I don’t know if I have shared this before but I suffer from anxiety. It can be pretty intense in certain social or workplace situations. I think it had been going on for a large chunk of my life but I attributed it to “being shy” or something like that. It’s really only been this past year or two that I’ve come to realize that these thoughts and feelings I sometimes have are not ‘normal’ and are completely unnecessary.
My anxiety manifests itself in crazy thoughts (jumping to conclusions, making generalizations and making assumptions), headaches, tummy aches and eventually feeling totally burnt out. Let’s face it…anytime you get super emotional it can be tiring! Anxiety is like being in “fight-or-flight mode” constantly and it’s not fun!
I wanted to put together a list of natural ways to deal with anxiety and of course I have tried all of these at some point. I have found that all of them help, but not all of them help ALL the time. It’s helpful to try a whole bunch of different techniques and figure out which ones work for you and which ones work at what times.
I hope that if you are suffering from anxiety that you have the courage to share how you feel with your friends and family and seek help in a way that works for you. Things won’t change overnight but each little step you take will count and bring you closer to a peaceful mind in the future.
The Honest Guys
I love guided meditations as I feel like they help me stay on track while meditating and achieve a deeper meditation than if I am just left to my own thing. I also find it super enjoyable to ‘go somewhere else’ rather than just focus on nothingness. You can find a ton of guided meditations online but one Youtube channel I have really grown to love is The Honest Guys. They have so many awesome guided meditations and calming music. My all-time favourite one (which I do a lot) is Running with Wolves.
This tool is a bit on the pricier side but if you are into tech and/or measuring goals, I would highly recommend it. I get a lot of satisfaction from measuring progress as it happens and this tool allows me to set meditation goals (a certain # of sessions per week or a certain amount of minutes per day) and will give me reminders, notifications and reports to my phone. I have found Muse so useful as you literally put it on your head and it reads your brainwaves while you listen to a guided or non-guided meditation through your headphones that comes from the Muse app on your smartphone. Muse will tell you how many minutes of your meditation you were in a ‘calm’ state and how many times you were able to find ‘calmness’ again if your brain activity moved to an active place. You can choose your setting (beach, city, rainforest, etc.) and you will hear bird sounds when you do reach a state of calm (based on your brainwaves). One of the biggest realizations I have taken from Muse is how the calm state actual feels- because the bird sounds notify me when I am in that state I am able to recognize what it feels like to be there and find it easier to return to because I know what I am ‘looking for.’
I am obsessed with essential oils and have studied aromatherapy through the West Coast Institute of Aromatherapy. I could go on and on about the positive benefits of using essential oils, but I will keep it simple today. Essential oils are natural oils extracted from plants (roots, flowers, leaves, bark, etc.) They are highly concentrated and therefore powerful in small amounts. One of my favourite ways to use essential oils is by diffusing them.
You can find oils and diffusers at stores like Saje or Escents. Some oils are stimulating and some are calming and some are everything in between. I suggest looking for a pre-made blend if you are new to essential oils. I love putting on my diffuser and feeling the sense of calm that essential oil blends can bring. Some of my favourite blends from Saje are “Mountain High”, “Refresh” and “Liquid Sunshine”.
Be aware that some essential oils can be toxic to kids or pets so keep them in a safe place and double-check before you diffuse.
This is a trick that my counsellor taught me for “in the moment” anxiety. If you are feeling in a panic or have major anxiety on it’s way or in progress, grab a cold pack or bag of ice and put it on your face. Even a splash of cold water will do. Research shows that the cold will produce a physiological response in the body and stimulate the parasympathetic nerve system to slow the heart rate down.
Writing for me is very therapeutic- if you don’t enjoy writing, this may not be helpful but it’s worth a try. I write down how I feel when I’m happy, sad, mad, panicky, whatever. I make a lot of lists and keep track of progress I have made with anxiety. I am always adding to my list of “accomplishments” – things I have done despite my anxiety. It’s a great reminder and source of empowerment when facing a “scary” situation because I can look back at all the things I have “survived” despite my anxiety and it motivates me to keep pushing on.
Did you know that the Japanese practice ‘forest bathing’? Shinrin-Yoku literally means “taking in the forest atmosphere” or “forest bathing” and it’s no wonder that this practice has become an important part of preventative health and wellness in Japan. Is there anything more relaxing than breathing in pure, crisp, forest air while standing amongst the trees? Studies have shown that within 15 minutes of being in nature, your stress level goes down, your heart rate, blood pressure improves. Get outside for a quick walk whether it’s in a forest or around the block. I promise you, it will make a difference!
This is obviously a no-brainer. The feel-good endorphins that are released from engaging in exercise help boost your mood, help you sleep better, relieve stress and studies have shown that regular exercise has a profound positive impact on depression, anxiety and ADHD and more. I love hiking, yoga, spin classes, swimming and jogging!
Make sure you have a good support group! I have found it very beneficial to be able to talk to friends and family about my anxiety – you would be surprised at how many people you will encounter having a similar struggle if you are willing to talk about it!
Professional counselling has forever changed my life. Seeing a counsellor has offered me countless tools and tricks to deal with daily situations when my anxiety starts to take hold…and now I can squash it! I cannot recommend this enough – having someone professional, trained and on your side to help me and offer guidance has allowed me to grow so much as a person. I feel like I am capable of things now that I never would have dreamed of doing even a year or two ago. It’s so empowering to experience this progression!
PETS! Pets are the bessssst little fuzzy four-legged therapists! If you love animals and are in a position to be able to responsibly take care of one, than I highly recommend it. Having my Flokie baby has allowed me to get outside (many times…) each and every day. I’m exploring new parts of the city and have my best friend around 24/7. Also…cuddles!!!
Lastly, we are what we eat. Diet is hugely important when it comes to mental health. If we are eating highly-refined foods and forgetting wholesome, live foods then there is just no way that our body can function correctly. Without proper nutrients, it is no wonder that so many of us are struggling with negative mental and physical health symptoms. Keep your foods fresh and wholesome, cut the sugar and refined foods and feel the difference in your energy amongst other things as your body is able to utilize the nutrients that it is given.