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Like so many women, I suffer from anxiety. And like so many of them, I've been told at some point in my life that I needed medication. Now, I don't want you to think that I'm completely against conventional treatment when someone truly feels they need it in order to live a normal life again. I know firsthand how paralyzing and agonizing living with this condition is, and I wouldn't criticize anyone who decides to take medication in order to cope. But in my case, I felt like I had a choice, and I want to share some of the things I've learned along the way in case they help you.
When my therapist told me I needed to take drugs for at least one year to treat my anxiety, I was quite tempted to say yes. I desperately wanted to stop being scared of things as simple as going to the bank or the grocery store, or talking to my friends at a party. A pill that would allow me to do this again with ease sounded very intriguing, to say the least. But instead of doing what my doctor prescribed, I decided to challenge his opinion. Something deep inside me told me that my body and mind were powerful beyond measure, and could heal themselves without these drugs. I also knew that meds could be the start of a downward spiral of side effects and dependence that could take me longer to recover from than from the actual anxiety, and I didn't want that for myself. Instead of hitting the pharmacy, when I left the doctor's office I hit the yoga mat and my nutrition books right away.
Here are some of the most effective ways I've found to deal with this condition after almost seven years living with it. Complement this with a regular meditation practice, deep breathing techniques, and daily exercise, and you will soon start feeling more grounded and serene.
There's a reason why we reach for that chocolate bar/cupcake/ice cream when we feel stressed or anxious. Cacao, the main ingredient in chocolate, is one of the richest sources of magnesium in the food world! So what's so great about magnesium? The short answer is that it is nature's most effective muscle relaxant and helps maintain normal nerve function and keep a steady heart rhythm. It not only helps with anxiety, but also with related issues such as sleep disorders and hypertension.
Ideally, our diet should provide us with enough magnesium to feel well naturally, but the modern diet is deficient in this essential mineral, and most of us (even those who don't feel like their nerves are on edge all the time) would benefit from supplementing. In fact, your anxiety is probably an indicator that you're deficient of this important nutrient.
You can take a magnesium supplement daily, and also take them to deal with moments of anxiety directly. I once took a magnesium pill when I was having a panic attack and it made it go away, almost magically. Other supplements you may want to experiment with: Ashwaganda and GABA, an amino acid that our body already produces, but could use more of to relax.
2. Follow an anti-anxiety diet.
This means avoiding all stimulants such as coffee and energy drinks, and drinking lots of relaxing herbal teas such as chamomile, lavender, passion flower, and valerian root during extremely stressful moments. It also means keeping my blood sugar levels stable by eating a healthy, hearty breakfast with protein and fiber in it, avoiding processed sugar and refined carbs at all cost, and eating moderate portions of legumes instead of the giant heaps of rice and beans I used to eat as a child. Eating lots of fresh vegetables and avoiding heavy meals late at night is also important. The healthier your diet, the less stressed your body will be at a physical level, resulting in less anxiety, too.
3. Keep your skin and body hydrated.
What does the state of my skin have to do with anxiety? According to Ayurveda, the ancient Indian healing method, a lot. Dryness of the skin and dehydration are usual signs of an excess in vata, a type of energy that can be the cause of many anxiety problems. By treating this imbalance your nervousness will very likely diminish. Keeping your skin hydrated by massaging it with sesame oil every day before or after you take a shower is a great place to start, and make sure you also keep your lips hydrated with a natural chapstick, or with some more oil. Extra tip: Add a few drops of lavender oil to your moisturizing oil or cream, to benefit from the relaxing aromatherapy effects of this plant.