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Alternative Methods of Treating Anxiety

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Today we are living in a world where people are getting tired of taking a pill or ringing the doctor for their daily problems. With our life getting more complicated, stressful and mentally and physically demanding, the list of our emotional and mental disorders also keeps growing.

In the U.S, anxiety accounts for the largest number of patients suffering from mental disorders. I too suffered from a form of anxiety not very commonly spoken about. Status anxiety was eating me alive as I worried more and more about what people thought of me and how they perceived my performance in life. I had made myself believe that I wasn’t good enough and that my achievements and talents were minuscule in front of all my successful and thriving friends. After going through an intense period of suffering an anxiety disorder, I can say from personal experience that anxiety, when left untreated, gets more powerful every day. It convinces you that worrying about your problems is more important than your peace and that you are totally alone in your sorrow. You go through so many days feeling panicked, fearful and shaky and it soon becomes your normal state.

However, that is not your true normal state. Almost everyone feels anxiety at some point either from a real or a perceived threat because evolution has hardwired us to want to flee from threatening and uncertain situations. Some people feel anxious about making a big life decision like committing to a partner through marriage while others panic about smaller but scarier everyday necessities, for example, flight anxiety. These are understandable and acceptable.

The problem becomes a concern when your anxiety is triggered without a real threat. Why? Because it greatly limits our abilities and potential to succeed and be happy, and can harm our emotional and physical wellbeing. Anxiety also negatively impacts our relationship with others and I noticed it first hand in my life as I slowly became devoid of any desire to enjoy, celebrate or participate in fun activities. I thought I was such a failure who didn’t deserve happiness. However, today I realize that it’s not just an inherent mental state driven by our actions. Rather, it’s an epidemic brought on by our overall lifestyle. Because when a population of 40 million people suffers from one mental disorder, it’s definitely a call to take a closer look at the way we live.

Gulping one pill after the other and calling upon different doctors and therapists will not really take us on a road to permanent healing unless we intentionally do not change our mental and physical activity. People may not be clearly able to point it out but anxiety meds just numb the brain’s neural activity to prevent people from feeling anything but this is more harmful as it can lead to depression and even suicide. A better way to address anxiety would involve healing methods, practices, and substances that connect us back to our pure inner bliss in a soothing and grounding way.

Alternative therapies and medicine are effective in providing an overall better health and for healing disorders like anxiety and depression without any harmful side effects that come from traditional medicine. The mainstream traditional medicinal practices are tied to many damaging side effects like dizziness, drowsiness, weight gain, nausea, triggering depression, confusion, blurred vision and many more. Instead of throwing away hundreds and thousands of dollars on harmful anxiety medications, these effective and harmless alternative methods treat patients from inside out, giving back the power to them. As I practiced many of these myself, I cannot just vouch for how well they worked but I can also say that the general sense of calm and contentment they brought greatly enhanced my quality of daily life. Some of the best alternative methods of treating anxiety which all patients must try out are as follows.

  • Yoga: When my anxiety had reached its peak I knew I had to do something about it. I had stress pains sporadically taking place all over my body which surfaced in form of short intense pinching or spinning sensations and I was seeing black spots regularly in my peripheral vision. These were all signs of extreme stress and anxiety. And although I can’t say the pains have totally vanished, they have gotten lesser through yoga. There are several different types of yoga styles ranging from fast-paced strenuous ones like Vinyasa to gentle relaxing kind like Hatha, which was the style I chose to start my healing journey with. Yoga of most types is excellent for anxiety and Hatha is really great because it combines deep breathing techniques with physical poses along with periods of meditation and relaxation. 

Stress creates anxiety by physical and psychological arousal that escalates heart rate, blood pressure, and respiration. In comparison to that, the tranquil, controlled breathing along with the relief of body tension and slowing down of obsessive thoughts that are typical results of yoga, can remove these instinctive responses to anxiety and stress and by extension, reduce them.

  • Meditation: Meditation is another remarkable way of treating anxiety as it involves getting into a state of consciousness and high awareness of the mind through different breathing, chanting, focusing and thought guiding techniques. The common types of meditation practiced in the U.S include Transcendental Meditation, TM, and mindfulness meditation. I am an ardent practitioner of mindfulness meditation since the past year and it has been a major tool for me to get over my crippling anxiety. My practice has allowed me to center myself back into my heart and everyday it helps me to calm my inherent fight or flight response to stress. I sit for 15-30 minutes in meditation every morning before starting my day and every time I come across an anxious or overwhelming situation I try to stop, meditate, relax myself and then get on with tackling it. Studies have shown meditation to be extremely beneficial in treating anxiety as it relaxes the entire nervous system, lowers blood pressure, regulates uneven respiration and relaxes constricted blood vessels.
  • Herbs and natural medicine: Growing up in Houston I came across many Pakistani friends and it was through one of them that I discovered this magical herb called Ashwagandha or Indian Ginseng, whose root they have been traditionally using to cure anxiety and depression. Using it myself for many months, I can attest its effectiveness in alleviating my mood and reducing my daily stress levels by giving me a calmer mental state. I took it twice daily, each time a tablespoon. Since then, I have also recommended it to my friends as it’s a completely natural herbal medicine with no side effects. 

In addition to that, there are many other herbs like chamomile, lemon balm, passion flower or hops that can be taken as teas or supplements to reduce anxiety and induce a calming feel and their effectiveness has been proven by many studies. German studies have found these along with lavender to be safe and effective and have made it available in the country. However, in the U.S, they are mostly unregulated by the FDA along with most other alternative medicines.

  • Acupuncture: This traditional Chinese medicine heals many ailments through the principle of activating points in the body to fix the imbalances in the energy flow.  In Chinese medicine, anxiety is linked to an imbalance in the heart and kidney and hence acupuncture near the heart, kidney, spleen and ear is done to treat anxiety. Earlier western medicine was somewhat unsure about the effectiveness of this method in curing mental health however recently more and more studies are being done and acupuncture’s effectiveness is getting significantly popular. The Neuroscience and Therapeutics Journal published a review comparing acupuncture to cognitive behavioral therapy used by psychologists to treat anxiety.

These are some of the most effective alternative methods of treating anxiety and extreme stress. To make the most of them and seriously stop anxiety to take over your life, it’s important that they are combined with a healthy lifestyle. This means eating a well-balanced, non-processed fresh diet, getting  regular exercise and a good amount of sleep. I can profess that it really helps in curbing anxiety when we avoid excessive coffee drinking, smoking cigarettes and consuming alcohol. 

A massage is also a form of therapy that can help in stress and anxiety reduction. Muscles become tight and tense due to stress and slowly it makes us lose touch with the different sensations that our body feels. Accumulated stress can lead to weight gain and stress eating, cardiovascular problems, chronic fatigue and reduced sex drive. In such cases, massage can greatly help by easing tension from the body which, as a result, relaxes the mind.  

When it comes to anxiety, the triggers that ignite it have much to tell us about ourselves. As much as it may be hard to believe, our anxiety can actually be for our own good as it hints us towards taking a closer look at our personality and our fears. Courage, self-awareness, and action towards eliminating our fears will lead us towards our more calmer, stable and confident selves.

Living with anxiety doesn’t mean that we will never recover even if nobody around us understands the way we feel. The truth is, no one’s anxiety is the same as another persons’ and even the most typical case of a patient only comes under one of the many different types of anxiety that are there, like GAD or Generalized Anxiety Disorder or OCD or Social Anxiety. No matter what you feel it’s vital that you gain knowledge about your condition and intend to walk on the path of understanding it before you work towards treating it.


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