Natural ways to help treat anxiety without taking medication

Exercising in nature can help treat anxietyAnxiety disorders are the most common mental health problem in USA, Australia and beyond. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in USA say that over 15% of people are estimated to have an anxiety disorder at some stage in their lives. Common anxiety disorders are generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), phobias, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and panic disorder.

Medication for anxiety can work well, but it has its downsides. Medication does not treat the causes of anxiety, just the symptoms. Lots of anxiety medication is very addictive, and many have bad – sometimes dangerous – side effects. Once you stop taking medication, the anxiety can return. Stopping medication can be hard because it can be habit forming.

Leading medical herbalist Kate Fraser highlights the negative aspects of anti-anxiety drugs in her book Positive Health with Herbs. She says that research has found that the common anti-anxiety drugs benzodiazepines are a short-term friend, but a long-term foe. She warns us that: “With long-term use, their side effects can be worse than the problem for which they were originally prescribed….”

Helpguide.com highlights that: “… Many people use anti-anxiety medication when therapy, exercise, or self-help strategies would work just as well or better — minus the side effects and risks.”

What are some ideas to naturally treat anxiety without medication? Here are a variety of natural, safe and effective ways.

Overcome fears
Control stress and worry
Think calming thoughts
Breathe properly
Exercise
Balance your vitamin and mineral intake
Eat enough omega-3 fat
Stabilize your blood sugar levels
Avoid foods and food additives that badly affect your mood
Herbs can help
Cut-down on caffeine
Meditate
Make time to relax and to enjoy life
Get professional help

Overcome fears

Anxiety is fear of the future, or fear that something bad will happen in the future. An important way to help stop anxiety is to face your fears and conquer them. What are some ways to overcome fear? Ideas include counseling, helplines, information on the Internet, and books by experts on combating fear. I like the book Fearless Living by Rhonda Britten. Rhonda overcame personal trauma to become a best-selling author and life coach.

Positive philosophies and beliefs help conquer worrying about the future. I believe in God/the Universe, and I have a belief to help overcome anxiety that relates to this. The belief is: “I do my best, and God does the rest.” So I do my best, and then “let it go”, trusting that things usually turn out for the best for me. I also have a belief linked to this, which is: “Things always turn out for the best for me.”

… Worrying about tomorrow is not only futile, it can steal today from me. I’m not going to let the fears and worries of tomorrow take the joy out of today.”

– Peter Harvey, award-winning journalist and broadcaster

Control stress and worry

Too much stress and worry can make us anxious. Try ideas in my blog posts tagged under stress, and my blog post about worry, which are on this website, if you’re interested. There are many other blog posts on the Internet on these topics, as well as books and other resources. Check them out, if you feel the need.

Think calming thoughts

Our thoughts affect our feelings, heart rate, the tenseness of our muscles, and so on. Thoughts that dwell on fear, past hurts, possible future problems, and other negativity can increase our heart rate, stress levels etc, which can lead to anxiety. Peaceful thoughts help calm us down, so help prevent anxiety. Below are some calming thoughts to help prevent anxiety.

  • When we think of an unlikely situation happening, replace the negative thoughts with positive thoughts, such as: “It’s unlikely that this will ever happen. If it does happen, I can deal with it then.”
  • “There’s no point ruining my life worrying about things that may or may not happen. I will do my best to live in the now. I can deal appropriately with the situation, if it happens.”
  • Imagine (visualize) positive and happy outcomes rather than bad and fearful things happening. So imagine things that uplift you, like succeeding at sport, work or a hobby.
  • Imagine calming nature spots, such as peaceful waterfalls, beaches and forests. Immerse yourself in what you imagine, such as swimming in a relaxing beach.

Just five to ten minutes thinking and imagining peaceful thoughts throughout the day when you feel anxious at home, work etc, are quick and easy stress and anxiety busters.

Breathe properly

Poor breathing habits can bring on, or worsen, anxiety. Feeling anxious is nearly impossible while breathing slowly and deeply. Do breathing exercises to calm yourself down when you feel uptight, and to help prevent and treat anxiety. Be careful, forced deep breathing can lead to hyperventilation. This occurs when the breathing rate increases too much, which can cause dizziness and other health problems.

You need to do breathing techniques often – daily is best. A once a week deep breathing session is not enough. The CalmClinic website describes breathing exercises to help treat anxiety. This website also has plenty of other information to help overcome this health problem.

Exercise

Research shows that exercise can reduce anxiety, and reduce the risk of anxiety coming back once you’re feeling better. Exercise can be nearly anything that gets you moving and your heart pumping faster – from mowing the lawn and polishing your car, to vacuuming and lifting weights.

How much exercise do we need to beat anxiety? The Mayo Clinic says 30 minutes of exercise a day three to five days a week can improve mood. To reap the long-term benefits of exercise, you need to exercise regularly.

Balance your vitamin and mineral intake

A lack of vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin B, zinc and magnesium, can cause symptoms of anxiety. Boosting low levels of these vital nutrients can reduce the symptoms of anxiety. Simple blood tests can indicate whether you lack vitamins and/or minerals. Get your levels tested if you think you might be low. Our bodies can also show signs and symptoms of a lack of vitamins and minerals through the quality of our hair, skin, nails, and so on.

Eat enough omega-3 fat

Our brains consist of about 60% fat. The types of fat our brains are made of affects our mood, and how well we think, concentrate and remember.

A fair amount of fat in our brain is omega-3 fat. Omega-3 fat is called a good fat, because it’s good for us.

Many people don’t get enough omega-3 fat from their diets. They can suffer from symptoms of anxiety, depression and/or other mental health problems as a result.

A recent study found that anxiety levels reduced in a group of healthy young people who were given omega-3 supplements. The group given a placebo (dummy pill), however, did not feel less anxious.

Boost low omega-3 fat levels to help prevent and treat anxiety. Eat plenty of foods high in omega-3 fat, or take capsules high in omega-3. Omega-3-rich foods include oily fish, krill, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, linseeds (flaxseeds) and walnuts. Some types of oily fish are sardines, salmon, mackerel, tuna, and herring.

Omega-3 fish oil and krill oil can interact with some medication. Check with your doctor, or do your own research on the topic, if you take medication and you’re unsure if an omega-3 supplement might interact with your medication.

Stabilize your blood sugar levels

People who get hypoglycemia (low blood sugar levels) can find that stabilizing their blood sugar level can help reduce anxiety. Lawrence Wilson M.D. says at least half of Americans have low blood sugar, “often due to an improper diet and/or lifestyle.”

Ways to help stabilize blood sugar levels include the following:

  • exercising – this is very important to help reduce high blood sugar
  • controlling stress and worry
  • eating plenty of low glycemic index (GI) foods, such as oats, wholegrain pumpernickel bread, and many fruit and veg, such as peas, carrots, tomatoes and beans
  • cutting down on high GI foods, such as cornflakes, white bread and bagels
  • eating plenty of high-fiber foods, and including some in every meal. Fiber is only in plant foods. Good sources of fiber include bran and many fruit and veg.
  • eating 4 or 5 small meals throughout the day rather than 3 large meals
  • using cinnamon in more of your cooking. Dr. Mercola says cinnamon is “a viable contender in the fight against diabetes, as the study in Diabetic Medicine reveals.”
  • having less foods and drinks that cause spikes in blood sugar, such as sugary soft drinks, fruit drinks, cordials, cookies and cakes
  • eating a high-protein food with every meal. Good sources of protein include meat, fish, eggs, nuts, seeds and beans.

Avoid foods and food additives that badly affect your mood

Some people are sensitive to one or more foods or food additives. If they eat types that badly affect them, they can feel anxious/angry/hyperactive…. Common culprits include artificial colors, artificial flavors, and preservatives. Avoid these if they affect you. If you’re unsure about whether or not you are sensitive to any foods or food additives, see a relevant health professional, such as a nutritionist, dietitian or naturopath.

Herbs can help

Herbs are nature’s natural wonder for anxiety. Herbs can also help treat health problems linked to anxiety, such as muscles tension and headaches. Anti-anxiety herbs include:

  • chamomile
  • hops
  • kava. Steven Bratman M.D. says double-blind studies show kava is better than a placebo, and kava is safe in recommended doses.
  • lemon balm
  • passion flower
  • skullcap
  • valerian

I have written a blog post on most of these herbs. The posts are listed under the tag “anxiety” on this website.

Remember, herbs can have side effects, and can interact with other supplements, and medication. See a relevant health professional before taking herbal remedies, to find out which herbs are suitable for you. It’s best to take herbs under the care of a relevant health care provider.

Cut-down on caffeine

MedicineNet.com says: “Caffeine’s power has become so well recognized that the American Psychiatric Association has added three related disorders to its list of official diagnoses.” These disorders are: caffeine intoxication, caffeine-related anxiety, and caffeine-related sleep disorders.

Dr. Roland Griffiths is a professor in the departments of psychiatry and neuroscience at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. He said that caffeine can worsen anxiety and panic disorders.

So if anxiety strikes soon after you have a coffee (or other drink containing caffeine), it’s probably time to cut down on – or cut out – caffeine. Avoid switching to fizzy drinks, cordial or fruit drinks. These are high in sugar, and often have other unhealthy ingredients. Drink filtered water and calming caffeine-free herbal teas instead.

I love tea, and I drink various types daily. I buy organic tea whenever possible. My favorite herbal teas are ginger, peppermint, chamomile, lemon balm and rooibos. For more kick, I drink organic green, black or chai tea. I especially like green tea with lemon myrtle and a few drops of liquid stevia (a natural sweetener). I can get hyperactive on caffeine, so I limit my tea intake to two weak cups a day of tea that contains caffeine.

Meditate

The Mental Health Foundation says a type of meditation called mindfulness meditation (MM) can positively affect how the brain works and the structure of the brain. People who do MM have increased activity in the part of the brain linked to positive emotion. Other types of meditation besides MM can also reduce stress and anxiety.

Over 100 studies have found changes in brain wave activity during meditation. Areas of the brain linked to emotional regulation are larger in people who have done regular mediation for five years.

I enjoy and recommend meditation. Meditation helps me calm down and cope better with stress.

I’ve been regularly meditating for the last few years. I meditate at home about four times a week to relaxation/meditation/hypnosis CDs. Each CD is between about half an hour to one hour long. My favorite CDs are:

  • Letting Go of Anxiety, by Sarah Edelman
  • Warrior Woman, in the Woman Spirit Hypnosis Series, by Jan Duncan
  • Inner Alchemy: Connecting to the Inner Healer, by Mary Rodwell

Make time to relax and to enjoy life

Stress and worry are two major causes of anxiety. To de-stress and feel happier, put aside regular time to relax and to have fun.

Ways to relax include yoga, tai chi, progressive muscle relaxation exercises, taking naps, and, as previously discussed, breathing exercises and meditation.

Get professional help

See one or more relevant health professionals if you find that your anxiety is too much to handle on your own. Psychologists, naturopaths, herbalists, support groups, trained specialists in OCD, etc, can help overcome anxiety disorders.

There are many other safe and effective alternatives to anxiety medication besides the ideas discussed in this blog post. A few of these options include hypnotherapy, 5-HTP, GABA and EMDR. These, and other, therapies are listed under the tag “anxiety” on this website. If there’s a local wellness center in your district, this could be a good place to visit to receive alternative therapies that suit you.

There is lots of support for people with anxiety, and advice, a support group or helpline is only a phone call away.

written by Nyomi Graef

References:
Bratman, S, 1998, The Alternative Medicine Ratings Guide: An Expert Panel Ranks the Best Treatments for Over 80 Conditions, California, USA: Prima Publishing

Burden of Mental Illness, 2011, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, USA,
http://www.cdc.gov/mentalhealth/basics/burden.htm

Clay, RA, 2000, Brewing Trouble, MedicineNet.com,
http://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=50820

Depression and anxiety: Exercise eases symptoms, 2011, Mayo Clinic,
http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/depression-and-exercise/MH00043

Fraser, K, 1995, Positive Health with Herbs: The Complete Guide to Herbal Medicine, Mona Vale, Australia: All Type and Art

Kiecolt-Glaser, JK, et al., 2011, Omega-3 supplementation lowers inflammation and anxiety in medical students: A randomized controlled trial, Brain, Behavior, and Immunity, Vol. 25, Iss. 8, 1725-1734,
http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0889159111004685

Meditation must be available on the NHS, says Mental Health Foundation, 2010, Mental Health Foundation,
http://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/our-news/news-archive/2010/2010-01-05/

Mercola, J, 2011, Cinnamon for Diabetes? A Half Teaspoon a Day Could Help Control Cholesterol, The Huffington Post,
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-mercola/cinnamon-diabetes-_b_839487.html

Omega-3 Reduces Anxiety and Inflammation in Healthy Students, Study Suggests, 2011, ScienceDaily,
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/07/110713121313.htm

Smith, M et al., 2013, Anxiety Medication, Helpguide.org,
http://helpguide.org/mental/anxiety_medication_drugs_treatment.htm

3 Hard, but Effective Anxiety Breathing Exercises, 2009-2013, CalmClinic,
http://www.calmclinic.com/anxiety/treatment/breathing-exercises

Types of Anxiety Disorders, 2010, Beyondblue,
http://www.beyondblue.org.au/index.aspx?link_id=90.615

Wilson, L, 2012, Anxiety and Panic Attacks – Their Causes and Correction, drlwilson.com,
http://drlwilson.com/Articles/ANXIETY.HTM

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6 Responses to “Natural ways to help treat anxiety without taking medication”

  1. Anxiety – Can meditation help people with anxiety/anxiety disorder? says:

    Anxiety – Can meditation help people with anxiety/anxiety disorder? Anxiety is a warning sign that you might get mentally and physically ill. People who suffer from anxiety experience restlessness, muscle strain, panic problems, or a sense of future disaster.

  2. Leonie Cent says:

    Hello – thank you for a wonderful, informative website. I suffer from GAD, panic attacks, ADHD and Aspergers, and Rheumatoid Arthritis. At the moment I’m having a really rough time with panic attacks, and I really need a friend to help me through. Though I’m a kind and generous person who is thoroughly decent, I’ve always been a loner due to low self esteem arising from my ADHD and Aspergers, etc. I grew up in a fundamentalist christian cult, and it effects me to this day – my family now shun me because I am an ‘evil’ person LOL. I dared to leave the religion, so that I could find out who and what God really is. I learned meditation, which changed my life, because for the first time I ‘experienced’ God in my life – I experienced a deep sense of connection and love with my fellow man, and this love changed me for the better. I’m not a member of any religion now, and still feel confused to some degree, in terms of what is the truth, and what isn’t. All I know is that love is a powerful force for change. Is there anyone out there who wants to be my friend ? I am praying that God will grant me a friend at this time, to help me through my pain. And in finding a friend, I hope that I can also ‘be’ a friend, not just ‘have’ a friend. Thank you for listening…. Leonie in Australia x

  3. Nyomi says:

    Hi Leonie,

    Thank you for sharing information about yourself, and for your very kind words about my website. You’re obviously going through a very hard time. Things can pick up for you. I hope you feel better soon.

    Have you thought of going/are going to a good counsellor and support group? These might be helpful.

    Have you tried joining some groups at local clubs (such as sports and hobby clubs) and recreation centres? These can be good places to meet people with similar interests who, in time, can become friends.

    The website Meetup.com has lots of groups. It’s a great way to meet people. Most groups are free to join (bonus!). Millions of people all over the world have joined Meetup. It has meditation groups, eating out groups, and many more. A person I know found Meetup very good when he wanted to make some new friends when he felt lonely after his divorce.

    Self-help books can be good. For example, I recommend books by best-selling author Andrew Matthews. Here are some links to his best-selling books Happiness in Hard Times, Being Happy!, and Making Friends, from AbeBooks.com (I’ve found their prices are often excellent), if you’re interested:

    http://www.abebooks.com/products/isbn/9781848502482?cm_sp=rec-_-bdp-_-plp
    http://www.abebooks.com/products/isbn/9780843128680?cm_sp=rec-_-plp-_-plp
    http://www.abebooks.com/products/isbn/9780843129694?cm_sp=rec-_-plp-_-plp

    Thank you again for commenting. I hope you feel happier soon.

    Take care and look after yourself Leonie.

    Best wishes,
    Nyomi

  4. Kim says:

    Hi Leonie!
    I am a fellow sufferer of GAD/PTSD/OCD. I would love to connect with you! I’m in the US=Minnesota.

    Kim
    micakb@aol.com

  5. flavio valera says:

    Hey i just started suffering anxiety and panick attacks i think its because my lack of vitamins i run alot and dont eat right…. But the problem was i got a panick attack when i went to see my 1 year old daughter because the realtion with my ex isnt soo great i got really anxiuos at her house and from there on i havnt ben normal and i get phobia whem i go to her house now :/

  6. This article provided some good truthful insight on natural ways to treat anxiety. I myself have found both chamomile and kava to be very effective remedies for this. The prescription stuff tends to just make the issues worse in the long-term.

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