We all feel anxious from time to time, and today's times are bound to make that worse. Feeling anxious is normal; sometimes it is even helpful and makes us focus on things we have yet to get done, like paying the bills or getting the kids up for school. But sometimes, anxiety is overwhelming and even life changing, and we really must do something about it.
The question is: what to do? And are there ways to deal with the feeling without resorting to meds designed to suppress the feeling?
What are Some Symptoms of Anxiety?
Symptoms of anxiety come in all sorts of shapes and sizes and some are even unique to individuals.
Beyond a general feeling of fear and worry, people often have symptoms like hostility, chest pains, shortness of breath, numbness, weight gain or loss, inability to sleep or to focus, even unusual things like hair loss or strange tingling. All of these could be manifestations of the mind’s response to the anxiety you are feeling.
What Causes Anxiety?
It is important to remember that anxiety is natural. When your mind feels it is under attack, it reacts. That is the “flight or fight” chip that has been programmed into humans for millions of years by nature. This response is what saves our lives in extreme situations.
It is natural that we have also developed an early warning system; a mechanism to keep the mind ready at all times to react to life threatening circumstances.
In earlier times, these life-threatening events were often truly dangerous - like being eaten by a brontosaurus or being chased by a sword yielding Viking.
But while most of us are no longer in such circumstances, and we no longer have to fight or run for our lives, our genetic inheritance hasn’t yet caught on. Instead, it has redirected the early warning system to other fears and phobias. So, we now have anxieties in reaction to all sorts of situations that didn't occur before modern times such as no paycheck or listening to fear based TV during a quarantine.
For some, anxieties are frequent and overwhelming. Many modern drugs have been created to address these feelings.
But what if you do not want to use meds? What are your alternatives?
Getting Rid of Anxiety Without Meds
Sometimes anxiety produces behavior that risks physical harm, whether to oneself or to others. Medical treatments, including drugs and potentially even ECT or electroconvulsive therapy (what used to be called electroshock therapy) are considered necessary interventions.
But there are many other non-medical things to try! And they start with looking at our lifestyles... are they truly healthy?
So many things seem better, and in fact are better, and life is easier to handle, when we are healthy. That means healthy weight, healthy exercise, not smoking, not overusing alcohol or drugs, and just getting enough sleep.
Which is why switching the focus from the things that are concerning you, to the things about your lifestyle, that you can influence, is the most useful use of your energy and best strategy you can undertake.
The result will surely be both a healthier, happier you and a reduction in the anxious feelings, even if the root causes are not changed.
Beyond the physical things we can and should address in our lifestyles, getting better control of our minds and the way we think is a skill that will add value for a lifetime.
A vigilant attention to your negative thoughts and quickly changing the narrative in your brain to something positive, is one way to take control of your mind.
Meditation, in all its forms, is another way and is a skill that is designed to do just that.
What is Meditation?
Meditation can be thought of as the practice of achieving mental clarity and calmness through focusing the mind on some object or concept.
This is intended to separate the meditator from their day to day thinking and to create mindfulness, or a better understanding, of how things truly are, and to provide a clearer perspective on life.
Through meditation, we can examine our fears and anxieties and find a way to put them in their place. The result: to better understand the origins of our fears and create a calmness that helps to better deal with them.
Exercise is another outlet that can minimize or eliminate the need for anxiety meds. Using strong, focused movements while power walking, lifting weights, hitting a tennis ball against a wall or running up and down the stairs in your home can make a huge impact. These types of intense physical movements release the built-up pressure accumulated (anxiety) when the “flight or fight” instinct was not acted upon
Physical movement, including household chores, also fall under this category as an anxiety pressure valve release. Anything from cleaning closets, vacuuming the carpets to powerwashing the garage can help.
So, for getting rid of anxiety without meds, there are many productive possibilities.
Lifestyle improvements are clearly of great value; improving the mind through thought awareness and meditation or with intense physical movement can be the ultimate solution.
Give it a try – it can pay dividends for a lifetime.
Till next time,
Growing Younger Everyday