A certain amount of “eustress” or good stress helps us stay focussed on the task and prepare for rainy day eventualities. However, distress can be a bane for an individual as they are constantly on edge, anticipating stressful scenarios that might not have a basis in the present or the near future.
According to studies conducted in India, “The weighted prevalence rates of different anxiety disorders were 4.2% (Phobia), 5.8% (GAD), 3.1% (Obsession) and 4.5% (Hysteria).” While it is treatable with medication, psychotherapy, and other alternatives, many people suffering from it seek natural remedies to manage their challenging moments.
In the following blog, we will attempt to bring to the table the basics of this mental health issue and ways to manage anxiety levels without popping pills. However, we recommend you have a word with your mental health practitioner to decide on a course of natural remedies best suited for you. Continue reading to find out more!
What is Anxiety?
An evolutionary mechanism, anxiety is the body’s natural response to stress. The “fight or flight” response kicks in whenever we face legitimate threats that could hamper our existence. However, when one starts feeling bouts of unexplained worry coupled with cases of rapid breathing, indigestion, and hampered sleep quality for long periods, one may be diagnosed with an anxiety disorder.
The causes are varied and differ from one individual to another. They can range from genetic predisposition to the environment and the brain chemistry of the individual. The external manifestations of an attack can range from breathlessness to a rapid increase in heartbeat and painful thoughts with no apparent or immediate threat in sight.
At this stage, it is important to note that there is a difference between everyday anxiety regarding trying something new and getting diagnosed with anxiety disorders. When it gets to a point where it starts affecting your quality of life and the ability to carry out daily chores, you must book yourself an appointment with a qualified mental health practitioner.
Such disorders are of various types. This includes PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), panic disorder, OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder), GAD (Generalized Anxiety Disorder), phobias, Separation Anxiety Disorder, and Social Anxiety Disorder.
Now that we are familiar with the causes, symptoms, and types, let’s move over to managing the disorder effectively using natural methods to alleviate symptoms and lead a fitter and fuller lifestyle.
When you are struggling with anxiety attacks and sleepless nights, the thought of getting pricked by needles might not be a very pleasant one. We understand your fears, and your feelings are entirely valid.
However, interestingly, acupuncture has a profound place in Chinese medicine when it comes to alleviating aches and pains. Scientific studies have also shown its efficacy in managing this mental health issue. Let’s see how you can benefit from this ancient Chinese technique of necessary “needling” (pun intended!)
The principle behind this school of medicine involves restoring the flow of “qi” or energy in the body, which might get disrupted or face blockages resulting in illnesses. When you meet an acupuncture practitioner, they will look at your physical and emotional symptoms as a whole since these are intimately intertwined. So if you tell them that you wake up in the night drenched with sweat and suffer from anxiety attacks during the day, they will attribute the cause of discomfort to “yin deficiency,” which is a classic attribute for the disorder to manifest.
Here the sympathetic system responsible for the “flight or fight” response goes into overdrive, while the parasympathetic system responsible for “rest & digest.” gets overshadowed. When the hair-thin needles are placed on the right acupoints, usually between the brows or insides of your wrists, ears, or breastbone, they shouldn’t hurt; as the energy flow gets restored, the sympathetic and the parasympathetic nervous system function in a state of harmony.
Cannabidiol, or CBD, found in cannabis, has been shown to exert a calming effect on the CNS (central nervous system). Unlike the one found in marijuana, it has negligible quantities (< 0.3%) of THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol), the psychoactive compound responsible for creating a “high.”
While scientific studies are still on the verge of gathering solid momentum, one such research by the National Library of Medicine has shown the efficacy of CBD in managing insomnia and anxiety disorders. CBD products are available in multiple forms in stores, including CBD creams & lotions, CBD tinctures, gummies, chocolates, and candies.
Lavender and Chamomile
A research titled “Essential Oil of Lavender in Anxiety Disorders” has shown the positive and calming effects of aromatherapy using essential oils such as Lavender and Roman Chamomile.
When plagued by anxious thoughts or when you have trouble sleeping, you could try inhaling calming scents from an essential oil diffuser or simply take in the aroma from the bottle of your favorite essential oil. Aromatherapy works by helping you relax instead of getting flighty.
Are you wondering about the scientific relevance of the effect of smell on your psychological state? Well, the olfactory bulb has limbic connections with the hippocampus and the amygdala, which are responsible for memory and emotion.
Interestingly, herbal teas like chamomile can alter cortisol (stress hormone) levels in the body. So the next time you feel on edge, treat yourself to a nice cup of freshly brewed chamomile tea as you soak in some Sun!
Exercise and Movement
If you don’t remember the last time you hit the gym or went for that yoga class you signed up for, take this as a sign from the Universe and science to work up a sweat and manage your mental health issues as well! Moreover, higher-intensity aerobic exercises are more effective in managing the frequency of anxious thoughts than lower-intensity exercises.
Regular physical activity (PA) and movement improve bone health and overall fitness and positively affect brain chemistry. Regular exercise enhances the availability of anxiety-reducing neurotransmitters such as serotonin and GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid).
Movement reduces the built-up muscle tension and diverts attention from what makes us anxious. Moreover, one meta-analysis showed that those who reported high physical activity levels were more resilient to developing symptoms than those who were relatively physically inactive.
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One major contributor to developing the disorder is the lack of reassurance and someone telling you everything is fine. Imagine being embraced in a warm cozy hug and drifting off to sleep. Sounds heavenly? Well, it sure is, and even if you don’t have a trusted human being around to hug you to sleep, you can consider investing in a weighted blanket that is almost ten percent of your body weight.
These weighted blankets feel so comforting simply because they push the body downwards, a phenomenon known as “grounding” that alleviates symptoms of anxious thoughts, pain, and depression because of lowered levels of night cortisol.
Improved sleep quality due to earthing ultimately lowers stress and reduces negative and perturbing thought levels.
Meditation and Mindfulness
When a flurry of anxious thoughts strikes, chaotic thoughts flood our minds, and we cannot stay focused in the present, where no immediate threat exists. Mindfulness and calm-inducing meditation involve drawing the consciousness towards the present moment and observing the flow of thoughts in a non-judgemental manner.
Meditation and mindfulness exercises are often used in conflation with Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) which helps alleviate symptoms of marked unease and depression. According to Madhav Goyal, MD, an assistant professor at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, “Meditation programs appear to have an effect above and beyond the placebo.”
Meditation is of various kinds, such as transcendental meditation, loving, kindness meditation, focussed meditation, mantra meditation, visualization meditation, mindfulness meditation, etc. Mindfulness meditation is the most popular kind, where one sits in peace and observes the passage of thoughts without progressing to act on them or judge them. One breathes deeply and observes patterns, if any, in the flow of thoughts.
Vitamin D, Magnesium, and Other Supplements
This may seem far-fetched; however, food group deficiencies can make one jittery and more susceptible to developing a constant state of worry and apprehension. Let’s try to understand how a balanced diet and regular hydration can make one more resilient to such disorders.
While it may be tempting to bite into that bag of processed food items, it is important to note that simple carbohydrates in processed foods may not leave you feeling fuller in the hours to come, resulting in a drop in blood sugar, making you feel on edge. Switching to complex carbohydrates in whole grains, vegetables, and fruits that help you stay satiated longer is the key to good holistic health!
A study titled “Magnesium Deficiency Induces Anxiety and HPA Axis Dysregulation” has shown that a diet deficient in magnesium can also trigger such behaviors. So enrich your diet with foods naturally rich in magnesium, such as spinach, Swiss chard, legumes, nuts, seeds, and whole grains. If you like seafood such as oysters, grab a couple of them as well! Rich in zinc, consuming such food items has been shown to reduce the onset of anxious thoughts and tendencies.
Another research titled “Relationship Between Vitamin D Deficiency and Psychophysiological Variables” has also shown a correlation between increased levels of serum Vitamin D and reduced outcomes of depressive symptoms and anxious thoughts. Interestingly, Vitamin D has been linked to serotonin, the mood-elevating hormone that improves concentration and helps one stay calm.
Start a Journal
When we experience such symptoms, our brain seems like a mesh of entangled thoughts. Putting pen to paper helps get clarity of thought and reduces elevated anxiety symptoms.
Journaling has also been linked to improving the quality of life. When you put your thoughts down on paper and plan for the next day before going to sleep, you render structure and routine to your thoughts and your life! How cool is that?!
When to Seek Professional Help
While we all struggle with an onslaught of such symptoms at some point in our lives, it is crucial to seek help if the symptoms negatively affect our quality of life and our ability to carry out daily chores effectively. However, it is imperative to know that a trained mental health professional can manage, treat, and deal with it.
While a plethora of natural remedies for treating mood disorders exist, one should consult with a licensed mental health practitioner before adding any supplements or adopting alternative therapies such as chiropractic treatment, acupuncture, etc.
Get Started With a Trusted Therapist on DocVita Today
If you or a loved one have been struggling with patterns of negative thoughts and debilitating attacks, please know that help is at hand! In fact, empathetic and trained mental health professionals are just a couple of clicks away at DocVita.
On this healthcare portal, you will come across a range of experienced and trusted counselors who seek the same language as you and are willing to go the extra mile to help you feel better and live your best life! Book a call today.