Remedies for Anxiety That Don’t Involve Medication

Woman breaks for water while exercisingMedication can make a big difference for people who wake up every day to a racing heart and a sense of dread. This treatment approach isn’t for everyone, though. Medication doesn’t always work, and some people suffer side effects such as drowsiness and difficulty concentrating. For people who have heard that anti-anxiety medication can sometimes be dangerous, taking medication might even make anxiety worse. If you’re already taking medication, talk to your doctor before making any changes. If you’re interested in natural methods for treating anxiety, you might be surprised to learn that some treatments can work as well as medication.

Find the Right Therapist

Therapy is one of the most effective ways to treat anxiety without taking medication. Through therapy, you’ll examine the sources of your anxiety and develop coping skills that can help you manage anxiety attacks. Some people even find that therapy causes their anxiety to vanish completely. If you need help finding a therapist who specializes in anxiety, check out GoodTherapy.org’s therapist search tool.

Exercise

Exercise remains one of the best things you can do for your health, and it can also help treat your anxiety. Immediately after exercise, you’ll get an endorphin rush that can help you feel happy and elated rather than anxious and overwhelmed. Over time, exercise can also ease an anxious mind. Try exercising in the morning or afternoon, or at least several hours before sleep. Doing so can help you sleep better, since exercise also has insomnia-busting benefits.

Consider Trying Supplements

Research on the benefits of supplements for treating anxiety is mixed, but some people have excellent luck with vitamins and minerals. Magnesium may help reduce anxiety, and some anxious people swear by herbs like rhodiola or kava. If you’re concerned about your diet but worried about trying an herbal supplement, consider a multivitamin, which can help ensure you get the basic vitamins and minerals you need to keep your brain functioning well.

Notice Your Thoughts

When you struggle with anxiety, your thoughts can feel like an endless, uncontrollable stream of panic and negative self-talk. Pausing to notice your thoughts can help you begin to uncover your anxiety triggers. Once you understand what causes your anxiety, you can develop a coping plan for anxiety-inducing situations. Don’t stop there, though. Begin to challenge your negative thoughts. If you tell yourself something terrible will happen at the doctor’s office, counter this thought by contemplating all of the positive appointments you have had and considering that it’s actually quite unlikely that something bad will happen. Remind yourself that worrying about something will not change it.

Remember to Breathe

People experiencing moments of intense anxiety may hold their breath or begin hyperventilating. Doing so deprives your brain of oxygen, making it harder to think and easier to become overwhelmed by anxious thoughts. Focus on slow and steady breathing, and consider counting your breaths to help distract yourself from a stream of anxious thoughts.

Meditate

Meditation can help you quiet an anxious mind and gain better control over your thoughts. Simply focusing on deep breathing, a soothing image, or a calming mantra is all it takes, but you might also want to consider a meditation course or book. Research suggests that some people are able to get a handle on their anxiety with meditation alone. Even if meditation doesn’t “cure” your anxiety, it provides a healthier way of dealing with moments of panic, and meditating when you’re overwhelmed can help get your thoughts back on track.  

References:

  1. Anxiety Disorders and Effective Treatment. (n.d.). American Psychological Association. Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/anxiety-treatment.aspx
  2. Corliss, Julie. (2014, January 8). Mindfulness meditation may ease anxiety, mental stress. Harvard Heart Letter. Retrieved from http://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/mindfulness-meditation-may-ease-anxiety-mental-stress-201401086967
  3. Managing Anxiety Without Drugs. (2007, June 13). Retrieved from http://www.johnshopkinshealthalerts.com/reports/depression_anxiety/1156-1.html
  4. Reynolds, G. (2013, July 3). How Exercise Can Calm Anxiety. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/07/03/how-exercise-can-calm-anxiety/
  5. What Are Some Non-Prescription Anxiety Medications? (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.calmclinic.com/anxiety/drugs/non-prescription

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The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Annie

    Annie

    July 6th, 2014 at 5:19 AM

    Thank you so much for publishing this. I think that there are so many things that being mindful and aware of the true things that we need that can be so worthwhile but we choose ot not listen to those because we don’t deem them to be the easy fix. But they are, they really are! How much easier is it to practice mindful breathing, to eat right and exercise versus taking a handful of different medications each day? I know that this is something that I would much rather focus on because I know that these are not things to just help one ailment, they could help many.

  • Sidney

    Sidney

    July 6th, 2014 at 8:34 AM

    Supplements? Could you give me any ideas other than just a regular multivitamin? I am all for trying that but I would be lost even thinking about where to start.

  • victoria

    victoria

    July 7th, 2014 at 12:49 PM

    Much of this is about coming to terms with what you are experiencing and being aware of the things that cause you anxiety in life and those things that help you to relax. It is’t easy to go from one to the other, there will be times when the anxiety will feel so out of control that you may not even remember how to get away from it. But if you could, just for a momet, look at this as a time to breathe and step away from that situation, you could feel much better in just a minute or two. But you have to remain mindful of what those triggers are and have a plan for kicking them away when they start to encroach upon you.

  • Catherine Boyer, MA, LCSW

    Catherine Boyer, MA, LCSW

    July 8th, 2014 at 7:18 AM

    I’d like to suggest adding neurofeedback to the list of alternatives to medication. I brought it into my psychotherapy practice ten years ago after I saw it eliminate my own life-long anxiety dreams.

    Many of my clients come to me in order to reduce or eliminate medications or to avoid going on them. The results are good regarding the Central Nervous System in general and tend to show up quite quickly with anxiety. It’s extremely complementary to good psychotherapy.

  • Ryanne

    Ryanne

    July 8th, 2014 at 3:08 PM

    Sometimes I just need to take a little breatehr, a little time out from the rest of my day. I know that this isn’t always possible for some of us and there are even days where I find it hard to make the time to do that. But I do it, even if it means getting up a little earlier or turning in a little later. I take that time out for me because it gives me a chance to sort through my day and just to relax in a way that I normally don’t ever get to do. Some people call that little time out selfish, but I call it the best 5 to 10 minutes that I spend with myself, for myself, every day.

  • Hope

    Hope

    July 11th, 2014 at 12:43 PM

    Great article. Yes, sometimes just focusing on your breathing can calm anxiety. A walk helps as well. Going outside really can soothe the dragons inside our heads. A significant realization that helped me the most: there are so many of us who suffer from anxiety disorders. Talking about it with other people has helped me tremendously. Best wishes to all who deal with anxiety.

  • Stacey S.

    Stacey S.

    July 11th, 2014 at 12:49 PM

    I use Energy Psychology methods. They have worked wonders for the clients I see who have anxiety. Sometimes it takes only one session to help reduce the anxiety significantly.
    I’m amazed by the quick progress my clients have made with these method.
    Sometimes people come in for consultation sessions and then go back to their therapist for ongoing therapy.

  • Sheila Caporaso

    Sheila Caporaso

    August 30th, 2014 at 4:21 PM

    Hi Stacey,

    What are energy psychology methods? Is that similar to EFT(Tapping)?

    Thank you,

    Sheila

  • Marty O.

    Marty O.

    July 11th, 2014 at 10:34 PM

    I suffer from depression and anxiety. This is a life long thing. I was on 6mg of Xanax a day. Anxiety just washes over me for no reason and I feel a great need to just make it stop. I wasn’t always taking the Xanax as prescribed and I felt that I was on the edge of it becoming a real issue. I am now weened off of the Xanax but I still have the “flight” feeling. I’ll try the Magnesium but will talk to my MD before trying any herbal supplements as I’m not sure how they will react with my depression medications.

  • cAmI

    cAmI

    July 12th, 2014 at 6:15 AM

    Finding the right therapist could truly be the answer that you have been looking for but have maybe been to afraid to try. I know that therapy and starting therapsy can feel like a scary process if you have never done it, and I know that there will be all sorts of people with pros and cons stories. But I am telling you, this was my lifesaver, it was my chance to talk about things openly and honestly with someone who I knew would understand me and who I knew I could trust to be the completion to these questions and feras that I had all of the time.

  • Dustin

    Dustin

    July 29th, 2014 at 2:52 PM

    I’ve found that Anxiety can be calmed with a few nootropic and supplements. Tianeptine is a prescription drug out of Europe that is unregulated here in the USA that works as a SSRE (as opposed to a inhibitor). L Theanine is commonly found in various teas and also increases the serotonin receptors as well as the GABA receptors. Read more about these nootropics at: smartdrugsforthought.com/

  • Patricia

    Patricia

    February 4th, 2015 at 11:26 PM

    I had surgery to correct what was misdiagnosed as hiatus hernia. The surgery was unsussessful and I now suffer with gerd (gastrointestinal reflux disorder). Consequently, most medications and foods have an impact. I find however that anxiety has the worst impact on the gerd and am desperately seeking a treatment for both. I recently read an article about using tricyclic antidepressants to treat gerd and am concerned about the side effects. My work requires me to be mentally sharp and alert at all times and I am hopeful that someone out there may have an answer.

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