Anxiety is a normal reaction to stress, and it manifests itself in a variety of ways. Some experience it intermittently, while others feel its symptoms daily. It can be a large, debilitating part of life that sometimes feels impossible to overcome – especially if you aren’t interested in taking medication. The good news is that you don’t have to because a holistic approach to anxiety can produce more effective and long-lasting results. Gain control by taking control.
Anxiety is an emotional response to a negative, stressful, or dangerous environment or situation, and it does not discriminate. It is the most common mental illness in the United States, affecting more than 18% of the population annually. As humans, we are regularly faced with stressors that are instinctively manageable for most; however, those suffering from a disorder may seek natural anxiety treatment to cope with and eventually eliminate the ongoing symptoms.
Did you know that while some anxiety is normal and an expected part of life, high levels can trigger physical illness? Mental health can have a negative effect on one’s overall health, and individuals with anxiety disorders are at greater risk for the development of a chronic medical condition, such as heart disease, gastrointestinal conditions, and respiratory disorders. When it goes untreated, physical symptoms can worsen.
Fortunately, there are several ways an individual can ease the burden of anxiety holistically and simultaneously improve their physical health. Effective and long-lasting mental health treatment goes beyond drugs and talk therapy, addressing wellness on all levels – the mind, the body, and the spirit. But, to understand how holistic therapy can help anxiety, we must first understand what it is.
What is Holistic Health?
Holistic health focuses on more than just the “problem,” or the physical body; it addresses the big picture: one’s physical, emotional, intellectual (mental), social, and spiritual health, and how one affects the other. To truly be well, we must consider and support the body as the complex system that it is rather than solely focusing on our physical symptoms. Each part of the system is intertwined, and if one element is off, there would be no surprise if another followed in its trail.
Holistic healing dates back thousands of years and goes beyond treating physical symptoms with drugs and surgery. Instead, it involves natural healthcare practices meant to find balance and heal the body and mind in tandem.
How Holistic Therapy Can Help Anxiety
Holistic therapists treat the whole person, addressing the underlying causes of anxiety. This often comes in the form of mind-body practices that can support the body’s influence on the mind and vice versa. Finding the source of the problem makes more sense than masking the problem, right?
While there are plenty of natural anxiety supplements, there are many basic lifestyle adjustments you can implement to alleviate the symptoms of your stressors. If you are struggling with generalized anxiety disorder, these holistic practices can be highly productive in calming the negative energy:
- Meditation & Mindfulness training. Mind racing? Meditation can aid in slowing one’s thoughts, making it easier to manage anxiety and related stressors. It is not necessarily a relaxation practice, but rather an exercise in being at peace with our current realities. Anxiety can spawn false narratives that we get caught up in. Mindful meditation can ease these psychological stressors and reduce associated pain. By focusing on the present moment, one can neutralize negative thoughts and worries. Whether you are concerned about a mistake that cannot be fixed or stressed about an upcoming meeting, mindfulness can train your brain to stress less and form more adaptive reactions to challenging situations.
- Yoga. Practicing yoga is an effective way to encourage your body (and thus, mind) to heal itself from defaulting to fight-or-flight mode. The combination of synchronized breathing with physical postures can calm the stress response, helping us to relax and be more aware of our internal condition. Yoga also helps develop the brain’s impulse control, impacting how we react to emotions and stress.
- Aromatherapy. Using aromatherapy for anxiety is one of the simplest and most enjoyable ways to relieve your mind of everyday stressors. Inhaling soothing plant oils, such as lavender or bergamot, can ease both anxiety and stress. In a 2016 study, the inhalation of rose water fragrance caused a significant decrease in participants’ anxiety levels, improving their emotional and spiritual condition. This simple effort can be implemented in a variety of ways, whether you add a drop of oil to your wrist, sleep with an oil burner or diffuser, or put a few drops on a tissue or cloth that you carry in your pocket.
- Exercise. Physical health and emotional health, though seemingly different on the surface, have a deeply intimate relationship. Living a sedentary lifestyle can not only damage the body but take a significant toll on the mind. Physical activity is a distraction that can help one get away from the negative thoughts that feed anxiety. Five minutes of aerobic exercise can stimulate anti-anxiety effects, and some studies suggest that as little as 10 minutes of walking may lower anxiety in an individual.
- Following A Healthy Diet. The foods and drinks we consume can have a massive effect on our mental health. Curtailing your intake of refined carbohydrates, sugars, and additives is recommended as they can decrease energy and affect your mood. Alcoholic and caffeinated beverages are stimulants for anxious thoughts and should be limited or avoided. A nutrient-dense diet consisting of vegetables, legumes, whole grains, and lean proteins can improve your state-of-mind and greatly reduce anxiety symptoms. Note: keeping a food journal can help you understand and recognize what you put in your body.
- Acupuncture. The Chinese practice of inserting needles at specific points in the body manipulates the flow of oxygen. Doing so can take you out of fight-or-flight mode and balance the body, improving digestion, sleep, and energy levels. Learn more here!
Holistic health is a lifestyle, enabling patients to heal without harmful side-effects. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach, nor is there an overnight solution. It’s about small successes achieved with healthy and consistent lifestyle refinements. If you seek anxiety treatment without medication, start with these holistic practices (like I did) to improve your overall quality of life.