Almost 1 in 5 American adults suffer from anxiety. Of that nearly 20% of adults, less than half do anything to treat their anxiety. Why? You may argue that anxiety feels overwhelming to not only deal with but also to overcome. Secondly, most of the treatments for anxiety that are mainstream rely on medication and many adults are looking for natural alternatives to treat their anxiety.
Additionally, about 30% of teenagers report having anxiety and too look for natural remedies for anxiety instead of going on medication at a young age. So many of our peers are suffering from anxiety and looking for safe, non-invasive ways to cope.
Why so much anxiety?
As we have talked about previously and observed over the years working with teen and adult clients, people are more stressed out than ever. No longer are we experiencing the life-threatening stressors of our ancestors, but instead we are inundated by the perceived urgent and overwhelming stressors of daily life: emails, text messages, social media, back pain, neck pain, obesity, lack of time, rushing, deadlines, traffic, etcetera. To make matters more dire, we are stuck in our heads more and more with less outlets to relieve our constant flurry of thoughts about worry, over-analyzing, fear, self-doubt and future-tripping.
There is an under-current of adrenalin pulsing through our communities. We are always on the look out for doing more, being asked of more, being better, and working harder. Couple that with the implications from a busy lifestyle like poor diet, limited exercise, sedentary and longer work-days, and we have a recipe for environmentally induced anxiety.
Anxiety is also genetic and about 30-40% of those with anxiety have family members who also experience symptoms of anxiety. Regardless of the circumstances in which anxiety arises, it is something that can be treated naturally. Medication is a great tool but there are powerful ways to manage anxiety that are accessible without medical intervention. These methods are simple, but not easy, thus why anxiety is among the top most common mental health disorders.
- Meditation: You have heard it probably a ton of times but meditation is one of the most profound tools we have for entire system regulation. By slowing down your mind you ease your body and create a cycle of calm, control and focus. There are many ways to begin to meditation, but just 2 minutes focusing on your breath is a great start.
- Gentle Exercise: Another nice way to slow down your brain and body is by gentle movement. This can be a leisurely walk, a restorative or yin yoga class, or any other type of movement that feels soothing and relaxing.
- Mindfulness Exercises: What is mindfulness exactly? Mindfulness is about being in the moment without judgment or story. You can be in the moment by simply observing what is happening without attaching an emotional response to it. A few exercises we love are to notice all the things that are a particular color in the room/around you, to pay attention to your breath, or to visualize a relaxing place in your mind.
- Treat Yourself: Massage, acupuncture, salon services, music- these are all activities that feel nice to your mind, body and soul. Relax into a treat for yourself and actually be present in the reward instead of scrolling on your phone.
Find a healthy distraction.
- Journaling: Sometimes it just helps to get the ruminating thoughts down on paper. There is a reason to-do lists are so popular! If you find yourself stuck on something, just write and write until you can no longer write. Picture the thoughts just emptying out of your head and dumping them on the paper or computer.
- Play: Dance, laugh, go hiking, see a movie, play a board game. Find an activity that is FUN and actually allow yourself to enjoy it.
- Exercise: As with play, let yourself be free and in the moment by getting out of your head and into your body. Go to a spin class with fun music, let your breath lead you in yoga, or feel the water comfort you by swimming. The key with exercise is just to do it and find something you love to do. It doesn't have to follow any more rules than that.
- Brain Teasers: A type of mindfulness, a brain teaser can quickly get you out of your head and into using your rational, prefrontal cortex. If you find yourself stuck, start counting backwards by 3s. Or imagine what type of animal you would be if you could completely make up that animal. Or start rhyming words. It doesn't have to be complicated but the point is to click your mind back into a mode that is clear and out of stress-response mode.
Fuel your body.
- Eat real foods: Yes, you are what you eat. If you eat junk, then you'll feel like junk. Strive for whole, organic foods that do not have a list of ingredients. Whole grains, legumes, veggies and fruits should make up the majority of your diet.
- Eliminate processed sugar: Sugar creates inflammation in our system and inflammation has been linked to physical and mental ailments. To keep your brain and body in top shape, reduce inflammation by removing refined sugars and carbohydrates from your diet. Hint, those protein bars aren't doing you much good.
- Limit caffeine: Coffee is delicious and amazing (yes, we're biased) and actually healthy, however, it can seriously hijack your system's ability to calm down. If you need a pick-me-up, try lots of water or pick a green tea that has theanine in it to reduce the effects of caffeine and create a calming affect.
There is little speculation that when you feel in control of your daily life, then anxiety is subdued. Unfortunately, there is little we actually have control over. Yet we can control our own discipline, emotions and whether we keep commitments to ourselves. The more you are able to stick to a plan most days, the less the unpredictable stuff that throws you off your plan will negatively impact you. By committing to your appointments with yourself to exercise, meditate, go to bed at a reasonable hour, and generally take care of yourself, the less resentment, worry and fear you'll face when life throws you a curve-ball.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Seeing a licensed counselor or psychologist is going to ultimately be your best way forward in healing your anxiety. Professional help will teach you the tools to understand and handle your intrusive and debilitating thoughts. Additionally, working with a professional will help you better recognize where your anxious thoughts and feelings come from, how to notice trends in your anxiety and give you your best chance of riding of it.
Most of the ways to rid of anxiety naturally are quite simple. However, simple does not mean easy.
It is very difficult to hold yourself accountable to managing your anxiety through a slow and steady lifestyle shift. Environmental factors help create anxiety but making changes to your environment can also help reduce anxiety. For help teaching you tools to manage your anxiety, digging deeper to identify the roots of your anxiety and for general support, guidance and understanding, reach out to us. We'd love to help you.