When was the last time you really and truly relaxed?
If you are struggling to remember and come up empty, try and relax—you are not alone.
Many people struggle with symptoms connected to untreated emotional issues—particularly anxiety—leaving them unable to function normally. As a result, they often suffer from emotionally induced conditions like high blood pressure, digestive problems, skin ailments, and other potentially serious health issues.
At the other end of the spectrum, there are individuals who take drugs designed to smother their feelings. For them, anxiety is something they believe they need to subdue with drugs. But they are so numb that they really do not feel anything, including joy.
Is that any way to live?
Certainly, there are times when people need help dealing with raw emotions, and anxiety can be terribly difficult to ignore—especially when they feel overwhelmed by circumstances beyond their coping abilities.
Instead of turning to a prescription for the latest anxiety or depression drug, we recommend taking the time to sort through all the options first, which can be more effective.
6 Reasons to Switch to Natural Solutions for Anxiety
Here are six reasons to explore alternative solutions before turning to a bottle:
Higher risk of falling - Research shows that older men and women (age 60 and above) who take anti-anxiety medication, as well as sleep aids and/or antidepressants, have a 2-to-3 times greater risk of falling as people who do not take these drugs.
Potential drug addiction - Patients given anti-anxiety medication tend to develop dependency on the drug, making it exceedingly difficult to quit. (Unfortunately, patients usually are not told that when the drugs are being prescribed. And, even if they are warned, many people want relief so desperately that they try to ignore the downsides.)
Greater risk of insomnia - Although anti-anxiety medication can help with anxiety and insomnia at first, the effectiveness diminishes over time. Giving them up, however, often leads to rebound insomnia, so sleeplessness frequently returns with a vengeance when you stop taking the medication.
Lack of restful sleep - Prescription sleep aids and anti-anxiety drugs interfere with real, restful sleep, although users are often unaware of this drawback. Healthy sleep requires time for both rapid eye movement (REM) sleep—which is when we dream time and deep sleep. But some of these drugs do not allow you to experience the entire REM cycle, which translates into less quality sleep time.
Dangerous side effects - The negative side effects linked to anti-anxiety medication can be quite serious, but again, that is not something doctors typically discuss when prescribing them. These drugs can affect your coordination, alertness, and reaction time, making mistakes and accidents more likely. In addition, they can cause dizziness, memory loss, incontinence, and nausea, as well as worsen breathing problems, especially during sleep.
- Potentially fatal reactions - Even an occasional anti-anxiety or sleeping pill puts you at risk for fatal reactions. A recent study found that patients taking so-called “hypnotics,” including zolpidem and temazepam, as well as older benzodiazepines and barbiturates (Valium, Librium), and sedative antihistamines (diphendrydramine), had significantly elevated cancer occurrences, as well as more than three times the risk of dying – even when taking fewer than 18 pills a year!
Bottom line: Taking drugs to suppress the symptoms of living a life out of balance does nothing to correct the situation and adds a host of potentially serious consequences.
Better Ways To Handle Anxiety
Years ago, conventional wisdom claimed that the mind and body were entirely separate entities. Today, we know that the two are intimately related.
When you experience mental stress caused by anxiety, the repercussions are felt throughout your body.
Remember the last time you were involved in a near-miss collision or another type of close call?
That jolt of adrenaline you felt is accompanied by a flood of stress hormones, including cortisol, that speed up your heartbeat, sharpen your senses, and send oxygen to the muscles – all things that help you escape a dangerous situation.
At the same time, your immune system is powered down to allow more energy for the other organs that are involved in helping you avoid that collision.
If your body is flooded with adrenaline and cortisol only occasionally, it can return to normal within minutes. But when stress and/or anxiety are ongoing, you begin to pay the price with health problems.
For instance, if your immune system is turned to a low setting while your body deals with anxiety issues, you are more likely to get colds, flu, and other ailments.
Lowered immunity and compromised health are what happens to you internally when the source of anxiety is not an oncoming bus, but a less tangible enemy—one that is not going away.
In today’s world, we face the possibility of some very real threats, such as a global pandemic, natural disasters, terrorist attacks and senseless killing sprees.
In addition, there are plenty of anxiety-inducing uncertainties, including basic economic pressures, like employment and health insurance, work stress, difficult family dynamics and culture wars.
Face it. Many of the things that make us anxious are beyond our control—a fact that only makes the situation worse for many people.
If you are anxious about world events or politics, you might want to consider going on a “news fast” to curb your feelings of overwhelm.
But, if you are among those who do not want to be out of the loop on current events, try reading or listening to news in the morning, rather than before bedtime. This will give you time to process the information and deal with it, so it does not interrupt your sleep.
If you find yourself struggling to relax after the nightly news, please find a healthier substitute.
Humor is an excellent stress buster, so try watching a comedy classic or something innocuous, like a cooking or home remodeling show before bedtime.
Or better yet, turn off all your screens 30 to 60 minutes before you go to sleep.
If you have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep through the night and want some additional help, melatonin and slow-release melatonin are safe, natural alternatives to pharmaceutical sleep aids.
Are Feeding Your Anxiety?
Here is another way anxiety and stress can negatively affect your health—by affecting your food choices.
In a fascinating study from the University of California Davis, researchers found that individuals who were stressed ate fewer fruits, vegetables, and protein, preferring salty and/or sweet snacks.
But is it possible your anxiety is caused by something you eat? Yes, say researchers.
If you consume foods containing any of the following ingredients or additives, you may be increasing the likelihood of unsettling emotions, as well as harming your overall health:
- Caffeine from coffee, tea, or soft drinks - Drink fresh, filtered water instead.
- Refined white flour - Choose whole grains.
- Sugar and/or high fructose corn syrup - Raw, organic honey or organic maple syrup are preferable.
- Trans fats and/or hydrogenated oils - Replace with extra virgin, organic olive oil or grapeseed oil.
- Aspartame - Try raw, organic honey or maple syrup instead.
- FD&C (Food, Drug & Cosmetic) - Avoid Red #40 and Yellow #5
- MSG (Monosodium glutamate) - Try Celtic sea salt or mineral-rich lite salt instead of this “flavor enhancer.”
All the substances listed above have been linked to mood upsets, along with a wide range of other health concerns. That is why we encourage our readers to eat real, whole foods, rather than packaged or fast food.
Move Your Way to Freedom From Anxiety
To make matters worse, the researchers in the UC Davis study mentioned above also found that stress made the participants less likely to exercise.
Exercise has been proven time and again to be one of the best ways to reduce stress. Even many mainstream therapists and psychiatrists agree that exercise improves mood, including anxiety.
Going for a brisk, 30-minute walk five or six days each week can deliver a hearty dose of mood-elevating brain chemicals, including serotonin and tryptophan.
If the weather’s not cooperating and you cannot get outside, just march in place while listening to your favorite music, audiobook, or chatting on the phone. This is one instance when multi-tasking can be good for you.
Focusing on something other than your anxiety can open a whole new perspective, as well as provide symptom relief.
Find Relief by Living in the Moment
Many anxiety sufferers often tend to be anxious not about things that are happening now, but situations they fear could happen.
It’s true—life is filled with uncertainties. But making yourself sick over something that might or might not happen will not help.
In fact, it only makes matters worse.
Fortunately, mindfulness meditation has repeatedly been proven helpful in easing anxiety.
At its most basic level, mindfulness is simply the practice of sitting quietly for ten minutes or so and focusing on one’s breathing, or observing things that are happening at the moment (birds chirping, an engine starting, and so on). Two short, daily mindfulness sessions can help redirect your thoughts away from anxiety-provoking scenarios.
Many anxiety sufferers find this sort of meditation to be a lifesaver. If you are interested in learning more, just use your favorite search engine to check out the many websites that explain mindfulness meditation in greater detail.
Natural Remedies for Anxiety Relief With No Side Effects
Many times, when patients ask a doctor for help dealing with anxiety, they are prescribed antidepressants like Prozac, Xanax, or Lexapro.
But a recent study found that antidepressants can cause anxiety in certain individuals. In those cases, tapering off the medication solved the patient’s problem.
Hundreds of studies have examined various natural remedies for emotional support and may offer an alternative. If you currently take antidepressants and are experiencing anxiety, discuss getting off the medication with your doctor.
There are much safer, effective natural remedies for depression, including St. John’s wort, 5-HTP, SAMe, probiotics, and omega-3 essential fatty acids (EFAs).
St. John’s wort, 5-HTP (5-hydroxytryptophan), SAMe (short for S-adenosyl-L-methionine), and probiotics have been shown to alleviate anxiety and mild to moderate depression with few side effects, especially when compared with prescription drugs.
If you are interested in these alternatives, please be patient. It can take 4 to 6 weeks to feel the full effects. Here are some recommended starting points for each:
- St. John’s wort: 600 to 1,200 mg daily, from a standardized product containing 0.3% hypericin, the active ingredient.
- 5-HTTP: 50 mg, taken one to three times daily.
- SAMe: 400 to 1,600 mg daily
(Note: If you currently take other medication, discuss adding St. John’s wort or SAMe with your physician first.)
If you’re interested in a probiotic, there are many available, including our own Microencapsulated Probiotic with FOS, which includes support from “prebiotics”.
When it comes to omega-3 essential fatty acids, choose a formulation that is naturally high in DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and contains vitamin D3. Research shows that DHA is essential for a healthy brain and heart, while vitamin D3 has been shown to enhance mood.
Newport Natural Health offers an omega-3 product formulated with sustainable Calamarine® and a high ratio of DHA-rich essential fatty acids to help support a healthy heart, sharp mind, and overall vitality. Plus, it uniquely includes vitamin D and Astaxanthin—the super nutrient packed with antioxidant power. Learn more about this top-notch omega-3 formula here.
Prescription medications often have side effects and unintended consequences, so if you decide to go that route, plan on it being a temporary solution, rather than a long-term fix.
Given all these alternative remedies for anxiety, we strongly urge you to start with the natural choices, including dietary changes, exercise, and supplements.
We believe that these simple changes to your lifestyle can help you overcome the rough patches of life and on the road to optimal emotional health.
Take good care.
Disclaimer: Please note the date of last review or update on all articles. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.
Last Updated: November 4, 2020
Originally Published: August 27, 2013