Complementary & Alternative Therapies
There is no one fit for all. Different people find that different approaches help them take care of themselves. The key is to find what works for you! Check out the list of different activities that have been found to be helpful and beneficial for our mental health.
Getting regular exercise is good for relieving stress. Cardiovascular exercise has been shown to help lower stress levels and anxiety, and improve the immune system. Cardiovascular exercise means getting your heart rate up for 30 minutes. Developing a regular exercise routine can help you feel more in control of your health, which can also reduce your anxiety.
Get plenty of sleep
A lack of sleep can increase negative thoughts and can place extra stress on the brain and body. Try to get at least seven to nine hours of quality sleep every night. If you have trouble sleeping, try to support your body’s natural sleep schedule by:
- going to sleep and waking up at the same time each day
- taking only short naps for 15 to 20 minutes in the early afternoon if you need to
- exposing yourself to bright sunlight in the morning, spending more time outside during the day in natural light
- avoiding bright screens one to two hours before bed and making sure you sleep in a darkened, cool room
- getting regular exercise
Massage your muscles
Muscles can become tight and tense due to stress. Massage therapy helps relieve muscle tension and promotes blood flow to key areas of the body to release stress and anxiety.
Yoga combines breathing techniques, meditation, and stretching through both moving and stationary postures. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), yoga is one of the top 10 alternative practices used to treat a variety of disorders, including anxiety and depression.
When practiced regularly, it becomes easier to achieve the relaxed feeling you get from yoga into your daily life. Try signing up for a class or private lessons to help ensure you move through the poses correctly to avoid injury.
Acupuncture is a traditional Chinese treatment for anxiety, depression, and other health conditions. During acupuncture, a practitioner sticks thin, sharp needles into the upper layers of skin at points of the body that correspond with different organs. It’s thought that acupuncture works by activating natural painkilling chemicals in the brain. For some people, it’s effective at eliminating or reducing anxiety.
Studies continue to examine the effects of herbal remedies to treat mild to moderate anxiety. While researchers have found some positive association between the symptoms of anxiety and the use of certain herbs, no strong evidence that herbal remedies are helpful for anxiety doesn’t exist.
You should be aware of the potential risks and benefits of herbal remedies. If you already take medication for anxiety, ask your doctor before taking any herbs. Some of the herbs used to treat anxiety can interact with anxiety medications.
Nutritional supplements and herbs used to relieve anxiety include the following:
- Vitamin B-12 is a vitamin that plays a key role in the nervous system and can reduce feeling of anxiety.
- Chamomile in tea can have a soothing, anti-anxiety effect.
- Kava root is a supplement that can reduce anxiety but can also cause severe side effects, including liver damage.
- Inositol is a type of carbohydrate used as a supplement. It can reduce feelings of anxiety.
- Valerian is a supplement made from the root of a pink flower called Valeriana officinalis. It can help reduce anxiety and sleep problems.
- Passionflower supplement is derived from the passionflower plant, and it’s thought to be moderately effective at treating anxiety.
- L-theanine is an amino acid found naturally in green and black tea, as well as mushrooms. It’s also in supplements, and it can reduce stress and anxiety.
Although there is no diet to relieve anxiety, eating healthy meals keeps your body well nourished and strong. Avoid caffeine because it can make you feel restless. Avoid alcohol and nicotine as well. Eat more fresh vegetables, whole grains, and fruits. Keep your blood sugar steady by eating frequent small meals that contain protein, complex carbohydrates, and healthy fats.
Although few studies have examined the effectiveness of specific homeopathic therapies, professional homeopaths, based on their knowledge and experience, may consider the following remedies for the treatment of anxiety. Before prescribing a remedy, homeopaths take into account a person’s constitutional type, includes your physical, emotional, and psychological makeup. An experienced homeopath assesses all of these factors when determining the most appropriate treatment for each individual.
- Aconitum . For anxiety accompanied by irregular or forceful heartbeat, shortness of breath, or fear of death.
- Arsenicum album . For excessive anxiety that has no clear cause and is accompanied by restlessness, especially after midnight. It also may be used for perfectionists, including children, who worry about everything.
- Phosphorus . For an impending sense of doom and anxiety when alone. It also may be used for impressionable adults and children who are easily influenced by the anxiety of others.
- Lycopodium . For performance and other types of anxiety in those who are insecure, yet hide their low self esteem with arrogance and bravado. It also may treat children with anxiety accompanied by bedwetting.
- Gelsemium . For performance anxiety resulting in diarrhea, headache, dizziness, weakness, shakiness and trembling, or trouble speaking.
- Argentum nitricum . For performance anxiety (such as before tests in school-age children) with rapid heart rate, feeling of faintness, diarrhea, or flatulence.
Some evidence shows that acupuncture may help reduce symptoms of anxiety, especially when combined with behavioral therapies, including psychotherapy. One study showed that benefits lasted as long as one year after treatment.
Acupuncturists treat people with anxiety based on an individualized assessment of the excesses and deficiencies of qi located in various meridians. With anxiety, a qi deficiency is often detected in the kidney or spleen meridians. In addition to performing needling treatments, acupuncturists may also use lifestyle and breathing techniques, as well as herbal and dietary therapy.
- Mindfulness helps you learn to stay with difficult feelings without analyzing, suppressing, or encouraging them. When you allow yourself to feel and acknowledge your worries, irritations, painful memories, and other difficult thoughts and emotions, this often helps them dissipate.
- Mindfulness allows you to safely explore the underlying causes of your stress and worry. By going with what’s happening rather than expending energy fighting or turning away from it, you create the opportunity to gain insight into what’s driving your concerns.
- Mindfulness helps you create space around your worries so they don’t consume you. When you begin to understand the underlying causes of your apprehension, freedom and a sense of spaciousness naturally emerge.
Meditation can give you a sense of calm, peace and balance that can benefit both your emotional well-being and your overall health.
And these benefits don’t end when your meditation session ends. Meditation can help carry you more calmly through your day and may help you manage symptoms of certain medical conditions.
Meditation and emotional well-being
When you meditate, you may clear away the information overload that builds up every day and contributes to your stress.
The emotional benefits of meditation can include:
- Gaining a new perspective on stressful situations
- Building skills to manage your stress
- Increasing self-awareness
- Focusing on the present
- Reducing negative emotions
- Increasing imagination and creativity
- Increasing patience and tolerance