15 Powerful Ways To Treat Anxiety If You Can’t Afford Medication Or Therapy
If you have anxiety and can afford to go to a therapist and/or take medication, then you should definitely consider doing so. For many people, this combo is an incredibly helpful way to find better coping mechanisms, while evening out the brain chemicals that can cause anxiety. But if you don't have the extra cash, or insurance, or are simply looking for other ways to feel better, there are plenty of ways to treat anxiety without medication or therapy.
"People have been able to heal from anxiety in the past without therapy," counselor Danielle Swimm, MA, LCPC tells Bustle. While she recommends therapy, Swimm agrees that things like journaling, meditating, and taking better care of your health are all ways to reduce anxiety. It's lifestyle changes like these that not only improve your health, but also make it easier to cope with the worries and stressors that anxiety can cause.
Keep in mind, though, that sometimes the splurge is worth it if anxiety is keeping you from living your life. "If your anxiety is debilitating and you cannot leave your home or you are calling in sick to work because of debilitating feelings of panic, it is best if you seek professional help," therapist Kathy Morelli, LMT, LPC, CA tells Bustle. "You may need medication to manage your symptoms and stabilize your emotional state." And a professional can help you determine if medication is the right course for you.
That said, it all comes down to what you're comfortable with, and what works best for your lifestyle. Ways to cope with anxiety will be different for everyone, so if you're looking for some new ideas, here are a few tips and tricks experts say can vastly reduce anxiety.
1. Try Grounding Techniques
Grounding techniques can help snap you out of an impending anxiety attack, simply by bringing your attention back to the current moment. "I encourage clients to immediately tune into the here and now by using their senses to remain present," psychotherapist Dr. Alicia Hodge tells Bustle. "What can they see, hear, smell, or touch? Paying attention to your environment can effectively ground you and remove you from the spiral of anxiety." All by getting yourself out of your head.
2. Add Aromatherapy To Your Life
Aromatherapy is an affordable, but super powerful way to ease anxiety. "Try lavender essential oils on the wrist and adding some to an epsom salt bath," says Swimm. "Take six deep 'belly breaths' every time you use lavender oil and it will start to train your mind that the smell is associated with relaxation. Keep some in the car, at work, and you can diffuse some in the bedroom."
3. Get It Out Of Your Head And Onto Paper
If your mind is swirling with anxious thoughts, it can help to get them out of your head and onto paper. "Your mind is spinning when you're anxious," Swimm says. "You need to empty those thoughts out and give them somewhere to go. A journal is a great place to start! Do it for 14 days before you decide if it's been helpful." And, since journaling has a way of helping you understand yourself better, it can help you engage with your thoughts in a healthier, more mindful way.
4. Stick To A Daily Routine
While it's not always possible to have a predictable day, it can lessen your anxiety if you stick to a routine as often as possible. "Having daily routines allows the nervous system to relax into a flow," Katie Silcox, author of Healthy, Happy, Sexy, Ayurvedic Wisdom for Modern Woman, tells Bustle. "It turns on the parasympathetic nervous system. This is the relaxed, rest, and digest part of our autonomic nervous system." Also, there's just something so calming about knowing what's expected of you each day, and going about your life without having to worry about "what's next?"
5. Give Yoga A Try
By taking a few minutes to meditate and hold some poses, you can effectively slow down a racing mind, and feel more centered. "The combination of meditation and yoga can help soothe anxiety through the inclusion of mindfulness," Sharleen Oboroswsky, CEO of Yogapedia tells Bustle. "Making an active effort to be present and focus both your body and mind on the exercise can give you a tangible anchor for your anxious mind — helping you become centered and less anxious."
And, you can get some sweet, sweet endorphins while you're at it, too. As Oboroswsky says, "Yoga promotes the release of endorphins (your body's 'feel-good' hormone) which helps lower stress levels as well as improves the quality of your sleep."
6. Go To Bed On Time All The Time
Ever notice how anxiety ramps up when you're tired? "Researchers at the University of Berkeley found that a lack of sleep can amplify anticipatory anxiety by stimulating regions in the brain that are associated with emotional processing," Dr. Josh Axe, DNM, CNS, DC, founder of Ancient Nutrition and DrAxe.com, tells Bustle. "This means sleep deprivation can contribute to common anxiety symptoms. These symptoms include excessive worrying, and by restoring proper sleep patterns, people with anxiety can reduce feelings of fear, worry, and tension."
To get a better night's sleep (even if you tend to lie awake worrying), it can help to shut off your phone, turn down the lights, and climb into bed at the same time each night. "Aim to get seven to nine hours of sleep every night in order to reduce stress, balance your hormones, prevent moodiness, and reduce fatigue," Axe says. "You can also diffuse lavender or Roman chamomile essential oil in your bedroom to help induce relaxation." Works like a charm.
7. Consider Reducing Alcohol & Caffeine
What you put into your body can play a pretty big role in how you feel, so it might be a good idea to be mindful of your intake of anxiety-inducing beverages like coffee and alcohol. To help reduce anxiety, consider eliminating alcohol, or limiting the amount of alcohol you drink to around three drinks per week, Axe says. Doing so might keep your anxiety in check.
And same goes for caffeine. "Research also shows that consuming too much caffeine can induce anxiety symptoms, and people with panic disorder and social anxiety seem to be particularly sensitive to the effects of caffeine," he says. Keeping caffeine drinks to about one cup of day can help.
8. Talk To Your Friends & Family
As it often goes with other mental health problems, anxiety can make you feel incredibly alone. So don't be afraid to reach out to friends and family for support. "Even though they might not be trained as a therapist, the act of talking it out can do wonders for mental health," licensed psychologist Dr. Sal Raichbach PsyD, LCSW, of Ambrosia Treatment Center, tells Bustle. "It allows you to express your feelings and get positive feedback from another person. The key is to find someone who understands your condition, and that won’t say things like 'just relax' or 'stop worrying so much,'" since that can feel invalidating. What you really want is someone who will let you vent, and offer support when you need it.
9. Try Tapping
Many people with anxiety find relief in "tapping," a form of acupressure similar to acupuncture, but without the use of needles. It is also known by its fancier name: Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT). All you have to do is use your fingers to tap on your body at certain points in order to get "unstuck," and release happier hormones in your brain.
As Eileen Lichtenstein, MS, Ed tells Bustle, EFT tapping "is a powerful mind-body modality that releases cortisol (a stress hormone) and sends the good hormone serotonin up to the amygdala, the integrative center for emotions, emotional behavior, and motivation in the brain." It may sound strange, but it's been proven effective. Here's how to do it.
10. Join A 12-Step Group
If you'd like to get some support but don't have the cash or insurance for a therapist, consider joining a 12-Step group. As Raichbach says, "There are ... 12-Step groups that are available, free of charge, where people who have anxiety can find relief. Emotions Anonymous is a great example. In 12-step groups, you can find camaraderie and support from people who face the same difficulties, and hopefully, learn some solutions along the way."
11. Increase Your Oxytocin
"One piece of advice I give my clients is to increase their daily dose of the all-natural, completely free hormone, oxytocin," health coach Irene Ross tells Bustle. It's a bonding hormone that helps people feel connected, but it can also improve your mood.
"Often referred to as the 'Love Hormone' or 'Cuddle Hormone,' it’s particularly responsive to touch." You can release it in your brain by having sex, cuddling your pet, dancing, seeing a friend, gardening, or getting a massage. Or, as Irene says, "just doing whatever makes you happy."
12. Give Deep Breathing A Try
The cool thing about deep breathing is that you can do it anytime, anywhere. And it really works. "When our brain is activated it sends a message to our body that we need to be on high alert," Hodge says. "Deep breathing can actually send a message back to our brain that things are OK. However, it is important to remember to practice these skills often so they become ingrained for use when you become anxious." Techniques can range from meditation-centered exercises, to slowed down breathing. Try a few, and see what works best for you.
13. Consider Adding A Few Supplements To Your Routine
Check with your doctor to see which supplements you might be able to add to your routine, since there are so many out there that have been shown to help ease anxiety. Rebecca Lee, a registered nurse and creator of RemediesForMe, suggests taking a GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) supplement, as it works "similarly to benzodiazepines and SSRIs."
She says the herb passion flower is another good one, as it's great "at fighting against sleeplessness, nervousness, stress, neuralgia, and anxioustachycardia (racing heartbeat)." Other anxiety reducers include L-Theanine, lemon balm, and chamomile, all of which can be found in teas and supplements at a health food store.
14. Go Outside As Often As Possible
By simply going outside and walking through nature — a technique many therapists call "forest bathing" — you can effectively lower your anxiety. "The effects of 'forest bathing' have been widely researched in Japan and South Korea," Lee says. "Walking through greenery also helps increase in attention (great for children with ADHD), mood, short term memory, ability to sleep, and feeling less fatigued."
But you don't need to live in the country to get the benefits. As Lee says, "In urban settings where forests are hard to come by, hiking under trees, walking through parks or [near] bodies of water, and gardening are also beneficial."
15. Get Out Of Your Comfort Zone
While you might be tempted to stay home, giving into anxiety can actually make you feel worse. So whenever possible, try to get outside your comfort zone and do something you wouldn't normally do — even if the idea really freaks you out.
"Getting out of your comfort zone upends this cycle," clinical psychologist Dr. Ryan Hooper tells Bustle. "Maybe you take on a new challenge at work or try out a new hobby with friends. Either way, this new challenge can remind you about your capabilities and that 'it’s not so bad.' Even if you struggle with the new challenge, the fact that you put yourself out there and lived through it shows that you are capable."
And that can do wonders for challenging your anxiety, too, and can even help you overcome it. While you still may want to pursue therapy and/or medication in the future, the more you can do to fight anxiety off on your own, the better you'll feel. So why not try a few techniques, like yoga, going outside, or breathing exercises, and see how they make you feel? You may be surprised by the results.