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Natural remedies for Anxiety

Natural remedies for Anxiety

Natural remedies for Anxiety
Natural remedies for Anxiety

I remember the first time I got full on anxiety symptoms I had no idea what the f**k was happening to me. I had no idea about natural remedies for anxiety, I remember it clearly, being in the office where I was producing a TV series, calling in utter panic my GP surgery and the doctor talking to me over the phone saying, come in and he’ll give me some beta blockers. ‘Great!’ I thought. ‘Drugs will instantly make me feel better’. Turns out the beta blockers, which slow down the heart rate, just made feel feel weird and woozy, so I decided never to take them again. Same goes for the anti-depressants that left me with heart palpitations for 24 hours after taking a single pill.

Natural remedies for Anxiety

So that just left me with nature’s own remedies. That’s not to say that nature is a woose compared to pharmaceuticals. She’s got some quite serious plants in her medicine cabinet that have scientifically proven effects. So here are a bunch that if nothing else will help calm your overstressed nervous system.

  1. St John’s Wort

    St johns - Natural remedies for Anxiety
    St Johns Wort

Otherwise known as Hypericum, it is a well known remedy for mild to moderate depression showing the same if not greater efficacy that many antidepressants. This probably isn’t going to help if you are a panic attack sufferer, but seeing as depression often goes hand in hand with anxiety, it’s a good remedy to try. Be sure to ask your doctor’s advice though as it can interact with prescribed medication.

  1. Chamomile

    Chamomile Tea - Natural remedies for Anxiety
    Chamomile Tea

There’s no more a relaxing end to the day than sipping on a cup of chamomile tea, maybe this is because some of its compounds bind to the same receptors as valium. You can also take it as a supplement, typically standardized to contain 1.2% apigenin (the active ingredient), along with dried chamomile flowers.

  1. Green Tea

    green tea : natural remedies for anxiety
    natural remedies for anxiety

While we’re on the tea front, green tea is known to centre the mind, buddhist monks drink it before meditation apparently as it contains the amino acid L-theanine which in high doses is said to help anxiety. It’s also an antioxidant and good for the heart – what’s not to love?

  1. Valerian

Don’t be put off by the funky taste, valerian really is a natural sedative so potent that it’s not advisable to drive or operate heavy machinery after taking some. Perfect if anxiety is hampering your sleep.

  1. Passionflower

Contrary to its name, this isn’t an aphrodisiac, but is actually a natural sedative. Some studies say it can reduce the nervousness associated with anxiety more effectively than prescription drugs. But be sure not to mix with other prescription sedatives.

  1. Lavender

    Lavender : natural remedies for anxiety
    Lavender

One of the go-to essences in aromatherapy for relaxation, lavender is believed to calm the nervous system. It’s one of the few aromatherapy essences that are ok to apply directly to the skin, so add a couple of drops to a bath, on the temples or on your pillow to breath in the soothing aroma.

  1. CannabisCANNABIS LEAVES

Yes you heard it right. Before it was deemed illegal in most countries in the world, cannabis was used for thousands of years to treat a whole host of ailments, including anxiety and depression. These days apart from a few places where it’s allowed for medical use, using cannabis remains against the law because it contains something called THC, the bit that gets you stoned.

But scientists have isolated another compound in the plant called Cannabidiol or CBD which is non psychoactive and many people find reduces anxiety and aids concentration.

  1. Foods rich in Omega 3

It’s been known for years that the essential fatty acid Omega 3 is great for our health. From our heart to our heads, scientists have shown that it helps to keep our health in balance. Turns out it is also good for anxiety. In one study, students who took 2.5 milligrams a day of mixed omega-3 fatty acids for 12 weeks had less anxiety before an exam than students taking a placebo.

Omega 3 can be found in oily fish like salmon and mackerel, so doctors recommend including plenty in our diets. For vegetarians or people who are worried about mercury toxicity in fish stock there are plant sources available. Most seeds are high in Omega 3, or you buy cold-pressed oils from hemp seed or flax.

  1. Kava Kava

Originally from the Pacific island, Kava Kava can ease a person’s mind while maintaining clarity due to the active component Kavalactones that affect brain chemistry in ways similar to prescription antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications. However anyone with liver damage should proceed with caution because of possible toxicity. It also can interact with other medication, herbal or otherwise, so if you are considering taking it you should consult with your physician before using it.

  1. Get in contact with nature

Forest

For me there’s nothing like touching nature directly for shaking me out of an anxious state of mind. Seeing an open sky, feeling the sun’s rays on my skin, hearing a bird sing, breathing in fresh air or just observing a beetle dragging a twig up a hill – there’s a whole host of therapy available to us just waiting to heal our frazzled nerves and calm our minds.

Must read books for the anxious mind

Must read books for the anxious mind

Ok I’m going to start here with a bit of a caveat. Endless reading of self help books is not the answer to beating anxiety (if indeed it has to be beaten). So while these books have got amazing insights and handy tools, there’s nothing like a roaring good read of fiction to capture the an overactive imagination and lead it, even if only temporarily, out of the anxiety loop.

But here are a few books that have given me some ‘aha’ moments, shifted my perception or just gladdened my heart.

  1. Thich Nhat Hanh – Fear: Essential wisdom for getting through the storm

Really I’d recommend any book by Thich Nhat Hanh, a Vietnamese zen buddhist monk, nobel peace prize nominee and prolific writer of books about mindfulness. But seeing as I’m writing about anxiety, it seems right that I mention his book called ‘Fear’ in which he shows us that by looking deeply and embracing our whole experience with acceptance, love and understanding, we can go beyond fear and anxiety to find fearlessness and inner peace. It includes some helpful mindfulness based exercises and is written with simplicity and love.   

thich nhat hanh book

  1. Tara Brach – Radical Acceptance

I came across Tara Brach being interviewed one day and she emanated such an aura of love and peace that I knew I wanted to know more. Turns out she’s a buddhist teacher and psychologist and has written a couple of books, the first being ‘Radical Acceptance’. From the title it’s fairly clear that it’s about accepting rather than trying to change those difficult emotions and she uses case studies of past patients to illustrate the principles, plus a bunch of guided meditations.

radical-acceptance

  1. Feeling Good – The New mood therapy by David D. Burns

This was the book that first introduced me to the concept of CBT and awakened me to the possibility that what I was thinking wasn’t necessarily true. I found it a really useful tool and has loads of great exercises. It’s one of the forefathers of the self help books and is a classic.

new mood

4. Anxiety as an ally: How I Turned a Worried Mind into My Best Friend – Dan Rykart

Sometimes rather than a professional with their perfect, anxiety free life telling you what to do to feel better, it’s reassuring to hear from someone who’s been there, done that and got the t-shirt. Dan Rykart’s book charts in a journal style his life from sudden onset of panic attacks in 2003 to using anxiety as his ally.

Dan-Ryckert-Anxiety-As-An-Ally-cover

5. Dare: The New Way to End Anxiety and Stop Panic Attacks – Barry McDonagh

Barry McDonagh, psychology graduate, author and one time sufferer of panic attacks has come up with a no-holds-bar technique to move through anxiety which he shares in this second book.

I haven’t read this book as I don’t tend to have panic attacks, but the reviews are good and it looks like it’s worth a read.  

dare

6. The Mindful Way Through Anxiety: Break Free from Chronic Worry and Reclaim Your Life – Susan M. Orsillo, Lizabeth Roemer 

I really believe that mindfulness is a useful tool not just for anxiety, but for life in general. So it was great to find a book that refines the approach to people with anxiety. I read it a few years ago and found it useful and lent it to a friend who’d been having some life limiting anxiety episodes and says it’s changed his life.

mindful way through anxiety

Find your flow out of anxiety

Find your flow out of anxiety

For many people who’ve had anxiety for a while, life becomes a game of hide and seek – hiding away from anything that might bring on an attack and seeking out situations where you feel safe from harm. The only trouble is that those safe places over time become fewer and farther between and the sofa or the duvet is the only sanctuary.

Avoid Avoidance

Avoidance is generally accepted as anxiety’s ingenious trick to bed down and get rooted in your psyche. It temporarily feels good not to have done that presentation in front of the whole company or not to have gone to that school reunion, but the end result is that your world of possibilities has shrunk to a suffocating prison. Not even the most anxious of us want that, right?

inspired

You are not defined by your anxiety

But it’s also very easy to make all the activities you still do be about feeling less anxious. So in my case. ‘Right – yoga. Yes that’s good for destressing. I should do that to be less anxious’. Somehow it just takes the joy out of things (particularly like me when I spend half the class worrying about what I’m going to say to everyone afterwards and will they notice that I’m still feeling anxious instead of calm and serene).

Silly your way out of anxiety

silly_potato_by_luizhd-d5x9w6u

So my wish for you is to rediscover your joy or find a new one. But not in a functional way to ‘feel better’, but for the simple pleasure of doing it.

Maybe it is something you did when you were a child that to your adult self seems silly and daft. But quite frankly at this juncture in our anxious lives – the sillier the better. Silly is good. Silly is therapeutic and freeing.

I am at my happiest when I’m at my silliest and at my most miserable when I’m trying to appear normal, whatever ‘normal’ is.

If you’re silly in public you get the added benefit of ‘shame busting’ and boy does that feel good. I’ll never forget being forced to take the stage in an open mic evening, choosing to sing ‘New York, New York’ acapella. I forgot the words but kept going, soon realizing how great it felt to do it really badly and not give a shit.

But do something where it doesn’t matter how you do it. Just lose yourself in the act and flow into a new space of mind and being. And if you laugh or get laughed at the process, more’s the better.

But expand, don’t contract. We are expansive beings if we allow ourselves to be.  

Just give yourself the permission to flow.

 

keep-calm-and-go-with-the-flow-1321

Anxiety Therapy: Five effective talking therapies for anxiety

Anxiety Therapy: Five effective talking therapies for anxiety

Anxiety Therapy

Anxiety starts for a reason, it doesn’t just appear with no advanced warning, even though it feels like it at the time. Like anything there are a unique combination of factors that come together to provide the optimum conditions for its presence: what we learned from our parents, experiences growing up, traumas, a natural tendency towards worry, a lack of self esteem, a stressful period in one’s life, isolation and loneliness. That’s why starting some sort of talking therapy to unpick the why’s and wherefores is a good idea.

A good friend of mine who’d been suffering debilitating panic attacks that meant she could no longer go to work, took a two pronged approach and saw two therapists at a time: one to look at where the anxiety came from and another who through CBT gave her the skills to challenge her anxious thought patterns.   

Anxiety Therapy

Not everyone can afford two therapists at a time, so that’s why I would say an integrative approach is the best as neither one school has all the answers.

But anyway, here’s a quick introduction to some therapeutic approaches most of which I’ve tried and have found helpful.

  1. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)

    CBT - Anxiety Therapy

CBT is a practical technique giving people ways to deal with overwhelming problems by breaking them down in a systematic way into smaller parts. You are given ways to challenge those anxious thoughts that seem so convincing, which in turn improves the way you feel.

Unlike some other talking treatments, CBT deals with your current problems, rather than focusing on issues from your past. It looks for practical ways to improve your state of mind on a daily basis.

There can be between 5-20 sessions and it is a very targeted approach.

CBT is a must try approach for anyone with anxiety and like anything consistency and patience is the key. Limited sessions are usually available through your general practitioner.

2. Psychotherapy

Psychotherapy : Anxiety Therapy

As I mentioned previously there are a multitude of therapeutic approaches from long term psychoanalysis to Gestalt, counselling and many more. Recommendation can be helpful rather than going into something blind. And it’s a good idea to check their credentials with the professional organisation in your country.

An approach that I haven’t tried but is apparently useful for anxiety is Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, with many believing that trying to change thoughts isn’t the key, but acceptance is.

The essence of the therapy is letting go of the struggle to control thoughts, being mindfully aware of the present moment and committing to a course of action that is consistent with what you most value in life.

3. Mindfulness

meditation_sun

Very much the rage at the moment, mindfulness is about developing the ability to be in the present moment, without changing anything or judging what’s happening.

It’s possible to practice mindfulness in every waking moment, in fact right now as I write this post if I direct the attention to all the sensations present, that’s mindfulness too. But for most people it’s learning how to meditate sitting down or while walking, plus other exercises.

Mindfulness comes from buddhist spiritual practice, but can be practiced by anyone, regardless of their religious views and was brought into the mainstream by an American doctor called Jon Kabat Zinn. He developed the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction Programme which has been offered by medical centres, hospitals and private therapists.

For anxiety prone peeps, it’s a useful technique as it strengthens the ability to stay present and not race off so much into the future, worrying etc. That also means staying with the feeling of anxiety as it happens rather than doing what most of us do and find any means possible to avoid it.

I was referred to this course through my doctor as I was lucky enough to live in an area where it was available through the National Health Service. Again like anything consistency is the key as mindfulness is like planting seeds that you have to water before you harvest the fruits.

If you decide to do a mindfulness course, make sure it is with a qualified teacher as there are a few people taking advantage of the ‘mindfulness gold rush’ and offering classes with little or no training.

4. Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT)

EFT - Anxiety Therapy

This is a cross between a talking therapy and energetic work and uses tapping on meridians while talking through traumatic or stressful past events. Apparently the technique accesses the amygdala, which any anxiety sufferer worth their salt would know, is the part of the brain involved in the fight or flight response that for some reason is oversensitized in someone with chronic anxiety.

A good friend of mine is a practitioner and has done it on me a few times, and it did bring up some interesting past trauma and neutralise its energetic charge.

The idea is also that you do tapping on yourself when you are in the midst of an anxiety episode. The only trouble is that if you’re in public it does look a bit odd if you start tapping around your head and chest – or maybe it would just be a good shame busting exercise!

5. Hypnotherapy

Chronic anxiety is a habitual way of thinking with associated bodily reactions such as tightness in the chest, dry mouth, shallow breathing, etc. So it would make sense that a technique that seeks to change this habitual thinking, reprogramming the subconscious mind would be effective in some way at alleviating anxiety.

Using the power of suggestion, it works to promote positive change. These suggestions can be tailored to help you learn what triggers your anxiety and why, as well as changing the way you react towards them.

Hypnotherapy can begin to teach you how to regain a sense of control and normality. It can help you understand what triggers your anxiety and how to cope when you start to feel anxious.

Holistic approaches to help with anxiety

Holistic approaches to help with anxiety

Since realising that the pharmaceutical approach wasn’t for me I’ve tried out a whole bunch of holistic therapies in a bid to sort out my anxiety. Most medical doctors will say they’re a lot of stuff and nonsense and some of them probably are, but from my personal experience, a few can really alleviate the symptoms if not necessarily leading to permanent ‘cure’. Here are the one’s I’ve tried.

holistic treatment for anxiety

  1. Reikireiki - holistic treatment for anxiety

More than anything I’ve ever tried, I’ve really found reiki to have the most instant and profound effect. Meaning ‘Universal Life Energy’ in Japanese, it is a type of healing energy that working through the chakra system (energetic centres throughout the body), unblocking and bringing balance to what can be the rather choppy waters of an anxiety sufferer.

You can learn to do it on yourself through a series of attunements, but I’ve found it much more effective receiving it from a trained practitioner. I’ve gone into a session feeling pretty close to the edge and come out renewed and vibrationally different. If I could afford to have it every day I would!

  1. Massagemassage - holistic treatment for anxiety

One of the side effects of chronic anxiety is muscle tension, so what better way to loosen up those tight muscles than a decent massage. Not only that, it activates the parasympathetic nervous system – the opposite to fight or flight, lowers blood pressure and is a good detox to the body. For extra anti-anxiety benefit, why not try an aromatherapy massage with essential oils such as lavender and ylang ylang.

  1. Reflexologyreflexology - holistic treatment for anxiety

One of the few times I’ve managed to totally switch off and nod off into a dribbling slumber, was during a reflexology session. Reflexology is a therapy focussing on points found in the feet (but also the hands and ears) that reflect areas, organs and systems of the body. Most anxiety sufferers will jump off the massage couch when the therapist touches the spot corresponding to their adrenals which tend to be sensitive in chronic stress. For maximum results, it’s worth investing in a series of treatments as the effects are cumulative.

  1. Acupuncture/ Traditional Chinese Medicineacupuncture - holistic treatment for anxiety

Acupuncture is an ancient form of medicine coming originally from China. It’s based on the principle that we have an energetic life force called Chi or Qi that’s vital to good health. Unfortunately, it can become blocked and so fine needles are placed in a network of points around the body to get this energy back into balance again.

Some traditional chinese medicine practitioners also think in terms of elements which have things such as organs, health conditions and emotions associated with them. My element is water and guess what the emotion is: you guessed it fear.

Again you have to treat acupuncture as an investment. It may not help over night, but I do believe with persistence over time, it will help to bring your system back into balance again and ease anxiety symptoms.

  1. Bach Flower Remedies

bach-flower-remedies - holistic treatment for anxiety

I remember when I first heard of Bach Flower Remedies, I was like ‘So this dude went wandering out in his garden in England, had a chat with the flowers who then told him how they could help all these mental malaises – yeah right!’

It just seemed so unbelievable at the time. But anyway, fast forward twenty years and now everything seems within the realms of possibility and it’s true, Bach flowers, in which different flowers are said to help with various emotional imbalances, have given me some respite in the past. The best thing is to get a consultation with a trained Bach Flower therapist who will make up a mixture to suit your own unique needs.  

 

Conclusion

If you are looking for a holistic treatment for anxiety I hope some of these methods inspire you. Let me know in the comments what has worked for you or if you think this is just a bunch of new age crap.