How To Treat Anxiety Without Medication
Sep 21, 2023
“You can naturally treat anxiety without medication with simple lifestyle changes.”
Meet Jane, a 52-year-old retired professional who, like many others in her age group, has been dealing with mild to moderate levels of anxiety. She often finds her mind racing, stuck in a constant state of 'fight or flight' mode, triggered even by the simplest of thoughts or everyday events.
Jane's struggle with recurrent headaches and racing thoughts led her to consider medication as a way to find relief. However, the potential side effects and health risks associated with medications made her rethink her approach. She decided it was time to analyse her life and explore alternative pathways. To her amazement, Jane discovered that millions of her fellow older adults are turning to anti-anxiety drugs when they could attain mental serenity through more mindful lifestyle choices.
If you can relate to Jane's experience, you are not alone. Anxiety is a prevalent issue among older adults, affecting many in the United States. In this article, we will delve into why and how you can manage anxiety without resorting to medication. As per the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, anxiety disorders are affecting around 40 million adults in the United States.
Cutting it short, Let’s dig deeper into why and how you can treat anxiety without medication:
Why Consider Managing Anxiety Without Medication?
Many individuals, including those aged 50 and above, often turn to medication as a means to alleviate anxiety symptoms, following the guidance of healthcare professionals. Anti-anxiety drugs offer rapid relief by calming nerves and reducing stress responses. However, the potential side effects, such as insomnia, diminished libido, increased agitation, gastrointestinal discomfort, excessive sweating, and appetite fluctuations, raise concerns for many individuals. This often leads them to explore alternative strategies for managing their anxiety. It's important to understand that anxiety may not be curable, but it can be effectively managed, with or without medication.
Understanding Anxiety in Older Adults
Anxiety is a natural response to stress, but it becomes problematic when it significantly disrupts daily life. Older adults experiencing anxiety often feel overwhelmed, fearful, and stressed when dealing with routine tasks. Anxiety can disrupt sleep patterns, hinder concentration, impede work productivity, and strain interpersonal relationships. Various types of anxiety disorders can manifest in older individuals:
Obsessive-compulsive disorder: When repetitive thoughts overwhelm a person, he/she is compelled to obsessively perform any specific task to block out mental noise.
Generalized anxiety disorder: When anxiety is not linked to specific events or triggers, it is termed as ‘generalized’ anxiety.
Panic disorder: Panic is a heightened form of anxiety. A sudden wave of overwhelm or fear takes over without any stressful or life-threatening situation.
Social anxiety disorder: The fear of being watched or judged by others in social situations.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD): It’s a response to a traumatic situation(s) in life. Whenever similar or near-close events occur, the trauma resurfaces.
11 Natural Ways to Treat Anxiety Without Medication for Older Adults:
As we age, it's not uncommon to find ourselves grappling with mild to moderate levels of anxiety. Similar to Oliver, a young entrepreneur featured in the original article, older adults, especially those aged 50 and above, may also experience this constant state of 'fight or flight' response triggered by everyday thoughts or events. However, finding alternative ways to manage anxiety becomes crucial, especially considering the potential side effects that medications can bring to the table. In this article, we will explore 11 natural methods to address anxiety without resorting to medication, specifically tailored for older adults.
1. Practice Deep Breathing:
Deep breathing is a powerful technique that can provide instant relief from anxiety. It interrupts racing thoughts and helps you regain focus. To practice deep breathing, find a serene spot in your home, and take a few moments to lie down. Pay attention to your breath, inhaling deeply and slowly, filling your lungs with fresh air. Pause for a few seconds before exhaling gently through your mouth. Try dedicating 10-15 minutes daily to this deep breathing exercise.
2. Engage in Physical Activity:
Physical activity can naturally alleviate anxiety in older adults. Whether you prefer yoga, aerobics, regular workouts, or brisk walking, engaging your body can be an effective remedy. Exercise boosts serotonin and endorphin levels, enhancing mood and overall happiness. It also helps in hormonal balance, making it an essential part of your daily routine for maintaining a healthy mind without relying on medication.
3. Try Aromatherapy:
Aromatherapy is a sensory approach to managing anxiety. As older adults, our sense of smell significantly influences our surroundings. Creating a soothing ambiance with pleasant scents can disrupt patterns of anxiety and promote a sense of calm and happiness. Explore various natural scents to find what works best for you.
4. Identify and Avoid Triggers:
Understanding the triggers of your anxiety is vital. By identifying these triggers, you can take proactive steps to minimize their impact on your life. For instance, if social situations cause discomfort, consider choosing quieter and less crowded venues when you go out. Facing your fears openly, such as discussing your concerns with friends, can also help silence the noise in your mind.
5. Journal Your Stressors:
Journaling is a therapeutic and often underrated method to calm anxiety. It's a way to process emotions mindfully and clear mental clutter. Daily journaling promotes mindfulness of your thought processes, helping you manage your emotions better and seek resolutions. Several studies have shown that journaling positively impacts mental well-being. Making it a habit can improve clarity of thought and focus.
6. Enjoy Herbal Teas:
When anxiety strikes, savouring a warm cup of herbal tea can bring instant relief to older adults. High levels of anxiety often result in overreactions to everyday situations. Taking a moment to enjoy a calming cup of herbal tea, instead of caffeine, can help soothe your nerves and relax your body. Lavender herbal tea, in particular, has been linked to reducing anxiety in older individuals. Chamomile is another option for those with generalized anxiety disorder.
7. Reduce Caffeine Intake:
Caffeine can significantly contribute to anxiety in older adults, as it provides an energy boost to the brain. Although you might love your morning coffee or tea, it's worth considering replacing them with more soothing, caffeine-free alternatives. Beginning your day with a cup of herbal tea can reduce stress and promote a sense of serenity. Pay attention to your body's response when you consume caffeinated beverages and consider moderation.
8. Take Magnesium Supplements:
Research has shown that magnesium deficiencies, common in processed diets, can lead to higher anxiety levels. Magnesium is a mood-enhancer and a natural relaxant for nerves. Prolonged periods of anxiety can deplete your magnesium levels further. Consult a trusted healthcare professional to identify any necessary dietary supplements.
9. Live in the Present Moment:
Anxiety often involves persistent, uninterrupted 'racing thoughts.' To address this, focus on the present and appreciate the people and moments around you. Remind yourself that not everything is within your control. Embrace living one day at a time, relinquishing the habit of worrying about events weeks or months in advance. Embracing the present can be a significant step toward managing anxiety without medication.
10. Try a Digital Detox:
Constant use of digital devices, especially social media, can be a major source of heightened anxiety. The constant decision-making required when using your phone can exacerbate feelings of unease. Moreover, overuse of technology can devalue your in-person relationships, creating tension in personal connections. Consider taking a digital detox for 3 to 4 days each month to reconnect with yourself and alleviate anxiety.
11. Practice Meditation:
Meditation is an effective method to refocus on the present moment and manage anxiety. Studies have shown that meditation-based therapy can effectively treat stress, anxiety, and depression in older adults. Mindfulness and meditation promote positive mood and a sense of gratitude.
Incorporating meditation into your daily routine can improve anxiety levels, sleep quality, and productivity. It's essential to note that meditation doesn't require any specific setting. You can practice it anywhere, even in your bed. Begin with 4-5 minutes a day and gradually increase the duration to witness its beneficial effects.
While the above-mentioned lifestyle changes and natural methods can be highly effective in managing anxiety, there may be instances where professional help is necessary, especially for older adults. Therapies like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), talk therapy, and hypnosis can provide valuable strategies to better manage anxiety.
Additional Strategies to Manage Anxiety in Older Adults:
Anxiety can manifest differently as we age, and those aged 50 and above may require specialized methods to manage their anxiety effectively. Here, we explore additional strategies tailored to this demographic while retaining the context and length of the original article.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT):
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a proven method to address anxiety, especially for older adults. CBT helps individuals identify and modify negative thought patterns, replacing them with more positive and constructive thinking. It equips older individuals with the tools to navigate anxious feelings and challenges, promoting mental well-being and emotional resilience.
Talk therapy, or psychotherapy, offers a supportive and safe space for older adults to discuss their anxieties and fears. It can be particularly helpful when addressing the unique concerns of this age group, such as health-related worries, retirement, or coping with loss. Talk therapy encourages self-reflection, providing insights into the sources of anxiety and how to manage them effectively.
Hypnotherapy is an option that can be beneficial for older adults. It focuses on improving concentration, breaking down anxiety triggers, and fostering a calm and mindful response to stressors. Collaborating with a psychotherapist can help you find a qualified practitioner to explore hypnotherapy and its potential benefits in managing anxiety.
Immediate Anxiety Relief Methods for Older Adults:
Sometimes, despite best efforts, anxiety can strike suddenly, even in older adults. Here are some techniques that may offer quick relief:
Deep Diaphragmatic Breathing: For immediate relief, close your eyes and practice deep breathing for about 10 minutes. Slowing down your breath can help induce a sense of calm and regain control over your emotions. It's one of the fastest ways to alleviate anxiety without medication.
Gentle Stretches: Performing simple neck and shoulder stretches can help relieve physical tension associated with anxiety. These stretches can be particularly useful for older adults who may experience muscle stiffness as part of their anxiety symptoms.
Emotional Self-Reflection: Take a moment to reflect on your feelings. Ask yourself what you're feeling, why you're feeling this way, and the likelihood of the anticipated event happening. Consider whether worrying will lead to a change in the situation or if there are proactive steps you can take to mitigate the anxiety.
Reality Check: When anxiety intensifies, remind yourself that you are safe. Evaluate the immediate environment and question whether there is real danger present or if your anxiety is a product of overthinking and stress.
Engage in a Productive Task: Shifting your focus to a productive activity can provide a sense of accomplishment and control over your thoughts. Engaging in tasks or hobbies you enjoy can be particularly effective for older adults.
Natural Supplements: Older adults who prefer to manage anxiety without medication can consider herbal supplements. CalmWay, for instance, offers natural, research-backed supplements that provide relief from anxiety. These supplements harness the calming properties of natural ingredients such as ashwagandha, reishi mushrooms, lion's mane, chamomile, and more.
Mantra Repetition: Repeating calming mantras like 'this appears dangerous, but it's not part of reality right now' or 'this, too, shall pass' can help reduce the body's stress response.
Seeking Professional Help
While these lifestyle changes can be effective in managing anxiety, it's essential to consider seeking professional help if your anxiety is beyond your control. Therapeutic options such as cognitive behavioural therapy, talk therapy, and hypnosis can provide valuable techniques for anxiety management.
Managing anxiety without medication is achievable, even for older adults who experience mild to moderate symptoms. Embracing these lifestyle changes, strategies, and immediate relief methods can empower individuals aged 50 and above to lead more tranquil and fulfilling lives, all while minimizing the potential side effects associated with medication.