How I Reduced my Anxiety Naturally – with a Holistic Approach
I’m sure that many of you reading this blog post know what it’s like to live with anxiety.
You might be feeling an overwhelming sense of fear or panic, and the anxiety only seems to get worse when you try to stop yourself from thinking about it.
I noticed my anxiety issue when my university became all online due to COVID. I was constantly worried about when I would get assignments or what the exams would be or if I could graduate successfully!
My life felt out of control and there didn’t seem like there was any relief in sight for me until one day I decided enough was enough and started implementing some holistic approaches into my daily routine!
Are you looking into natural ways to manage anxiety?
I will share 10 tips to reduce anxiety if you are looking for options other than prescription medication!
Let’s right dive in!
What is anxiety?
Anxiety can be broken down into three main components: emotional, physiological, and cognitive.
What does this mean?
If you are new to a company, you may worry if you are doing well or not, and feel a bit depressed on Sunday night thinking about Monday. This is an example of the emotional component. Also, you may feel your mouth is very dry when you are talking during meetings, and this is an example of the physiological component.
Lastly, you may think “I’m useless” or “I’m not experienced enough for this position”, and this is the example of the cognitive component.
When you are anxious, you may feel the sensation of anxiety. However, anxiety is a set of these three sensations!
Is anxiety bad for you?
The ranges of anxiety may vary, but it’s natural to experience anxiety including panicky breathing, trouble sleeping, endless worries, and heart-pounding.
So is anxiety bad for you?
Believe it or not, the answer is NO.
Maybe you have noticed your heart rate increase when you are anxious. What your body is doing is preparing for an emergency situation. Without this “fight or flight” sensation, you may not feel urged to finish the project you are working on at work!
How much anxiety is too much?
According to Harvard Health Publishing, you may be going through an anxiety disorder;
“if she or he has persistent worry for more days than not, for at least several months”
So to answer to question above, if you experience a prolonged anxiety disorder, it is NOT good for you.
Why is that? Because anxiety disorders could cause;
- Increased rate of heart disease
- Increased blood pressure
- Decreased sex drive
- Kidney disease
- Sleep problems
- Decreased joy
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not here to scare you by listing all the possible side effects of anxiety.
When I realized that I had an anxiety disorder, being aware of the risks helped keep me motivated to reduce anxiety!
Also, there are three classifications within anxiety disorder; generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and phobia-related disorder.
If you want to find out your anxiety type, check out this article!
Let’s take a nice stroll and explore some holistic solutions!
Does holistic medicine work for anxiety?
Why do we need a holistic treatment for anxiety? Isn’t taking medication a quick fix?
I thought I could help my anxiety with CBT (cognitive behavior therapy), which is recognized to be effective for anxiety. But it wasn’t enough!
Why is that?
Talking to a therapist really works. However, I’m on my own most of the time and when I’m extremely anxious, I just forget what my therapist suggested!
That’s why I started incorporating holistic practices for anxiety relief including meditation, reducing coffee to promote sleep, and so much more!
In fact, there is a lot of scientific evidence explaining why alternative medicine can be effective for generalized anxiety disorder.
This study published on Pubmed conducted research and participants went through holistic therapy including acupuncture treatments, deep breathing exercises, massage therapy, journaling, nutrition counseling, and exercise.
Do you know what happened to those people after 6 weeks? They found a significant reduction in anxiety!
The definition of a holistic approach to anxiety is caring for your mind, body, and soul from many different perspectives. Learning a holistic approach to anxiety can give you many different tools to heal yourself. This means you can become the master of relieving your own anxiety whenever needed.
Ready to learn what you can do to calm anxiety?
Let’s take a look!
What is the best holistic treatment for anxiety?
1. Switch to decaf coffee
Do you love coffee? Who doesn’t!?
I’ve made so many changes for my health, but coffee was something I couldn’t stop drinking. I succeeded to reduce my coffee from 2-3 cups a day to 1 cup a day because I didn’t think I could switch to decaf.
I see a lot of health bloggers recommend matcha or herbal tea to replace coffee but I thought they were crazy! I tried drinking matcha for six months in the past, but I loved the smell of coffee so much that I couldn’t quit.
So why was I able to switch to decaf?
Well, I realized coffee was really amplifying my anxiety! Two months ago, it was obvious coffee was aggravating my anxiety so I was determined that I would at least try decaf.
I found decaf coffee beans I love! If anyone told me that it’s decaf, I wouldn’t notice. If you can’t find it on Amazon or in a local supermarket, try jittery-free coffee.
What are coffee jitters?
Well, you may experience jitters mainly due to caffeine.
Coffee Jitters are primarily caused by caffeine. Caffeine can disrupt your circulatory system, and that’s why it has the potential to cause side effects like elevated heart rate or blood pressure.
Believe it or not, after I switched to decaf coffee, I’m not craving coffee every day! I sometimes have turmeric milk or calming teas!
- Keep in mind caffeine sensitivity varies so I recommend taking an Ayurveda Dosha type test online for free. If you are Vata or Pitta or Vata-Pitta or Pitta-Vata, you should minimize your coffee consumption as much as possible.
- Find your favorite jittery free coffee.
- When you are feeling anxious or dehydrated, try herb tea or turmeric milk instead!
- Take a booster shot with lemon, ginger, turmeric, and black pepper when you feel like you need more energy. Or it may be time to focus on quality sleep.
2. Get some professional help (CBT)
When we experience too much stress and anxiety, it’s a good idea to get some help with anxiety.
I started talking to a therapist when I was 1st year at university because my bipolar disorder 1 was severe.
However, I kept talking to a therapist after I overcome my bipolar disorder because
- I had a challenging time at my previous workplace
- I was preparing to move to a new country during COVID time which provoked a lot of anxiety
- I was facing challenges in a new country
Why can talking to a therapist – especially one who’s focused on CBT (cognitive behavior therapy) – reduce anxiety?
Well, it’s because when we are anxious, our brain keeps swirling around the same thought again and again, and it can get harder for us to get out of the circle easily! By talking to a cognitive behavior therapist, you will learn how to break out of the negative cycles and start relieving stress!
If you are wondering how effective it is, studies suggest CBT is much more effective than medication for reducing anxiety!
If you are looking at talking to a professional on a budget, check out wisa.io. I’ve been using this tele-counseling app for over a year now and I only pay around $100 for three months for unlimited message counseling!
3. Daily meditation
If you are a regular reader of my blog, you know I’m a big fan of meditation. Let me explain why meditation works really well as stress relief.
Have you noticed it can get sometimes be hard to breathe when you are anxious? Well, it’s because your body is preparing for a dangerous situation by increasing your heart rate!
But how can you benefit from meditation to calm your anxious thoughts?
The important thing is, you incorporate deep breaths into your meditation practice. In this way, you can increase oxygen intake to your brain and your brain can switch on the relaxation nervous system (PNS)!
Also, by shifting your focus to your breathing, you can tame your busy mind!
What helped me the most is knowing I have a powerful tool I can rely on whenever I feel anxious. So now I feel more control over my anxiety response!
- Learn Ujayai breathing and practice anytime you want!
- Try this 3-minute deep breathing meditation
- Download your favorite meditation app on your phone and use it anytime you need it! (I recommend insight timer! )
- Practice meditation daily (Check out my beginner’s guide to meditation!)
4. Use a noise-canceling headphone
Have you ever thought that noise might be causing you anxiety?
For me, I always wear my noise-canceling headphone when I’m on a bus and a train. Because I know that I’m sensitive to squeaky sounds and people talking loudly.
Some people are more sensitive to sound than others, and also study shows that you are more likely to get more sensitive to noise when you are anxious.
Whenever I feel stressed due to noise, I try a quick meditation to restore my normal breathing patterns!
- Bring your noise-canceling headphone with you when you go out
- You may want to consider avoiding certain places or changing the time you travel if you know you always get anxious going there
5. Get to know yourself
So far, I shared some powerful holistic therapy tips you can try to lower anxiety symptoms, and this might be the most simple but powerful tip!
Why is that?
You can avoid or prepare for these situations if you know they provoke stress and anxiety! Personally, I don’t like having too many things to do in a day, going to a mall on weekends, and taking public transport!
If you know what situations or environments you don’t like, you may be able to lower anxiety significantly!
- Next time you get anxious, take a note on your phone of where or what kind of situation you were in.
- Avoid or plan for the situation!
6. Prioritize sleep
Everyone knows good sleep can promote health right? But did you know lack of sleep can cause anxiety?
Studies suggest lack of sleep is the main factor for worsening anxiety.
For me, I notice a big difference when I didn’t sleep well. I feel low in energy, cranky, anxious, and I have difficulty concentrating.
So why can a lack of sleep worsen anxiety?
According to Sleep Doctor, when you have a lack of sleep, the amygdala, which is responsible for emotional reactions gets more active, hence making you get anxious and feel stress more easily!
Remember – the most important thing is to get good quality sleep, not necessarily quantity. When you have enough deep sleep (known as REM sleep), your brain can help you reduce painful and difficult memories!
Having difficulties sleeping? Check out my sleep guide for when things are difficult.
7. Accept when you’re anxious
Do you want to lessen anxiety? Or erase it completely?
You know what?
It’s OK to be anxious.
I do many holistic practices to help with my anxiety, however, you can’t get rid of it all! Remember, it’s a natural response because your body is trying to protect you from a dangerous situation.
Sometimes, the fear of “I’m gonna get anxious” can make you feel anxious. You know what I mean?
So what can you do about it?
How about acknowledging that you are feeling anxious right now. Just notice how you are feeling, and tell yourself “It’s ok to be anxious, and it won’t last forever” instead of getting critical of yourself.
8. Pay attention to what you eat
You know a healthy diet is crucial for your mind and body.
Apart from eating a balanced whole food diet with a minimum of processed foods, there is something I want to share with you.
I mentioned the Ayurveda Dosha type test earlier. Ayurveda is a healing system developed in India and it’s been used for more than 5,000 years.
In Ayurveda, it’s believed that we are made up of three components that describe our physical and mental characteristics; Kapha, Pitta, Vatta.
What’s interesting is, when your dosha is balanced, you can make more decisions that align with you, but you may experience difficulty when your dosha is imbalanced.
I’m Pitta-Vatta, which means I’m a firey and enthusiastic person! But when my dosha is imbalanced, I may get more self-critical, angry, and anxious. And you can avoid your dosha imbalance by avoiding certain foods and following recommended routines!
Want to know your type and find out what kind of food and daily routine can help you feel balanced?
9. Learn the difference between “worrying” and “planning”
Do you feel like you are going through an anxiety attack worrying about something for hours or maybe even losing sleep at night?
It happens to everyone.
I think learning the difference between “worrying” and “planning” might be helpful.
Psychology today says
We plan every day for all those things we need to accomplish during the day. We worry about those things that are very difficult or impossible to plan for. Worrying is frustrated planning.
We like things to be in control. However, it’s simply impossible to predict everything!
I worry a lot, and every time I talk about my worry to my therapist, she says “Haruka, can we maybe worry about this when it actually happens?”.
There are two things you can do to ease anxiety from worry.
- Be resilient – practice being ok with holding your worry and make plans when you actually need to worry about it. (Keep trying this resilience meditation)
- Set 20-30 minutes (not before sleep), and plan and do some research to see if you can reduce your worry. We worry when we don’t know. So gathering information can help!
- Focus on the present moment. Maybe try this 5-minute meditation?
10. Reduce social media time
You may often hear “digital detox” or “You should reduce screen time”. But why is that?
The thing is, spending time on social media might be making you anxious unconsciously!
For me, I recently realized Twitter was making me anxious. I wanted to feel the connection with other Japanese people living in Vancouver so I was using it often but I was sometimes digging into someone else’s life too much.
So what did I do?
I set a screentime and app limitation (the minutes you can use a particular app) on my iPhone but it didn’t work. So I needed to make a more drastic move!
I deleted the app I feel like I’m using too much (for me Twitter)! This doesn’t mean I deleted my account and I stopped using it. I really wanted to reduce screentime on Twitter so I decided to download it ONLY when I want to use it. This may sound like a drastic move, but since I don’t want to download it a bunch of times a day, I succeeded with reducing my screen time finally!
Can you guess what happened to me?
I don’t have the urge to share something on social media, and I don’t scroll on Twitter whenever I have time anymore! Instead, I started looking for a new hobby and now I enjoy painting in the evening 🙂
If you want to reduce your screen time to relieve stress and anxiety, you may want to try my tips!
- Identify the social media app you use often. Be aware of your emotion while and after you spend some time on the app
- If you find yourself feeling uneasy and anxious after using a certain app, you may want to consider deleting the app and downloading it only when you really want to use it.