Explore natural remedies for anxiety

Standard

Medication is a valid solution to mental health problems, and in many instances it’s all that will help. However, the process of finding the right meds and dose is long and arduous. For me, there were weeks where I felt virtually nothing change after popping the first pill. There were times when I bumped up my dose and then cried nonstop for days. One terrifying time, I felt like I had lost my mind, becoming suicidal and manic. Focusing on finding natural remedies during these times helped me reduce anxiety while I searched for the right med and made me feel like I had some control.

I’m not sure how I would have kept working through some of this if I was relying solely on the medication, and as a freelancer being unable to work is bad news.

Natural remedies are not often the entire solution, but meds likely won’t completely kick anxiety’s butt alone either. Finding the right combo is key. Here are a few options.

Hydrate

I heard at a seminar on anxiety that people who have anxiety disorders have thicker blood. Because we’re often in fight or flight mode, our blood thickens so that if we’re attacked, we won’t bleed out as fast. The speaker told us that, for this reason, we should make sure to drink tons of water.

Since hearing that, I’ve read a few other resources that talk about the importance of drinking water. Being dehydrated can cause anxiety, so staying hydrated is important for people with disorders.

Cut the caffeine

Caffeine is fuel for anxiety. Cutting out my morning coffee does wonders for my anxiety, but has caused me a lot of sadness because I love  good cup a joe to start my day. So, I’ve done some experimenting.

Many of the coffee replacements are tasty. Decaf works alright and Half Ass is fine for me most days. There are some days when regular coffee doesn’t send me into anxious spins, especially if I have a cup later in the day.

If you’re a caffeine addict like me but it’s not really helping your mental health situation, it’s worth finding ways to comfortably fit it into your life. If not, it’s totally worth cutting it all together.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy

People with anxiety often fall into negative thought patterns. For example, I often become paranoid that people dislike me and will overanalyze every social interaction, always interpreting small actions as feedback that I’m boring and stupid.

Using Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), my therapist helped me first recognize these thought patterns and then come up with activities to change them. When anxiety comes up, I sit down and think about what is going on. Once I’ve identified the thought patterns that got me there, I think through it rationally. Has my friend not responded to my text because she suddenly hates me? Well, we’ve been friends for more than a decade and she always tells me when she’s upset with me so probably no. More plausible reasons are that she’s busy, she’s overwhelmed with her own life, or technology is failing us and the text didn’t go through.

Regularly examining thought patterns like this, it eventually becomes a quick process that nips anxiety in the bud. Check out some books on CBT at your local library if you think it might help you out!

Exercise

The solution to so many health problems is to get moving! Many anxiety resources I’ve consulted recommend calmer forms of exercise for anxiety, such as walking and yoga. Personally, I prefer high energy activities such as zumba and running because they let me get some of my anxious energy out quicker.

What’s most important is that you’re doing something regularly that you can stick with. If you start to get bored, find a new activity. If you feel too busy, add something that doesn’t take time out of your day like doing exercises at your desk, cycling to work or doing stretches while watching the news. Find what works for you.

Herbs

Lots of plants are said to reduce anxiety. With some experimentation, you might find some that work for you.

A friend of mine makes a tea she not so fondly calls Ass Tea. It’s made of dried angelica sinensis slices and dried astragalus roots. Toss a handful of each into a pot of water, boil them, simmer for 25 minutes, let cool and then strain. It tastes awful—as the name implies—but chilled with ice and some flavouring (tea or herbs), it’s tolerable. It makes her need to pee uncontrollably, so she adds in a bit of poria. I can skip that last awful-tasting ingredient.

Lavender, chamomile, valerian and lemon balm are all calming as well. You can grow some of these plants to have them readily available for tea, or buy teas that include them in the ingredient list. At the very least, settling into a cozy spot for a warm drink can be relaxing.

Mindfulness

I tried meditating many times before I finally found a meditation series that explained the purpose of the practice in a way that makes sense to me. It helps us strengthen our thinking muscles so we can have more control over what is racing through our brains.

This has helped me so much with CBT. When my mind is going too wild to be able to deal with my thoughts using the techniques I’ve learned, I do a quick meditation on my Calm or Headspace app. With my mind a bit calmer, I then implement what I’ve learned from CBT.

A lot of anxiety comes from overthinking, so being able to control the mind is a huge factor in its reduction.

If you have an anxiety disorder, it’s unrealistic to expect that anxiety will ever be wiped out completely. However, with small changes over time, it’s entirely possible to reduce anxiety enough so it doesn’t have a significant impact on your day to day life.

Each month through my weekly newsletter, I challenge my audience to make one change in their life, whether that’s eating healthier, reaching out to friends more or drinking more water. Sign-up today to join in the fun!

Advertisements

Hoping for the worst

Standard

My brain loves to dwell on worst case scenarios, but it always goes so much further than what would actually be the worst case scenario. I think about the most bizarre outcomes that, in reality, would likely never come to fruition.

Looking into cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), I found an exercise for dealing with anxiety that involved going over the most realistic worst case scenario once and considering if it’d be that bad.

Not long into my drive from Montana to Manitoba a few days ago, I was feeling anxious. Worst case scenario: I slide on the slippery road and crash. I have to call my boyfriend for help and cancel my week of appointments in Winnipeg while I figure out how to get home.

Guess what?

IMG_0563.JPG

Yup, I slipped on an icy turn, clipped a cement barrier and ended up in the ditch.

Rather freaked out, I realized I was really lucky to not be too hurt, to have decided to hang off a bit before buying gas and to not be too far from where I’d been staying.

Anxiety is pretty hilarious. High anxiety days when the things making me jittery are as silly as events that could potentially happen are the hardest days to get though. It’s part anticipation, part understanding how ridiculous being anxious is and part being confused about why that’s making me feel so shitty.

When something is actually going on, my anxiety chills out. Maybe it’s because my brain realizes that the worst thing that could likely have happened isn’t that bad.

I’m somewhat stranded in Montana with no money (but lots of offers from folks to lend/give me money, so that’s fine!) and no way to get around other than my feet. I’m in a fair amount of pain and haven’t dug through the contents of my car yet, so I’m missing my meds and haven’t taken them in a few days. But I’m pretty happy. Other than being a bit disgruntled that this butt ripped blankets off me so he could hump them:

This was probably the best thing that could have happened. Next time I’m thinking about the realistic worst case scenario and fighting off anxiety, I’m going to remember that experiencing something shitty isn’t nearly as bad as the anxiety that comes beforehand.