Are you struggling with an anxiety disorder, but don’t want to go the anxiety medication route to battle anxiety? Don’t worry. Anxiety disorders are highly treatable and it’s not unusual to look for medication-free therapies, treatments, or techniques. Whether you regularly suffer from giant butterflies in the stomach, heart palpitation, sweaty palms, tension headaches, or an inexplicable tightness in your chest, it’s important to remember that you are not alone. According to a new American Psychiatric Association (APA) poll, approximately 40 million adults in the U.S. experience anxiety disorder every year.
Here are a few things you can add to your toolkit to battle anxiety without any anxiety medication. These techniques are also useful if you want to manage the ‘everyday’ anxiety that you face and keep it from reaching a diagnosable level.
Practice Meditation Techniques
Our minds have a habit of running away from us. Meditation is a practice of focused concentration. You bring your attention back to the object of your focus over and over again and learn to control intrusive thoughts.
Research shows that a regular meditation practice can make you more self-aware and improve your ability to regulate emotions. You will begin to recognize your anxiety-inducing thoughts and storylines and learn to let them go. Not all your thoughts are true and they shouldn’t define you. Once you understand and embrace this concept, your relationship with anxiety will gradually start to change.
Researchers also found that meditation basically affects activity in two specific parts of the brain, the first one is the anterior cingulate cortex (controls emotions and thoughts) and the other one is the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (controls worrying). If you are new to meditation read BegumC’s blog “5 Meditation Techniques for Beginners” to learn simple techniques.
Adopt Mindfulness Techniques
Mindfulness is the practice of paying attention to your daily life and the things you typically rush through. The most simple acts of mindfulness are the most helpful when you want to battle anxiety. Imagine going on a walk where you are only paying attention to your thoughts versus going on a walk where you pay attention to the sun on your skin, the greenery on your route, and the wind in your hair.
If you intentionally practice mindfulness on a regular basis, you will gradually become more mindful in all aspects of your life. For example, you will begin to notice the changes in your breathing when you are experiencing an anxiety-riddled moment and take a moment to calm yourself.
Practice Progressive Relaxation
A body scan or progressive relaxation exercise helps you check in with your body when you most need to. It’s a great tool to battle anxiety without anxiety medications and can provide instant results. The main purpose of the technique is to learn to consciously relax your body.
You can either scan your body from your head to toe while sitting or standing and release tension by tensing and relaxing your muscles. If you don’t have a lot of time, you can just scan areas in your body where you mostly like to hold stress, such as your jaw, shoulders, or back.
Fake It Till You Make It
It might be hard to believe but simply smiling more can help you with anxiety. Smiling can trick your brain into believing you are happy and relaxed. This can lead to actual feelings of happiness as your brain releases certain hormones including dopamine and serotonin.
Research also suggests that smiling can lower your blood pressure, and boost your immune system. Not to mention that your smile can change the mood of those around you, which will indirectly benefit you.
Sweat Out Your Body
Exercise can help elevate mood and reduce anxiety. Aerobic exercise specifically can stimulate the anti-anxiety effects of anxiety medication. And you don’t even have to exercise for an hour to start experiencing these effects! Five minutes in and you will start to feel the difference yourself.
Some studies suggest that exercise can help alleviate anxiety symptoms as much as anxiety medications. Moreover, the anxiety-relieving effects of exercise may last longer than those of medication. However, to reap the actual benefits of exercise, it’s best to exercise for 30 minutes three to five times a week.
While it might seem difficult to meditate, smile, or sweat through your anxiety, give these techniques a chance to battle anxiety! Smile for 30 seconds at the start of your day or meditate for 3 minutes. Exercise for 15 minutes when you get home from work or do a body scan right before bed. Take the baby steps and build up! If you are looking for more wellness resources, browse The Wellness Blog for some amazing content.
If dealing with your anxiety feels too complicated or unbearable or sends you into panic attacks, talk to your primary care physician.