Anxiety disorders are the most common mental health condition in the U.S., affecting over 40 million adults. While medication can sometimes be appropriate, many people prefer more holistic interventions to relieve anxiety symptoms and restore calm. Holistic approaches aim to care for the whole person – mind, body, and spirit. They focus on lifestyle changes and natural healing options to improve mental health from the inside out.
If you struggle with excessive worry, panic, social anxiety, phobias, OCD, or other anxiety disorders, consider exploring these holistic interventions:
Diet significantly influences brain health and mental wellbeing. Limit caffeine, alcohol, refined sugars, and inflammatory foods like gluten, dairy, and soy which can exacerbate anxiety. Focus on a nutrient-dense whole foods diet with plenty of veggies, high-quality proteins, healthy fats, and anti-inflammatory spices like turmeric. Supplements shown to reduce anxiety include omega-3 fatty acids, magnesium, vitamin B complex, and vitamin D. Always check with your doctor before starting supplements. Probiotic foods can also improve gut-brain connections. Stay hydrated with water throughout the day.
Exercise and Yoga
Regular exercise is a powerful anxiety-buster. Aerobic exercise releases endorphins, serotonin, and endocannabinoids in the brain which regulate emotions. Aim for 30-60 minutes per day of activities like brisk walking, running, cycling, swimming, dance classes, or playing sports. Weightlifting and strength training can further reduce anxiety symptoms. Yoga has also been shown to relieve anxiety through combining gentle movement with deep breathing and meditation.
Spending time outside in green spaces lowers stress hormones like cortisol and boosts mood-regulating neurotransmitters. Go for daily walks, have meetings outside, take up gardening, or spend time enjoying parks, forests or the beach. Studies show that “nature therapy” reduces anxiety, rumination, and depression. Exposure to sunlight also ensures adequate vitamin D levels which are linked to anxiety relief.
Acupuncture has been used in Chinese medicine for thousands of years to treat anxiety and other health conditions. Tiny needles are inserted into specific points on the body to rebalance energy flow. This has shown to activate neurotransmitters involved in the body’s natural relaxation response. Multiple studies support acupuncture’s anti-anxiety effects. Make sure to see a licensed acupuncturist for treatment.
Mindfulness and Meditation
Mindfulness and meditation techniques are clinically proven to reduce anxiety, especially when practiced consistently. Mindfulness teaches present moment awareness, calming racing thoughts. Meditation enhances activity in the brain’s prefrontal cortex, essentially “turning down” the brain’s anxiety response. Try guided meditations, apps like Headspace or Calm, joining a class, or setting a timer for a simple 5 minute breathing meditation each day.
Certain essential oils have natural anti-anxiety and stress-relieving properties when inhaled or massaged into the skin. Oils like lavender, bergamot, clary sage, patchouli, and chamomile can induce relaxation. Add a few drops to a diffuser, rub diluted oils into the temples or wrists, or mix into unscented lotion for massage. Conduct research to ensure you use kid-safe blends.
Many herbs have been used for centuries around the world to lessen feelings of anxiety and promote calm. Popular options shown to reduce anxiety symptoms include chamomile, valerian, kava, passionflower, lemon balm, and CBD oil. These are available in teas, tinctures, capsules, or supplements. As with any new supplement, consult your doctor to ensure safety and proper dosage.
Counseling and Psychotherapy
Talk therapy techniques like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) are some of the most effective holistic interventions for anxiety management. CBT focuses on changing unhelpful thought and behavior patterns that exacerbate anxiety. Other therapeutic approaches like acceptance commitment therapy (ACT), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), and mindfulness based stress reduction (MBSR) incorporate mindfulness practices. Finding a licensed counselor can provide long-term relief.
While anxiety feels uncomfortable, there are many natural ways to find calm and peace again. A holistic approach considers all aspects of one’s health and wellbeing. Combining lifestyle changes like nutrition, exercise, nature, and mindfulness with therapeutic techniques like acupuncture, essential oils, herbs, and counseling can successfully manage anxiety without medication alone. Be patient with the process and know that with time and consistency, the mind and body can come back into healthy balance.