Treatments for anxiety can be transformative to our quality of life. When you're having feelings of panic, unease, and nervousness that won't seem to go away, a solution can sometimes feel very much out of reach. But there is hope.
If you feel like you may be experiencing anxiety, whether it's at random moments or as an ongoing issue that's affecting your quality of life, you’re not alone. Almost twenty percent of all U.S. adults — that’s 40 million people — suffer from some form of anxiety disorder.
Someone dealing with anxiety may have a wide variety of symptoms, including things like:
Anxiety is different for everyone. Some people get nervous in social situations or in large groups of people, referred to as social anxiety. Others have specific recurring triggers that make them anxious, which is particularly common for those suffering from PTSD. Generalized anxiety is an ever present feeling that doesn’t arise from a particular setting or scenario.
There’s also situational anxiety, which is when a specific occurrence gives you more stress than you can handle. Situations like a new job, a family tragedy, or even just being overworked can.
Anxiety is the most prevalent type of mental illness in the country. But there’s good news too: as common as it is, it also can be highly treatable.
Options for treatment for anxiety include:
Treatment for anxiety doesn’t have to start or stop with the more traditional routes of seeking a psychiatrist for medication or psychotherapy. In fact, there are many things we can do right at home to bring relief from anxiety. As with any type of mental health issue, it’s important to seek professional treatment if your symptoms persist without improvement.
When considering what may or may not work for you, take into account what the root of the anxious feeling is if you can. Try to identify possible triggers by keeping a journal or even writing memos on your phone when you feel the anxiety setting in. Recording things like what you’re doing, where you are, and if there’s anything specific causing the anxiety can reveal patterns.
Many people find that when they’re able to figure out certain patterns their anxiety follows, it becomes significantly easier to manage and control.
Along with identifying triggers, it’s also helpful to design a “game plan” to use the moment panic starts to set in. The following at-home anxiety treatments can be the building blocks of these plans. Long-term, they can also help to decrease anxiety overall.
You’ve probably heard it countless times before, but the science doesn’t lie. Exercising is a simple and effective way of reducing anxiety. Physically speaking, getting your body up and moving decreases muscle tension. This can help with a number of physical symptoms that come with anxiety.
Getting your heart rate up by just going for a quick run around the block releases good neurochemicals in your brain, like serotonin, gamma aminobutyric acid (or GABA), and a variety of endorphins.
In studies done by Harvard Health, researchers found exercise to be so effective they’ve called it the single best non-medical solution for preventing and treating anxiety. Even if you find yourself lacking the energy to do a high-intensity workout, just going for a walk can help decrease anxiety levels.
If you’re someone who struggles with racing thoughts that often overwhelm and exhaust you, teaching yourself to practice mindfulness and meditation can be helpful. For many people with anxiety, the thought of trying to just not think or “shut your brain off” while meditating can sound impossible and even cause you to stress more. It does require some practice and dedication. Try starting with an easy, no-pressure approach.
Sit in a silent room for just five minutes a day. Concentrate on nothing but your breathing. A trick many people start with to ground themselves into the present moment is mentally taking note of five things you can see, smell, hear, and touch. By pulling your focus away from anxious thoughts and letting them pass through your mind without actively engaging them, you’re practicing mindfulness.
Breathing exercises are an effective way to keep anxiety under control anywhere, any time. One such method is the “4-7-8” technique. This popular method is simple to do. Breathe in for four seconds, hold your breath for seven, and exhale for eight. If you find yourself unable to get the times down right or don’t immediately feel a difference, don’t get frustrated and quit.
Try concentrating on nothing but getting as close to the pattern as you can for two to three minutes. When the time’s up, chances are you’ll find that your heart rate has gone down and you may feel lighter and more at ease.
While things like alcohol and smoking can temporarily give you relief from stress and anxiety, in the long run they can end up doing more harm than good. Even caffeine isn’t the greatest for a mind battling anxiety. Coffee and energy drinks, while giving you a slight mood boost, can increase unpleasant physical symptoms like increased heartbeat, shaking, and racing thoughts.
To help make eliminating these practices easier, consider replacing one with an alternative that you can benefit from. For example, have a cup of tea instead of coffee in the morning. Or replace nicotine with something like CBD.
The world of telehealth has undergone a major evolution in the past year of the pandemic. It’s made therapy and other mental health services more accessible than ever before. This has opened doors for people who may have never sought treatment otherwise. If you find yourself frequently ruminating on your anxiety, finding a qualified online therapist to talk it out with for even thirty minutes a week can be a huge help.
A therapist can also help you develop solid coping skills that you can turn to when things get rough. Many people also find their therapists giving them new perspectives on their anxieties that make them less scary.
When implementing any of these lifestyle changes, try to go into them with an open mind and an acceptance that it doesn’t have to immediately “work” to be beneficial for you. The road to overcoming anxiety disorder is different for everyone. Try a variety of different treatments to find out what works best for yourself.
Anyone experiencing a mental health crisis should seek the help of a mental health care professional. If you or a loved one are having thoughts of self-harm or suicide, you should dial 9-1-1 or call the suicide 800-273-8255.