Natural Ways To Deal With Anxiety

Today I’m addressing one of my most frequently asked questions in my mental health question box.

*Deep breath.*

Do you take medication for anxiety? If not, how do you deal with it?

natural remedies for anxiety

I’ll let ya’ll know now, that I think the reason why it took me so long to share about my anxiety was because I was really hesitant to talk about medication and my experience with it. It’s no big deal to chat with your girlfriends about how much you love a Midol and a Diet Coke when you have terrible cramps and I’m the first person to have Advil for any ache and pain in my purse, but talking about anti-anxiety medication is…heavy.

 

I was at a party this summer with a bunch of people I just met. Being the anti-social, non-drinker that I am, I spent about 40 minutes standing in a corner with a Sprite chit-chatting with a girl I had met there. We were discussing how much we loved Target’s clothes when she pointed out how her beloved high-wasted cutoffs had become too big because she’d recently lost about 10 pounds.

“Oh wow that’s great!” I exclaimed, and without hesitating, she told me why.

“Yeah, I’ve been taking medication for my anxiety, but it started making me feel kinda fuzzy, so I’ve been backing off.”

Maybe it was because she was being so honest or maybe I wanted to kill more time being anti-social in my corner, so I shared my story with her.

I used to take medication. I took it for almost 10 years to be exact. When I was 19, I started to wonder what it would be like to not take three different pills twice a day. So I went to my doctor, who laughed in my face and told me I’d be sorry, and I got off of all the medication.

So let’s pause for a second. The answer to your question is, no, I don’t take medication. But I used to. See, when you’re nine years old and your crippling anxiety keeps you from getting on the school bus each morning, medication sounds like a great idea. And it did work really well for me. I could participate in the school spelling bee without a meltdown, have fun at friend’s birthday parties, and even go to summer camp for almost the whole week.

A lot of people, and maybe even some of you that asked the question, shy away from medication because they are worried of how it might make them feel. Well, I can’t tell you really how it made me feel because, I don’t remember. Maybe I was tired, maybe I had less motivation, I don’t know.

And then I just carried on my merry way all through elementary, middle, high school and the first semester of college.

I’m not putting down medication. I still, to this day, am glad I took it. I guess next time around I’d be more cautious and really monitor how I was feeling and any weird side effects, but honestly, when I was 9, I really just cared about getting home from dance class in time to see That’s So Raven.

January of 2015 was a very interesting month. I was going off the medication and it was a very difficult process. “Withdrawal” is a scary word that you wouldn’t associate with a 19-year old journalism major who loves pastel colored sticky notes and going to the mall with friends, but that’s pretty much what was going on. For once, my body had to work, on it’s own, to push through the pestering anxiety and go about my daily routine. It was weird and uncomfortable, but I got through it.

I ended up feeling a lot better. My hair grew, my skin cleared, and I slimmed out a lot. I had more energy and more zest. It was the first time in a while that I woke up every day and relied on nothing but God, a glass of water, and my own heart and soul to get me out of bed and into my day.

I was also pretty freaked out to be going at it alone. Every night after I had dinner at the dining hall and kissed Cam goodbye for the day, I’d go to my room, change into comfy clothes, make tea, and spend about three hours doing research on my laptop. I’d read free e-book after free e-book (because #brokecollegestudent) about anxiety, yoga, meditation, diets for anxiety, etc. I’d watch Youtube video after Youtube video teaching me how to eat healthier, have more energy, and how to get through my day stress free in 5 easy steps. I’d make lists of my goals and I’d journal out my day. Some days, I even sat in front of my computer on my webcam talking to myself to get through how I was feeling. I thought I’d look back on the videos one day and be so proud of how much I’d fought for myself.

 

For the past year and nine months, it’s been an incredible journey. Most days are tough, which is not to discourage you – just to be honest. I’m in a different spot than most people where I’m just now teaching myself certain strategies and coping mechanisms that I didn’t take advantage of learning several years ago.

I really wanted to answer this question now, the one about “how do I deal with my anxiety naturally”, rather than later because I know many of you out there really want some good advice. The honest truth is, I’m still figuring it out. I actually have a counseling appointment today where I hope to gain some more practical advice, and I’m also in the process of eliminating certain foods out of my diet to see how I feel. So, I’m sure in the next couple months, I’ll be back for an update.

For now, I want to tell you what I know works.

The first, is talking about it.

I’m naturally someone who enjoys talking about their feelings, but I know it’s not for everyone. However, it is so beneficial. I’d say, pick who you’re most comfortable talking with. If you really only care to talk to your Aunt Stephanie about things like this, and she gives you good advice and comforts you – good. That works. But also, don’t be afraid of therapy. I love talk therapy, especially when it involves a licensed professional who’s unbiased opinion in how I should take charge of my anxiety really helps me out. It’s great. Don’t be scared.

The next, is crafting your attack plan.

Anxiety will come and go, but always remember – anxiety lies. You can go to class, you can go to work, you can do that report, you can make that meeting, etc. You’ll feel anxious for whatever reason and however often….it happens. Just have your attack plan of how you’re going to deal with it. I stay organized. I stay on top of my school work, so that way if I come home one afternoon and feel particularly defeated and just need to lay in my bed, I can do that. I keep in contact with my friends and family so I feel comfortable texting them and the drop of a hat and letting them know I need to talk. I know the things that calm me down when I start to feel anxious and I make sure I have them all around me: paper for watercoloring, plenty of healthy food in my fridge so I can stay home and refuel when I need it, and I always have a book checked out from the library. Craft your attack plan.

Find the things you love and make time for them.

After a particularly bad week of anxiety, I got on my computer and searched for meet-up groups for writing. I knew how much I loved writing (and how much I wanted to get my novel started up) so I thought meeting with a group a couple times a month would be a great idea. Now, every other Thursday night is filled with chamomile tea and discussion about prose and stylistic quotation marks. I love it. Just like I love my weekly library dates, my peppermint hot chocolates from Starbucks when I need a reward for a hard week, and Facetiming Cameron. Do what you love and always make time for it.

Use essential oils

I love diffusing lavender oil when I sleep. One thing I sacrificed to go the natural route with my anxiety is my sleep. I used to crash and sleep the night through because the medication I took at night made me drowsy, but now, my anxiety is particularly bad at night and I wake up a lot, sometimes only sleeping a few hours. My essential oils and a dark, cool room has helped.

Follow a healthy diet

Don’t get me started. If you’re a regular reader, you know healthy eating is my life and now you know why. I posted about my anxiety diet a couple weeks ago if you’d like to check that out. I’m learning more and more about diets that are good for anxiety, and I’m excited to do some experiments in 2017. The key is really just to eat whole, natural, good foods. There’s speculation about how well gluten free diets can work to reduce anxiety and how cutting out sugar can help as well, but again, that’s something I’ll try here and there and update you on.

Give yourself time-outs

You know how you feel. You know what can really heighten your anxiety or even seasons that may bring increased senses of depression, loneliness, etc. Give yourself extra time to relax. My friends love to poke fun at me for going to bed early and not going out, but I just know that, being me, I need more sleep and more down time than most. I spend this time doing activities that calm my mind and bring happiness to my soul such as reading, writing, and painting. (Psst…I’m selling some of my pieces here if you’d like one for your home!)

Vitamins maybe??

I was recently reading Mary Kate Robertson’s amazing blog post on her battle with depression, and I was interested to find that she learned part of her depression had stemmed from a lack of B-12. It’s well researched that people who suffer from anxiety and depression may be lacking in common vitamins like B-12 (or zinc, magnesium, etc.) so if you feel so inclined, in may be worth talking to your doctor and getting your levels tested. While I’ve never done this, I do see the science behind it, and think it’s a great idea.

Grab your support system

All those hours spent in my tiny dorm researching natural anxiety remedies, this was the tip I found most often. It annoyed me actually, and sometimes even made me feel hopeless because I was positive I didn’t have a “support system”. I wasn’t the girl who had a ton of friends who took me for cool hikes and threw me surprise birthday parties with donut cakes, so I thought I just didn’t have anyone. And I was so wrong. Only recently have I started to really rely on my family with my mental wellness. I know that they’ve always (always!!!) been there for me, but I guess I didn’t want to worry them if I opened up about how I was doing.

Now, I call them several times a week, even if it is just to recap what I did at Write Club the last night. I just love feeling like we have this communication basis where I can call them at any second and get a comforting word. Now that we live so close, they’ve even come to take me out to dinner when I’m having a rough time, or for example, these past two weeks I’ve driven maybe a total of 12 miles in my car because they keep picking me up and taking me home so I don’t have to drive, haha!

Just start talking to someone. Actual support groups for anxiety and depression are great, too.

I hope in this 2,000 word blog post (transfer some of that motivation to this final ethics statement I have to write for Media Law please and thanks, haha!) that I’ve answered your question and given you some good resources to manage your mental health.

Please, never hesitate to send an email, ask me something anonymously on Twitter, or submit something (also anonymously) to the mental health question box.

Some other really great resources:

Anxiety Guru website (great podcasts and blog posts) 

Anxiety and Depression Association of America (website with free resources and webinars)

If you are in college, Google your school’s name followed by “counseling center” and you should be directed to your school’s psychological services.

Thanks for reading this whole thing, and I hope you have a beautiful week!

X,

Cristina

 

 

 

  • Sending this to my husband lol. Great tips!

  • Once again, great mental health post <3 I really appreciate all of these. I definitely need to add them into my 'anxiety calming' routine.

  • Thanks for the tips! I personally think medicine has a purpose in fighting anxiety, but these natural remedies are helpful in addition and on their own.

    Mental health is soo important, I really appreciate your openness on the subject.

    • cristina

      Totally agree with you! If it wasn’t for medication, I wouldn’t have been able to enjoy and accomplish what I did in middle school and high school 🙂

  • This is such a good post. Thank you for being honest about your journey and encouraging others along the way!

    Greta | http://www.gretahollar.com

  • These are such great tips!!! I will have to try these out next time i am having anxiety.

    Bella

  • It’s so great how you’re opening up about this. It’s important for people to know that it’s possible to cope even without medication. This was a very interesting read, Cristina!

  • As a sufferer of anxiety and depression I always love when you share these kinds of posts! They definitely help deal with these not so easy to deal with illnesses! I’ll definitely have to try diffusing some lavender while I sleep! Thank you!

    • cristina

      I’m so glad you love this content! Let me know how the lavender works out 🙂

  • As someone who also struggles with anxiety I think these tips are great! I also use essential oils and although some people don’t think so, diet does play a huge role! Thanks for sharing, it’s important to get it out there so the negative stigma can start to fade away.

    xoxo Brie

  • Wow that is so scary! I’m so glad to hear you were able to find a more healthy way to deal with your anxiety.

  • My sister suffers from anxiety and I know we are trying to find different things that might help her. Thanks for all the recommendations.

    Silvia

  • This is SUCH a great read. I have anxiety too, and I’ve only taken ONE pill ever…I was so scared of how it would affect me and it ended up making me SO exhausted and groggy I just couldn’t do it anymore. I love that you talk so openly about this – THANK YOU.

    • cristina

      Thank you so much, Erica! And kudos to you for facing anxiety head on 🙂 It’s tough, but so are you!

  • Withdrawal from anxiety meds is a nasty business! I’ve found great help with anxiety through CBT therapy!

    • cristina

      I’ve been doing a ton of research on that! I’ve heard great things.

  • Shane Prather

    I too suffer from GAD and love the idea of going au natural. I will have to try all of these ideas!

    • cristina

      I’m glad you liked the tips, Shane! We should totally chat sometime 🙂

  • adriana

    I love this! Having a support system is so important – great post!

  • michelle mink

    This is such a great topic to write about. It is never the norm to do things the natural way but I am such a big fan of not being on pills.

  • Thank you for this wonderful post, Cristina! I found myself nodding at so many of the points. A few years ago, I got struck by really bad anxiety that was triggered by a horrible event. I was 15 at the time. The worst part of it all was that I didn’t dare to share it with anyone (not even my family because anxiety wasn’t something that you hear much of in Asia). I contemplated getting on the pills because I was just feeling shit every single moment of the day. But I ended up telling my boyfriend about my anxiety just because he knew something wasn’t right and I wasn’t as bubbly as I used to be. I felt such a huge weight fall off my shoulder. After that, he recommended I try essential oils because he’s seen it somewhere that it’s amazing for anxiety. It has helped me a ton! I also started making more time for myself, and also spent more time with my friends and family. One day, I realised that my anxiety was just gone, that I’ve been feeling so good lately. I have read somewhere that anxiety can go as suddenly as it can come. Even though I’m so happy I’m rid of it, it has helped me become the person I am today. It has helped me see through eyes that a normal 15 year old would never have, and made me appreciate the small things in life.

  • First of all, you’re a rockstar and I’m absolutely loving your courage to come out and share your experiences with the world. I know so many people are going to benefit from not only this post, but from your blog in general! I don’t suffer from anxiety, but I definitely think these points could still help me! I’m going to share this so others can see it. Keep doing what you’re doing, gf!

    Kayla | kaylablogs.com

  • I am so glad you are starting to find relief from anxiety. It is seriously so scary going through that in high school and college, but being able to stay ontop of the attacks is the best feeling ever!

  • I always appreciate posts on mental health. The topic needs to be talked about more and I applaud your courage to share your story with those looking for support. I suffer from anxiety and this helps me more than you know. Thank you.

  • I would love to try the healing effects of essential oils, I’ve definitely heard good things! Would love to see how they help myself and my partner.

  • Seriously one of the best blog posts I’ve read in a long time. I have struggled with anxiety for most of my life as well and it made me feel like I was less of a person. I start taking medicine about a year and a half ago and I really enjoyed how it made me feel because I wasn’t so scared that I couldn’t call my doctor. I recently have been trying to go all-natural with my medicinal remedies and I use essential oils religiously. I tried to take myself off my medicine and I kind of went crazy… so I started them back again. I really want to depend solely on natural assistance but I don’t know if I can handle making that jump again. Your blog post has given me some hope that maybe, just maybe, someday I’ll make it past the bump.

    xo, Kimberly
    http://www.lifeofkimberly.com

  • This is such an incredible post, Cristina. My roommates and I all suffer from one form of anxiety of another, and I think you do a great job of explaining the ways that you can help get through the daily anxiety. Although one of my roommates is on medication for anxiety currently, I know she plans to get off of it eventually, so I’ll definitely be sharing this post with her! 🙂

    xo
    Sami
    http://www.theclassicbrunette.com