Drug-Free Ways to Manage Anxiety

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Living with anxiety can be a challenge. At times, it may interfere with your daily life and relationships. It may prevent you from enjoying a stroll in the park because going out in public makes you feel unsafe.

Depending on the type of anxiety disorder you have, you may experience intense emotions like annoyance, irritation, or fear, or may have trouble focusing. Fortunately, anxiety is highly treatable. Doctors may prescribe medication like benzodiazepines, also known as benzos. This traditional anti-anxiety pill is widely used to treat moderate to severe types of anxiety. When you take benzodiazepines, the drug binds with neurons called GABA receptors and slows down overactivity in the brain, helping you relax mentally and physically.

Benzodiazepines are recommended for short-term use to reduce the risk of developing a dependency on the medication’s sedative effect. However, it is not healthy to abruptly stop taking the drug as this may cause you to experience withdrawal symptoms like insomnia, restlessness, and confusion. These symptoms are often mistaken for those related to anxiety, which may compel you to consume the medication even after your condition has improved.

So, it is important to talk to your physician when they can gradually ease you off the drug. In case you have developed a dependence on the drug, your doctor may refer you for additional help from a Fort Myers drug rehab or nearby treatment center to help safely wean you off the drug and manage withdrawal symptoms.

Since anxiety may manifest differently from person to person, treating it also varies. While some require prescription medications to manage their anxiety and go about their daily life, you can also support pharmaceutical treatment in the following ways.

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Regular Exercise

Exercise works well together with medications to reduce symptoms of anxiety. Being physically active improves your mental health by improving the ability to focus and helping the brain to cope with stress, which may contribute to anxiety. Mental alertness allows you to focus on your current environment and stop your thoughts from wandering. In addition, exercising can help release endorphins, your body’s natural painkillers. This chemical also helps alleviate the feeling of worry and hopelessness often associated with anxiety.

Additionally, regular exercise has physical benefits like improving your heart health, and reducing the risk of high blood pressure and heart disease. Some physical activities you may want to engage in include cycling, jogging, or swimming. To start, you may want to do 30 minutes or more of exercise in a day for at least three days a week.

Dietary Changes

What you eat may contribute to your overwhelming anxiety. Since the communication system between your brain and the enteric nervous system also controls your digestion, you may experience some digestive issues like general stomach pain, constipation, and diarrhea. To help manage these symptoms, you may need to make changes in your current diet.

  • Reduce caffeine intake – Caffeine acts as a stimulant that can speed up the brain’s activity. This may make you feel more restless and anxious. When you drink coffee late at night or before bed, you may also have trouble getting a restful sleep, which can increase stress. Instead, you may want to swap your morning cup of joe with green tea. Green tea improves mental alertness and is a healthier alternative with its lower caffeine content. Also, this beverage contains an amino acid called theanine. This acid is known to have calming effects that may increase the production of serotonin, a hormone that helps stabilize your mood.
  • Eat foods with healthy bacteria – Yogurt contains lactobaccillus and bifidobacteria that may improve gut health, alleviating symptoms of anxiety. You may also find these bacteria in fermented foods like cheese, kimchi, and soy products. A study[1] published by The National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) shows that the presence of these healthy bacteria in fermented products can positively affect brain health, easing anxiety.
  • Consume foods with less sugar – Avoid eating foods high in sugar to prevent your blood glucose level from spiking and dropping instantly. The abrupt change may affect your brain’s ability to process emotions and cause more anxiety. It’s best to stay away from high-in-sugar foods like candies, cookies, and cakes. Instead, choose foods that are low in sugar but high in fiber such as vegetables and fruits like berries.

Psychotherapy

An effective way to manage the frequent feeling of worry and despair is through psychotherapy. It allows you to talk about your anxiety, discover different coping mechanisms, and address issues that may contribute to your mental condition. According to research[2] by NCBI, cognitive behavioral therapy helps treat several anxiety disorders like generalized anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive panic disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder, and social anxiety disorder.

During treatment, therapists help you to understand the connection of your thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. Doing so teaches you to recognize automatic negative reactions and explore alternatives to disrupt anxious thoughts without using drugs.

You shouldn’t let anxiety hinder you from having meaningful relationships and experiences, especially when you can manage the condition with a combination of proper medication combined and drug-free supportive practices. It is always best to consult your physician on the best treatment plan.

[1] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3904694/

[2] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4610618/

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By Paul Harrison

Paul Harrison is a qualified meditation teacher and writer with more than 15 years experience in meditation and mindfulness. He studied meditation in Oxford, UK, and Hamilton Ontario Canada, and earned his degree at Staffordshire University. Paul has helped thousands of people to discover their true potential through mindfulness, yoga and meditation.

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