Anxiety: treatments and remedies
If it feels as if the causes of your anxiety are all around you, take heart: so are the cures. For those times when you feel anxious, here are some ways to be kind to yourself and lessen the worries.
Dealing with anxiety the natural way
Drinking a glass of warm milk really works, and at any time of day. It's great with a little added malt or honey, too. Milk contains tryptophan, an amino acid used in the production of the brain chemical serotonin, which enhances feelings of wellbeing. Bananas and turkey are also rich in tryptophan.
Hops, which give beer its distinctive flavour, have a long history as a sedative. Place 2 teaspoons of the dried herb in a cup of very hot water and drink up to 3 cups a day of this ‘anti-anxiety’ tea.
Flowers used to make relaxing teas are Seville (bitter) orange blossom, lavender and lime tree. Any of these sweetly scented teas taken at bedtime will help to encourage a good night's sleep. Passionflower can also be used to relieve anxiety; it is particularly soothing as a settling tea, taken at bedtime.
Supplements to treat anxiety
Research suggests that the active ingredients in the herb valerian attach to the same receptors in the brain that are affected by the anti-anxiety drug diazepam, better known as Valium. Choose a supplement that contains a standardised extract of valerenic acid. Take according to manufacturer's instructions. (Caution: Valerian may cause headaches in certain individuals. Do not exceed the recommended quantities or take for long periods of time.)
Take a B-complex multivitamin each day. Studies show that B vitamins are natural stress-reducers – the body requires vitamin B6 to make serotonin, for example – and not getting enough of the vitamins can contribute to anxiety.
Homeopathic medicines may help you beat symptoms of emotional anxiety. One small clinical trial has found that a blend of Ignatia, Asafoetida and Valeriana was effective in treating anxiety. Visit a homeopath for advice.
Some studies show that magnesium deficiency can worsen a stress reaction and that actually feeling anxious can deplete magnesium levels, creating a vicious cycle of cause and effect. Taking magnesium may help to reduce symptoms.
Improve your resistance to stress and anxiety with Siberian ginseng. Traditionally used in Eastern medicine, it is believed to support the adrenal glands and help the body adapt to physical and emotional stress. Look for a supplement that contains a standardised extract of eleutheroside (the primary active ingredient in ginseng).
Relaxation techniques for anxiety
Regulating your breath can help to bring your anxiety swiftly under control. To slow and deepen your breathing, sit down, put one hand over your abdomen and slowly inhale so that your belly expands under your hand but your shoulders do not rise. Hold your breath for 4 or 5 seconds, then very slowly exhale. Repeat until you feel calmer.
To further relieve anxiety and stress, simply place a drop of lavender essential oil on a handkerchief or tissue and hold it to your nose to inhale as often as desired. Alternatively, dab a little oil on our temples and forehead and sit quietly for a few minutes.
A warm bath is one of the most pleasant and reliable ways to soothe your senses. To enhance its effects, add some lavender oil to the tub and soak to your heart's content.
Thoughts to stop anxiety
Repeat a statement to yourself often enough and you'll start to believe it. This is useful for dealing with life's challenges. Try these–or make up some of your own.
- When challenged: ‘It doesn't matter whether others think I am right or wrong as long as I make the best judgement I can and express my views honestly.’
- Beginning a new job: ‘I am capable of doing this job, and I can master the skills that will allow me to succeed.’
- Dealing with setbacks and insecurity: ‘I have overcome hurdles like this in the past, and I know I can do it again.’
- When faced with rejection: ‘I have been given the chance to try new alternatives and take a different path, and I am prepared for whatever new challenges lie ahead.’
- Making a public speech or presentation: ‘I have something important to say that everyone in this room wants to hear.’
- Meeting strangers: ‘This is a valuable opportunity to get to know someone I've never met before, and I have something to offer.’
Activities to beat anxiety
- Aerobic exercise is a great anxiety reliever. Taking a brisk 30 minute walk spurs the release of endorphins–chemicals that block pain and improve mood.
- Whether it's meditating, praying, pruning the roses or watching your goldfish, do some sort of meditative activity for 15 minutes several times a day.
Anxiety: Things to avoid
- Limit yourself to a single cup of coffee, tea or cola drink per day. Studies suggest that people with anxiety symptoms may be especially sensitive to caffeine.
- Watch your intake of wine, beer and other alcoholic drinks. While they seem to subdue anxiety at first, when the alcohol wears off, anxiety can actually increase.
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