Is treatment for anxiety possible without medication? Anxiety has become the most prevalent and debilitating mental condition of the twenty-first century. It knows no age or gender barrier. Nor does it discriminate according to race, ethnicity, or religious belief. We are all subject to its widespread tendrils of manifested angst. Treatment for anxiety is especially important this time of year. The holiday season alone causes many people to feel anxious about a multitude of things such as being with family, or being without family, gift-giving, loneliness, togetherness, perfectionism, cooking, to name a few.
Therefore, it is important for all of us especially during this time of pandemic and heightened isolationism to be aware of treatment for anxiety.
Millions of Americans rely on medication as a solution to their anxiety. Medications, whether prescribed by a doctor, or self-prescribed, may come with problems of their own, including possible side effects or unexpected dependencies. It is always imperative to discuss all medication use as a treatment for anxiety with a medical professional.
While medications can be a highly effective treatment plan for anxiety, they are not the only solution. There are other ways of integrative, non-drug, natural approaches for the wide-spread issue of anxiety. So, if your joy for life or your daily life fulfillment is compromised in any way, perhaps you might try one of the following methodologies for treatment for your anxiety.
Talk Therapy – Talk Therapy is one of the most common approaches used for anxiety as everyone is struggling to deal with the everyday stressors of working from home, isolation, health challenges, changes in the economy, relationship issues, and, of course, the holidays, which always add extra anxiety. Finding a trusted friend in which to confide may be difficult but with the arrival of Tele Med and Zoom, Talk Therapy is now available in your living room or from your car. (parked of course) Finding a licensed psychologist or social worker or professional counselor may be just the person you need to chat with to help alleviate your anxiety and help you create anxiety treatment plan goals.
Movement Therapy – Exercise 20-30 minutes per day – go for a walk, hike with a friend, bicycle ride, lift light weights, any form of exercise is good! Dance – on your own or with others in a studio. Yoga – on your own or on Zoom classes or in a studio.
Movement therapy is best completed with a licensed physiologist, someone who has completed a study in exercise physiology so that you do not hurt yourself when you start to exercise. It is also best to check with your doctor before you start any exercise program. Exercise releases chemicals in the brain called endorphins which help alleviate anxiety and naturally reduce stress.
Biofeedback Therapy – Find a licensed practitioner to work with to help you to learn the tools of this technique. Recognizing the physical signs of stress and anxiety such as heart rate, body temperature, muscle tension.
Art Therapy – Offered by trained and licensed therapists that you can work with either in an office setting or on Zoom through Tele Med. Or you can try relaxing yourself if you have an artistic inclination through the arts: Painting, Pottery, Sculpture to name a few modalities.
Breath Therapy – It may sound strange but many of us don’t know how to breathe properly. Lack of proper breathing creates many inconsistencies in our bodies and in our emotional states. The practice of Yoga can assist with proper breathing and there are certified breathing therapists to teach you breathing techniques for improved overall health.
Hypnotherapy – Find a trained and certified practitioner to work with or start with a form of Self-hypnosis which is a process of deep self-relaxation.
Massage Therapy – Licensed massage therapists can be very helpful for physical, emotional, and/or spiritual energy release.
Acupuncture – Find a certified practitioner, sometimes connected to a doctor’s office or physical therapy practice.
Holistic Supplements/Vitamins – Find a licensed holistic therapist or doctor who may make suggestions such as adding Pure Fish Oil with Omega-3, and Vitamin D. Again, always check with a professional before adding supplements.
Nutritional Counseling – Find a licensed dietician or nutritionist to discuss food and its effects on the mind and body and start by omitting sugar and eat a balanced nutritionally sound diet.
Meditation– Find a teacher, use an app on your computer or phone, I personally use “insight timer” but there are others, such as Calm or Headspace or YouTube instructions, zoom into a class, there are many options for meditation.
Reiki– Find a certified practitioner – sessions can be done in your home or in a private studio. Very relaxing.
Aroma Therapy – can be done in combination with meditation or relaxation exercises. Information can be found on the relaxing benefits of lavender, ylang-ylang, bergamot, chamomile to reduce anxiety and stress.
Music Therapy – You can find a licensed therapist who specializes in using music in therapy or you can use music yourself to ease your anxiety. Music can enhance your emotional state, evoke memories, soothe your anxiety, and calm your stress. So, it is important to be mindful about creating your audiological environment.
Nature Therapy – There are certified Nature therapists, sometimes called eco-therapists, who specialize in the mental health field combining the outdoors and the grandeur of mother nature with the healing of the inner self. If you are an outdoor enthusiast who thrives in the open air then this approach might be the best option for you to ease your anxiety.
Laughter Therapy – I am sure that you have heard the phrase, “laughter is the best medicine.” So, it is true that laughter alleviates stress and anxiety. There are trained laughter therapists and yoga instructors who specialize in laughing for the release of stress. I will admit that when I took my first laughing yoga class, I felt very self-conscious and silly but once I got over the initial feeling that everyone was looking at me (which they weren’t because we were all equally silly), It was quite a fun and very stress-reducing experience overall. Like being in a room full of playmates who were playing a silly game, so much fun!
Before You Consider An Alternative Treatment For Anxiety
Before you begin any method or combination of alternate treatment plans for your anxiety it is important to understand your anxiety by taking an inventory of your symptoms. Learn as much as you can about non-medication treatment approaches and develop a customized treatment plan that makes sense for you. Keep a journal and re-evaluate your anxiety treatment plan goals and make changes if your initial anxiety treatment plan doesn’t work.
Not all anxiety is bad, however. It lets us know when we need to spring into action. We feel anxious before a job interview, for example, which lets us know that we need to be at our best. If we play sports, we may feel anxiety before a game so that we play to our strengths. We may feel anxious when walking on a dark street alone, which lets us know to be wary of strangers or danger lurking in shadows ahead. Anxiety is meant to keep us safe and to keep us performing well.
Extreme levels of anxiety can be immobilizing, however, and that kind of anxiety can feel terrible. A person could be having an anxiety attack, and no one would even know because it happens on the inside. It feels like your brain isn’t working properly because you can’t process your thoughts. Sometimes it feels like your body isn’t working properly either because you get knots in your stomach and other physical sensations, like sweating or itching or twitches and heart palpitations. Sometimes it feels like you can’t breathe.
Many times, you may not know why you feel anxious. You just do! You can’t explain it. People may ask, “What’s wrong?” and you can’t answer, which makes you feel worse. Be with yourself and allow yourself to just be with your own level of anxiety. Accept your anxiety as a part of you are.
We all have anxiety. No one is exempt. We just have different levels of it and our levels of anxiety change as our circumstances change. Recognize your level of anxiety.
Be gentle with yourself and know that you’re doing the best that you can. At the end of the day, tell yourself gently, that you are doing the best that you can.
Things that you can do without a professional to help yourself to alleviate your anxiety:
- Eat a nutritionally balanced diet (Do not skip meals!)
- Cut back on the amount of caffeine and sugar that you put into your body, both can cause the jitters.
- Check in with yourself about your use of alcohol and consider cutting back or omitting it altogether.
- Sleep 8 hours
- Talk to a close friend or relative
- Journal – writing your feelings/thoughts down often helps
- Pray – out loud (if you are alone)
- Give yourself extra time, to be ON-Time for work, school, appointments, etc. – running late increases stress and anxiety
- Pet therapy – if you already have a pet, take your pet for a walk, talk to your pet, play with your pet, snuggle your pet. Pets can be great therapy! TevaLand
- Plan something “fun” into your weekly schedule a. Watch a comedy b. Play a board game c. Zoom a call with an old friend/relative d. Go for a hike e. Take a bubble bath f. Paint a picture, color g. Put together a puzzle h. Laugh out loud
Wishing you all as much of an anxiety-free holiday season as you can manage. Health to all and to all a Good Laugh!
Renee Shalhoub Transformational Coach/Counselor MA Author, From Ordinary to Awesome