5 Holistic Approaches to Alleviate Anxiety

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Mind racing with thoughts and jittery nerves? Are you constantly imagining implausible “what-if” scenarios? 

These feelings are normal before a big event or new situation. Think: a move, a first date, or job promotion. But, when this is you for most of the day – you could be suffering from anxiety.

Anxiety is a storm cloud, either trickling as a subdued drizzle, or belting down like thunder. The good news is that you can effectively manage anxiety naturally. It takes effort and some commitment, but prescription medication isn’t often necessary in most cases of anxiety. 

You can reduce anxiety and triggers by implementing small lifestyle changes, re-evaluating your diet, and taking part in de-stressing practices – like meditation. Supplements are also a great tool to help you reduce racing thoughts. 

1. Mindfulness: Prevent Intrusive Thoughts

When you think about meditation, you probably imagine a quiet, serene place – removed from all distractions and the outside world. Contrary to that illusion of what meditation “should” be (or how it is portrayed superficially), meditation doesn't require giving up on worldly pleasures or finding a secluded place to recite a mantra. 
Something as simple as practicing deep breathing can bring back focus, leading to a greater control of your feelings – which may be rash and overzealous. Feeling “doomed” about everything isn’t productive or beneficial. 

The ancient practice of meditation is about keeping the mind completely aware in the present moment of your consciousness. The past and what is yet to come can cause a disharmonious state of the mind. Mindfulness requires having no prejudices about your thoughts, body, or surroundings that may alter your thinking and add to feelings of anxiety.

2. Using Nutrition

Studies provide evidence of a direct relationship between nutrition and mood. Certain foods we consume can promote relaxation, while others can trigger anxiety and promote inflammation. Transitioning to a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids, magnesium, and potassium can aid in easing anxiety. Foods known to have a positive influence on mood are:

Complex Carbohydrates

  • Aid in serotonin production — a neurotransmitter with a calming effect; present in: whole grains like brown rice, quinoa, and oats. Also found in sweet potatoes and legumes (chickpeas, lentils, black beans). 

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

  • Aids in mood-related disorders and can reduce anxiety under stress. Omega-3s are anti-inflammatory, while high omega-6 intake is often considered pro-inflammatory. Present in: fatty fish including salmon, mackerel, and trout, along with chia seeds, flaxseeds, and walnuts.

Protein-Rich Foods

  • Aids in supporting neurotransmitter production and healthy hormone production. Present in: lean meats, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy, legumes, and plant-based protein sources (nuts, seeds). 

Antioxidant-Rich Fruits and Vegetables

  • Aids in combating oxidative stress and chronic inflammation that can be a root cause of anxiety. Present in berries, colorful fruits, leafy greens, broccoli, bell peppers, and countless other fruits and vegetables. 

3. Creative Outlets

Overworking and complete mental inactivity are both harmful to the body and mind. 
Despite our busy lifestyles, setting aside time to enjoy what makes us happy is a great way to keep anxiety at bay. Channeling that mental energy into a creative pursuit can also help supercharge productivity, while preventing racing thoughts that are counterproductive and only lead to inactivity. 

Indulging yourself into a creative outlet, like creating music or visual art can provide a healing escape and place for self-expression.

Engaging in a new activity or something that was long lost (let’s say a childhood hobby) can help to take your mind off intrusive, negative thoughts (and cycles of thinking) and works as a de-stressor. 

Sports, art, and other hobbies can be your ticket to inner happiness, a preventative measure to stop the "anxious you" from interfering with the "true you.” 

4. Quality Sleep

Did you know that around ~40% of people with insomnia could face a diagnosable mental health condition?
Sleep does more than give your mind and body much-needed rest. 

While you get some shut-eye, your body undergoes much needed muscle growth and tissue repair. Beyond the purely physical, it helps protect your body from illness, regulates cognitive function, and helps maintain emotional balance. If you have trouble sleeping, you might want to opt for sleep supplements to address insomnia – or see a healthcare professional to be assessed. 

Simple things like indigestion can prevent you from getting complete sleep. A visit to a physician can help discover if certain supplements might be beneficial to aid in sleep or protect cognitive function. 

5. Physical Exercise

Exercise stimulates muscles and the hormonal release of chemicals in the body to improve mood. The idea is to slowly incorporate exercises as part of your daily routine naturally without feeling burdened or overwhelmed (i.e., like you “have” to do it every single day). 
The World Health Organization suggests moderate intensity for about 150 minutes per week for better mental health. Even exercising for 20 to 30 minutes daily can do wonders and effectively reduce anxiety and stress. 

Try some of these exercises to battle anxiety:

Walking: If you're not into high-intensity exercises, brisk walking can still provide mental health benefits. Focus on slow-paced walking, starting with a few minutes daily and increasing later as you progress.

Yoga: Combining mindfulness with a series of stretching exercises, yoga is a proven way to foster a calm mental state. 

Aerobic exercise: Jogging, running, and cycling are easier aerobic exercises to start with if you don’t have access to a gym, as they release endorphins and elevate cardiovascular health without the anxiety that may surround “working out” in front of others within a gym context.

Swimming: Any comfortable swimming style can be part of your daily or weekly routine to loosen up your mind and body from stress.

Final Thoughts

Every productive lifestyle change requires a transition, and in battling anxiety naturally, you may need to start with small changes. 
Pushing yourself to extremes for a perceived better life (through work-stress, or physical stress) can often be a root cause of anxiety. Everybody will obviously need a personalized, highly individual approach. 

Depending on stress levels, hormone levels, and nutritional intake, you may need additional supplements to support your body. The daily struggles of anxiety can be life-changing, but overcoming anxiety – especially without the need for life-long prescription medication – is a massive accomplishment, and is possible.

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