Are you reading this really fast because the sky could fall at any minute? Rather than reach for something to calm you down, you might consider how to treat anxiety without medication, by changing how you look at the world.
Last week we talked about treating anxiety naturally with deep yoga breathing, nutrition, and exercise. Lifestyle changes are essential. But if you want to treat your anxiety without medication, you should also consider how your approach to life may be creating anxiety in the first place.
Real life is not network TV. Television dramas are full of short-cuts that clue us in to scenes to come. You know…the school teacher in the opener raises her hand to her brow…so she must have a brain tumor, fall in love with her doctor, and die because he’s the hero and has to stay single for the rest of the show.
But in real life, not everything is a future catastrophe. A headache could be from eye strain, hay fever, or overindulgence. And if problems are not solved in 42 minutes plus commercials, it doesn’t mean we’re toast.
Start an anxiety journal. You can find out for yourself what your anxiety triggers are by keeping a simple journal of what makes you anxious, and how you react to different circumstances. In a short time you should see trends and patterns that show you where your stress begins.
Do you picture a lot of health worries? Whenever you hear of someone with cancer or heart disease, do you check yourself for symptoms, and wait for bad news? Or maybe money worries make you feel like you are one late payment away from homelessness.
After a while, review what you worried about a few weeks ago, and congratulate yourself for still being alive, employed, married, or whatever state you thought you were sure to lose. If consistent patterns like debt worries reappear, your journal might indicate the need for a financial planner or other professional to help tackle your anxiety’s underlying cause.
Cut back on the news. It’s good to be informed, but our modern 24 hour news cycle has made us all a little addicted to disaster. On any given day the headlines scream bad news again and again. Yes bad things happen. But you can look back even 5 years and hear a lot of the same stories you hear today. The sky did not fall then after all, but it could at any minute, and people will continue to fight about whose fault it will be when it does.
Case in point…yesterday was a slow news day except for the cold. But hey viewers, the super volcano under Yellowstone could still blow at any moment, and destroy the Earth. It isn’t rumbling or anything, but you just never know.
Skip the commercials. If we believe TV advertising, we must all be harboring unknown diseases, at risk of fraud, living in toxic buildings, and about to see our savings collapse. Need a pill to treat your anxiety? They have plenty to sell you. So forget the hype, and mute or fast forward through the messages of doom.
Counter bad news with your own happy talk. Whether you rely on affirmations or rebuttals to the news, you can train yourself to counter negative thinking when you hear it, or when it pops up in your mind. Conscious awareness of your reactions teaches you that you don’t have to be Chicken Little. Be grateful that the world is still spinning, and go on with your day.
Ask your doctor about alternatives to anxiety medication. Your doctor can be an excellent resource to help you deal with your anxiety, especially if she looks at life style changes first. If you and your doctor are considering medication, be sure to discuss all possible side effects and available alternatives.
In many cases your doctor may be more open to treating your anxiety without medication if she knows you will take the steps you need to make changes in your life. The person most apt to rely on medication is usually the one who says, “just give me a pill.”
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