Anxiety – Lifestyle & Alternative Therapies

Feeling anxious is a perfectly normal reaction to anticipated stressful situations, such as exams, job interviews or the outcome of medical tests, but when anxiety comes to dominate our everyday lives we need to recognise it as problematic.

This is what is happening to a young friend of mine. Anxiety has been bubbling up within her for several years now and she is currently at a crisis point, struggling to recall the last time she felt relaxed. In seeking medical treatment for her condition, she has been diagnosed as having Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD), which means that her anxiety is not caused by any specific situation, so it has become more difficult to treat. She is taking medication and waiting for Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, though this is a long time coming and is in itself a cause of further anxiety.

Fortunately, she recognises the dilemma and is bravely attempting to get to grips with some lifestyle-based and alternative treatments, such as the following.

Lifestyle-based Treatments

  • Moving More. Exercise relieves stress and it doesn’t need to be too strenuous. Simply taking a walk each day is beneficial.
  • Adequate Sleep. Getting at least six hours sleep a night refreshes our systems and has been shown to make a person 2.5% less likely to experience mental distress.
  • Eating Better. ‘Rubbish’ food makes you feel rubbish. Choose fresh, unprocessed foods whenever possible and ensure this includes wholegrain cereals, leafy green vegetables and low-fat dairy products.
  • Build Self-Esteem. Look after yourself physically; soak in the bath, paint your nails, sit up straight and smile. Science shows that you can alter your mental health positively by being more body-aware.
  • Social support. Friends and family support systems are a vital resource to tap into. Talking about your worries can be a powerful way to reduce anxiety.

Alternative Treatments

  • To bring your attention back to the present moment and unhook from unhelpful ideas, use mindfulness guides.
  • You can huff and puff and blow anxiety down but focusing and slowing down your breathe.
  • Writing a gratitude diary can help rewire your brain to look for the positive. The process helps you look outwards instead of staying inside your mind.
  • Getting Lost in Books. Delving into other worlds is a great way to escape the worries. Research shows just several minutes of getting lost in the pages of a book can lower stress by 60%.

It is simple to type in a list of things to choose and work from, but I recognise that addressing GAD isn’t easy and there will be some setbacks.

And, although it can feel like an enemy to our wellbeing, we often do have good reasons to be anxious, which should not be denied.  Another friend tells me that when feeling anxious she says “hello” to it, recognising it for what it is and taking time to assess how to deal with it. After all, anxiety as it is part of who we are: we just don’t want it to become all we are.