Anxiety disorders affect over eighteen percent of the American population. In fact, the World Health Organization claims that the U.S. is one of the top three countries most affected by depression and anxiety.
Many would argue that this is no surprise. Stress is rampant, after all, in America. While civil war isn’t ravaging the American landscape currently, political and social tensions are certainly on the rise.
Luckily, there are solutions to managing anxiety, no matter its severity or cause. Unfortunately, these solutions often involve pharmaceuticals. While some people are happy popping pills, some—including myself—are more hesitant to do so.
I’ve struggled off and on with anxiety myself and have explored a variety of drug-free means of managing it. While some may say these solutions are tentative at best, I’ve found real success from them, provided I harness the power of several at a time.
Note: Please consult your physician before trading any existing prescriptions for these. Medical guidance is essential if you struggle with severe anxiety.
Deep Breathing (Pranayama)
I’ve practiced yoga for over a decade, but only recently have I understood its emphasis on deep breathing. Breath has the power to circulate energy throughout the body, ease tense muscle fibers, and even alter mood.
Pranayama, the practice of controlled breathing, can be particularly helpful in balancing both sides of the brain, inducing states of calm, and working through bouts of anxiety. This is because it engages the parasympathetic nervous system, which has the capacity to soothe and relax all systems.
I like to use pranayama or simple deep breathing on flights. I have particularly severe flight anxiety, but several cycles of pranayama during intense turbulence always helps.
Studies indicate that prolonged periods of meditation may reduce anxiety in the moment (and over time). Meditation strives to clear the mind, from one perspective; from another, it coaxes our obsessive brains away from distracting or nagging thoughts.
Meditators learn to observe rather than engage with thoughts. Many pair this practice with deep breathing.
Try beginning and ending your day with a brief ten-minute meditation. You can even use an app to launch your simple practice!
Scores of herbal supplements available to consumers without a prescription may be beneficial for anxiety management. Kava, valerian root, lavender, and lemon balm have all been associated with anxiety reduction.
Consult an herbalist or naturopath for more information, as some herbal supplements may have adverse side effects.
I like to unite the tri-power of positive visualization, meditation, and deep breathing when feeling particularly anxious. Positive visualization is exactly what it sounds like—it simply coaxes an individual to visualize a successful or positive outcome of a specific scenario.
Meditating on an image of success—rather than an image of the worst possible outcome—can influence your neurology, train your body to embrace a positive future, and help you overcome negative cycles of emotion in the moment.
I often experience anxiety prior to any public performance, be it before teaching a class or reading my work in front of an audience. It’s hard to quell such pervasive jitters, but striking a power pose can aid in in-the-moment anxiety management.
Power poses are physical postures that radiate authority. I like to stand in front of a mirror with my hands on my hips and my feet spaced hip-distance apart, for example. Power poses can set a visceral standard for confidence, particularly when your muscles (and heart) feel weak!
These solutions are not comprehensive, and nor may they be the best fit for certain individuals. They can, however, offer a means of supplementing existing treatment, all without the need to bring pharmaceuticals into the equation.