No More Benzos: 5 Holistic Treatment Options for Anxiety

Last Updated: Oct 10th 2019

Reviewed by Brittany Polansky

No More Benzos: 5 Holistic Treatment Options for Anxiety

Anxiety can overwhelm your day-to-day life and get in the way of the things in life that really bring you joy. Many may be tempted to throw medication at the problem without actually doing any self-work. Holistic treatments are an incredibly effective, natural way to combat anxiety. Keep reading to find out how these all-natural treatments for anxiety can help you today.

Anxiety is the most common mental health disorder in the United States. Although there are many different forms of anxiety, there are core aspects of the disorder that generally stay the same. If you or a loved one has anxiety, you may find yourself overwhelmed by your thoughts – unable to turn them off.

You may find it difficult to relax, maintain healthy relationships and participate in fulfilling activities. Anxiety tends to create a monster in your head out of nothing, convincing you things that you feel like you have no control over. However, there are many treatments available to help with anxiety. Keep reading to find out some of the many natural ways you or a loved one can alleviate the pain of dealing with anxiety.

1. Exercise

The physical benefits of exercise have been proven to us time and time again. We’ve heard it from our physicians and we’ve read more articles on it then we could count. Nonetheless, a lot of people still choose to stay inactive. We encourage you to at least try and see the mental benefits for yourself. 

Exercise is considered vital for maintaining one’s mental well-being and reducing stress. Studies show that it is very effective at not only reducing fatigue but also improving concentration and at enhancing overall cognitive function. This can be especially beneficial when stress has taken your energy away.

If your body feels better, so does your mind. Physical activity produces endorphins which are chemicals in the brain that act as natural painkillers. This can also improve your ability to sleep, which in return reduces stress.

In fact, scientists have found that consistent participation in aerobic exercise has been shown to decrease overall levels of tension, elevate and stabilize mood, improve sleep, and even increase your self-esteem. Just five minutes of aerobic exercise can begin to stimulate anti-anxiety effects.

Psychologists studying how exercise alleviates anxiety and depression suggest that a 10-minute walk may be just as effective as a 45-minute workout. Other studies show that exercise can work at a quick rate to improve a depressed mood in many people. All of these characteristics make exercise a great treatment option for anxiety.

2. Meditation

Understanding anxiety is the first step in working through it and finding treatment. Once we take time to learn about its chaotic nature; we can also start to heal ourselves in a way that corresponds with the feelings of anxiety triggers.

Anxiety is a cognitive state connected to an inability to regulate emotions. The beauty of this fact is that treating anxiety means giving yourself the power back. You hold the power to regulate your emotions and choose how to respond to situations – you just need to learn how! 

We understand that it may sound like something that is easier said than done, but we also want to encourage you to see that pain is temporary. Discomfort is temporary. You (or a loved one) have so much potential to get better and improve. 

Research shows that a consistent meditation practice reprograms neural pathways in the brain and, therefore, improves our ability to handle unpleasant emotions. Through meditation, we make ourselves comfortable with anxiety-inducing thoughts and storylines. We learn to see them, sit with them, and let them go. When we do this, we learn two important things: thoughts do not define us, and thoughts are not real. 

Once we learn this lesson, we are able to slowly but surely change our relationship with anxiety. In other words, it allows us to differentiate between what is an irrational episode and what’s true.

Another positive of this skill is learning body awareness, which teaches us to bring our attention to any physical sensations felt in the present moment. In exploring these feelings and sensations, you sit with your senses in the same way you sit with your thoughts. This go-to technique can provide a safe place that can be consistently used whenever anxiety turns it’s head around the corner.

3. Natural Vitamins

It’s a proven scientific fact that what you eat can significantly impact your mood. Nutritional deficiencies can worsen mental health disorders, while a nutritionally complete diet can help improve symptoms and in this case, act as an anxiety treatment option. While many natural vitamins can be taken supplement form, they’re more effectively absorbed by the body when ingested by eating whole foods.

Some of the most general natural vitamins for anxiety include:

  • Omega-3 Fatty Acids

These acids are vital for cognitive functioning. In fact, Harvard studied have proven that they improve symptoms of depression, which is often also closely linked with anxiety disorders. You can find omega-3 fatty acids in salmon, tuna, mackerel, lake trout, herring, sardines and anchovies.

  • Probiotics

Probiotics are microorganisms known for their benefits to digestive health. However, recent research has revealed that probiotics can also have a profound impact on mental health. A healthy balance of bacteria in the body can boost the body’s ability to cope with stress, improve overall mental health and bolster cognitive functioning.

You can find probiotics in sauerkraut, yogurt, kimchi, tempeh, kombucha, miso and pickles.

  • B Vitamins

B vitamins are vital to a healthy nervous system functioning. Their role is crucial in many aspects of mental health, such as attention, energy and cognition. They can also have an intense impact on two key factors of anxiety symptoms: stress management and mood. You can find B vitamins in wild salmon, shrimp, tuna, halibut, yogurt, eggs, cheese, lamb, venison, turkey, grass-fed beef, carrots and green, leafy vegetables.

  • L-Theanine

L-theanine is an amino acid that can improve focus, reduce stress and promote relaxation. You can find L-theanine can only be found in a few foods and drinks, including black tea, green tea, and bay bolete mushrooms.

4. Natural Supplements 

Consuming supplements and vitamins as an anxiety treatment can target the three most significant biological factors that contribute to anxiety and panic attacks: serotonin deficiency, low vitamin B6 levels, and low iron levels. When used with methods like talk therapy, building a strong social support system, meditation, journaling, and prescription medications (if necessary) – supplements can provide a significant amount of relief.

Some of the best supplements and vitamins used to alleviate symptoms of anxiety include:

  • GABA

Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) is an amino acid and neurotransmitter located in the brain that is vital to serotonin production. Since serotonin is one of the nervous system’s most powerful, “feel-good” neurotransmitters, GABA affects mood regulation and relaxation in a very impactful way.

  • Passionflower

Passionflower is a calming herb typically used as a household treatment for anxiety. Its been proven to promote positive moods, enhance sleep quality and alleviate nervousness.

  • Valerian Root

Although valerian root is generally known as a sleep aid, this herb can also be helpful for reducing anxiety. Once consumed, valeric acids found within the herb turn into calming, “feel-good” neurotransmitters in the body, regulating stress and relaxing the body and mind.

  • Licorice Root

This herb also carries a multitude of health benefits for people with anxiety because of the effects it has on the adrenal glands. Inside the body, the adrenal glands produce stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol. Licorice aids in regulating the production of these hormones, buffeting the body’s defenses against stress and lessen anxiety symptoms. Licorice root can also calm gastrointestinal upset, which many people with anxiety experience.

5. Journaling

Journaling is a powerful way to regulate your emotions and become more attuned to your thought patterns. It can also act as a great treatment option for anxiety.

Journaling helps keep your symptoms in check and improve your mood by:

  • Helping you prioritize problems, fears, and worries
  • Keeping track of any symptoms day-to-day so that you can recognize triggers and learn ways to better regulate them
  • Providing an opportunity for positive self-talk and identifying negative thoughts and behaviors

When you have a problem and you feel a little chaotic, keeping a journal can help you identify what’s causing that stress or anxiety. Once you’ve identified your triggers, you can work on a plan to come up with a solution and reduce your stress.

Look at your writing time as personal “you” time. You can de-stress and wind down, taking a few moments to be self-aware of what you feel. Write in a place that’s comfortable and soothing, maybe even with a cup of tea. Find the excitement in your journaling time. Cherish those moments you have with yourself and you’ll learn to appreciate the peace within what feels like chaos sometimes.

There are many wonderful, natural treatment options available for those struggling with anxiety. Here at 1st Step, we don’t see the road to recovery as being a linear line – it’s not just about therapy or medication. It is crucial to look into someone’s habits and lifestyle as well and improving their well-being from the ground up. We would love to be the ones to help you do that. 

You can talk to one of our specialists today by calling us at (866) 319-6126 or contacting us here.

References

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5770524/

https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?ContentID=4552&ContentTypeID=1

Reviewed for Medical & Clinical Accuracy by Brittany Polansky

Brittany PolanskyBrittany has been working in behavioral health since 2012 and is a Primary Clinician at our facility. She is an LCSW and holds a master’s degree in social work. She has great experience with chemical dependency and co-occurring mental health diagnoses as well as various therapeutic techniques. Brittany is passionate about treating all clients with dignity and respect, and providing a safe environment where clients can begin their healing journey in recovery.