Reducing Anxiety Naturally
No one really understands how anxiety can take you over in a flash, as though you were possessed, unless they also suffer from anxiety. Inadvertently, those who try to help can actually make things worse by telling you to calm down (as if there was an off button) or trying to show you that there’s nothing to be so anxious about (“oh, so you’re saying I’m crazy?”). However, there are real, actually helpful methods for reducing anxiety naturally.
Anxiety can take many different forms, but the first important thing to understand is that there’s a big difference between suffering from occasional anxiety and having an anxiety disorder. Anxiety that is not rooted in a disorder is a momentary state that can be caused by a stressful event or a physical illness. It can be dealt with by addressing the cause or by reducing anxiety naturally through different techniques.
Even if anxiety is a recurring issue in your life, you still may not have an anxiety disorder and just need to learn a few coping skills. But if you feel that anxiety has become serious and pervasive enough, you may be suffering from an anxiety disorder.
There are several types of anxiety disorders, each one with different triggers, cycles, and management practices. These can include:
- Specific phobias – fear of heights, the dark, injections, or driving. What differentiates a phobia from a regular worry is that it is irrational and debilitating.
- Agoraphobia – the fear of open spaces and large crowds, or other situations or places where you can’t escape or where you don’t have a support figure with you to help you deal.
- Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) – which results from being exposed to traumatic events such as war, violence, natural disasters, or abuse.
- Social Anxiety – a fear of embarrassing yourself or of being awkward in social situations to the point where you can’t be around other people.
- Separation Anxiety – where you get very anxious when someone you’re attached to is not close by.
- Obsessive Compulsive Disorder – where you have obsessive and intrusive thoughts and urges that are out of your control, and you need to repeat certain behaviors (such as washing your hands) in order to soothe or control these thoughts.
- Panic Disorder – where you experience repeat panic attacks, which can sometimes feel as though you are having a heart attack or another very frightening condition.
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder – where you suffer from an ambient type of anxiety that doesn’t seem to have any cause or trigger and is constantly in the background.
Although we are going to give you some tips and tricks on reducing anxiety naturally, if any of the above resonates and you think you may be suffering from a full-blown anxiety disorder, it is best to seek professional help.
Remember this: whatever the case, you are not alone. Anxiety and anxiety disorders are some of the most common psychological problems the modern Westerner faces, and thankfully there are many resources available to help with coping. You don’t have to live under its curse. Whether you choose professional help or try reducing anxiety naturally, you have options.
Stress And Anxiety – Are They The Same?
The terms stress and anxiety get thrown around a lot these days, and some people use them interchangeably. But the fact is that they are actually quite different, even if they have similar physical sensations.
Stress is a response to a stressor – whether physical, like an accident or pathogen, or psychological, like a heavy workload or a fight with a spouse. Anxiety is a reaction to the stress. It is one possible outcome of stress. Think of it as a next possible point down the line, but thankfully it is not the inevitable next point down the line.
There is no avoiding exposure to stress. And in fact, not all stress is bad. Eustress, or “good” stress, can actually be beneficial. For example, a little physical eustress, like you’d experience when working out, is what helps you build more muscle or get your heart pumping. Psychological eustress can come from taking on a challenging project, which can help you sharpen your mind and feel even more fulfilled than if your work is routine.
It’s only when stress becomes too intense or chronic that it can cause a lot of harm. Certain types of stressors should be avoided as much as possible, such smoking cigarettes or being in an abusive relationship, while other types cannot be avoided, like relationship or financial strain, so you have to learn how to cope with them in healthy, positive ways.
Anxiety is one of the outcomes of not being able to cope with stress in a healthy, positive way. That is good news because it means reducing anxiety naturally can happen as you practice new, healthy coping mechanisms.
Another thing to remember is that since stressful physical and psychological conditions can cause anxiety, reducing anxiety naturally should entail dealing with these conditions. For example, Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome (AFS) includes anxiety and mild depression as common symptoms.
AFS is the dysregulation of the adrenal glands, which produce the body’s main anti-stress hormone, cortisol. The main cause of AFS is chronic stress and its main symptom is fatigue. Other symptoms include sleep disturbances, weight and appetite issues, food and drug sensitivities, PMS, infertility, an inability to handle stress, and heart palpitations. Any of these symptoms can trigger or add to anxiety levels.
Also, when the adrenal glands dysregulate, the rest of the NeuroEndoMetabolic (NEM) Stress Response is at risk of dysregulating. The NEM is the body’s global response to stress, and if it is not functioning optimally, you are at risk of developing anxiety as a response to the unaddressed stress. The hormones release, such as the “fight or flight” chemicals, can cause the heart to race and breathing to be shallow, for example, which are very familiar sensations for those who experience anxiety.
Let’s take a closer look at how anxiety and AFS are interlinked.
Anxiety and AFS
The primary symptom of adrenal fatigue is a drop in energy levels, hence the tiredness you experience throughout the day on a daily basis. This can result in a reduction of functioning and an addition of pressure at work or at home as you are unable to perform tasks as well or as easily as before. Daily life takes a lot more effort now, and you feel as though you are fighting an uphill battle.
This on its own can cause you more stress and anxiety.
But there is also the chemical component, which is even more evident as you reach the more advanced stages of AFS. In AFS, an imbalance of adrenaline and norepinephrine is a big influence on anxiety and can cause the heart to race, blood pressure to go up, faster breathing, and other changes that aggravate anxiety.
Both of these two challenging issues can also add to a feeling of anxiety about the difficulty of recovery and the obstacles to returning to normal life. Understanding that AFS recovery takes time, and is sometimes a little confusing and tricky, can give you the patience required to face the road ahead.
One thing that can help is to keep in mind that there is a way out, and part of the recovery plan is to learn natural ways to manage your anxiety levels so that they don’t interfere with the rest of your recovery process, which includes following the AFS diet and exercise protocol, and getting lots of rest.
Other conditions, such as depression, neurological diseases, cancer, heart disease, and infections can also bring with them a state anxiety. In such cases, the anxiety is greatly helped by having a medical plan to address these underlying causes and getting a lot of support.
In the meantime, as you heal these underlying causes, or deal with the life circumstances that are causing a lot of stress, reducing anxiety naturally with a few simple techniques can greatly improve the quality of your life.
Three Tips For Reducing Anxiety Naturally
The first and most important thing to do, before trying any of the following techniques, is to shift your mindset: realize that not all anxiety is bad. Sometimes, it is the correct reaction to something that needs you to be very alert. For example, if you are in a dangerous situation, the anxiety is alerting you to the risks you’re facing and it may even motivate you to seek help and get out of this situation.
So, do not make an enemy out of anxiety, because as you know, what you resist persists. Try to understand anxiety, and work with it rather than against it.
1 – Focus on Your Breathing
One of the quickest and most effective ways to stop anxiety, and even panic attacks, is to change your breathing. You will notice that with anxiety and panic attacks, your breathing becomes shallow and rapid. Slowing down and deepening your breathing is the natural antidote. Adrenal breathing is one such exercise that is very beneficial for calming your body down.
2 – Get Into Your Body
Feeling tactile sensations using water or ice can help divert attention away from the anxiety and panic and onto the skin. Try putting a piece of ice in the palm of your hand or sliding it over your neck and forehead. Focus all of your attention on the feeling of the temperature and moisture, tracing the way it is slowly melting on your skin.
Jumping into the shower can also be very useful, and even more so if you can change the temperature of the water once you’re inside, going from hot to warm to cold, for example, and once again focusing on how it feels on your skin.
Even jumping up and down in place, or running the fingers of one hand carefully along the outline of your other hand can help. It gets you grounded and returns you to the moment.
3 – Recenter Your Brain
Engaging both sides of your brain is another way to break out of an anxiety or panic attack. This can be done with simple crossover exercises. Here’s how to do an easy but effective crossover exercise.
Sit with your back upright and your legs straight out in front. Cross your ankles over each other. Then hold out your arms and cross your wrists in the same way, and then clasp your hands together. Close your mouth and eyes, and push your tongue to the roof of your mouth. Breathe in deeply through your nose and out through your mouth. Do this for a few minutes.
Another exercise you can do involves naming and counting ten different objects of ten different colors that you see around you right now. It helps refocus your attention on your present surroundings and uses both sides of your brain.
Sounds easy, right? Try them out and see for yourself!
These tips are for reducing anxiety naturally in the moment, but you will also want to adopt a lifestyle that is geared towards relaxation and wellbeing – taking care of your physical and mental health are not luxuries in this day and age, they are necessities. Exercise, a healthy diet, and good sleep are the best ways there are to stay fit and increase your capacity to cope with life’s challenges.
Therapy, meditation, and certain supplements can also be wonderful allies on this journey. Just make sure you have the guidance of experienced professionals when you need it.
© Copyright 2018 Michael Lam, M.D. All Rights Reserved.
Dr. Lam’s Key Question
What are some other ways of reducing anxiety naturally?
Although it can be scary and difficult to deal with, if you focus on breathing, getting back into your body, and using both sides of your brain for reducing anxiety naturally, you’ll get relief without all the side effects of medication. Omega 3 and other supplements can help sometimes as well, but there are cases where your body needs the medication. Make sure you talk things over with your doctor to determine what works best for you.