How to Manage Anxiety Without Medication

It’s common to feel nervous before a job interview, stressed about a relationship, or worried when someone says they’ll call you but the call never comes. But the difference between everyday stress and potentially harmful anxiety┬áis that stress goes away. Anxiety lingers. And for many, that’s a big problem.

People are usually diagnosed with anxiety disorders when their symptoms begin to interfere with their work, relationships, and more. But even seemingly “mild” anxiety can feel like it’s taking over your life. Fortunately, even though you might feel powerless, you aren’t. There are things you can do to take back control.

Is it possible to manage anxiety without taking medication? Absolutely — for some people. Here are a few things you can do to improve your anxiety symptoms — and your overall health.

Can your diet affect anxiety?

Healthy diet

Healthy diet | iStock.com/Lilechka75

Eating certain foods can create feelings of calm and ease — while limiting or avoiding certain foods or drinks can help prevent anxiety from spiraling out of control.

Some research suggests that omega-3 fatty acids — such as the ones found in fish — can lower anxiety. Foods high in fiber, such as vegetables or brown rice, stabilize blood sugar and can help keep you calm even when stressors begin to trigger feelings of anxiety.

It’s hard to say that one specific food can treat anxiety. But limiting or avoiding caffeine is just one example of a small dietary change that could improve your anxiety symptoms in a big way.

Any type of exercise

Sports workout shoes

Sports workout shoes | grinvalds/iStock/Getty Images

Research has shown that physical activity reduces symptoms of anxiety. Some of the reasons for this are physiological — such as the increase in the productions of endorphins (“happy hormones”) that occurs after physical activity.

However, there are psychological benefits to exercise as well. It can improve your confidence, give you an excuse to interact with other people, and give you something to focus on besides the sources of your anxiety. At least for a little while.

To increase your chances of committing to regular exercise, choose an activity you will both look forward to and enjoy. Fitness comes in many forms. Some people jog. Others hike. Dance, cycling, and other classes are available at gyms everywhere. Make it fun, and you’ll make it last.

Breathing exercises for anxiety

Anxiety can’t always be fixed instantly by “just breathing.” But simple breathing exercises can actually cause a physical change that can help you avoid a panic attack and feel less stressed.

When you’re anxious or stressed, your body’s fight-or-flight response kicks into gear. Your brain doesn’t know the difference between stress caused by a big project at your job and stress due to a bear chasing you. Regardless of the stressor, your heart rate is going to speed up. That can lead to shallow breathing and feelings of panic.

Techniques such as deep breathing, therefore, not only slow your breathing, but your heart rate, too. This doesn’t take away the thing that’s causing your anxiety and won’t prevent it from flaring up. But it can serve as a short-term solution to an issue that can often interfere with your work or relationships.

There are many people who can get to a point where they’re able to manage their anxiety without medication. There are also many people who need medication — in addition to maintaining a healthy diet, keeping up with a regular exercise routine, and practicing healthy coping behaviors — to go about their daily lives.

There is no right or wrong way to do it. If you try these techniques and still wrestle with your symptoms, it’s OK to ask for help. And just because you start taking medication for your anxiety now doesn’t mean you have to keep taking it forever.

Work with your doctor to determine the best plan for you. What’s most important is that you can continue living life to the fullest — with or witout a prescription.

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