6 Natural and Holistic Treatments for Stress and Anxiety
By Shakeilla Shabazz, MD, Holistic and Family Medicine Physician
In today’s hectic world, it’s normal to occasionally experience feelings of anxiety or stress. Chronic or severe anxiety, however, can contribute to serious health conditions such as digestive problems, insomnia and high blood pressure, as well as panic attacks, excessive sweating, muscle tension and irritability. But, anxiety can be managed and overcome with the right support and resources.
What’s the best way to manage anxiety?
The first step in managing anxiety is to pinpoint its cause. In many cases, anxiety is rooted in issues involving your employment, personal life or finances. It’s helpful to discuss your concerns with a trusted friend, family member or your healthcare provider.
If you have severe anxiety, it’s best to seek professional support services like behavioral therapy, or consult with your primary care doctor or psychiatrist on medications that ease the most debilitating symptoms. Lifestyle changes like getting more sleep and exercise, eating a healthier diet or spending more time outdoors also helps.
In addition, there are many safe, effective holistic treatments that ease stress and anxiety and provide you with a feeling of well-being. These include:
Breathing exercises can help calm you down in stressful situations and are easy to do almost anywhere. You also can combine breathing exercises with light stretching, acupressure (see below) or meditation for enhanced calming benefits.
Here’s a quick breathing de-stressor: Inhale for 3 seconds, making sure your breath causes your belly to expand. Then, hold your breath for 3 seconds and slowly exhale for 3 seconds. Repeat until you feel more at ease.
Meditation with progressive muscle relaxation
Meditation is proven to reduce anxiety symptoms and improve the way you cope with stress. Although there are many types of meditation, guided meditation is beneficial for beginners because it uses vocal prompts to remind you to breathe, focus and relax. If your anxiety produces tense muscles, combine meditation with a technique called progressive muscle relaxation, which involves tensing and relaxing specific areas of your body.
A holistic healthcare provider can lead you through a guided meditation tailored to your situation (or even record it so you can practice at home). For example, if you are facing surgery or coping with illness or injury, a personalized meditation may help you eliminate fears so you can focus on healing and recovery.
Acupressure is an ancient practice that can be customized to treat anxiety and other ailments. During acupressure, your provider places their fingers on specific pressure points in your body that follow specific energy channels. Activating such points increases blood flow, improves healing, releases tension and allows energy to flow more freely through the body.
Essential oils such as lavender, bergamot and chamomile often are used in aromatherapy and are shown to decrease anxiety while promoting relaxation. Many people find that other essential oils also promote relaxation, so feel free to experiment until you find one that’s effective for you.
Essential oils can be used individually or blended together. They can be applied to the skin (check for sensitivity), or you can place a few drops in a diffuser for aromatherapy.
Many herbs have natural anxiety-fighting properties and can be consumed as teas. Peppermint, chamomile, lemon balm, passionflower, green and rose tea are popular stress-relieving choices—some even promote restful sleep. Certain tea blends also include other beneficial herbs, such as milky oat seed. Although most teas are safe when consumed in normal amounts, you should be sure to consult with your doctor if you’re pregnant, nursing or taking any medications or supplements.
Certain supplements, such as L-Theanine (found in green and black teas), rhodiola and SAMe are used to treat stress and anxiety. Since supplements aren’t regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, they may include other herbs and substances. Before using them, first talk to your doctor about dosages, potential side effects and drug interactions.
If you’re struggling with anxiety, your doctor can help you choose the most suitable medical, therapeutic and holistic treatments. By combining their knowledge and experience with a listening ear, holistic healthcare providers can recommend safe, effective treatments tailored to your specific symptoms.
To schedule an appointment with a Virtua holistic primary care doctor, please call 1-888-VIRTUA-3.
Updated December 29, 2017