Anxiety is not pleasant. It does not let you live. If you suffer from anxiety, you are likely to experience a state of restlessness of diffuse nature. You will feel expectant, as if something negative would happen right away, which keeps you in a state of permanent alarm that prevents you from relaxing.
However, you cannot explain why you feel this way, you do not find the cause of anxiety. You are also likely to be aware that this state of overactivation is meaningless, but you cannot find the right strategies to cure anxiety and eliminate it once and for all. The first step is to understand anxiety.
What kind of anxiety do you suffer?
Broadly speaking, we can talk about two major types of anxiety: trait anxiety and state anxiety. Distinguishing what type of anxiety you suffer is important because it will allow you to better understand the problem and take the necessary steps to overcome anxiety.
– Trait anxiety indicates a person who from a very early stage of life has felt anxiety, perhaps from childhood or adolescence. These people usually have a temperament that leads them to react immediately to the most diverse situations, they are susceptible and find it difficult to relax. In fact, since they had to deal with anxiety for a large part of their lives, they do not know what it is like to live differently. For these people, anxiety has been a perennial traveling companion.
– Anxiety state, on the contrary, is triggered by some specific event (or a set of them). Faced with this situation, a person who has never been particularly nervous responds with anxiety. Basically, what happens is that this person does not have the necessary psychological tools to deal with the problem, so his body and mind respond with an “exceptional” activation.
Of course, both types of anxiety can coexist. An anxious person will notice that his level of anxiety increases when he has to face certain demands of the environment. In the same way, someone who has never been anxious, can begin to respond with anxiety to different situations, since he cannot regain control of his emotional life.
The good news is that anxiety symptoms can be reversed, without having to resort to anxiolytics. In fact, you should not forget that the medications for anxiety are not free of adverse effects and are not a long-term solution. On the contrary, there are different natural remedies for anxiety that have been scientifically proven and are easy to apply to cure anxiety.
How to treat anxiety naturally?
1. Accept anxiety, be an impartial observer
Anxiety is harmful, we know it and that is why we want to eliminate it. Therefore, it is normal that our first impulse is to deny and reject it. However, the paradox is that the more we try to fight anxiety, the more overwhelmed we will feel. When we deny an emotion or sensation, it grows.
In fact, the mind of an anxious person is not full of worries about facts of his daily life but because of meta-concerns. That is, they worry because they worry. This person activates his inner critic, a voice that constantly tells him that anxiety is intolerable, that he is unable to maintain control or that his existence is miserable.
In this way, they unleash a vicious circle that only serves to increase anxiety. Therefore, do not try to deny the anxiety you’re experiencing, just be aware of its existence. When you do not run away from an emotion or labels it like “negative”, you can take an emotional distance from the problem and regain control of yourself.
2. Banish the rush from your life
Most anxious people move continuously from one place to another, eat standing up, without sitting at the table and perform different tasks at once. Your computer desktop, for example, is usually a chaos made up of different windows and open programs. What we express towards the outside, is anything else than the reflection of our mind.
However, when we assume everyday tasks from this hasty and chaotic perspective, we are giving the brain a very negative feedback, because it is as if we are telling it that it should work even faster because things are out of control. As a result, the brain responds by further increasing the levels of cortisol and adrenaline, which generate more anxiety.
The solution lies in cutting that vicious circle. Decrease the pace and, above all, make order in the tasks you must do throughout the day and prioritize the most important. Force yourself to dowshift, you will see that you’ll be able to do much more, with less stress.
3. Don’t leave pending tasks
One of the things that increase our state of anxiety is being aware that we have pending tasks. In fact, it is not the tasks themselves that tear us down and exhaust us, but the constant mental reminder that we should do them.
Experts in personal productivity say that to solve this problem, is better apply the 2 minute rule. In practice, when a task arises, if it does not require more than 2 minutes, do it immediately since postponing and remembering it will consume more energy than carrying it out. If the task demands more time and you don’t have it, ask yourself if it is really important. If so, find room for it in your agenda.
Remember that the way you organize your day will affect your mental state. Therefore, do not let the tasks accumulate because if you leave them for the last moment, you will only be contributing to increase your level of anxiety. Learning to organize your life will allow you to eliminate a large anxiety source: the pending tasks and those that rob your energy without giving any reward in return.
4. Dedicate at least one hour a day to yourself
In the society in which we live, we reward making over being. Therefore, we feel compelled to run, to not have a minute of rest, because it is synonymous with laziness, it is the antithesis of the values promoted by Western culture.
In fact, it is not strange that anxious people are always full of work and pending projects, do not even have a few minutes a day to devote to themselves. Immersed in that state of constant tension, they do not allow their brain to “disconnect”, as a result, the levels of anxiety soar.
However, disconnecting and being alone with yourself is as important as being proactive. Although anxious people often find it difficult to sit idly, an excellent alternative is to spend at least one hour each day on an activity they really enjoy. In this way, the brain begins to release a series of neurotransmitters such as endorphins, which generate a state of well-being and relaxation.
5. Question your recurring negative thoughts
The mind of an anxious person is his worst enemy. In fact, anxiety grows due to the unrealistic thoughts that the person develops. Therefore, it is essential that you learn to detect them and stop their course.
The most usual is that the anxious person responds in an exaggerated way to the situations of his daily life. It makes a storm in a teacup, thinks that a simple mistake will have dire consequences. In this way, it adds unnecessary tension.
Therefore, it is important that you begin to question those catastrophic thoughts that do not conform to reality. Ask yourself: Is that concern realistic? How many probabilities are that it comes true? What’s the worst that could happen? How could I handle it?
6. Assume another perspective
Anxiety is caused, to a great extent, by the meaning we give to certain situations. Therefore, one of the most effective strategies about how to treat anxiety is to change the way we think of stressors.
A study conducted at Yale University presented to some managers a video that conveyed the idea that stress was an enhancer, since some people give their best when under pressure. During the next two weeks these people not only improved their work performance, but reported fewer psychological problems and their levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, decreased. In the group that still believed that stress is negative these changes were not appreciated.
For example, make a public presentation is stressful and generates anxiety but, on the other hand, it is also an opportunity to test our skills and expand our network of professional contacts. In this sense, it will be a great help to use “however” more often. When you discover those irrational thoughts, try to give them a spin using this term. For example, if while you are studying you think: “I am not going to pass that exam”, try to restructure that thought in a positive way: “Maybe I will not approve that exam; however, I will strive to give my best.”
7. Live in the “here and now”
The anxious person tends to live between the past and the future. He blames himself for what happened and worries or is frightened by what might happen. In this way, he fills his present with anxiety. In fact, anxiety often arises precisely from those worries about the future. The anxious person suffers a kind of obsession for the future that makes him focus on all the disasters that could happen.
However, to eliminate anxiety, it is important to learn to focus on the present. Breathe, look around and notice that nothing bad is happening right now. Enjoy it. The practice of mindfulness meditation can help you achieve this goal. You do not even need to meditate, you just have to learn to focus on the here and now, on the experience you are living, without criticizing it and without letting your mind wander into the future.
Since it will probably be difficult for you to leave all worries at once, you can establish what is called in Psychology: “Concerns Period”. It’s about postponing those thoughts until those 30 minutes a day arrive, then you’ll give yourself permission to worry about everything you want. But once they have passed, if other anxious thoughts come to your mind, you should postpone them until the next session.
8. Manage better your emotions
For many decades, people were encouraged to suppress their feelings and emotions. Later, they were told that it was better to express them since in this way, they could alleviate states such as anger and anxiety. However, now it has been shown that ventilating emotions does not necessarily help to manage them, nor does it diminish their intensity.
Psychologists from Iowa State University asked people to write an essay and then made very negative judgments about it, with the goal of generating anger. Some people were offered the possibility of unloading their aggressiveness with a pair of gloves, hitting a boxing pear with the photograph of the evaluator on it. Others had to wait sitting quietly in a room. At the end, was assessed their level of frustration and anger. Interestingly, those who had “ventilated” their emotions were more aggressive.
This does not mean that you have to repress emotions, but you must find the right way to express them. Hitting a pillow, screaming or venting your verbal anger against someone can increase negative feelings. This is because there are some activities that activate your nervous system, instead of calming it, which is what you need. Therefore, to overcome anxiety, it is better to opt for activities that allow you to truly relax.
9. Do physical exercise
One of the best strategies about how to treat anxiety and stress is to do physical exercise. It is not necessary that you devote much time to it, just half an hour every day will be enough. Although it is recommended that are intense exercises, which are what allow a large amount of endorphins to be released.
In fact, a study conducted at Princeton University found that the regular practice of physical activity makes that the brain resist better to the onslaught of stress because it occurs a restructuring at a functional level. In practice, the sport stops the activity of the ventral hippocampus neurons, which are the main ones responsible for activating the areas of the brain linked to the stress and anxiety response.
Therefore, it is convenient that at least five times a week you dedicate time to exercise. Not only will you notice an improvement on a psychological level but your physical health will also thank you.
10. Relax and breathe
Relaxation techniques are very effective in treating anxiety. There are different techniques, one of the most common is to tense each of the muscle groups, then relax them gently. In fact, if you suffer anxiety, it is likely that you have a great tension in the body, especially in the area of the back and between the eyebrows.
There are also visualization techniques, which provide excellent results for those who have a fertile imagination. One of the simplest is to close your eyes and imagine that you are in a quiet place that you like and where you feel comfortable. Imagine everything with as many details as you can and then, just let yourself be seized by the positive feelings you are experiencing.
These techniques should be accompanied with good breathing. In fact, although we are not aware of it, breathing is a very important process through which the mind gets a feedback of our state. When we breathe quickly and superficially, our brain understands that something is not going well and that we can be in danger, which increases the level of anxiety. When we breathe slowly and deeply, all bodily functions, including the heartbeat, are paced and it is easier to relax.
Mindfulness meditation will also help you a lot. This simple video explains what it is and, above all, how it can help you overcome anxiety.
If you do not discover the causes, it will be difficult to treat anxiety
Remember that to eliminate this problem once and for all, it is vital that you discover what the causes of anxiety are and learn to avoid them, or at least manage them more adequately.
Crum, A. J. et. Al. (2013) Rethinking stress: The role of mindsets in determining the stress response. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology; 104(4): 716-733.
Schoenfeld, T. J. et. Al. (2013) Physical Exercise Prevents Stress-Induced Activation of Granule Neurons and Enhances Local Inhibitory Mechanisms in the Dentate Gyrus. The Journal of Neuroscience; 33(18): 7770-7777.
Bushman, B. J. (2002) Does venting anger feed or extinguish the flame? Catharsis, rumination, distraction, anger, and aggressive responding. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin; 28: 724–731.