I, like millions of people around the world, have been struggling with anxiety my entire life. Ever since I was a small child, I remember the constant murmur of disquieting thoughts that kept me awake. They made it difficult to relax and do the day-to-day things that seemed so easy for everyone else. At some points in my life, my anxiety has been severe. At others, it’s been better — but it’s always been present.
Many years ago, I was going through a difficult point in my life and found my anxiety spiking to levels that were unbearable. I was exhausted from keeping myself under control and functional. I wanted an “easy” solution. For this reason, I talked to my doctor and was prescribed fluoxetine (commonly known by the brand Prozac).
Traditional medication didn’t help my anxiety
While the fluoxetine did help my anxiety, in a way, it made me feel awful. For one, I was exhausted all the time, even after sleeping for 10 hours a night. It made me feel shaky, like I wasn’t walking on firm ground. I also felt like my personality changed. I was not able to think through decisions, both minor and major, very well at all. Essentially, the drug made me feel weird, tired and not like myself. Plus, the list of potential side effects on the bottle was really scary.
I did not stay on the fluoxetine prescription for long, only a few months. Not wanting to ride on a rollercoaster of drug options, I decided that I would have to face my lifelong anxiety burden head on — it was better than feeling like a caricature zombie. Luckily, there are many natural methods of anxiety control that really do work, methods that have helped me a great deal. The following are seven particularly useful ones:
There are many reasons why humans have embraced the practice of meditation for thousands of years. Overall, it provides a world of benefits. One of these benefits is anxiety relief. The first time you meditate may not magically dissipate your anxiety symptoms. But, if you keep at it on a regular basis, you will find that you are more able to recognize those churning thoughts for what they are — just intrusive thoughts — and let them exit your being as you exhale. It’s a powerful thing.
Like meditation, yoga can also be highly beneficial to easing anxiety. This ancient practice combines meditative deep breathing with physical postures to both tone your body and clear your mind. A new study recently performed by researchers at Georgia State University found that practicing yoga helped to decrease worry in people with generalized anxiety disorder.
As an addition to meditation, yoga and deep breathing, essential oils can be very useful. Personally, I like lavender. It’s gentle, soothing and smells wonderful. Others have calming properties, such as cedarwood, orange and ylang-ylang. You can dab a bit of essential oil on your wrists, temples and around your neck before you meditate or do yoga. Or, circulate some through the room in a diffuser.
For me, there is little that is more relieving of my anxiety than immersing myself in something creative. I like to paint, draw and write. Sometimes I dabble in music. When I am creating, my mind is focused on my creation and the anxious thoughts subside. Finding a creative activity you love and making time to fully immerse yourself in it can work wonders.
Listening to music
Many people swear by their favorite music to help them unwind. There is research behind this: it has been found that music can help to soothe anxiety, depression and stress. For some, classical music, or something soft and soulful, does the trick. For others, it’s something with a steady beat. And for yet others, it’s something hard and heavy, like metal. Whatever music works for you, turn it up and sing along.
Communing with nature
There is something about being among nature that is inherently soothing — this has been researched, as well. If you find yourself at a bad point in your anxiety, head outside among some trees or onto the beach. Try to focus on the nature around you instead of what’s in your head. Breathe the fresh air. Bring your music with you if you can. Commune.
One of the most powerful natural remedies for anxiety out there is plain simple exercise. Going for a run, jog, swim or brisk walk floods your brain with endorphins, naturally dissolving stress, lifting your spirits and boosting your mood. Next time you’re feeling anxious, give it a try. Go outside if you can and get 30 minutes of moderate to intense exercise. Observe how you feel afterward — you may be surprised as to how well this works.
Everyone is different
Everyone’s anxiety responds to different methods. Try the suggestions above to see which ones work best for you. Anxiety isn’t easy, but it is manageable if you center yourself. From a grounded perspective, you can let go of the churning thoughts. Even though they may still be there, they get quieter and less painful.
Medications may be tempting, especially when you’re at a low point. But, nature is powerful. Embracing that power can make a huge difference, without the side effects.
– Tanya Mead