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4 Ways to Deal With Anxiety That Aren’t Medication

“Prozac Nation Is Now the United States of Xanax” declared an April headline in The New York Times. We at The Fine Line are truly concerned about the mental state of the nation — especially because women over 50 seem to experience a great deal of anxiety. So we asked holistic nutritionist Elissa Goodman, who has herself learned to manage anxiety, for advice.

Underlying trauma, emotional turmoil, dramatically shifting hormones, and the trials that come with being female in the world are the reasons almost every client I see struggles with anxiety. In fact, it’s almost more troublesome to me when I find someone who doesn’t experience anxiety.

Learning to properly manage anxiety is vital to our success. Sure, modern science has given us myriad medications to dull those anxious feelings, but to truly break free, we have to carve out downtime for ourselves, learn to adequately support our nervous system through nutrition, and shut out the constant stimulation that comes from every direction. We also have to heal our past traumas: Almost every woman I know has had to do some heavy lifting emotionally — myself included.

Asking the world around us to change isn’t going to get us anywhere, but the way we operate in the world can change. Here’s how to get started.

Explore Emotions and Past Traumas

This can often feels like a daunting task. Most of us would rather keep our crap in a box and not think about it. Dealing with emotional baggage and trauma isn’t fun, but it’s necessary in order to combat anxiety. The human brain is extraordinarily good at stifling past events and emotions that may have been too much to handle at the time. You look back on it, thinking it was no big deal, and you’re fine. The problem is, you’re not.

Trauma manifests physiologically if you don’t consciously address it. This often looks like anxiety and disease. I have a friend who was involved in an incredibly traumatic altercation while traveling in the Middle East. She thought she had survived unscathed — no big deal — but she began experiencing debilitating panic attacks in the months that followed. Only then did she truly begin to realize the trauma she had gone through. Her conscious mind wasn’t aware she’d experienced something traumatic, but her body was cluing her in.

Listen to your body. Anxiety is often an alert that something isn’t quite right. Working with a therapist or energy healer can be incredibly helpful. I personally have found leaps of progress with an energy healer trained to help balance the body’s energetic/emotional flow, which allows for deep healing. Two energy healers I work with are Althea Montgomery  and Alessandro Giannetti. They each have audios on their websites that can help, too.

Get Adequate Nutritional Support 

Nutrition is a huge part of dealing with anxiety. Somehow people underestimate the effects of diet on mental health. Even if you’re eating a diet heavy in organic greens, you’re likely still missing micronutrients due to depleted soil. I recommend magnesium as a first step to conquering anxious feelings. Women are often deficient, and it’s an important mineral that allows the nervous system to communicate. I like Pure Encapsulations magnesium glycinate or citrate.

Plant-based diets can be low in B vitamins, which are crucial to the nervous system; deficiency can lead to anxiety. It’s wise to include a high-quality B complex to make sure your bases are covered. I like Pure Encapsulations B Complex Plus and Global Healing B12.

Neurotransmitters that control things like mood reside in our gut not just our brain. Making sure we have a balanced gut flora by taking probiotics is another important way to support the body and prevent anxiety. There are tons of products on the market, and I’m constantly switching up my probioitcs. I like Renew Life 50 Billion Probiotic and MaryRuth’s Organic Liquid Probiotics, and Dr. Ohhira’s Professional Formula Probiotic. You can get probiotics naturally by eating fermented foods. If you can tolerate them, probiotic-rich foods like coconut kefir, coconut yogurt kefir, kimchi, kombucha, miso, tempeh, and sauerkraut can be very beneficial.

Lastly, if you want something extra, adaptogens work wonders to help the body adapt to stress and fill in the gaps physiologically. A few that are particularly good for anxiety are ashwagandha, tulsi, and chaga. Gaia Herbs and Organic India make great adaptogen products.

Slow Down

This is one that I struggle with — but many of us do. We live in a society that values “Go! Go! Go!” Most of us have been raised in a way that views idleness as laziness, adding a tinge of guilt to the equation. Women — moms especially — seem to have a blind need to take care of everyone else before themselves. But this is not a great way to live.

I like the oxygen mask analogy: Put yours on before assisting others. You are no good to anyone if you’re run down and at your wit’s end. Work on taking a couple of minutes throughout the day for yourself. Do a few yoga poses or a five-minute meditation, take a walk around the block, or just sip a cup of tea. I love the Calm app for quick guided meditations; a cup of India Organic tulsi tea helps me mentally reset.

Keep It Simple

The last thing you want is an anti-anxiety regimen that causes stress —  so don’t get too complicated. Working through anxiety can look like a ton of baby steps over a long period of time. Don’t put pressure on yourself to have it all figured out in a week or a month. This stuff takes years, and that’s OK.

Take a deep breath. Commit to two minutes of meditation each day and one supplement for a week and build from there. Pay attention to what happens — and try to have a bit of fun!

Photo: Natalie Board

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