7 Ways to Naturally Manage Anxiety
When you have anxiety and you’re not sure where it’s coming from it can be completely debilitating. It is the most common mental illness affecting nearly 40 million Americans, but only 36% receive treatment according to the Anxiety & Depression Association of America. I believe this goes back to the stigma regarding mental illness and not being “tough” enough to handle life stressors on your own, but the fact that 1 in 13 people experience anxiety globally is simply not okay.
While there are 100% times when medication and therapy are required to reach the root challenge, for many of us anxiety comes down to a few factors:
Allowing negative self-talk & disempowering mindsets to go unchallenged and accepted as the truth
Eating a diet rich in processed foods, sugar, & caffeine (yes, your diet affects your mental state)
Bottling up & pushing through daily stressors without finding healthy ways to release them.
“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.”
- Albert Einstein
Modern culture loves the quick fix that medication can have, but it often causes us to not look deeper and solve the root issue creating a bandaid effect. Think of it like a dam. It blocks a certain response from happening in the body making it appear calm on one side, but on the other side the water is building up and creating more pressure until the dam breaks.
Whenever you are feeling the beginning of anxiety creeping in it is an opportunity for you to:
Check-in with how you’ve been taking care of yourself
Have compassion for whatever life event or stress you may be dealing with
& Intentionally process/release emotions before they consume you and spin out of control
Here are 7 ways to naturally manage stress & emotions that can lead to feelings of anxiety:
The breath is one of the coolest things IMO in terms of regulating your nervous system. It is something that we don’t have to think about, but we can also intentionally regulate. When the fight or flight response begins and you feel anxiety intensifying focus on slow, steady, & deep breathing. When your mind is racing, but your breath pattern is relaxed it signals to your body to switch off the fight or flight and instead activate the relaxation response a.k.a parasympathetic nervous system. These are two main branches of the nervous system that CAN NOT be activated at the same time.
TRY THIS: For 10 rounds practice the 5-5-7 breath. Breathe in for 5 seconds through the nose, hold it for 5 seconds, and exhale out the mouth for 7 seconds. You can play with the actual times of the breath, but focus on the exhale being longer than the inhale to stimulate the relaxation response.
Water will almost always be one of my tips that I share. It is such a simple habit to do, yet such a simple habit NOT to do. When the body is dehydrated it makes everything work harder and slows down the transport of hormones and nutrients throughout the body. This creates immense internal stress that lessens our ability to cope or handle lots of stress in our external environment. If you are facing heavy stress at work or a personal situation, set reminders on your phone to go off several times a day to keep your water game strong and mitigate as much internal stress as possible.
3. BALANCE BLOOD SUGAR
Unbalanced blood sugar wreaks havoc in the body. We are most familiar with this in regards to diabetes, but most individuals experience a blood sugar rollercoaster everyday. The constant up/down of blood sugar levels also creates a lot of internal stress in the body and perpetuates unhealthy food habits like afternoon sugar binges. When blood sugar drops you may experience weakness, fuzzy thinking, lightheadedness, headaches, and exacerbated feelings of anxiety or stress. One of the first things you can do to balance your blood sugar is follow step #2 above and secondly is to have a mixture of protein, carbohydrates, and healthy fat with each meal.
This is not a dear diary type entry, but more of a brain dump of all the thoughts circling in your head. This is similar to writing out a to-do list at night so you can rest as opposed to repeating all the things you need to do the following day. There is no one right way to do this. You can write little blurbs all over the paper or write out stressors, challenges, or negative thoughts in a more orderly way. The biggest thing is to put pen to paper and go until you feel complete.
Follow this step up with step #6 or #7 to really help shift how you are feeling.
The olfactory sense is one of the fastest ways to positively impact mood as the tiny nerves in your nose have direct access to the brain. Essential oils are made up of volatile compounds from plants that have many healing and soothing qualities. My favorite oils to help calm & stop the worry loop in my mind are: Lavender, Balance, Intune, Wild Orange, & Cedarwood.
To apply, place one drop in the palm of your hands, rub together, & inhale. You can also place a drop on your wrists or behind your neck.
Movement allows you time to get out of your head and into your body so you can focus on being in the present moment as anxiety often comes from thinking about the near or long term future. Depending on your level of anxiety certain types of exercise may work better for you. This may range from a slow restorative yoga practice to HIIT (Hight Intensity Interval Training) to dancing like it’s nobody’s business. If you are really amped up most likely getting into yin yoga will be difficult so be open to different types of movement and if one is not feeling right, switch it up!
7. CREATE A STATE CHANGE
When we get caught in a thought-pattern loop that promotes feelings of stress, anxiety, etc. one of the best things to do is change your state. This could be from sitting to standing, going into an adjacent room, or going outdoors. Your posture or body language sends a message to your brain about how you are feeling so one of the fastest ways to shift your thinking is to change the state in which your body is in. Follow it up with any of the steps above
Anxiety does not magically go away, but the more you can relax into the discomfort and get curious about where it is coming from as opposed to wanting it to go away asap, the more you’ll be able to heal on a deeper level.
Curious to hear your journey with anxiety and which steps you’ve taken to feel more peace in your life. Comment below or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org if you prefer to keep it private.
Always rooting for you,
P.S: I am so excited to be hosting my first 3-day retreat in Michigan City, IN this October. If you’re ready to hit pause to focus on self-care and reviving your mindset check out the details and apply here!