In my holistic therapy private practice, I specialize in treating anxiety. Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the United States. Most often a client’s goal is to get rid of their anxiety because it can be so distressing and debilitating, but because anxiety is an adaptive response and can serve a true purpose (i.e. keeping us vigilant and alive), it wouldn’t be useful to rid ourselves of anxiety completely.
Our biology as a species hasn’t caught up to the advances of our modern and fast pace world. Meaning, when our anxiety is triggered, we often aren’t in real danger (although it feels like we are!). Anxiety often stems from a need for control, but we cannot control anxiety, and the goal is to learn how to tolerate this distressing feeling rather than completely eradicating it. The good news is that there are many things in our control, such as our diet and lifestyle, to help mediate our anxiety and keep unnecessary anxiety attacks at bay. In my experience, taking a holistic approach that addresses the mind, body, and spirit is the most helpful approach for coping with anxiety.
The first step is to identify your triggers and avoidance behaviors. From here, personify your anxiety. Give your anxiety a name and have an image come to mind when it is present. This helps to separate yourself from your anxiety so you have a better chance at not being swept up in it. We are not anxious, we experience anxiety.
Gratitude and mindfulness practices are another great tool. These practices help ground us in the present moment without judgment. Anxiety does not live in the present moment!
Be mindful of the ways that dehydration, caffeine, sugars, and alcohol affect you. A holistic approach to anxiety management involves addressing the mind-gut connection and subsequently, healing the gut through your diet (e.g consuming anti-inflammatory foods). Magnesium is like nature’s Xanax, and magnesium glycinate and Epsom salt baths are effective ways to replenish this vital mineral. Lastly, be mindful of your blood sugar balance. Have you experienced “hanxiety” before? Going too long between meals can evoke a stress response in the body, which to many, feels like anxiety or panic.
Practice body centered practices such as yoga, tia-chi, massage therapy, or belly breathing. Engaging your five senses is another effective tool for managing anxiety.
Engage with a community that feels safe, commune with nature, and connect with yourself through special rituals.
Anxiety can be a debilitating feeling, but taking a holistic approach that addresses the mind, body, and spirit equips us with an abundance of tools that can help us to manage and break free from its chains.
Erica Basso is a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist practicing statewide in California. She helps guide women in overcoming anxiety, perfectionism, and relationship challenges. Learn more at www.ericabassotherapy.com