Your Health: Natural remedies for anxiety

Health professionals say anxiety is on the rise thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Anxiety disorders affect about 40 million American adults each year. And health professionals are seeing this number rise thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. While treatments do help, less than half of sufferers seek professional help.

That’s unfortunate because left untreated, anxiety disorders can get worse over time and may become debilitating. Medications do have a place in the treatment of anxiety, but are rarely the only course of treatment recommended. Because of the risk of abuse and dependency, they are usually only offered when natural treatments fail.

That’s why learning the basics of anxiety disorders and familiarizing yourself with effective natural remedies should be your first line of defense.

Anxiety Disorders, Defined

Considered a clinical mood disorder, anxiety is characterized by feelings of worry or fear severe enough to disrupt work, relationships and daily activities. Anxiety disorders can include general anxiety disorder, panic disorder, social anxiety disorder or separation anxiety disorder.

Disorders can present differently in people, but symptoms generally include:

  • Restlessness or feeling on edge
  • Easily fatigued
  • Difficulty concentrating or mind going blank
  • Irritability
  • Muscle tension
  • Difficulty controlling feelings of worry
  • Difficulty getting restful sleep.

In people suffering from anxiety disorders, any situation in moderation is safe, where excessively emotional situations can result in a ruminating of thoughts that can spark anxiety symptoms. It is also somewhat common to become fixated on a particular belief, even a possibly false belief, that increases anxiety. The challenge is to “rewire” that belief.

As if these things weren’t enough to handle, some anxiety disorders can increase the risk of substance abuse because people attempt to self-medicate their symptoms.

Natural Ways to Treat Anxiety

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can be an effective way of treating anxiety. The premise of CBT is to deal with anxiety by connecting thoughts, reactions and behaviors. It moves away from stressors of the past and focuses on the present, teaching people how to generally change their responses in times of anxiety.

CBT uses behavioral practices designed to alleviate distress, including:

  • Deep, rhythmic breathing – Keeps the body relaxed and the blood properly oxygenated
  • Reframing – Establishes a more positive perspective from which the anxiety originated
    • Example: “Losing my job is actually a good thing, because I was looking for a way to quit anyway.”
  • Mindfulness – Encourages focusing on the here and now
    • Example: “I am not going to think about this now, because it won’t change the past.”
  • Grounding – Provides a distraction from past or future stressors, focusing on the present, with emphasis on the five senses
    • Example: Chew gum, arrange flowers or whistle/sing with the radio

Never Underestimate the Power of a Loved One

Anxiety can be passed down within a family, so who better to turn to for support?

Family members can help by adopting a lifestyle of awareness, knowing the situational triggers of loved ones and teaching the entire family natural techniques to alleviate symptoms. Combatting anxiety as a family can benefit the patient, as well as younger children who may be at risk of mirroring symptoms.

Some people with anxiety also have success using emotional support animals, which offer healing powers such as:

  • Reduced blood pressure and lowered heart rate
  • Mitigation of symptoms of emotional distress merely by their presence
  • Facilitation of quicker recoveries from stressful situations
  • Offer an alternative to mood-altering medications.

Although emotional support dogs are the most common type of ESA, most other domesticated animals may qualify.

If you suffer from anxiety, consult your primary care doctor to determine what treatment is best for you. If you don’t have a primary care doctor, visit MyHealthKC.com to find one in the AdventHealth network that’s right for you.