- Alternative & Natural Medicine
How to control anxiety naturally
Where anxiety comes from
This is at least a two-part answer: Anxiety comes from your physical life, but it also comes from inside your body and your brain. See, when our lives feel like they're getting out of hand, when we feel like there's nothing we can do about it, the constant high stress leads to other physical and neurological affects. The immune system goes down, making us susceptible to illness, and sick people are more prone to feeling helpless and powerless. On top of that, stress forces the brain to fall into patterns that can lead to depression and worrying. When you get overwhelmed and start thinking that there's no way for you to control a situation and start feeling like a victim, you can start obsessing over every detail. Moods shift down, worrying shifts up, and before you know it, you're having rolling panic attacks.
Symptoms of anxiety
There are many (over 100!) symptoms of anxiety, and any one person could have any combination of them, but these are the most common, culled from the much more exhaustive list over at AnxietyCentre.com:
Dizziness, lightheadedness, a feeling that the floor is moving suddenly up or down
Headaches, jaw pain, clicking when you talk or eat, lockjaw, tooth-gritting
Clumsiness talking or pronouncing things
Obsessive thoughts about illness, danger, death
A pervasive sense of doom / oncoming doom, like something terrible is going to happen any moment
A swirling or floating feeling when you close your eyes
Sharp pains in the face, neck and head, or a feeling of a band squeezing there
Problems hearing, ringing in the ears, ear pain
Weird smells or tastes without an obvious cause
Trouble breathing, like something is on your chest or wrapped too tightly around it
Heart palpitations, fluttering, skipping beats, beating too hard or too fast, the fear that you're having a heart attack
Sharp pains through the whole chest area
Frequent yawning or a feeling of having to catch your breath, even when you aren't out of breath
Craving sugar and sweets
Digestion problems: gas, nausea, diarrhea, constipation
Stomach pains, upset stomach, IBS developing or being triggered
Sudden need to urinate, constant urge to go to the bathroom, and no infection present (or constant rolling infections because your immune system is down)
Loss of appetite
Sex drive upsets-- too high or too low, loss of interest in sex, sexual dysfunction
Weakness and trembling, feeling tired all the time even when you sleep fore than usual
Stiffness, pain, constant tenseness, creaking or aching joints
Worrying, even when you know there's no reason for it
Concern about safety, yourself and others, and maybe people you've never met
Inability to relax, poor sleeping patterns, insomnia, falling asleep at weird times or in weird places
Nightmares, extra-vivid dreams
Unfocused fear, fear of things that don't usually bother you
Natural help instead of drugs
There are any number of medical drugs that a doctor can prescribe to help with anxiety, but unless your symptoms are debilitating, it might help to work through cheaper, more natural ways to fix the problems first.
Anxiety can be caused by deficiencies of any of the following vitamins and minerals: Vitamin C, all the B-Vitamins, Vitamin D, calcium, magnesium, folic acid / folate, potassium, melatonin. Supplements work well to get them into your body quickly, but for long-term help, it's better if you get them naturally from food-- your body will metabolize them better and will also get all the trace minerals and micronutrients that help them work better.
Oranges have lots of vitamin C and calcium. Milk has calcium and vitamin D, but you can also get D by sitting outside in the open sunlight for ten or fifteen minutes (do this early or late enough in the day so that you don't need sunscreen but won't get burned-- sunscreen blocks the UV, which is how your body produces vitamin D). Leafy greens are good sources of calcium, vitamin C, and trace minerals. Nuts have magnesium. Bananas have lots of potassium. Melatonin can be bought as a supplement.
There are several herbs that can help control anxiety and soothe the symptoms when drunk as a tea: St John's Wort contains a natural chemical that works like valium and lifts the mood, gently and simply (but can cause sensitivity to light when used too often). Chamomile can help you sleep. Thyme tea has lots of minerals. Rosemary and lavender are soothing, but they taste very strongly. Orangeblossom is calming. Hops are stronger than Chamomile for helping you sleep. Mints and fennel will calm stomach and intestinal issues. Green tea is soothing and has significantly less caffeine than black tea, which already has less than coffee. The sorts of herbs that are used in tonics-- oat straw, clover, alfalfa-- have tons of minerals and trace nutrients that can help bring you back into balance.
Try the herbs one at a time and see how your body chemistry likes them; if they're helpful, add others. Once you're comfortable with them, consider mixing your own blends to suit your tastes and needs.
Dietary help for anxiety
First and foremost, eliminate or at least restrict your intake of caffeine. Few things will make panic attacks less frequent and less horrible than getting rid of caffeine! At first, it'll be hard, but if you power through, you'll find that your body readjusts, and much smaller amounts of caffeine do the same job, and then you can get away with just a cup of green tea instead of three cups of coffee. Plus, tea is soothing.
Next, restrict sugar and things that break down into sugar-- which means simple carbs. The sugar is easy, just switch out for less-sweet things. Switch high fructose corn syrup for ordinary sugar. But don't switch to artificial sweeteners, unless you have some other compelling reason to do so, like diabetes; artificial sweeteners are neurological stimulants, and that is the opposite of what the plan here is. For the carbs, switch simple carbs for complex ones like whole grains, and eat them with fiber and protein, which slow down how your body absorbs them and balances the bloodsugar so it doesn't spike and make you jittery.
Eat more whole foods so you're getting all the nutrients and traces you need-- especially the fruits and veggies that have the vitamins and minerals listed above. Eat as balanced and reasonable a diet as possible, and eat lots of different things to maximize your chances of getting whole nutrients. Healthy bodies are calmer bodies.
Behavioral help for anxiety
A lot of the time, stress leads to anxiety, and stress it caused by our own choices. There's any number of ways to help stress and make for a happier life, starting at small adjustments and moving up to much larger ones.
If you're over-scheduled, you have to learn how to say no, and how to balance a schedule so you don't get overwhelmed.
If there are parts of your life that aren't helping you stay happy and relaxed, consider getting rid of them-- Don't like your job? Look for a new one. Boyfriend a jerk? Dump him or have a serious sit-down with him. House a mess? Look into FlyLady or the Sidetracked Home Executive system, or any of the other information out there on the internet to get it back on track.
Take up a hobby. It doesn't really matter what it is, as long as you find it calming and you really like doing it.
Get some exercise. Activity releases feelings of well-being and accomplishment, combat depression, burn off the anxiety-jitters, and give you a feeling of having something you can do about the situation. If traditional exercise leaves you cold, look into alternative things like yoga, tai chi, bellydance, hooping, or something like that.
Cultivate an attitude of doing things now, rather than putting them off, and of seeing problems as challenges rather than roadblocks. Be adventurous. And, at the same time, cultivate an acceptance of the fact that there are some things no one can help, and worrying about them only hurts you without fixing anything.
And learn what your triggers are, and either avoid them or work to make them better. It helps to keep a diary or a journal of every time you're feeling attacks-- what's going on in your life? What are you thinking about? How do you feel? What are you eating and what is the weather like and how was work? Anything can trigger it, so journal it all. Do it thoughtfully, and after a while, patterns will emerge, giving you a chance to see the attacks when they're coming so they don't have so much power over you.
You can do it!