The demands of the 21st century living have led to more and more of us being diagnosed with anxiety or experiencing high levels of stress in our everyday lives. For some people, this might be a fleeting feeling that disappears once the trigger for the emotion goes away. For others, however, anxiety and stress can become all-consuming, stopping the sufferer from enjoying their day-to-day life as they used to.
A doctor’s typical response to someone reporting high levels of anxiety is to prescribe drugs, commonly antidepressants, to ameliorate the symptoms that occur. These medications, however, often come with several unpleasant side effects including insomnia, increased anxiety (ironically!), sexual dysfunction, and even suicidal ideation, all of which can make the original mental health issue worse. Is medication really the only way we can combat stress and anxiety?
Not really! In recent years, awareness about stress and anxiety (among many other mental disorders) has increased, and with that, the demand for natural and drug-free treatments has also increased.
Therapists have developed many management techniques that don’t involve the use of invasive pharmaceutical drugs. If you’re looking for natural alternatives, then keep reading, as we have rounded up just a few of the best ways to deal with stress and anxiety without using drugs.
Although exercising can seem like a hassle before you start, when it comes to managing anxiety and stress, it’s well worth the initial push to engage with it.
This is because exercising naturally releases endorphins, otherwise known as the happy hormones, that can have an uplifting effect on your mood, making it easier to deal with anxiety and lower stress levels. Exercise also reduces the amount of stress hormones in your body, which can be a major trigger in developing anxiety.
Even without considering the science behind this, exercising wears you out, meaning you won’t have as much energy to focus on being anxious or stressed. And as a bonus, you can make up for the calories you burn during exercising by enjoying some of the foods that make you happy, like chocolate — in moderation!
Breathing exercises can be one of the most effective ways of managing anxiety once it has already started. Don’t panic though, I’m not talking about the huffing and puffing many of us experience after exercising for the first time in a while.
No, breathing exercises involve using specialist techniques to calm the body and reduce the opportunities your body has to physically react to your mental anxiety.
One of the most common techniques is called the square breathing method, also known as the box breathing method. It has four simple steps, as listed below:
- Inhale slowly through your nose while counting to four.
- Hold for four seconds.
- Exhale slowly through your mouth while counting to four.
- Hold for four seconds.
You can repeat these steps for a few minutes while sitting straight up in a quiet and comfortable place.
Unlike antidepressant drugs, which are addictive and come with many distasteful side effects, breathing exercises are completely natural and can be continued for as long as you need to do them. They can be utilized again at a moment’s notice if your anxiety or stress flares up for any reason, and they start working instantly to relieve you of your anxiety, instead of having to wait for a substance to build up in your system.
Talk To Yourself
Some people proclaim that talking to yourself is a sure sign of insanity, but did you know it can also help with anxiety and stress symptoms?
When you’re stressed out or anxious, you’re probably bottling up the things that are worrying you. This allows more stressors to build up before you have time to deal with the previous ones, giving you that ‘out of control’ feeling many associate with anxiety.
By taking a few moments out of your day to talk out loud about the things that are troubling you, you’re slowing your brain down to think about one thing at a time. This allows you to process the things you’re stressed or anxious about, putting them into perspective and allowing you to continue with the rest of your day feeling more relaxed and in control of the situations you might face.
Talk to Friends
Although talking to yourself can be therapeutic, focusing so much on what we’re going through can make us all consumed by our troubles.
By arranging to meet up with a friend to talk through your problems, you’re not only sharing them, but you’re also speaking to someone outside of your brain that might be able to offer you solutions to your problems that you hadn’t even thought of.
Make Time For Yourself
Many of us fall into the trap of being in demand to too many people, which can make us feel increasingly stressed and anxious about the tasks or roles expected of us. While it’s important to be involved in larger society, it’s also important to take time for yourself to do the things you enjoy doing.
Self-care, although it has become a trend in recent years on social media, can help reduce stress as it gives you time to relax, bringing you back to the reality of your life when you are in a better headspace and better able to deal with things.
You could do anything during this time, like taking a few minutes or even hours to yourself to do something you enjoy, such as reading a book, taking a bath, or simply sitting and listening to a song that you like. Whatever it is, make sure you make time for it in your day so that you aren’t constantly loaning all of yourself out to other people without protecting your wellbeing first.