Today's post was contributed by the fabulous health and fitness writer, Valerie Johnston. Read on for important information about anxiety in general, as well as several natural and holistic measures you can take to help manage and prevent anxiety whether you happen to be freaking out about a single big event, or if you live with Generalized Anxiety Disorder every day.
Although everyone feels anxious on occasion, if you are feeling anxious most of the time and this emotion consistently interferes with your daily life, then you may have Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD).
People with GAD worry about many things, as opposed to one specific incident. For example, most people will experience anxiety before giving a presentation or before taking a final exam. However, people with GAD experience anxiety whether or not a big event is coming up. Anxiety about family, money, work, health, and other issues will arise whether or not these worries are provoked by an actual event.
The severity of GAD varies from person to person. Some people have mild to moderate GAD, and are still able to live their daily life without too much interference. Others have severe GAD and find that their quality of life is controlled by this condition.
If you have mild, moderate, or severe GAD, it is important to be aware of the things that you can do to minimize your symptoms. If you are wary about taking prescription medications prescribed for anxiety, you are not alone. Many people are seeking alternative and natural forms of treatment. Here are several things that you can do to minimize your symptoms and improve your quality of life.
Diet can play a significant role in mood disorders. Unfortunately, the Western diet of processed foods, including fast food, can negatively affect the way that the brain functions. Individuals with chronic anxiety are likely to benefit from eating a healthy diet that includes a variety of vegetables, fruit, whole grains, and lean protein. There are certain foods — such as nuts, seeds, and bananas — that contain tryptophan, which is an amino acid that assists the brain in producing serotonin. Seratonin is a neurotransmitter that promotes feelings calm and happiness.
Reduce Alcohol and Caffeine Consumption
If you suffer from anxiety on a regular basis, it’s also important to consider how much caffeine and alcohol you consume. Many people with GAD self-medicate with alcohol and caffeine since these substances can enhance one’s mood temporarily. However, these substances can increase anxiety long-term. Gradually reduce the amount of caffeine and alcohol that you consume each day, and give yourself a few weeks or so without these substances to assess your anxiety levels. Some people with GAD must eliminate caffeine altogether, and will find that reduced consumption of alcohol also helps quite a bit.
You may not think of exercise as a mind-body technique, but studies show that physical exercise promotes emotional well-being in addition to physical health. There is a strong correlation between regular fitness training and reduced anxiety. A person who takes better care of his/her body is more likely to have a healthy mind that is free from anxiety and depression. Considering that anxiety is often a secondary emotion of depression, starting a regular exercise routine is an excellent idea for anyone who suffers from either disorder.
Meditation, yoga, tai chi, biofeedback, and self-hypnosis are commonly used mind-body techniques for treating anxiety naturally. You’ll find many online resources and books dedicated to using these effective mind-body techniques. In particular, Transcendental Meditation is particularly useful for creating feelings of inner calm, and will help “train” your mind into relaxing and focusing more on the moment.
Passionflower, kava, valerian, and chamomile (Roman Chamomile essential oil is available from doTERRA, as are other essential oils to help with anxiety) are just a few types of herbal remedies that are commonly used to treat anxiety. Keep in mind that, while herbal remedies tend to be much safer than pharmaceutical medications, minor side effects may result and care should be taken when consuming herbs for anxiety.
Many herbal remedies also don't play well with pharmaceutical drugs in terms of interactions, so it is important to disclose all medications and remedies to your healthcare providers and make sure there are no potential reactions. Keep in mind that most allopathic doctors and pharmacists do not have training in herbs and essential oils; just like herbalists and many other holistic practitioners do not have training in pharmaceutical drugs. It's best to find a holistic, anthroposophic, or integrative doctor, naturopathic doctor, holistic registered nurse, or other qualified health practitioner who is well versed in all forms of treatment for chronic ailments like GAD.
Follow a Well-Rounded Approach
People who suffer from chronic anxiety should not expect their feelings to disappear overnight. Reducing anxiety is often a matter of changing the way that you think and how you take care of yourself. Begin with steps that are within your control, such as eating a healthier diet, consuming less caffeine and alcohol, and exercising more. Make gradual changes instead of trying to rid yourself of anxiety all at once. Practice thinking with a more positive frame of mind and work on pushing negative, anxiety-provoking thoughts from your mind. Practice daily meditation or other mind-body techniques. With time, you will be able to change the quality of your life by reducing anxiety.
Valerie Johnston is a health and fitness writer located in East Texas. She keeps up-to-date on all of the latest health and fitness news by writing for Healthline.com and has ambitions of one day running a marathon.