Many people try herbal supplements, but medicine is still medicine — herbal or not. There are a number of herbal substances that address the symptoms of anxiety:
Kava, ashwagandha, valerian root, lavender, lemon balm, chamomile, and passionflower all have been used to treat anxiety and stress and are available as pills, capsules, oils, or teas.
Many natural supplements may interact with other medications you may be taking. Always talk to your doctor before taking any medications or supplements.
3. Get Healthy
Exercise releases endorphins that help you feel better, and takes your mind off your worries. Yoga and tai chi are effective because they promote relaxation and involve deep breathing techniques that reduce stress and muscle tension. Any kind of exercise works — walking, jogging, yoga, weight training, bike riding, playing soccer, walking the dog, running up and down the stairs…It’s all good!
Stop your “vices.” Drinking may worsen anxiety in some cases and can lead to alcohol dependence. Smoking does the same. Eliminate or reduce caffeine, so cut back or substitute other beverages such as herbal tea, which can calm your mind and nerves.
Get the proper amount of sleep. Sleep deprivation makes you susceptible to anxiety. Aim for seven to eight hours every night.
Take breaks. The brain, like the body, gets tired. Regular breaks help you focus, think more creatively, help with memory recall, and restore motivation. Go get a cup of water, step outside, or just walk around the office. You can’t serve from an empty bowl, so don’t be afraid to say “no” when you need to take time to recharge.
Spend time outside. Being in a natural environment lowers heart rate, blood pressure, and stress hormones. Exposure to sunlight boosts serotonin, one of the “happiness hormones.”
4. Change Your Diet
Eat healthily, and don’t stress-eat. Avoid sweets, junk food, and highly processed foods. Abnormal blood glucose levels can cause nervousness and jitters.
Add more lean proteins, fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats to your diet. Healthy choices are wild-caught fish, grass-fed beef, organic chicken, yogurt or kefir, leafy greens, fresh vegetables and fruit, healthy fats like avocado, coconut, and olive oils, beans and legumes, nuts and seeds, and unrefined grains like quinoa and barley. A clean and well-balanced diet that contains B vitamins, magnesium, and omega-3s should make a noticeable difference in mood, energy levels, and sleep patterns.
5. Meditation and Mental Strategies
Take each day as it comes, living in the moment. Don’t spend too much effort dwelling on past mistakes or focusing on tomorrow’s worries. Practice mindfulness or meditation daily — both have been proven to ease anxiety and reduce stress. Deep breathing exercises bring down heart rate and blood pressure, as does progressive muscle relaxation.
Distraction can be a quick fix for situational anxiety. Use what is around you, forcing your brain to focus on something else. Put on a favorite song and sing along, chew a piece of gum, run your hands under cool water, paying attention to what you hear, see, smell, taste, and feel.
Laughter is the best medicine. It stimulates your heart and lungs, increases blood circulation, relieves muscle tension, and increases endorphins (your feel-good hormone). Plus, laughter brings positive thoughts. Music affects mood too, reducing the body’s stress response and calming you down.
Positive physical contact increases oxytocin, dopamine, and serotonin, the body’s feel good chemicals. So, give someone a hug.
Lavender and chamomile oils have been shown to reduce anxiety. Use it topically or by diffusing/inhaling the scent to help induce calmness and relieve nervousness, headaches, and muscle pain. Add 5–10 drops to warm bath water. Grapefruit, sage, bergamot, and CBD oil scents can also help to boost mood and reduce stress.
Stress and anxiety can be true monsters, but you can fight them off without resorting to medication. Simple lifestyle changes may be enough to overcome worry, or at least make it easily manageable. Try a natural, drug-free approach, but speak with a doctor if symptoms don’t improve.
Why Choose Rising Phoenix?
Rising Phoenix Wellness Services is a licensed mental health and substance use disorder Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) in Scottsdale, Arizona. We created our addiction and mental health treatment program to offer a safe, welcoming, and nurturing environment where clients are embraced, not judged, throughout their recovery process.
We offer programming that is based on Integrity, Innovation, Confident Humility, and Mindful Leadership. Our Mission is to help people recognize the unique value of their life and improve their overall health and wellness.