Alternatives to Anxiety Medication

While some prefer anxiety medication, I do not. In my opinion, the side effects far outweigh the treatment, and most of the time people end up dependent on medication. If you’re on anxiety medication, I do not judge you for it. It’s just my personal preference to look for other, less addictive ways to overcome anxiety. Even if you’re on medication, these alternatives can still ease the discomfort of anxiety on a daily basis.

This past year, I’ve gone to the doctor because of difficulty breathing, heart palpitations, and chest pains. Pretty serious stuff, right? Every time I go, they give me an EKG, and they say my heart and my breathing are completely normal. The doctor or PA (whoever is available at the time) tells me I probably have anxiety and try to prescribe me some sort of medication. Each time, I refuse. There has to be another way to treat anxiety besides popping pills.

If you are like me and want some alternatives, here are ways I’ve found to treat anxiety.

Diet. Sugar and caffeine can both contribute to panic attacks because they energize us and make it difficult to sit still. In addition to these, if you have food sensitivities or digestive issues, foods that are more challenging to digest can cause physical unrest as well. This website lists ten foods you should avoid if you have anxiety. Although we don’t have to completely alter our diet, we can try to cut out some of these foods.

Exercise. I’ve been told that anxiety is just stored up energy. When you think of it that way, it’s easier to control. Studies show that after just five minutes of physical activity, anxiety starts to decrease. Make an effort to walk, jog, bike ride, or dance for 30 minutes a day, 3-5 times a day, and see if you feel more calm.

Essential Oils. I feel like every time I look through an essential oil catalog, each description of an oil is “A calming blend.” Lavender always tends to calm me down (is there anything lavender can’t do?), but check out your favorite essential oils website to see what blends or oils can work for you.

Breathing. The best part about air is it’s free! When God created us, He breathed into our nostrils. Ever since then, we’ve needed air to survive. I didn’t realize that I forget to breathe when I’m anxious until someone had to remind me one day. That’s a little scary! If you’re anxious, take a minute to focus on your breathing (inhale, exhale). Don’t worry if you think you look silly while you’re breathing heavy. Your survival is more important than how you look.

Pressure Points. A good friend of mine taught me two pressure points that are helpful for me. Since they are difficult to describe, here is a website that has several points you can use on your body to relief stress and other psychosomatic symptoms from anxiety.

Journaling. By far, this is my favorite and most effective way to treat anxiety. Anxiety begins in the mind, and then extends to the body. I’ve seen the difference in my life when I don’t take the time to write. My mind is jumbled, I can’t sit still, and I’m considering all the worst case scenarios. Sometimes, I write ten pages in one day, just trying to process my thoughts and feelings. Every time I write, though, I end up feeling better. Through journaling, I learn what I’m feeling and thinking, and how I can change those thoughts and feelings into more positive and productive ones.

Counseling. I’ll admit, counseling is scary. If you don’t want to invest in a counselor, at the very least, consider speaking with a friend about your feelings. We were created for community. Join a small group, take your friend out for tea, or send a note on Facebook to someone.

Self-reflection. This is part of journaling. Self-reflection goes a little deeper than journaling, though. Journaling is the what, while self-reflection is the why. You may realize through journaling that you’re afraid of rabbits. Self-reflection is looking at your past and trying to figure out where that fear started. Did you have a rabbit as a pet when you were younger? Did you watch a scary movie about rabbits? Once we know why we’re afraid, we can learn how to overcome the fear.

As you know, trusting in God has been the ultimate cure for my anxiety. While anxiety is still a daily struggle for me, I know God is my constant and is able to help me through it. I am thankful that He has provided all of these ways to help me through this battle.

Photo by JOSHUA COLEMAN on Unsplash

Wisdom Wednesday

How to Overcome When You’re Overwhelmed

As I’ve been slightly overwhelmed these past few weeks, I find it appropriate to write about what to do when you’re feeling overwhelmed.  Two week ago, I shared that if you’re overwhelmed, you’re in good company.  This week, let’s talk about what to do in the heat of the moment.

It amazes me that some people don’t know what a panic attack feels like.  For me, they are a regular struggle; I used to have multiple panic attacks a day, and then they stopped for a few months, and now I have about one every two weeks.  Needless to say, panic attacks are a major inconvenience, no matter how often I get them or how long they last.

For those who don’t know, let me describe a typical panic attack (although panic attacks look different for everyone): throat feels tight, trouble breathing, racing heart, dizziness, blurry vision, hot flashes, nausea, muscle spasms, dry mouth, and stomach knots…all in a matter of five minutes.

Panic attacks tend to occur when I’m feeling overwhelmed.  When I have a ton of things to do and I don’t even know where to start, my muscles tense and I literally become frozen.  I pray and wait until the storm within passes.  Eventually, it does pass, even when it feels like it will never end when it’s actually happening.

If you’re anxious or overwhelmed right now, you probably don’t want to read about it.  You just want help.  Look no further!  Here are five things you can do to calm your nerves and get back on track:

  • Close your eyes: Looking at the pile of work on your desk, the dirty laundry in your bedroom, or a person with whom you have a conflict, can be very overwhelming.  It may help you to just push your chair away from your desk for a minute, turn your head away from the mess, or even go into another room to collect your thoughts.  Don’t let this become an excuse to not get your work done, but taking a break for a few minutes can help you calm down and be ready to face whatever comes your way.
  • Take a deep breath: When I’m anxious, I forget to breathe.  I didn’t realize that I do that until I was in college, and my friend noticed I wasn’t breathing.  Anxiety actually subsides when we let oxygen flow through our brain and allow the body to heal.  I just did a quick search on how oxygen helps with anxiety, and I found that people actually use concentrated oxygen (under doctor or professional supervision, I’m sure) to heal from anxiety and other mental disorders.  So, the air around you can help you if you just, well, use it!
  • Make a list: Write a to-do list and study it.  Seeing all your tasks causes you to look at them and make a plan of action.  They can be counted; they are not innumerable.  You will feel more in control, and you will remember your tasks, if you list what seems like impossible activities.
  • Pray: You can do all things through Christ who gives you strength.  He will give you the wisdom to handle your tasks, and the peace to overcome your anxiety.  Pray for clarity of mind as you use wisdom to sort through your to-do list.
  • Move: Do not let the fear paralyze you.  As I said before, anxiety or feeling overwhelmed may hinder you from getting anything done.  Sometimes the best way to overcome the stress is to simply do the task.  When you start moving, you’ll be able to accomplish what you thought was impossible.

The Bible says that when we meditate on the word of God day and night, we will be like a tree planted near streams of water (Psalm 1:1-3).  Wouldn’t you rather be a tree that is rooted on the ground than a leaf that is blown around by the wind?  Trust in God in the midst of anxiety.  He is our foundation, our ever present help in trouble.  Through Him, we can overcome when we feel overwhelmed.

Photo by Ricardo Gomez Angel on Unsplash

Wisdom Wednesday

Feeling Overwhelmed?

I’m writing this post after an overwhelming day.  I woke up, left late for work (but by the grace of God made it to work on time), worked eight hours straight under pressure, had a wicked stomachache (which is an absolute nightmare for someone with a fear of throwing up), dealt with crazy drivers on the way home, quickly ate dinner with my husband, and then washed the dishes for two hours.  All the while, I tried to keep a smile on my face and plow through the day without having a breakdown.

Trust me when I say, I know what it’s like to be overwhelmed.  I honestly feel like God puts me in these situations not only to grow me, but to encourage someone else who may also be feeling overwhelmed.  So, if you’re overwhelmed, this one’s for you!

For a long time, I wished that the craziness would stop and that I could just live at peace.  I thought that if I just worked a little bit harder, spent time with the right people, and prayed a little more, I would sort of get to the next level of life, which is the relaxing time.  My older friends lovingly pointed out that the craziness never stops, that life will grow busier and busier as I progress.  This fact honestly just makes me want to dig my face in my hands and cry for a little bit.

What if I told you that God actually wants you to be overwhelmed?

I looked through the Scriptures to find out what to do when I’m overwhelmed.  Although I wish that I could have found evidence that God wants to completely eliminate our chaos, what I’ve found is that God actually wants us to be overwhelmed.  Think about it: Do you think Abraham was overwhelmed when God called him and his wife to start a new life in a foreign land?  Do you think Jacob was overwhelmed when he had twelve kids and two quarreling wives, and he eventually thought his son was dead?  Do you think Gideon was overwhelmed when God shrunk his army from 22,000 to 300 to fight an army that was considered innumerable?  Do you think David was overwhelmed when Saul literally vowed on his life to kill him? (David was so overwhelmed that he wrote several psalms about his experience!)  Do you think Jesus was overwhelmed when He sweat drops of blood in the Garden of Gethsemane?

Friend, if you’re overwhelmed, you’re in good company.

When you are at the end of your rope, that’s when God reveals His strength to hold you up.  When you are running on empty, that’s when God wants you to run to Him.  When you feel like there’s no hope, that’s when God wants you to find hope in Him.  When you’re overwhelmed, that’s when you need to take a deep breath (in through your nose, out through your mouth) and pray that God would give you what you need in that situation.  And when He reveals Himself to you, you realize that your problems aren’t so big anymore.  That’s when your faith in God grows.

So, if being overwhelmed is supposed to happen, how come it feels so wrong?

The difference between being overwhelmed in the way we understand it and being overwhelmed in the way God understands it is the source of our overwhelming.  In other words, what overwhelms us defines whether or not we can live at peace.  Being overwhelmed by the things of this world (our jobs, our families, our school, our health, our chores, etc.) will drain us, but being overwhelmed by God will fill us.

When the people of the Bible were overwhelmed, what did they do?  They looked up. They remembered that their Heavenly Father was bigger than anything they could face. As Abraham walked, God revealed all the land that He had created, the land that Abraham’s descendants would one day inherit.  When Jacob had doubts, God wrestled with him and overtook him, reminding Jacob of the Lord’s mighty strength.  When Gideon doubted that God could use the weakest member of the smallest clan of Israel, God used him and 300 willing men to defeat an innumerable army. When David was overwhelmed, he meditated on the greatness of God, and it brought him peace.  When Jesus was overwhelmed to the point of death, He spent the last few hours of His life on Earth praying for God’s will to be done.

If you’re overwhelmed, you’re in good company.  You’re also in good hands.  If you trust in God, He will guide you in the way you should go.  When you’re feeling overwhelmed, look up at Him and remember that what you are facing is no match for your great God.

Oh, and did I mention how I actually made it through the day today?  I started the day with worship.  My commute to work was so much easier knowing that God was with me in that car.  The prayers I prayed and the moments I shared with Him in the morning planted the seeds of hope that I needed for the rest of the day.  I sat in the car, overwhelmed by God, and not overwhelmed by my circumstances.

Next week, I will address practical steps to handle stress in the heat of the moment.  But for now, I think it’s time for bed!

Photo by Rich Lock on Unsplash