Monday, July 9, 2012

5 Tips to Relieve Anxiety Without Medication

Natural alternatives include making changes to your lifestyle and taking herbal medicines.

Man standing with hands folded in a green field.
Slow, deep breathing can provide anxiety relief.

Most of us know what it’s like to feel anxious, but may not know why, or what we can do about it when it happens. Fortunately, there are lots of natural alternatives to anxiety medications that are safe and avoid building dependence like some drugs can.

  • Regulate your intake of stimulants. Caffeine and sugar top this list, but it also includes excessive time spent watching the news or in front of your computer screen.
  • Regular exercise is essential and one of your best defenses. Get out for a walk, run or ride a bike three to five times a week, or anything to get your blood moving and heart rate up.
  • Slow, deep breathing can provide useful anxiety relief within minutes. With both feet grounded on the floor, close your eyes and breathe slowly and deeply into your abdomen for two minutes. You will notice your pulse slow and your mind quiet.
  • Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, as championed by Jon Kabat-Zinn and others, is well-researched for its effectiveness in reducing anxiety.
  • Counseling is often a key way to get at the root cause. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is one of many therapeutic approaches that a licensed therapist can use to identify and resolve triggers for anxiety.

In addition to these approaches, many natural substances can help to quell anxiety. Herbal medicines like passionflower, skullcap and lemon balm calm daytime anxiety, while valerian and chamomile can quiet racing thoughts at night. Specific nutrients including GABA, glycine and melatonin taken at bedtime can help as well.

Before starting any of these medicines, particularly if you already take prescription anti-anxiety medications, consult with a naturopath to determine the safest and combination of nutrients for you.

— Ryan Robbins, ND, naturopathic physician and resident at Bastyr Center for Natural Health, the teaching clinic of Bastyr University.

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