We live in a world where people take medication for just about everything. This is especially common for those with anxiety, because anxiety often causes physical symptoms that encourage people to see a doctor, and the only thing a doctor can do is prescribe medication.
But medications are not the best anxiety treatment, and if you learn how to overcome anxiety on your own, you should be able to successfully manage or cure your anxiety without any chemical help.
Managing Anxiety vs. Curing It
There is a considerable difference between managing anxiety and curing anxiety. Managing anxiety is when you still have anxiety, but you do something in the moment that prevents it from affecting you, such as meditation, medications, or simply “fighting through it.”
Curing anxiety is when you no longer have an anxiety disorder. It is the truest way of overcoming anxiety. My free 7-minute anxiety test is the best place to start if curing anxiety is your priority.
Tips on How to Overcome Anxiety
The best way to fight anxiety is to commit to a comprehensive treatment. Overcoming anxiety needs to be a lifestyle, not just something you try once in a while to hope your anxiety becomes less severe. That said, there are individual tactics that can help you either manage anxiety or overcome anxiety that can be integrated into your life at home, without medical intervention.
Cognitive behavioral therapy and other forms of talk therapy can be useful, but the following represent how to overcome anxiety without medicine:
It cannot be emphasized enough: there is a clear link between anxiety, anxiety management, and exercise. Those that do not exercise or stay active regularly are far more prone to developing anxiety disorders, while exercise itself has proven to be a valuable tool for managing anxiety. That’s because exercise:
- Releases neurotransmitters that have an uplifting effect on mood.
- Tires muscles to prevent anxiety symptoms.
- Burns stress hormones that may trigger anxiety.
Exercise is a naturally healthy way to combat anxiety. It is one of the few “musts” if you are trying to overcome your anxiety, because it is a treatment that is 100% healthy and delivers very real results. Even if you never cared about your fitness before, you are here because you care about your mental health. Regular exercise is the best way to improve that mental health.
Magnesium (and Other Vitamins)
Studies have also shown that some people may be me more prone to anxiety symptoms if they aren’t getting enough nutrition. The biggest culprit of this appears to be magnesium, which is an incredibly important mineral that has been stripped from most diets because of the way food is processed.
Magnesium is also depleted during times of stress and through hyperventilation, so those with low magnesium levels are likely to cause their magnesium to get even lower when they experience anxiety for a long enough period of time. It is unlikely that low magnesium causes anxiety, but it may be causing some of the symptoms and sensations that lead to further anxiety.
Talk to your doctor about supplementing magnesium or some other type of vitamin, into your diet to ensure that you are getting the nutrition your body needs to function.
Another technique you can try in order to overcome anxiety on your own is self-exposure. This technique is a bit complicated and best completed in the presence of an expert, but those that are brave enough can try the method on their own.
Exposure therapy focuses on this idea that the human brain will no longer find something frightening when it is exposed to it for a long enough period of time. It is known as “habituation,” and it is an adaptive tool that keeps people from fearing the world around them. The best way to understand self-exposure techniques is to think in terms of a phobia, but it can also be used with other types of anxiety as well which we’ll explain in a moment.
For the sake of an example, let’s assume you have a deathly fear of spiders. You would perform the following:
- First, force yourself to think about spiders for a long period of time. It will cause stress, but don’t try to fight it. Let yourself be stressed and continue thinking about them until you’ve relaxed. Continue to do this for several days in a row until thinking about spiders doesn’t cause stress.
- Next, have someone print out a photo of a spider. Presumably, the photo will cause fear. Keep looking at the photo anyway until you start to relax. Complete this on many different days with several types of photos until looking at these photos no longer causes anxiety.
- Do the same thing for videos of spiders with YouTube. Only move on when they do not cause anxiety. Try to watch the same video over and over again rather than flipping through videos to ensure that you are not looking for videos that cause less stress.
- Next, have someone catch a spider and place it in a jar or enclosed box where you can look at it for a long period of time. This can be one of the hardest steps. You can have the friend there in the beginning, but eventually, you should be able to look at the spider walk around on its own without anyone helping you. Keep forcing yourself to do it until it doesn’t cause fear. Don’t try to fight the fear you experience either – you need to be okay being afraid without thinking anything worse about yourself.
- Finally, interact with the spider in some way. Ideally, you will be able to touch the spider, but for some people, that’s just a bit too hard, so that may be something you want to do in the presence of an expert. Until then, try feeding the spider or letting it outside and following it around. If you can get through these exercises without fear, chances are your spider phobia will go away.
Now, this was an example using a phobia. But there are ways you can use this with any type of anxiety you may have. If you haven’t taken my free 7-minute anxiety test yet do so now. Otherwise, this may not make sense.
The key thing to realize is that almost every type of anxiety has some type of trigger. Panic attacks are often triggered by physical sensations, so if you can mimic those sensations (for example, if you get panic attacks while feeling dizzy, get dizzy on purpose), you can sometimes reduce the frequency of those panic attack triggers. If you have obsessive-compulsive disorder, forcing yourself to think the thoughts that cause anxiety can be helpful as well.
It is not advised to do this for post-traumatic stress disorder, only because some people can experience flashbacks that are so severe they require psychological intervention. It is also often a better idea to do this in the presence of a psychologist no matter what type of anxiety you have. But some people can perform these activities fairly well on their own.
Breathing exercises can be very beneficial for those with anxiety, especially those that hyperventilate. Hyperventilation is very common for people that have panic attacks and often causes physical symptoms that create more anxiety on their own.
So to prevent that from happening, breathing exercises can be used to calm the body and reduce the likelihood of hyperventilation. There are dozens of different breathing techniques, but the simplest one is the following:
- Breathe in through your nose slowly for 5 to 6 seconds.
- Hold for 3 seconds.
- Breathe out through pursed lips (like whistling) for 7 seconds.
This type of breathing gives your body back the right carbon dioxide balance, which in turn should keep your heart rate at the right speed and decrease the severity of some anxiety symptoms.
Yelling and Shouting
Another strategy that can be a lot of fun for people is the idea of “going crazy” on purpose. You should always do this in a private area, where you can’t be embarrassed, and no one will judge you. But the idea is that you essentially let out all of the stress that you are holding in.
The strategy is supposed to be kind of fun, and a little bit silly, but also a good way to just make yourself feel like you aren’t stuck in your own head. Essentially, find a private place and let yourself yell and scream to your heart’s content. Punch pillows. Throw things (safely, of course – nothing you will regret), and let yourself go wild and let out everything you’ve kept inside.
Few people take the opportunity to do this, but after dealing with stress all week it can be a great and somewhat funny tool for making sure that you can just let loose.
Other Strategies to Overcome Anxiety
This is just a small sample of the many strategies to reduce anxiety. Some people find relaxation exercises like visualization and progressive muscle relaxation to be helpful. Others find goal setting, staying socially active, and spending time with fun distractions to be all they need. Others need to consider herbal supplements like kava and passionflower that can help control anxiety.
But the most important thing to realize is that commitment to changing your anxiety is the most important step.
I’ve worked with thousands of people suffering from anxiety, and I start them all off with my free 7-minute anxiety test. This test will examine your anxiety symptoms and provide you with information regarding the best way to treat it, as well as how it compares to others like you.