Natural Approaches for Alleviating Anxiety and Panic
I’m familiar with debilitating anxiety—intimately so. Three years ago, I was pummeled with my first panic attack out of the clear blue sky and it was a terrifying experience. But once I came to terms with one of the most critical laws of anxiety, the panic began to fade. The law is this: Anxiety is not dangerous. It is uncomfortable, it can feel terrifying—for many, it can feel as if insanity or even death is imminent—but anxiety is not going to cause immediate harm. Accepting this truth, and truly believing it as fact, means anxiety will begin lose its hold over you.
Oftentimes, medication is necessary, and perhaps even critical, to successfully treating anxiety. But there are drug-free choices, too. Here are five natural methods for soothing anxiety that I find to be effective.
1. Try a magnesium supplement. Called the original “chill pill” by Psychology Today, magnesium is an important mineral—one that is often lacking in our modern diets—that is connected to the “rest-and-digest” function of the nervous system. I started taking a daily magnesium supplement after one friend described it as a “natural form of the anti-anxiety medication, Xanax.” I personally recommend the supplement Natural Calm which can be found at Amazon, Whole Foods, and other health food stores.
2. Sit for a 10-minute meditation, twice a day. I’ve done yoga for years, but didn’t practice regular meditation until I was suffering from acute anxiety. Like most things that are good for you, meditation practice takes discipline, and it is easy to delay it or convince yourself that you don’t have enough time. I’ve found 10 minutes twice a day to be extremely helpful for reducing anxiety. Find a comfortable place to sit with a tall spine and close your eyes. Set a timer for 10 minutes and though you’ll come up with every excuse possible to move: don’t. Take full, deep breaths and relax completely. That’s it!
3. Get your sweat on three times a week. I like to think of exercise as the fire that burns off the residue of the day—be it stress, fatigue, worry, or full-fledged anxiety. Although exercising every day would feel great, I find that getting exercise that makes me sweat, three times a week, is sufficient enough to make a difference.
4. Aim for 8 hours of sleep. Notice I say “aim.” We’d probably all love to sleep 10 hours a night, but know that usually this isn’t possible. In my experience sleep deprivation almost always makes my anxiety worse. If you have kids, make sure you and your partner are taking turns on the early shift. Let them watch cartoons a few mornings a week if necessary. Sometimes a little extra sleep is all I need to restore my nervous system and get relief from anxiety.
5. Cut down on your online time. Our bodies were not designed for the hyperconnected world in which we live, and when we spend too much time texting, tweeting, commenting, or otherwise plugged-in, our nervous system suffers. Cutting back on digital technology is an easy way to reduce anxiety. Here’s a perfect place to start: Do not use technology to kill time. Studies show that we need time spent daydreaming, being bored, wondering; our brains need this opportunity to reset. As I tell my four-year-old son and five-year-old daughter, “Don’t knock boredom—there’s a reason for it; we need it to be relaxed, to be creative, and to be human.”