Natural Anxiety Relief:
Recommendations from a Saint Louis Anxiety Specialist
Anxiety is one of the most common reasons that people seek counseling or psychotherapy. Everyone gets anxious sometimes due to normal life events and transitions, but the symptoms of anxiety such as constant worry, muscle tension, agitation, GI distress, nervousness, restlessness, racing heart, increased breathing rate, trembling, insomnia, a sense of doom and problems with concentration, can be difficult to tolerate and can interfere with normal life functioning.
I’ve noticed that new clients with the primary symptom of anxiety often have a sense of urgency when they make their appointments. They can be in a great deal of distress and therefore want relief fast. Fortunately, the act of finding a therapist, setting up an appointment and attending that first appointment can provide a sense of relief for an anxious person. “I’m actively doing something about my anxiety”. “I’m working with a professional to address this issue”. “I’m so glad to get this off of my chest”.
Sometimes clients will ask me about taking medication for their anxiety. I’m not against medication at all in certain situations, but I don’t think it should be an automatically prescribed for everyone who has symptoms of anxiety. Some anxiety medications are highly addictive and therefore should be used sparingly.
Aside from the potential for addiction, relying on a pill to alleviate anxiety can keep us from resolving the issues at the root of the anxiety and can also get in the way of developing healthier coping skills. Many of my clients tell me that they specifically don’t want to take medication. Instead, they want to work on the underlying issues causing the anxiety and to use natural methods and strategies to alleviate anxiety and stress on an ongoing basis. Fortunately, there are many natural ways to enhance your coping and decrease anxiety.
For immediate relief consider the following strategies:
- Take a power walk. Cardiovascular exercise is a reliable “go to” for anxiety relief. As little as 20 minutes of brisk walking can significantly reduce symptoms. Making it a daily habit is simply good self-care.
- Get a massage. Massage therapy has been shown to have a significant effect on reducing anxiety. The benefits of massage come from stimulating pressure receptors in the brain. This then reduces stress hormones and significantly decreases muscle tension. Other beneficial results are lowered blood pressure and heart rate, an increase in immunity response. It can also feel really good!
- Attend a yoga class. Meditative yoga programs have been found to alleviate anxiety. This is my favorite strategy to manage my own stress and anxiety. The poses and breathing together help with muscle tension and decreasing the physiological impact of stress and anxiety. The stress hormones are decreased and the body and mind become calmer. Yoga also helps you “get out of your head”. You have to pay attention to the instructor which calms the racing thoughts of an anxious person. You can’t pay attention to the instructor and obsess about the future at the same time!
- Drink Chamomile tea. Chamomile, an herb from the daisy family, has been used for hundreds of years to treat insomnia and anxiety. Chamomile for tea can be commonly found in most grocery stores. Make it a part of your daily routine.
- Take a bath. A soothing hot bath is calming and is known to help people relax. Add Epsom salts and lavender oil for an added benefit. Epsom salts contain magnesium sulfate which calms anxiety and reduces blood pressure. Lavender oil has been studied and is shown to decrease symptoms of anxiety when the scent is breathed in. Give yourself a little time at the end of the day.
- Breathe deeply. Simply inhale and exhale slowly for one to two minutes while focusing your attention (and continually redirecting your attention back to) your breath. You can do it anywhere!
- Try a homeopathic remedy or tincture. Some of my clients have found relief from herbal remedies for anxiety. There are several options such as valerian, passionflower, Kava or combination tinctures such Rescue Remedy that are available at many health food stores. Use with doctor approval as these may interact with other medications being prescribed.
- Try “Radical Acceptance”. So often our mental attitude contributes to our anxiety. We want our life to be a certain way and when it isn’t we may expend a lot of energy focusing on these things. For example, when we encounter unexpected traffic jams that throw off the already very tight schedule. Adopting an attitude of acceptance of the reality of the situation can really help decrease our stress. I’ll say to myself, “It is what it is” and focus on what I’m grateful for in my life when I face these irritating situations.
- Practice the Serenity Prayer. There’s a reason it has been adopted by the AA community, it works! If you don’t like praying, then just accept the things you can’t change, change the things you can and have the wisdom to know the difference. You’ll feel better!
About Barbara Edelman, MSW, LCSW
I am a Licensed Psychotherapist in Saint Louis, MO.
I am certified in EMDR and specialize in treating Anxiety, Depression, PTSD and Trauma in adults and adolescents and helping my clients develop a sense of peace, comfort and connection in their lives and relationships.
If you have anxiety or depression or think you may have unresolved trauma and would like to work with a Saint Louis area therapist who specializes in anxiety and trauma, please contact me for a free 15-minute phone consultation at 314-780-4906 or email me now to schedule a time.