Anxiety and How to Get Relief Without Taking Prescribed Drugs
Most people get nervous or feel tense during some stages of their life, but when that feeling of fear and anxiety remains for long periods it can become a problem and impair their function. The fact is, without some level of arousal people wouldn’t do anything, but it’s when anxiety gets out of hand that it can interfere with your happiness and sense of well being.
The body’s natural response to being threatened, or even to feeling in fear of your life, put under undue pressure, or being faced with a challenge is the fight/flight mechanism. But if there are no real threats or challenges, your brain is acting as if there were and your anxiety can feel out of control.
Some Causes of Anxiety:
While anxiety may be caused by an underlying condition such as an overactive thyroid gland or other physical conditions, it is not always the case and may be caused by the following:
- Emotional trauma
- PTSD, depression
- Work, personal relationships, school stresses
- Financial worries
- Stressing about a serious or chronic medical condition
- A side effect of certain medications
- An upcoming major public speaking event or performance
- Consumption of alcohol or drugs such as ice or cocaine
- Lack of oxygen
Here are some possibilities for relief of anxiety:
The Prescription Drug Route
While prescription drugs are effective at easing anxiety, many people worry about side effects and addiction and would prefer other ways such as a holistic approach to deal with the problem. Unfortunately, there are no over-the-counter treatments that alone have any effect on anxiety, although some natural therapies can provide some level of relief.
Other avenues such as talk therapy, mindfulness and meditation have shown promise. But check with your GP before you stop taking prescribed medication, and if your anxiety is extreme, talk your options over with the doctor.
Check Your Diet
A study in 2019 (1) found eating foods with added sugar and also saturated fats can increase anxiety, in other words, the consumption of pastries, sugary foods, processed meat and fried foods can increase your anxiety. A diet rich in fibre, grains, fruit, vegetables, and fish can help you curb your anxiety.
Cut Your Alcohol Consumption
The effects of alcohol may be the same or similar to taking anti-anxiety prescription drugs in that there is temporary relief. The problem is, once the body has processed the alcohol, the anxiety returns with even more force. This leads to drinking more alcohol, which is bad for your physical and psychological health since it can be addictive.
Alcohol changes the natural levels of dopamine, serotonin and other neurotransmitters in the brain, which can make anxiety even worse. So it’s never a good idea to turn to alcohol to ease anxiety.
It’s well known among mental health professionals that people suffering from anxiety and depression will turn to cigarette smoking to help them relax. It’s also well known that smoking can cause a temporary change in your brain’s chemistry. As with alcohol, cigarettes can ease anxiety, but after you’ve finished the cigarette the anxiety returns, only now it's worse than before. Studies show (2) quitting smoking lessens anxiety and depression.
A few tips can help cut down on smoking:
- Avoid anxiety triggers
- Find a relaxation technique (yoga, mindfulness) that works for you.
- Exercise helps, so start with small bursts of physical activity
- Choose a date to quit
Drink Enough Water
Since our brains consist of 75 per cent water (3), it relies on enough hydration to function. This suggests a strong correlation between dehydration and anxiety. The signs of dehydration include darker than normal urine, and a sticky, dry mouth. So drink more water.
Natural Supplements For Gut Health and Anxiety
The risk of anxiety is exacerbated by gut inflammation or gut bacteria being out of balance. But taking probiotics and other supplements (if you are deficient, so check first with your GP to also make sure they won’t conflict with any other medications you may be taking) such as Vitamin D3, Omega 3, B complex, zinc and magnesium may decrease your anxiety levels and provide natural gut healing.
Consider a Puppy, a Kitten or Other Furry Friend
Research (4) shows owning any pet, especially a cat or dog, may lessen anxiety, ease loneliness, stress, and depression, encourage playfulness and exercise and even increase your cardiovascular health. Spending time with your pet may improve dopamine and serotonin levels in your brain, leading to a peaceful feeling.
Other anxiety-reducing activities include spending time with family and friends, connecting with others, having a social life, being creative and importantly, connecting with nature. A walk in the park, going hiking, or sightseeing are all-natural remedies for anxiety and depression.
Note: Always seek advice from your doctor about your anxiety before self-medicating or using natural remedies. Your GP may advise psychological help such as talk therapy that doesn’t require medication.
Dr David Badov is the Medical Director of HealthScreen.
Dr Badov has been a practising specialist physician with nearly 30 years experience in Internal Medicine and Gastroenterology. Bowel Cancer Prevention, Preventative Medicine and Longevity has been an integral part of his research into the latest medical advances, technology and wellness tools to incorporate into HealthScreen.
- Dr David Badov