Over my experience with anxiety, I have come across many different alternate ways to combat anxiety. I do not like anxiety medication, nor do I believe in utilizing it most of the time (more on that in a later post!). Therefore, I have gotten a lot of advice from various people and mental health professionals on how to handle anxiety on the daily.
Now, before I dig into all of the tools I use, I want to provide one disclaimer. While I do use some of these methods in my day to day life, these are not supposed to replace regular sessions with a mental health professional. I am seeing a therapist weekly in order to make long term progress. I hope that one day I will not need to use any alternate methods, and that I will be able to thrive on my own. However, that is a long road, and for while I am improving myself in the big picture, it is necessary for me to have techniques in place to function.
Methods That Did Not Work:
*Note: this does not mean that these methods will not work for other people-these are just the ones that did not work for me, and I will explain why!
Grounding is a tool that many people with anxiety use. It is supposed to be extremely effective and my therapist was extremely surprised when it did not work for me. The basis behind grounding is that you use sensory cues and exercises in order to take your mind off of your anxiety. Many people with anxiety will feel as if they are outside of their body. Grounding helps bring a person back to reality so that they can focus on the here and now.
The reason that grounding does not work very well for me is that my anxiety is greatly inside my body. Most of my symptoms are internal- stomach aches, increased heart rate, hyperventilating, etc. My anxiety is also much about racing thoughts, rather than feeling like I am going crazy or am out of my body. Therefore, it does not work too well in my case.
If you google methods for anxiety, tea will almost definitely come up on the list. My first therapist also suggested tea for me; peppermint for my stomach aches, and lavender and chamomile for my anxiety. This never worked. I am assuming that my anxiety is simply too severe for the small amount of anti-anxiety properties in these herbs.
Methods that Did Work:
I could not write anything about alleviating anxiety naturally without mentioning acupuncture. I was terrified of acupuncture at first, who wants needles in their skin? However, my husbands best friends mother, who I have known since I was in elementary school, is a practicing acupuncturist. As soon as she heard about my anxiety problems, she instantly promoted acupuncture.
My first session she worked on my stomach and body. At this point in my anxiety journey, I was barely eating, had constant aches and pains, and all of my physical health issues were exasperating my anxiety. I was so anxious for the appointment, but she put one needle in my body that was supposed to calm me down, played relaxing music, and the next twenty to thirty minutes flew by in a peaceful haze I had not known in months.
My next session was supposed to be specifically for my anxiety. After this session, I felt less anxious than I had in months, and the affects lasted for about four days. This is why I believe acupuncture would be most effective if it was practiced on a weekly basis.
*Disclaimer: Acupuncture needles do NOT hurt. I have had one spot that I have felt the prick of the needle, in the side of my foot. I have had dozens of different spots needled (even needles the entire way down my spine), and none of them have caused any pain.
I first found meditation (specifically guided meditation) back in the Spring when I was struggling to sleep. I was at the point where my anxiety was so severe that I would lay awake for hours panicking about all of my racing thoughts. One night, it was about 3:30 in the morning when I was in tears over not being able to sleep, and I turned to YouTube for “videos to help you fall asleep”. I found my first guided meditation video (it is still my favorite today!) and I fell in love. I now practice guided meditation videos often when I am alone. I follow body scans, I listen to guided breathing videos, and simply listen to the sound of soothing nature sounds. All of these help me in getting a grip on my racing thoughts so that I am able to relax and go about my day.
I found yoga as a way to stop my stomach aches at first, because I was suffering from them daily. I soon found that many of the yoga positions that I was using for my stomach were also soothing. That is when I began to make yoga a daily practice. Two of my favorite poses when I am actively panicking are the legs up the wall pose and the reclining bound angle pose. They are about as easy as yoga poses get, and incredibly soothing.
Another facet of yoga that I have found to be extremely helpful is the way that yoga can be effective, gentle exercise. Rigorous (or really any) exercise is not easy for me at my low body weight, and can sometimes be contradictory when I am trying to consume more calories in order to gain weight.
I was skeptical about essential oils at first. It did not make sense to me that they could help any more than tea would. However, I got a diffuser for Christmas last year, and have not slept a night without it since besides my honeymoon. While essential oils do not help very much in the middle of a panic attack, they are wonderful for managing my stress and anxiety in normal settings. I use them while I do yoga or soak in a bath, and they are honestly extremely southing. I have also started to learn how to use them to aid in physical symptoms (stomach aches, migraines, insomnia) that I experience as a result of anxiety.
So those are some of the alternate methods that I have used to combat my anxiety, some that have be very effective for me, and some that have been inconsequential. I hope that this information will be helpful for you!