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  • Lara Sedaghat

Treating Anxiety: Helpful Healing Approaches

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, anxiety affects more than 40 million adults in the United States. However, despite anxiety being the most common type of mental health disorder, only approximately one-third of those suffering receive treatment. Not only is anxiety highly treatable, but there are an abundant amount of treatments readily available. In this blog post, I will list a variety of holistic, drug-free approaches in hopes that one, or a combination of these treatments, will reduce your anxiety.

  1. The Feldenkrais Method:


What it is: A method of therapeutic movement that incorporates the principles of physics, biomechanics, human physiology, and the connection between the mind and body. Sessions can be done either one-on-one or in groups. Groups sessions are called Awareness Through Movement and individual sessions are called Functional Integration.


Regardless of what type of session you prefer, the gentle movement that the Feldenkrais Method consists of is beneficial to those looking to ease stress and tension. The exercises that are incorporated in this method can re-educate the nervous system and the brain to develop new ways of moving and perceiving the body, as well as boost one's feelings of wellbeing.


Who may benefit: The Feldenkrais Method is very effective in the rehabilitation of stroke victims, folks who need to correct poor posture or unhealthy habits of movement that cause pain, those with chronic back pain or sciatica, elderly folks who wish to achieve a greater range of motion and flexibility, people who suffer from distorted body images that lead to eating disorders, those who suffer from depression and anxiety, and individuals suffering from neurological injuries such as brain tumors, multiple sclerosis, head trauma, etc.


Where to find a practitioner: www.feldenkrais.com

2. Massage:


What it is: There many different forms of massage therapy available. To find out which type is best suited for your needs, speak to a massage therapist about the techniques he/she has been trained in and if those match your needs/concerns.


Although massage is beneficial for a variety of reasons, research has shown that the rhythmic pressure of massage can increase blood circulation which in turn allows more oxygen and nutrients to reach cells and remove waste/toxins from your system.


Massage also can lower blood pressure, heart rate, stress hormones, and boost the production of endorphins (your body's natural painkiller), as well as enhancing your immune system.Who may benefit: Those who suffer from depression, anxiety, chronic stress, and eating disorders, can all utilize the effects that massage has on the nervous system and mind. Massage is also great for those who suffer from tension headaches, back issues, arthritis, sports injuries, and fibromyalgia.


Where to find a certified and licensed massage therapist: www.amtamassage.org

3. Tai Chi and Qigong:


What it is: Tai Chi is an excellent mind and body exercise that consists of slow, relaxing movements that stem from Traditional Chinese Medicine and martial arts. It is known for its many health benefits for both the mind and body and promotes an overall sense of vitality, inner peace, and well-being. Through the gentle movements of Tai Chi, stress and tension is released, balance and flexibility is improved, blood circulates more freely, joints and muscles are strengthened, and the mind and spirit become clear.


Qi Gong is an ancient Chinese health care system that integrates focused intention, breathing techniques, and physical postures/movements. It is a system practiced for maintaining health, cultivating energy, removing energy blockage (energy blockage can cause depression, anxiety, and other painful physical symptoms), healing, and vitality. Qi Gong practices can vary from soft,internal styles such as Tai Chi, to rigorous, external styles such as Kung Fu. 


There are hundreds of studies and scientific evidence that link Tai Chi and Qi Gong to improved health, reduced symptoms of disease, and successful aging.


Who may benefit: Tai Chi and Qi Gong are wonderful for easing depression, anxiety, emotional trauma, and removing energy (qi) blockages. Both practices also improve cardiovascular disease risk, maintain bone density, improve muscle strength and flexibility, decrease the risk and symptoms of disease, and boost immunity. This is personally my favorite method of treating my PTSD, anxiety, and daily stress. Qi gong is very effective for me!


Where to find certified practitioners and locate local classes: www.americantaichi.net

4. Watsu:


What it is: Watsu is a form of bodywork that takes place in warm water while your muscles and limbs are gently stretched and guided through a serious of flowing movements. Watsu is purposely in water because the water takes weight off of our vertebrae's so that muscles can be manipulated more easily by stretches.Who may benefit: Watsu is great for those suffering from pain, insomnia, PTSD, anxiety, stress, and muscle tension. It promotes a deep state of relaxation while treating physical pain and emotional trauma.Where to find Watsu certified practitioners: www.waba.edu

5. Yoga


What it is: Yoga developed over 5,000 years ago in India as a philosophical religious system to unite the mind, body, and spirit. Yoga is excellent for a variety of things such as: increasing flexibility, toning muscle, balancing the nervous system, improving insomnia, assisting menstrual cramps, improving digestion, relieving muscle pain, and easing anxiety. Yoga is also great for combatting a variety of health conditions such as: hypertension, arthritis, cancer, diabetes,  thyroid disorders, asthma, heart disease, and more.


There are many styles of yoga, some of the major ones include: Vinyasa, Restorative (my favorite for aiding anxiety and insomnia), Hatha, Bikram, and Ashtanga.


Who may benefit: As previously stated, yoga is excellent for the mind, body, and spirit. It's health benefits are endless and can help relieve symptoms and reduce the risk of many health issues. I highly recommend yoga and meditation to those who suffer from chronic stress, PTSD, anxiety, and depression.


There is a well-known yoga instructor named Zabie Yamaski who teaches Trauma-Informed Yoga. Her website is: www.zabieyamasaki.com


Free Guided Yoga Practices:

Yoga with Adriene https://www.youtube.com/user/yogawithadriene/videos

6. Breath Work:

What it is: One of the most powerful and effective tools for a healthy life is learning how to breathe correctly. When you breathe in, you should feel expansion in your stomach rather than in your chest. One simple method to make sure you're doing breath work correctly is to place your hand over your belly and as you inhale, your hand should move outward, and as you exhale your hand should move inward. Taking slow, deep breaths is a very effective tool to combat stress, anxiety, and anger.


There are also many breathing methods that can combat a variety of issues such as panic attacks, insomnia, anxiety, and more! One example of a breathing method that helps mild to moderate anxiety is called the 4-7-8 breathing technique. More information regarding this technique can be found here: http://www.drweil.com/drw/u/ART00521/three-breathing-exercises.html.


One important point to recognize about breath work is that you deepen respiration by exhaling more air, not inhaling it. Meaning, if you push more air out of your lungs, your lungs will automatically take more air in.


Who may benefit: Everyone! Breath control has been linked to lowering blood pressure, improving digestion, increasing blood circulation, correcting heart arrhythmia's, improving sleep, decreasing anxiety, and improving energy levels.


Where to find it:  YouTube or researching different breathing techniques for relaxation and wellness. An example video is below:

Other beneficial tools to aid anxiety:


1. Behavioral Therapy (80% success rate)

2. Aromatherapy

3. Meditation

4. Guided Imagery and Visualization

5. Nutrition *

6. Exercise

7. Journaling

8. Hypnotherapy

9. Progressive Muscle Relaxation

10. Art

11. Herbal Medicine (Ex: Chamomile tea)

12. Healing Crystals

13. A free application called "Calm" (download it to your smartphone or smart device)

14. Reading (I highly recommend the book You Are Not Your Brain, written by Dr. Schwartz and Dr. Gladding)

Sources:

- Dr. Andrew Weil Magazine: Holistic Approaches to Treating Anxiety

- Anxiety and Depression Association of America

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