A reported 18.1% of adults have anxiety or an anxiety disorder. But surprisingly, experts estimate that the percentage is closer to 30% due to the fact that many people do not seek help, are unaware that they suffer from anxiety, or are misdiagnosed (1).
It’s considered, alongside depression, the top mental health issue in the United States and North America.
Maybe you – yourself – have had your brush with the looming shadow of anxiety. Or perhaps you know someone that experiences it on a regular basis.
Anxiety is like knowing the world is going to end, but you’re the only one that knows, and everyone else would think you’re crazy. It’s like you’re driving on the highway, but suddenly, the brakes stop working. You can’t slow down or stop. It’s the feeling that the average person gets when they watch a scary movie before someone leaps out from behind an object. But the feeling never goes away, and the person never pops out.
You’re constantly watching, listening, wondering, worrying – but it’s more than that. It casts a deep, dark shadow across your life, possibly limiting you from reaching your full potential.
Luckily, anxiety is an entirely treatable condition, with a high recovery rate when appropriately treated. And while we encourage you to seek out help – as the advice below cannot replace that of your own healthcare provider who knows your individual situation best – the 7 holistic methods below may provide you with strategies to cope and deal throughout your day-to-day life. They may further improve your overall mental health and well-being. And many of them are backed by scientific evidence, as well as our own experts, indicating their potential and beneficial use. Let’s take a more detailed look.
1. The Buteyko Breathing Method
The Buteyko Breathing Method was originally developed as a way to treat asthma. And various studies have indicated its use in treating hyperventilation in asthmatic cases. More recently, it’s been put forth as a viable treatment for panic and anxiety disorders (2, 3).
The general idea involves bringing your breathing volume back to normal levels. This means that your tissues and brain receive an adequate amount of oxygen to optimally function. In turn, it calms you and decreases your anxiety, preventing it from getting out of control (4).
So, how do you implement the Buteyko Breathing Method?
It’s fairly simple. But it does take practice. And it’s a good idea to practice this method even when you aren’t experiencing severe anxiety. It can make the task that much easier when you are in a more anxious state since you’ll have had experience with how it feels and know if you’re performing it correctly or not. Here’s how you do it:
- Sit with an upright posture, and breath in through your nose. This breath should be normal – not deep. Narrow in on using your diaphragm to breathe. This means expanding your stomach. Your shoulders should not move or rise.
- Breath out through your nose as you would normally. Use your stomach to push the air out. Again, your chest and shoulders shouldn’t move.
- Then, inhale slightly shorter and more shallow than before through your nose. This inhale should last about 1-2 seconds.
- As you exhale through your nose, take about 5 seconds to fully release all of the air. Again, narrow in on your diaphragm to push the air out.
- Hold your breath for about 4-5 seconds after this last exhale.
- Then, repeat the entire process. Aim to do this for 2-5 minutes.
Acupressure is similar to acupuncture, but instead of using needles on the acupuncture points, pressure is placed on these areas. In Ancient Chinese Medicine, it has traditionally been used to promote feelings of relaxation, as well as to treat various illnesses and ailments (5).
It’s thought that these acupuncture/acupressure points lie along channels of energy throughout the body. In the traditional sense, the Ancient Chinese believed that this connected the body’s systems to one another and allowed them to communicate with each other.
Today, acupressure is used to relieve various ailments, including anxiety. And various studies have supported the use of acupressure when it comes to treating anxiety disorders. A recent study in 2015, published in the International Journal of Nursing Studies, found that acupressure treatments 3-4 times a week significantly reduced anxiety, stress, depression, and distress in patients with hemodialysis (6).
Another study also found acupressure reduced anxiety in patients prior to hospital transportation. As such, researchers found it actually improved these patients quality of care and compliance (7).
How can you use acupressure at home? By applying gentle pressure to the following areas, you may relieve your anxiety almost immediately. These areas include:
- The Hall of Impression Point: This is located directly between your eyebrows.
- The Heavenly Gate Point: This point is located on your upper ear at the inner tip of the uppermost hollow. Interestingly, this point may also help combat insomnia, helping you sleep.
- The Shoulder Well Point: This point should be easy to find since many individuals hold quite a bit of tension here. This is located where the shoulders and neck meet. This point not only helps alleviate anxiety but also stress and headaches. However, experts caution against using this point if you’re pregnant.
- The Inner Frontier Gate Point: This point lies 3 fingers down from the inside of your wrist. By applying gentle pressure here, nausea and pain may also be relieved.
- The Union Valley Point: This acupressure point is right on the webbing between your thumb and index finger. This one is also cautioned against use if you’re pregnant.
- The Great Surge Point: Locate your big toe and second toe. About 1-2 inches back and in between these 2 toes is the Great Surge Point. This one further has multiple uses, including for anxiety, menstrual cramps, insomnia, and even pain.
Gently press on the chosen point for about 4-5 seconds. At the same time, take a couple deep breaths. You should feel the panic, fear, and muscle tension melt away.
3. Reduce Exposure to Electronics/EMF/Blue Lights
Research continues to dive into how our electronic devices impact our mood and emotions. And while the connectivity it offers to individuals is fascinating and includes many positives, it may equally cause more adverse effects.
These devices omit electronic magnetic fields (EMF) – a lot of which we don’t know very much about. But from what we do know, these could potentially pose cognitive harm and mental distress.
One study examined 540 adults that lived in close proximity to high-voltage transmission lines. These high voltage transmission lines contain high transmissions of EMFs. Interestingly, this proximity correlated with feelings of distress and anxiety (8).
Undoubtedly, something is happening with EMFs, the brain, neurotransmitters, and hormonal function. And these EMFs are further emitted by our electronic devices. Too much of them cause changes in one’s mood, sleep patterns, focus, anxiety, and more.
This is why many experts recommend limiting your digital device use, especially before bedtime. Consider partaking in a digital detox. Or restrict the use of these devices 2-3 hours before bed. Instead, read or perform another relaxing activity.
And these EMFs are further emitted by our electronic devices. Too much of them cause changes in one’s mood, sleep patterns, focus, anxiety, and more. “
Light at night is further found to be an endocrine disruptor. This means it may impact aging, reproductivity, and other regulatory and hormonal systems in the body. As a result, the cycles – such as your circadian rhythm – become dysregulated causing more dire situations and health issues like diabetes, dementia, arthritis, lupus, and infertility (9).
In turn, the body becomes more stressed out. This has a negative impact on anxiety.
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Yet, there are further ways to combat these effects. Pink or red sunglasses block blue and green lights. This means that the enzyme, N-acetyltransferase, is able to turn serotonin into melatonin. Melatonin makes the human body sleepy and ready for bed.
If serotonin isn’t turned into melatonin, again, things become dysregulated. You don’t become tired and your body doesn’t properly prepare for sleep. Thus, you may struggle to fall asleep. With serotonin levels climbing, the risk of depression and anxiety disorders is also that much higher.
In addition to being aware of the impact of blue light and EMFs, proper sleep hygiene is further an important factor to consider. Good sleep hygiene includes:
- Avoiding or limiting napping during the day. Long naps, such as those over 20 minutes, may impact your sleep at night.
- Going to bed at the same time each night and waking up at the same time every day.
- Exposing yourself to natural light during the day. Some experts even recommend going outside to watch the sun go down as this can prepare the body for sleep. Light exposure, first thing, also signals to the body to stop melatonin production, which helps you wake up easier.
- Ensuring you have a comfortable sleep environment. Your pillows and mattress should be comfortable and easy to fall asleep on. The area which you sleep in should be dark, quiet, and cool. Blackout curtains, ear plugs, sleep masks, fans, or humidifiers are other devices that may aid in creating an optimal sleep environment.
- Exercising on a regular basis. Exercise to improve your sleep and natural cycles. Although, it may be best to avoid physical activity right before bed.
4. Avoid Stimulants and Alcohol
Individuals who have generalized anxiety disorder are more sensitive to caffeine and other stimulants (10). Studies have also indicated the caffeine increased feelings of anxiousness in school-aged children (11).
Further, alcoholics have shown to experience more intense and frequent episodes of anxiety and depression (12).
The link between increased anxiety and these substances is undeniable. If you’re prone to anxiety or anxiety episodes, an easy way to decrease these instances may be to reduce or limit your caffeine and alcohol intake. Other stimulants and substances (such as certain drugs) may also have similar effects on your system and should also be avoided or limited. It’s a simple and easy way to reduce the anxiety in your life, as well as decrease toxins in your body that may not be contributing to optimal health and well-being.
5. Essential Oils
Essential oils are gaining speed in the holistic and alternative health community. Some individuals prefer to apply these oils directly to their skin, while others choose to inhale the scents through a diffuser.
Lavender is probably the most popular of these essential oils, with tons of research backing up its use and effects. It may further be used anytime during the day to promote feelings of relaxation. A 2005 study explored the use of orange and lavender scents in reducing the anxiety of patients waiting in a dental office. These patients experienced an improved mood and a decrease in anxiety symptoms, indicating these essential oils and their calming effects (13).
Lavender, again, proved to have anxiety-reducing effects on graduate nursing students and test-taking (14). And the great thing about essential oils is that they are accessible and affordable to the general population. If you intend on applying these oils to your skin, make sure to test out a small amount on your wrist before rubbing it elsewhere or spreading large quantities. If allergies are a concern, a diffuser may be best to utilize this anxiety-reducing technique.
Further, despite lavender being the most well-known oil, there are a variety of lesser-known essential oils that aid in relaxation and that have anxiety-reducing effects. Valerian, jatamansi, jasmine, basil, and more have all been attributed for their calming and relaxation effects.
When should you use these other scents?
→ Valerian: This essential oil has sedative effects, helping one sleep, as well as reducing anxiety. It’s best to use this one before bed due to its more sleep-inducing properties.
→ Jatamansi: Jatamansi also promotes sleep, but further calms the mind. Like valerian, this essential oil may be best to use closer to your bedtime.
→ Jasmine: This one won’t cause sleepiness. If you need to reduce anxiety feelings earlier in the day or throughout your day, jasmine is an excellent choice.
→ Basil: Sweet and holy basil both reduce stress and anxiety symptoms. Research studies in 2014 and 2015 support these claims (15, 16).
→ Bergamot: This orange and citrus scent relieves anxiety and boosts your mood. If you plan on applying this oil to your skin, it may be best to avoid sun exposure right after. Experts theorize that this essential oil may actually increase one’s sensitivity to the sun.
→ Chamomile: Chamomile tea and supplements have shown to help individuals that have generalized anxiety disorders. The oil version of chamomile is thought to act in a similar fashion when it comes to reducing anxiety and relaxing the body.
6. Weighted Blanket
Therapists have further recently begun using weight therapy techniques. It’s been known to promote feelings of calm and relaxation. And you may have heard of them being used for children with autism or for individuals with behavioral issues.
Essentially, a weighted blanket is exactly what the name states. It’s a blanket with additional weight providing feelings of comfort and security. The theory is similar to the idea behind swaddling a baby. It’s like a calming hug, making the person feel snug and protected (17).
It’s also similar to theories relating to deep pressure and acupressure approaches to soothe anxiety. Similar to deep pressure techniques, it’s thought the pressure of the weight stimulates serotonin production. Serotonin produces feelings of happiness and calmness. Consequently, an individual experiences decreased anxiety.
The only way to know for sure if it works for you? Try it out. If anxiety is causing you restrictions in your life, take it into your own hands. Try holistic methods that have proven helpful for others. You may be surprised by what you find works.
7. Specific Supplements and Remedies
In addition to breathing techniques, essential oils, weighted blankets, and limiting or avoiding certain activities and substances, there are supplements or remedies that you can add in your daily routine to further reduce your anxiety symptoms.
Doctors indicate that lesser-known supplements and remedies, including Avena Sativa, L-Theanine, Bach remedies, kava kava, lemon balm, valerian root, and NAD+, may aid individuals in reducing the anxiety in their life. Let us explain these specific remedies further.
Avena Sativa is more commonly known as wild oats. Various encounters and studies indicate its use in treating anxiety and depression disorders. Most often, this herb’s stem is used for holistic treatments (18). Many Avena Sativa products can be found in the online community. Further, alternative health stores and some pharmacy supplement aisles may supply such products. Typically, these products include an outline of safe use and dosages.
L-Theanine is another plant-derived substance that is thought to reduce anxiety, as well as provide improved focus and sleep. L-Theanine is also taken as an oral supplement. Often, dosages do not exceed 100 grams.
Bach remedies, on the other hand, is a specific brand that includes various all-natural ingredients, such as flowers, with different products that may treat various conditions like anxiety. In fact, a doctor named Edward Bach created this line of remedies over 100 years ago. The idea is that the body can heal itself and with the aid of certain natural herbs, it can do so in an optimal environment. These products can frequently be found in health food stores, as well as at naturopaths, homeopaths, or other alternative medicine clinics. They come as a dropper or liquid, where you simply place a drop on your tongue or mix it with another liquid.
Kava kava has also been shown through various research to help ease anxiety disorders, with even some sources boasting that it may work better than anti-anxiety prescribed medication. However, this particular substance comes with a list of cautions, including not being a good or healthy choice for those with liver conditions (19).
Lemon balm is another herb cited for its anti-anxiety effects, as well as for stomach issues. Our experts recommend 300 mg of lemon extract twice a day to combat anxiety effects. Try taking it for 2 weeks to start. And make sure to always follow precautions and directions on the label of the product.
Valerian root is also an herb that has been used for years for insomnia and anxiety symptoms. As we mentioned above, it can be used as an essential oil to reduce anxiety. But it also comes in supplement form.
And lastly, NAD+ is becoming more and more regarded for its beneficial cognitive effects. Most importantly, it aids in the production of cellular energy and DNA repair. In fact, with research indicating NAD+ use in improving stress, anxiety, clarity, focus, and more, this coenzyme is a key ingredient in Innovative Medicine’s, Nadovim, a supplement that enhances and supports cognitive function. It does more than decreases anxiety symptoms. It actually aids in replenishing brain stores and providing an optimal environment for your brain.
Again, anxiety is an entirely treatable condition. However, what works for one person may vary when it comes to the next. Individual treatment protocols are necessary to combat anxiety and its symptoms. The 7 holistic methods above offer alternatives to the conventional means of treating anxiety. The best way to determine if they work for you is to try them out. As aforementioned, make sure to always read labels when using devices, taking supplements or remedies for the first time.
Disclaimer: The statements made in this article have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Any products or treatments mentioned are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Please consult a licensed medical practitioner for medical advice.
At Innovative Medicine, we believe in transparency. We want you to know that we may participate in affiliate advertising programs pertaining to products mentioned herein.
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