It’s very common to fight anxiety with medication, but it’s not unusual to search for medication-free treatment methods too! Maybe you’ve found that anxiety medication doesn’t work for you, or it interferes with other medicine you’re taking. Maybe it effectively reduces your anxiety but gives you unwanted side effects. Fortunately, there are many anxiety treatment options that don’t involve any medication. Here are five.
1. Physical Activity
There is a large body of research showing that physical exercise is an effective way to treat anxiety. In fact, some studies have demonstrated that exercise can offer the same anxiety-reducing benefits as medication. The effects are strongest when you make exercise a regular part of your routine.
Physical activity is believed to reduce anxiety because:
- It lowers stress hormones, such as cortisol.
- It releases endorphins, which trigger positive feelings.
- It improves the quality of your sleep – When you suffer from anxiety, your sleep is often affected, and studies have shown that sleep loss can increase anxiety.
- It can boost your confidence – Anxiety can significantly impact your self-esteem. Exercise counteracts this by making you feel more confident, competent, and strong.
Try out different forms of physical activity to see which you enjoy the most and which suit your lifestyle best. Where should you start? Try:
- Strength training
- Intramural sports
Meditation is an ancient Buddhist practice that modern day science is showing to be effective for treating a wide range of mental health disorders. You don’t need to be a Buddhist to benefit from it! In mindfulness meditation, the aim is to simply notice, in a non-judgmental way, whatever is going on in the present moment.
You usually sit with eyes closed and do some deep breathing. Pay attention to your in-breath and out-breath. Thoughts will arise. You observe them arise and pass without getting entangled in them or resisting them. This kind of detached observation is also be applied to:
- Bodily sensations
- Outside noises
Mindfulness meditation is an effective anxiety treatment without medication. It works so well that some psychotherapeutic methods are based around it. Many therapists use mindfulness-based cognitive therapy to help their patients with anxiety. Research shows that mindfulness can tackle the negative thinking that leads to anxiety. It can also help boost your self-esteem, which reduces the symptoms of anxiety disorders.
Mindfulness meditation works because it allows you to calmly notice anxious thoughts without getting wrapped up in them, and it brings you back to the present moment. In this way, they become less intense and pass quicker.
3. Healthy Diet
A healthy diet here means:
- Having a balanced diet
- Drinking enough water
- Limiting or avoiding alcohol
- Limiting or avoiding caffeine
- Limiting or avoiding processed sugar
Both alcohol and caffeine disrupt sleep. It’s more beneficial to follow a diet rich in whole grains, fruit, and vegetables than to eat a lot of processed foods high in simple carbohydrates.
Specific types of food that reduce anxiety include:
- Foods high in magnesium, such as leafy greens (e.g. spinach), legumes, nuts, seeds, and whole grains
- Foods high in zinc, such as beans, legumes, nuts, seeds, and oatmeal
- Foods rich in B vitamins, such as avocado and almonds
- Probiotic-rich foods – These help improve gut health, which has been linked to a reduction in anxiety.
Antioxidants can also combat anxiety without medication. These are simply chemicals that stop the process of oxidation, which damages cells in your body. Foods high in antioxidants include:
- Beans (kidney beans, pinto beans, black beans)
- Fruits (apples, cherries, plums)
- Berries (cranberries, blackberries, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries)
- Nuts (pecans, walnuts)
- Vegetables (spinach, kale, artichokes, beets, broccoli)
- Spices (ginger, turmeric)
It’s also important to eat regular meals. If you skip a meal, you could experience a drop in blood sugar, making you feel jittery, which could worsen your anxiety.
Talk therapy can be especially beneficial for anxiety. One of the most common talk therapies for anxiety is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).
In CBT, you break down your problems into five main categories:
- Physical feelings
CBT is based on the idea that these categories are linked, and they all impact each other. For example, if you have an anxiety disorder like social anxiety, a particular social situation can affect how you feel both physically and emotionally. This changes how you act.
What sets CBT apart from other psychotherapies is the fact that it is:
- Highly structured
- Focused on current problems, rather than past issues
- Collaborative (You work with your therapist to find solutions.)
Another aim of CBT is to stop the negative thinking patterns that characterize anxiety. This includes catastrophic thinking (thinking the worst) and ruminating on worries. Evidence shows that CBT is one of the most effective treatments for anxiety. CBT for generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) leads to significant reductions in worry.
5. Flotation Tanks
Floatation tanks (also known as isolation tanks or sensory deprivation tanks) are a promising form of therapy. They’re not commonly used to combat mental health issues, but they can be a beneficial anxiety treatment without any medication whatsoever.
These tanks are pitch black, soundproof, and filled with saltwater that is the same temperature as your body. This allows you to block out all sensory input. It’s a potent source of quiet and calmness, which helps you de-stress and relax. Many people suffering from anxiety disorders have used them, with very beneficial results. In the tank, racing, distressing thoughts slow down and fizzle out.
6. TMS Treatment
Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) treatment can also help you battle anxiety. It works by restoring brain regions to a normal level of activity. Your amygdala processes your emotions. When you suffer from anxiety, your right prefrontal cortex, which controls the amygdala, can become overactive. The result is excessive worrying. TMS works by stimulating these brain regions with a gentle electromagnetic pulse, restoring proper functioning in your brain.
To see if TMS therapy is right for your anxiety, get in touch with HPR Treatment Centers. Whether you suffer from generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), social anxiety disorder, or another form of anxiety, we may be able to help you reduce or eliminate your symptoms completely.
It is certainly possible to treat anxiety without medication! With the advice of your doctor or therapist, try out one of the methods above. It could help you cope with your symptoms and live a happier, more peaceful life.