5 More Ways to Manage Anxiety without Drugs | Chris Kresser
HCTP Banner

5 More Ways to Manage Anxiety without Drugs

by

Last updated on

anxiety treatment without medication, how to get rid of anxiety without medication
Stress can overwhelm, but there are strategies to overcome stress and anxiety.

This is a guest post by Laura Schoenfeld, a Registered Dietitian with a Master’s degree in Public Health, and staff nutritionist and content manager for ChrisKresser.com.

You can learn more about Laura by checking out her popular blog or visiting her on Facebook.

“And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to your life?” Christian Verse (Luke 12:25)

Last week, I wrote about my top three ways to manage anxiety without drugs. I really enjoyed reading the comments, especially from those of you who have had success making specific changes in your diet or lifestyle that have made a big difference in your day to day anxiety. Thanks for sharing your recommendations!

Since it’s clear that there are many different ways to manage anxiety that can be helpful, I thought this week I’d point out a few more adjustments you can do in your routine to make your anxiety a thing of the past. This is by no means a comprehensive list, but the following strategies are easy to incorporate into your daily life and can make a big difference in your mood and general outlook.

Feeling anxious? Here’s 5 more ways to manage your anxiety without drugs by @AncestralizeMe

1. Move It

Exercise is well known as a stress-relieving activity. (1) Most forms of exercise will provide a benefit, and team sports and activities practiced in the outdoors seem to be particularly beneficial for stress reduction. (1a, 1b) As long as you’re not overtraining, you’ll get a boost in mood from physical activity.

I personally recommend a regular yoga practice to all my clients dealing with anxiety. While any type of exercise will have benefits compared to no exercise at all, I believe yoga is one of the best options because of the research backing its efficacy in reducing stress and anxiety, and because it combines physical movement with attention to the mind-body connection.

Yoga has the potential to reduce both state (i.e. immediate) and long-term anxiety in a wide range of people. (2, 3, 4, 4b)  It is thought that yoga alleviates the “hyperarousal” of the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) and the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis that occurs in anxiety, specifically by activating the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS). (5) You may have heard of the SNS referred to as the “fight or flight” system, whereas the PNS is the “rest and digest” system.

By activating the PNS, yoga is able to help soothe the edginess and overly-aroused feelings that come from anxiety. I recommend doing an hour or more of yoga at least once a week, if not more, for the most consistent benefits. (If you don’t have a yoga studio nearby, check out YogaGlo, which offers online classes for a small monthly fee.)

If you hate yoga, though, don’t force yourself. Any activity that addresses the mind-body connection can be helpful in reducing anxiety. This includes targeted treatment methods such as mindfulness based stress reduction, as well as other movement-centered activities such as tai chi. (6, 7) Find an activity that you enjoy that isn’t adding additional stress to your body and you’ll experience the benefits of improved mood, and reduced anxiety.

2. Talk It Out

While my tips here are for avoiding drugs in the treatment of your anxiety, that doesn’t mean I think you should completely eschew all forms of professional help. Seeking out a mental health specialist can be an enormously constructive way to manage your anxiety, and it helps significantly to have someone guiding you through treatment. Much like working with a nutritionist can help you get your diet on the right track, working with a therapist can make a big difference in your recovery from anxiety, especially if you suffer from a more severe form.

There are many different types of therapists that can help you work through your anxiety using a variety of techniques. Here’s a list of your many options.

Some of the more common techniques used are psychoanalysis, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), and group therapy. Again, these are just a few of the more common styles of therapy, but as you can see from the list, there are hundreds of options to choose from and any number of them may be effective in helping you reduce your anxiety.

If getting a therapist isn’t in the cards for you financially, simply talking to another human being about your worries can be helpful, whether that’s a supportive parent, spouse, friend, or even coworker. (8, 9, 10) Just make sure you’re doing it face-to-face or over the telephone if necessary, as using email or social networks to “talk” about your troubles doesn’t have the same benefits, and may actually make anxiety worse! (11)

3. Pump up the Jams

Music is one of the most well-studied treatments for situational anxiety, and listening to your favorite tunes during times of stress can make an immediate difference in your mood. Dozens of studies show that music helps relieve stress, reduce pain, and improve mood for those in health care and other settings including those undergoing surgery, women about to give birth, those with Alzheimer’s disease, abused women living in shelters, those in hospice, cancer patients, those with psychiatric illness, and more. (12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21) And there are plenty more studies than those listed proving the benefits of music therapy for mental health. In case you don’t believe me that music is incredibly powerful in its effects on the brain, I recommend you watch this amazing video. (Seriously, it’s jaw-dropping.)

While more evidence exists suggesting benefits for “soothing” styles of music like jazz or classical, I personally believe that any music that you enjoy listening to can be mood-boosting. You can download your favorite songs on iTunes, or sign up for an on-demand radio service like Spotify or Pandora. Use your phone, computer, or MP3 player to turn on your favorite music, and watch your stress melt away. You can even watch a 24-hour online music video for the song “Happy” if that’s the kind of music that gets you going!

4. Get Touchy

Speaking of stress-melting, physical touch is another form of therapy that is well-studied for its benefits in reducing anxiety and promoting mental wellbeing. Massage has been shown to reduce anxiety and stress by reducing cortisol and increasing serotonin and dopamine, all important hormones in the regulation of mood. (x) Massage has also been shown to decrease SNS activity, that good ol’ fight-or-flight response that is elevated during anxiety. (22) One study even showed that massage therapy reduced anxiety for massage therapists! (23)

Acupuncture is another form of treatment that uses physical treatment to address mental wellbeing and reduce stress and anxiety. A recent study in rats showed that acupuncture reduced the stress hormone response in an animal model of chronic stress. (24) There is also evidence that acupuncture’s effect on anxiety is comparable to that of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), a type of counseling often used for those with anxiety and depression. (24b)

Like any other form of therapy, massage and acupuncture can get expensive, especially if your insurance doesn’t cover it as a treatment (which many don’t.) Fortunately, you don’t have to spend big bucks to get the benefits of touch. Simply being warmly touched by your partner or spouse can significantly reduce your stress response, and even lowers blood pressure. (25, 26) If you’re single like me, you can use a furry friend to get those same touch benefits: petting an animal has been shown to increase oxytocin production, the “bonding” chemical that boosts your mood. (27, 28) So get snuggling!

5. Just Breathe!

This is the easiest, cheapest (it’s free!), and most immediately accessible way to reduce anxiety in any situation, whether at home, at work, in the car, or any other places that seem to trigger your feelings of anxiety. It’s a strategy that is used in mindfulness practices like yoga and meditation that is an effective tool to have in your arsenal for dealing with stress and anxiety. Deep breathing, also called “pranayamic” breathing by yogis, has been shown to activate the PNS (rest and digest!), decrease blood pressure, reduce cortisol, and slow the heart rate. (29, 30, 31)

Some yoga practitioners recommend 3 Part Breathing as an effective stress-management strategy, but even just simply breathing deeply and slowing the respiratory rate can help improve your response to stressful events. If you need a tutorial on deep breathing exercises, you can check out this helpful video.

Time to Take Action!

So there you have it! Those are my best tips for reducing anxiety. I hope you’ve found them useful and plan to incorporate at least a few of them in your daily life. I’ll say for myself, after writing that first article, I made it a point to switch to decaf coffee and I’ve already noticed a significant difference in my overall anxiety levels. I already practice yoga (though I could stand to do it more often), exercise daily, play team sports, cuddle with my fur baby, listen to music, and call family or friends when I’m feeling extra anxious.

While nothing can completely obliterate stress and anxiety from our lives, especially in our fast paced modern world, we can use these smart, evidence-based strategies to significantly reduce the overall impact that anxiety has on our wellbeing, and improve our general outlook on life and enjoyment of daily activities. Life is too short to be stressed all the time!

Okay, now you share: have you made any of the changes I recommended? Notice any difference in your overall anxiety levels? Share your experience in the comments below!

  1. Great article, I really enjoyed it. In your last point “Breathe,” meditation by far has helped me the most with my stress and anxiety. It calms me down, puts life into perspective, and helps me focus and feel good afterwards. I highly recommend it to anyone who has never tried it! Something else that has helped me has been one motivational video a day. I really like Jaret Grossman’s videos because they really help keep things in perspective. One video actually deals with anxiety, and balancing stress in life. I’ll link it below. Thanks again for the article! Best of luck to all of you reading. Have a great day.
    http://blog.jaretgrossman.com/?s=anxiety

  2. I want to help my 92 yr old mother who seems to be experiencing anxiety. She seemingly can’t get a deep breath, unless she is totally distracted. But, she wakes up having thus trouble at night. When she walks around her senior living home, inside, she feels better. Dr has put her on alprazolam (?) to help calm her.
    She was never like this before. But, thus year she gave up driving, and us having more memory issues. Right now, the corn right outside her apartment, I so high she can’t see her usual sights. I think she may he feeling trapped, since she can’t just take off and go somewhere.
    She has has pulminary function test, and xrays,.. show that her body is getting enough oxygen. But, she dies chest breathing a lot, and begins to panic. I looked up breathing exercises for her, which she will try sometimes.
    I try to visit her more too.
    Is there anything else I can do for her? She will even start pacing at our house, if she thinks she is not getting enough air.

  3. I’m feeling low energy I can’t wake up on the bed because I’m feeling low pressure I have gastric reflux every timeand stomach bain ihave enxeity I’m feeling fear and deep worry so what can I do

    • Hey Faysal, I’m sorry you’re feeling that way. I struggle with chronic anxiety and many times have I felt the same way. The best way I can describe it, atleast for myself, is being trapped mentally without any escape from it, or it just subsiding. I’m happy to say though, there are numerous ways in which you can, not only cope with anxiety, but to also overcome it. I’m not saying that, “there’s a remedy that will COMPLETELY eliminate your anxiety” or anything like that. Anxiety is very real. We all experience anxiety at certain points in our life. Whether it be waiting in line at the grocery store to get to the checkout counter on a busy day, or getting stuck in traffic on your way to work or even a friend/family member that you haven’t seen in quite some time and can’t wait to see them. It just comes down to how OFTEN we feel anxious and how SEVERE it is or in other words, how it affects us. Many of these points that Mr. Kresser has pointed out have helped me tremendously. Admittedly, I had first got introduced to some of these methods from a book a friend recommended, called, “The Mindfulness Solution”. The author’s name: Ronald D. Siegel. If you’re interested, you should be able to pick it up at your local bookstore or via. the internet, (i.e, Amazon). It’s a great read and very helpful with those who struggle with chronic anxiety, depression, etc. Actually, some of the methods listed above are found in the book. So look into it if you’d like and maybe try and bring some of the methods listed above by Chris into your daily routine; you may find them very helpful. I hope you feel better Faysal, honestly. Peace & God Bless!

  4. Great tips! Music helps me a lot, but the best help has been ketogenic diet and abandoning all commercial junk food as well as cereals. I’ve been free from panic attacks and anxiety for almost a decade now. Before that I took Prozac and Valium over a decade, well actually Valium for almost two decades, though occasionally (no help!)

  5. I recently suffering from anxiety after the death of my son. I hand no reason to live anymore the doctor had put me on anxiety pills. And finally one day I woke up in said enough is enough I refuse to live like a prisoner trapped inside my body so I made a change I started talking to people about my problems I also started exercising more in just learned to take it one day at a time. Life isn’t meant to be fair or easy. But while you are still on this earth learn to enjoy life to the fullest don’t let this Thang called anxiety slow u down

  6. I have such severe nervousness to the point of simply wanting to die….
    NO one can find out why.?….I hate drugs they only make me worse….
    I really don’t know where to go from here…..I have to have relief SOON
    CAN ANYONE HELP????
    Blessing….

    • Have you had a test on the function of your thyroid ? / endocrine system, if not please do.

  7. I dealt with anxiety growing up but didn’t know it was called anxiety. My anxiety worsened once I got to college, and it seems to be triggered by “people.”

    I don’t know what to do. Anxiety sucks, and it takes a mental and physical toll on my body and mind.

    It is tiring and depletes all of my energy.

  8. I have been dealing with anxiety for over a year now. I am 32 and first anxiety attack I got in my 30. I tried everything I mean I read every book , every website , I went to se psychologist and tried herbal medicine and exercise. The only thing I haven’t tried is medicine and I don’t think medicine can really help you but if you really straggling and need quick help then you should try but in a long run can do more harm than good . Taking antidepressant or anty anxiety medicine gives me anxiety just the thought about taking it, I joined the 10 week paleo programme and now on the week 6 and OMG my anxiety went to zero . I know I still have long way to go and sometimes I really enjoy having some ice cream or go out to a restaurant and just need to order non paleo food but in a long way I know that I am getting better. Just a suggestion for people with anxiety try from changing your diet and start exercise and see if you can see any difference ?

    • Wow! I am Exactly the Same way about Medication! I am Terrified. I have tried everything! And My Anxiety has still managed to Control my life. Ugh….. I’m glad that you are doing well
      🙂

  9. I have been dealing with anxiety and stress for a good 6 months I feel I’m losing it I take no meds and I just deal with it myself.thinking I need vitamins:)

    • Hi !! I just wanted to know how you deal with your anxiety without meds ? I really don’t believe in taking anti-depressants .

      • I feel anxiety that i am not in my natural feel . Everytime i feel i am not happy and something gping on my mind. I dont want to take medicines. Last 2 years i had taken medicines thrugh physicist. Pls help.

      • Ashley, hi… I have struggled with depression/anxiety for most of my life & take many different medications for both. Everyone is different… but I decided I wanted to try to beat anxiety without meds a few months ago. Here is what I did- I started going to a spin class (cycling) 5 times a week. It was very hard because I had not been very active for a while, but I stayed with it anyway. It really got my heart rate up and I am now doing a stretching class similar to yoga along with a Pilates class 2 x week. Seems like a lot, but these things really help!!! You have the time if you make the time… exercise is the answer. Oh,.. and I started eating well. Kale has tons of vitamin A & D which are awesome for your mental health. I started having a kale, banana, almond butter & almond milk smoothie every single day just to see what would happen & i feel so much better…. I journal…. write down my feelings & work it out on paper… such as “so and so said this to me … my heart started racing …. etc… what can I do or tell myself next time to calm myself… have a plan… You can do it, but it takes work!!!

    • I am 11 and i have had anxiety my whole life and i hate it so much i am just going to try these things i had it worst when i was smaller but i got a little better

    • Hi…..I know how you feel. Anxiety has not left me for 11.months now…. I have been dealing with it….But I am Mentally Exhausted! I am Terrified of Medicine. … So I am stuck…

  10. i had a friend who was able to get rid of her anxiety by bringing her vitamin D level up. She had to take a large dose (along with vitamin K) to bring it up but then her anxiety totally went away!

  11. I m suffering from anxiety.2005 I feel anxious and scared abt many things,I consult a specialist.he said to my parents after marriage ur daughter will be fine.2010 my mother get stroke.now I really want to marry I force my parents to get me married.I constantly think if I will not marry how this society treat me.I think day and night this thinking.It stuck in my mind.help me.

  12. Mental health is not less important than the physical!
    Do not forget about psychosomatic illnesses and other dangerous effects of depression and anxiety.

    The article gives us good advice, but they will work one-time. In past I was suffering from depression for a year, and tips from these book hepled me: http://style4u.me/depression

  13. Why have a never seen a real person who has detoxed from Copper and cured thier anxiety? Never seen ” omg I detoxed copper i feel so amazing!” No everyone feels like shit and complains all over message boards and facebook following those protocols. I have met many women on those detoxes and have been for a year or more and are still having anxiety And terrible symptoms!

    Where i have seeen so much proof of getting rid of candida,pathogens,viruses healing the gut and supporting the immune system has cured multiple people to live a healthy happy life.

    Why have people on AIP no longer have anxiety when they went to the hospital for anxiety?! I dont think they are detoxing from copper…..

  14. I suffer from lightheadedness also. I have never heard of copper deficiency. Anyone have any info on it? Is it really related to anxiety??

  15. I went through horrible depression and anxiety, I had two children only 19 months apart. I couldn’t sleep, not interested in food, started forgetting things and sticking things in strange places. I was terrified and didn’t talk to anyone about it. I thought t hey would think I’m crazy and take my kids away! I went to several doctors and the last was very smart: He said it wasn’t me! It was my body! He started me off on high doses of Vitamin C, B-Vitamins like Biotin and Folic Acid and B-6, then set me up with Iron, Magnesium, Potassium and .Zinc. He did high levels of these, then dropped me down to a :Maintenance Level. It worked! I was so amazed! I had been convinced that I would be Anxious FOREVER!.I was so scared! Now I’m healed. When ever I do get anxious – I just get on track with those vitamins and minerals! Out the window goes the blues!
    Feel good about yourself! It’s NOT you! If you are low on money, these are cheap at even Walmart. Biotin, Folic Acid and lots of Vitamin C! You can take lots of C. It’s amazing.
    Good luck and have a great life. Yes DO Dance it up! Turn up that music – get I extra oxygen!