Have you ever felt a sensation like an invisible hand was pressing down on your chest, making it feel impossible to breathe? Or maybe it’s more like the adrenaline-rush feeling of tipping back in a chair and reaching the ‘falling backwards’ point, only for hours instead of seconds. Anxiety can show up as any number of different feelings, both mental and physical. The disorder manifests differently in everyone it affects, but the common thread is that the feelings, thoughts, and sensations that arise aren’t positive. Since anxiety is primarily a mental disorder, it can be more complex to treat than, say, a broken bone. Fortunately, there are plenty of natural means you can use to temper your symptoms and make your anxiety more manageable.
Natural Anxiety Help
First, it’s always a good idea to discuss changes in diet or habits with your doctor, especially when your health can be affected. These natural methods are safe, as a whole, but it’s important to remember that every mind and body is different. It’s important to incorporate options that are right for you. With that in mind, meeting with a functional medicine team can be beneficial. The goal of functional medicine as a discipline is to focus on the health of both body and mind as an interconnected whole. We will look at everything from diet to work routine and everything in between to help determine what’s going on in your body and which treatment options are most likely to help. Some natural means of helping anxiety include:
There’s a difference between a food allergy and food sensitivity. You don’t need to break out in hives to know your body has an issue with certain foods. Food sensitivities can create a stress response in the body, which can heighten your reactions to stressors, good or bad. One option the Senara functional medicine team often recommends for helping anxiety is to start with food sensitivity testing. This test looks for different bodily reactions than an allergy test. If you have any food sensitivities, eliminating those items from your diet may help reduce your anxiety feelings.
Another common issue that many don’t think about is how your hormones affect your mental health. A hormone imbalance can play a big role in creating anxious thoughts and feelings, so getting your hormones back to the right levels can help reduce those sensations. At Senara, we offer bioidentical hormone replacement therapy, which can help bring your body to the right levels in a more gentle and natural way since they’re based on your body’s hormone levels and needs. Many of the options used in bioidentical hormones come from natural sources, too.
Vitamins and Supplements
Speaking of getting your body in balance, if you aren’t getting all of the nutrients you need, that can be enough to exacerbate anxiety issues. Meet with a nutrition counselor to discuss your diet. We can also handle blood testing to get a better idea about what your body lacks and which supplements could help.
If you’ve seen the movie Legally Blonde, you probably understand the basic connection between exercise, endorphins, and your mood. In a broad sense, any exercise can help boost your mood and soothe those anxious feelings. Yes, something as simple as a 10-minute walk each evening can help. Often, options like yoga or tai chi are suggested because they’re fitness options that focus on both mind and body. However, you don’t need to feel limited to exercises that focus on mental well-being; going for a jog or taking a Zumba class can be just as beneficial. If you have any physical limitations, it can be helpful to meet with a physical therapist to learn exercises that will work around your needs.
Vitamin D is a key player in terms of mood regulation, and the best way to get what you need is to get out and spend time soaking up some sun. As we mentioned above, supplements can help, but spending time outside, even for something as simple as a walk after dinner, can provide a lot more benefit in terms of raising your vitamin D levels.
Caffeine, Nicotine, and Alcohol
A cup of coffee in the morning or a glass of wine with dinner may not seem like a big deal. But, the common thread shared by caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine is that they serve as temporary fixes. Both nicotine and alcohol can help you feel calmer in a temporary sense; however, both substances only block those negative sensations for a short time. When the effects of the nicotine or alcohol wear off, your anxious sensations are likely to come back even stronger. Likewise, caffeine can increase nervous and jittery feelings — yes, even if you’ve been drinking two cups of coffee every morning for years. Many with anxiety find that caffeine increases their anxiety symptoms. If you need a bit of a boost to get going in the morning, try a less caffeinated option like tea and slowly work yourself down to living caffeine-free.
Getting a restful night’s sleep can also play a big role in helping reduce feelings of anxiety. Help yourself get better sleep by cutting screen time in the couple of hours before bed — and yes, that includes your TV as well as phone and computer/tablet use. If you can’t cut down on screen time entirely, add blue light filters to your phone, computer, and tablet so the light won’t affect your circadian rhythm as much.
Massage & Acupuncture
Helping your body physically relax can, in turn, help calm your mind. Massage therapy and acupuncture have been shown to encourage the release of chemicals in the brain that provide calming effects. It also helps reduce cortisol levels, which can reduce feelings of stress and anxiety. Over time, getting regular massages and/or scheduling consistent acupuncture sessions can even help those calmer feelings last longer.
There are so many other natural methods you can incorporate into your daily life to help treat your anxiety naturally. To learn more or develop the best plan for your body’s needs, a great option is to work with a professional who focuses on whole-body health. Contact the Senara Health and Healing Center & Spa in Peoria to meet with our functional medicine team.