Health

Natural Methods for Controlling Anxiety

24. Develop a daily practice of meditation. Daily meditation is one of the best things you can do to quash down anxiety and remain so far… Trista - December 30, 2020
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24. Develop a daily practice of meditation.

Daily meditation is one of the best things you can do to quash down anxiety and remain so far ahead of it that it cannot catch up. The practice does require discipline, and you can’t be hard on yourself if you don’t get it right the first time (or the tenth time, or the twentieth). Go to a quiet place by yourself. If possible and desirable, turn off the lights, light some candles, and play some soft music. Close your eyes and tune out all of your thoughts. When you start to feel an idea invading, don’t engage with it. Just tune it out.

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At first, you may only succeed at meditating for a few minutes at a time. The point is to be fully aware of yourself and be fully in the present, not have a contest with yourself (and give yourself another reason for negative self-talk). Work your way up to 30 minutes, then 45 minutes. The benefits of meditation include being more focused, having more energy, lowered blood pressure, and overall improved health and well-being. 

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23. Start journaling.

Do you ever wish that you could just tell someone about everything that you are feeling anxious about? Even if that person can’t do anything to calm your fears, just the act of letting them out can be cathartic and reduce the anxiety and tension building up inside of you.

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Journaling about your anxieties and the positive things in life and what you have to look forward to can help them simply disappear. Over time, you may notice that your anxieties from one day to the next, even from one year to the next, look very much the same. They will stop seeming to be so overwhelming and undefeatable. 

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22. Or engage in another creative outlet.

Writing is just one creative activity that can help channel nervous energy into something positive and productive. Maybe journaling isn’t your thing, and you would like nothing more than to cook a nice dinner. That would be a fantastic way of converting negative energy into positive energy. If you are artistic, you could spend time drawing or painting. You don’t have to draw or paint anything related to your anxiety. Spending any time engaged in a creative activity takes power away from anxiety and gives it back to you.

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Maybe you are a writer but don’t enjoy journaling. You could write stories or even opinion-based essays (consider sending something to your newspaper’s letter to the editor!). In the process, you focus your mental bandwidth on something productive and take away the space that anxiety had been holding.

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21. Engage your senses.

Your senses help ground you into your present reality and the circumstances that are happening around you instead of the fears and anxieties that are bombarding your mind. The more you use your senses to engage with the world around you, the less power anxiety has over your mind. When you eat, don’t wolf down your food as quickly as you can. Be mindfully aware as you taste the different flavors in what you are eating. Whether you are sitting down or up and walking, pay attention to the sounds you hear and what those sounds tell you about the world. Are birds singing? Maybe the sun is out and the day is lovely.

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Instead of staring at your computer screen and imagining terrible things happening, take time to look around and take note of the things you see around you. Maybe you will notice things that were always there, but you had never paid attention to. When you touch something, even just a door handle or your shirt sleeve, pay attention to how it feels. Your sense of smell can play an essential role in taming anxiety. Some scents, such as vanilla and lavender, are proven to start a chemical reaction inside the body that reduces anxiety. Other scents, such as those that remind you of pleasant childhood memories, are calming and relaxing. Consider lighting some aromatherapy candles and using a diffuser for essential oils at home.

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20. Get a massage.

Touch therapy is a powerful antidote to anxiety. If you are okay with allowing other people to touch you (and not everybody is), going to the spa and getting a professional massage can help put anxiety to rest. A masseuse works on your muscles can also release some of the stress hormones, like cortisol and adrenaline, that can build up in people who experience chronic anxiety. If you cannot afford a trip to the spa, you may still be in luck.

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A mental health professional may be able to prescribe a massage if he or she thinks it will help you with anxiety; the prescription would allow insurance to cover the cost. If you are so anxious about the thought of another person touching you that considering a massage sends you into a whirl of anxiety, consider allowing a friend or loved one to rub your shoulders. The kneading of hands upon your tense muscles can help release built-up stress hormones. You will feel the benefits of touch therapy more when it comes from a friend.

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19. Take a bubble bath.

There is nothing like a warm bath to soothe frayed nerves. Frequently, we are so busy that we take a quick shower in the morning to help us wake up, and then we are off to start what we hope will be an active and productive day. Baths are different. Baths require you to relax and be present. Furthermore, they are warm and soothing, designed to calm you down instead of wake you up. Set aside a block of time to take a nice, long soak and see what it does for your anxiety.

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To help, add some essential oils, such as lavender, proven to help reduce stress and anxiety. Epsom salt can help pull toxins out of your body while infusing it with the mineral magnesium, which many people are deficient in. The result will be that you are both more relaxed and more energized. Maybe you could even turn off the overhead light and use some aromatherapy candles. The soft flickering of the flame will add to the ambiance of a perfectly relaxed evening.

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18. Exercise daily. 

There is nothing, repeat, absolutely nothing, that you can do to help calm your anxiety than engaging in a regular exercise routine. Sitting at home, in front of the television or computer screen, does nothing for you but will elevate your blood pressure, stress hormones, and anxiety levels. Exercise does the opposite. When you engage in vigorous physical activity, your body releases endorphins – the “feel good” hormones – while burning off the stress hormones that may have built up over time. 

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Getting your heart rate going improves cardiovascular health while lowering blood pressure, and added benefit, considering that high blood pressure tends to be a knock-on effect of high anxiety.  And the best part? You will find that you are focused. Anxiety is no longer ruling your thoughts and distracting you from what you need to do – and relaxed. From kids to senior citizens, all age groups have shown marked behavioral and physical improvements by engaging in vigorous exercise daily.

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17. Get out in nature as much as you can.

Exercise, in any manner, is beneficial. Exercising outside is even better. So much of our lives are running between automobiles and buildings. Why not utilize this business? Running up the stairs instead of taking the elevator is a great way to exercise. It would be better to take a stroll through a park, though. 

Nature can help make you feel calmer, but you don’t need to go into nature to get this stress relief. Pixabay.

Getting out in nature has a way of forcing you to calm down and take things more slowly. Breathing in the fresh air can help slow down your anxious mind from the running thoughts associated with the big city’s hustle and bustle. You don’t have to go for a 10-hour hike or try to climb a mountain. Just go to a nearby park and spend some time sitting under a tree after walking or jogging through a wooded trail. Even better, find a friend to enjoy those activities with you.

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16. Watch a funny movie or read a comic book.

Regarding anxiety, laughter is the best medicine. Laughing for even just a minute will help your brain reset and change negative thoughts to positive ones. You will immediately feel more joyful, happy, and less anxious. Even better are deep belly laughs, mostly when you are laughing uncontrollably with a friend. When you laugh until your sides hurt, your body releases endorphins – the feel-good hormones – that boost your mood. And hey, you also get an ab workout! 

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Take some time every day to laugh – get your anxiety monster under control. You can find a funny book that you know will make you laugh, and read it as many times as you want. If you aren’t up to reading, watch a comedy and let yourself chuckle as much as you are able. Suppose you have a friend or partner who can join you, even better. You can also play a game together, preferably one to induce hysterics. The two of you can create some inside jokes associated with the movie or game.

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15. Listen to music.

Anxiety is associated with brain waves that get to running outside of their standard patterns. Furthermore, do you know what can reset those brain waves and get them flowing in a more welcoming, calm, and relaxed manner? Music. If you are a fan of classical music, you are in luck here because classical music can slow your anxious brain waves down within minutes. You will immediately begin to feel calmer, less stressed, and more focused. 

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But just about any kind of music can have a similar effect. While we wouldn’t recommend prolonged dosages of death metal if you are trying to calm your mind down, the rhythms and intonations of everything from country music to soft rock can help induce a calmer mood. When you are on the commute to work, turn off the radio talk show and turn on some music instead. You will arrive at the office more focused and ready to take on the day. Try listening to classical music or even soundtracks designed to improve your brain-wave function while you are in the shower or while you are asleep. You will notice a difference right away.

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14. Do something productive.

Anxiety is often associated with feeling as if you have an insurmountable number of things that you have to do. If that description is an apt one of your anxiety, then one thing you can do to tame your anxiety lion quickly is to do something productive.

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You don’t need to tackle your entire to-do list. You can even do something that is not on your to-do list. Maybe you aren’t ready to clean the gutters and repaint the whole house before winter sets in, but you can sweep the floor. Furthermore, once you’ve got that done, do the dishes. The next day, you can do the laundry. There, don’t you feel better already? You are more than a list with an impossible number of things to do. You are capable of getting things done.

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13. Get your house organized. 

A chaotic environment often translates into a chaotic mindset. And just as often, the reverse is true: a chaotic attitude causes people to allow clutter and junk to build up. Getting the house (or office) organized is a decisive step towards taming anxiety; it will enable you to de-clutter your mind while creating a more wholesome and inviting environment. However, don’t get overwhelmed just yet! You don’t have to de-clutter your entire house all in one afternoon. Start with one closet. Decide what things in there can get donated to a local charity, what things you might sell for some extra cash, what items you want to keep, and what things can get thrown away. Then follow through. Don’t let bags full of stuff sit by your front door for weeks or even months; take that stuff to where it needs to go!

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Move from one closet to the next. If you can’t do more than one cabinet in one day, then do another closet another day. Get the drawers in your kitchen, cleaned out so that you can finally start finding the whatchamacallit without spending four hours digging around. By the time you are finished organizing your house, you will find that your mind feels much more organized too. Life will feel more manageable, and you will see yourself as able to do what is necessary to get the job done.

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12. Check your diet – and remove sugar, alcohol, and caffeine.

Diet plays a huge role in mental health, and let’s face it: all too often, our diets are terrible. In particular, sugar raises anxiety levels, and it is also one of the most addictive substances in the world. What does this mean? Sugar fuels both anxiety and addiction, which fuels even more anxiety. Start cutting the sugar out of your diet, and be intentional every day about keeping it out. You may be surprised to realize how much you have been mindlessly nibbling on donuts, how much those two spoons of sugar in each cup of coffee have been adding up, or the amount of sugar in just one bottle of soda. Even a cup of fruit juice has more sugar than you want to be consuming. Make small steps to reduce your sugar intake, and as you start feeling more in control of your own health and well-being, make even more significant steps.

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Do more than cut sugar out; replace it with something that your body will thank you for. Eat whole fruit instead of drinking fruit juice. Find new foods, especially snack foods, that will satisfy your cravings and help you get through a long day at work. Caffeine and alcohol can be just as debilitating for mental health. While one cup of coffee in the morning is not necessarily a bad thing, relying on coffee all day long wires your brain up for chronic anxiety. Similarly, one glass of wine can be relaxing at the end of the day, but drinking to intoxication is terrible for both mental and physical health. Aim to reduce both caffeine and alcohol to more manageable levels.

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11. Drink green tea and chamomile tea.

You may know that green tea has remarkable health benefits and that many people drink chamomile tea to help them sleep. Chamomile tea, made from chamomile flowers, contains compounds that help people relax at the end of a long day. Add in some lavender, which fights anxiety on its own, and you have a drink that will help calm down your frayed nerves. However, make sure that you don’t add any sugar.

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Green tea does have some caffeine – much less than coffee – but its health benefits far outweigh the adverse effects of caffeine. Studies have shown that green tea effectively boosts healthy brain activity. It even goes so far as to stabilize brain waves that may have run amok to induce anxiety. Swap out your afternoon cup of coffee for some green tea. Again, don’t add any sugar.

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10. Drink more water.

Often, when people start feeling overly anxious, they turn to comfort foods that will immediately satisfy their cravings but provide no benefit. Ultimately, those comfort foods – which can include sugary coffee drinks that offer no nutrition – end up feeding the anxiety lion even more.

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Drinking water instead of rushing to comforting mocha lattes helps to reset the brain from anxiety. While you may not get the immediate, though fleeting, sensation of comfort from a glass of water, you will promote better health. 

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9. Eat lots of fruit.

Fruit contains sugar as well as vitamins and minerals, all of which are important to both mental and physical health. If you struggle with anxiety, you may have intense sugar cravings associated with your running, anxious thoughts. Those cravings may be even stronger if you have a sugar addiction (and let’s face the fact that many, many, many Americans are addicted to sugar).

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Instead of turning to candy or donuts, try a handful of grapes or mango slices. The sugar in them will take the edge off your cravings, and the nutrients will give your mind and body the boost you need. Add in a cup of green tea for an added jolt of caffeine and nutrients, and you will be on your way to winning the fight against both anxiety and sugar addiction.

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8. Talk with a trusted friend.

Talk therapy is one of the best cures that there is. Few things are worse than feeling as if you are entirely alone, and the anxiety lion inside you is probably trying to make you feel as if you are alone. Give that lion the boot and call a friend. Do more than sending a text message; if you need to send a text to schedule a call, fine. Nevertheless, don’t fool yourself into believing that exchanging text messages is a substitute for a quality conversation. The two of you are focused on each other and can hear each other’s voices.

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Even better, talk in person. You’ll be able to see your friend’s body language, which may in itself communicate care and concern for you. Do more than talk about your problems; listen to what is going on in your friend’s life, also. Share jokes and funny stories because laughing together will help turn the anxiety into happiness and amusement. You will almost certainly feel better afterward.

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7. Or talk with a professional.

Talking with a friend can be a great antidote to anxiety, but sometimes, the problems we face in life are greater than what an untrained but well-meaning friend can help us with. If your anxiety is chronic and overwhelming, you may want to consider talking with a professional to help you get it under control. Talking with a professional to work through your anxiety does not mean that you are dismissing your friends and the benefit they pose to help you live a meaningful and fulfilled life.

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No, quite the opposite. When you allow a professional to help you with your anxiety, you are taking that burden off your friend’s shoulders. The result is that your friend can be precisely that – a friend. A trusted person that you enjoy spending time with and who cares for you. You can have more meaningful conversations with that friend where anxiety is no longer the focus. The focus is on your relationship and enjoying your time together.

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6. Hug someone. 

Touch therapy is powerful. Hugs may feel good, but they have health benefits that can protect against pain, stress, and even disease. Hugging releases oxytocin, which is a hormone that helps you bond with other people. At a fundamental level, your body will understand that no matter what your anxiety is trying to say, you are not alone in the world. Surprisingly, studies have shown that physical touch helps to reduce people’s pain.

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Those exposed to moderate amounts of pain while receiving a comforting touch from a significant other could withstand the problem much better. Most telling about the impact of physical touch is that hugs can help prevent and reduce the disease’s severity. Hugging someone lowers your blood pressure and improves heart function, and one study showed that regular hugs from trusted companions protected people against sickness.

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5. Do yoga.

Yoga is a form of exercise that promotes mindfulness, which is an effective antidote to anxiety. When you are focused on the present moment and what your body is currently doing, you feed your anxiety.  Yoga also helps your neural circuits switch from the sympathetic nervous system to the parasympathetic nervous system. The sympathetic nervous system is responsible for our fight-or-flight response; many people dealing with chronic anxiety are in a fight-or-flight mode.

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They need to switch to the operation of the parasympathetic nervous system. Deep breathing, which is promoted by yoga, helps activate the parasympathetic nervous system. The yoga poses that people do while practicing also triggers it. You don’t need to join a yoga class, though doing so may not necessarily be a bad thing. Even just a few minutes of yoga each day can turn off the anxiety and turn on the relaxation.

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4 Make sure you are getting enough sleep.

Let’s face the fact that many, many, many of us are severely sleep-deprived. While not getting enough sleep may be a badge of honor in high school and college, it can cause severe problems as an adult. Not getting enough sleep leads to a unregulated appetite – causing more elevated sugar and caffeine cravings – as well as a lack of focus and heightened anxiety. Anxiety creates a vicious cycle in terms of not getting enough sleep. If you deal with anxiety, you are probably aware of how it can keep you up at night. And then the physical effects of not having slept enough create even more anxiety. 

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The solution is that you have to find ways to make sure you are getting enough sleep to defeat the anxiety monster. Contrary to common wisdom, wearing yourself out will not necessarily help you sleep and may cause you to stay awake longer.  Instead of trying to wear yourself out, focus on activities that will promote focus, calm, and relaxation. Get a moderate amount of exercise, but not too late in the day, because late exercise can keep you awake. Don’t consume any caffeine in the afternoon (unless you work night shifts). Spend time with people who make you feel good instead of mindlessly scrolling through your phone or binging on Netflix. Take a relaxing bath before trying to go to sleep, and add some essential oils for extra benefit.  The impact of getting enough sleep is enormous. You will not only have helped tame the anxiety lion just by sleeping but the rest and focus provided by adequate sleep will allow you to dismiss anxious thoughts whenever they arise.

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3. Depending on the source of your stress, you may want to consider changing jobs.

If your job is your primary source of stress, and that stress is causing you chronic anxiety that is severely interfering with your ability to function, you may need to consider changing jobs. Don’t decide rashly, though, because the last thing you want is to be without income and have to deal with anxiety.

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Perhaps you can look into switching to a different company, where you would do similar work but in a different environment. This option may be beneficial if your biggest stressor is coworkers. Another option might be to try to work from home, at least part of the time so that you don’t have to deal with coworkers’ stress. You could also request to move to a different department.

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2. Pare down your life as much as possible.

Our anxiety is often associated with the hustle and bustle of a fast and busy life that does not allow us to slow down. We need to stop and smell the roses – that is part of being human – but the fast lane does not reward those who pull off and take a rest. There are probably things in your life that you can get rid of to lower your anxiety levels. The first thing that needs to go is toxic relationships that are causing you constant stress. No, you cannot help that person.

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That person is dragging you down and inhibiting your ability to enjoy life. Is your high-paying job is a source of anxiety, but your only reliable income? If your only option for improved well-being is to quit your job, you will need to consider what financial obligations you can eliminate. Again, don’t make the decision lightly. What may surprise you is how those financial obligations were a source of stress rather than joy. 

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1. Get down to the things that are proven to bring you the most joy.

People often find anxiety in places that are entirely extraneous to the experience of being human. You probably don’t need that Barbie Dream House (okay, maybe the dollhouse is fun to look at, but you don’t need to live in a life-size version), and the mortgage is killing not only your finances but also your joy. You don’t need to keep up with the Joneses. You don’t need the best Christmas lights in the entire neighborhood to enjoy your home and your neighbors. Believe it or not, you don’t need a new iPhone, especially not just because a new version came out.

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Moreover, you probably don’t need the latest and greatest new computer. Those things don’t simply cost extra money – which translates into stressful hours of work – but they also don’t tend to bring joy. Pare your life down to the things that bring you joy, particularly the people who make your life worth living. Rework your life so that you are intentionally spending more time with them. If they live far away, make sure you have the time and energy to have regular phone calls; if they are nearby, schedule time together. Your anxiety monster has nothing on you when surrounded by those you love and who love you in return.

 

Sources:

“23 Ways to Calm Anxiety Naturally.” Anaheim Lighthouse. November 26, 2019.

“What are the Benefits of Hugging?” by Erica Cirino. Healthline. April 11, 2018.

“12 Ways to Calm Your Anxiety,” by Fiona Thomas. Healthline. August 25, 2020.

 

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