A few years ago I cured my anxiety without using medication. I hope some of these 8 tips can help others improve their mental health the natural way.
Years ago when I was in pharmacy school, we were taught that anxiety medication was reserved for extreme cases. For people still suffered after therapy and life-style changes.
Most anxiety medication increases your levels of free serotonin (which control your mood and a few other things). So, the thought is if you have anxiety that isn’t responding to lifestyle changes, then you may be lacking in this happy chemical.
Fast forward to a few years back when I – an overwhelmed full-time working mom of three- approached my doctor complaining about stress.
“I can write you something to help with that” was her first response. Just like that.
Out of desperation, I tried it for about a year.
On the medication, I stopped crying at movies and no longer got the warm fuzzy feelings when good things happened.
Personally, I was still overwhelmed – but now had this slow-motion numb feeling on top of it.
I hated it.
I realized that I had to find a different way to fix the anxiety (which luckily wasn’t too severe) on my own.
Note: while this worked for me, I am well-aware that some people DO need medication and other medical interventions to help with mental health. If you ever feel down, bothered or depressed – and stop enjoying things you used to love – reach out to a health care provider right away.
Why is Everyone so Anxious?
Studies show that anxiety rates are rapidly trending upwards.
Anxiety increased from 5.12% in 2008 to 6.68% in 2018. Then, in 2020 the global prevalence of anxiety and depression increased by a massive 25%.
Are we all broken? Heck, no – but society is.
We are just living in a world where it is almost impossible to live up to our expectations.
This is especially the case for moms and dads. We are trying to keep up with social media trends and battle a failing economy. Down-time is seen as laziness. Being a mother is seen as a side-gig.
When I did some research into society and humankind in general, I was able to make these changes that cured my anxiety without medication.
9 Medication-Free Ways to Relieve Anxiety
Simply put, humans were not meant to live the way that most of us are living. We weren’t designed to be in a constant state of being fed and physically comfortable. And we weren’t meant to sit in front of computers all day, that’s for sure.
We also weren’t meant, in my opinion, to be scrolling on phones and doing whatever makes us happy in the moment (even if it is not right).
It is normal to feel stressed and overwhelmed from time to time. That feeling will never go away, but I have been able to control my anxiety and improve my mood.
After making these 9 super simple life changes, I essentially cured my anxiety without medication.
1) Skip Breakfast – Try Intermittent Fasting
Most of us are used to eating a few full meals a day.
However, before humans learned to farm, they were hunters and gatherers who evolved to survive and thrive for long periods without eating – sometimes even several days.
Intermittent fasting works by extending the time between meals. While it has many known benefits (including improving cardiovascular health, decreasing risk of diabetes, improving memory, and prevent cancer), it has shown to also improve mood.
I started skipping breakfast when I noticed that after huge weekend breakfasts, my anxiety was through the roof. When I cut out breakfast, my anxiety levels plummeted.
2) End Your Morning Shower with a Burst of Cold Water
When we are hot, we turn on the AC. When we are cold, we bump up the heat.
Interestingly, environmental stress that challenges our body’s thermal equilibrium has been shown to have many health benefits. Experts have demonstrated that cold showers lead people to feel energized and to increase optimism and well-being.
This can be ice bath submersion, ending your shower with cold water, or even dunking your face in a bowl of cold water.
Every morning, I end my shower by allowing the water to get as cold as it can – and I stand in it until I can’t stand it anymore. Even though in a way it is painful – I look forward to the energy and elevated mood I experience after.
Something about exposing your body to physical stress distracts your mind from getting anxious about the little things.
3) Cut Back on the Booze
There always seemed to be a reason to have a glass of wine or two. I had a stressful day at work – we decided to go out to dinner – it was a Friday night.
The relationship between anxiety and alcohol is well known, but I honestly didn’t think it applied to me. I mean, I wasn’t drinking too much. Right?
But, after I cut back I realized that it only caused worse anxiety when it wore off (or the next morning).
Additionally, I discovered that brain studies have found abnormalities in amygdala functioning (the part of your brain that deals with decision making and motivation) in individuals who frequently drink alcohol.
It’s hard to stop doing something that makes you feel better in an instant, but it is worth it. My next-day anxiety improved significantly when I cut out weekly drinks and it contributed to my ability to cure my anxiety without medication.
4) Detox from Social Media
At the end of the night, do you find yourself absorbed into the couch, scrolling mindlessly on your phone for sometimes HOURS?
It feels good to zone out after a long day, but have you ever considered you could actually be addicted to your phone?
Every time we check our phones, we get a quick dopamine boost. When we scroll through reels and videos we get short bursts of dopamine. The problem is this dopamine boost is temporary and leads to a letdown.
That is why we never feel satisfied, and continue the scrolling, scrolling, and more scrolling. Our brains want more.
To be honest, I struggle with limiting social media. I have found that planned detoxes (can not go on social media for 3 days) helps. Also, I delete the app so if I need to check something on social media I have to go through a URL which is difficult and clunky.
Also read: 5 Quick Mindfulness Hacks Designed for Parents
5) Start a Journal
Anxiety has a biological purpose. If a lion walked in your front door right now, your brain would jump into fight-or-flight mode.
Your amazing body kick starts physical and mental processes to get you ready to save yourself from that lion.
However, in the absence of a lion, our brain’s perceive threat in other places.
When we journal, we allow our brain to slow down and think through our situation in a more logical way. You can look at your thought process in a non-emotional way.
6) Get Moving and Step Outside
I remember getting annoyed when anyone told me that anxiety can simply be cured by exercising.
However, when coupled with a few of these interventions it can do wonders.
The levels of serotonin (and other ‘happy’ and ‘reward’ chemicals) in the brain change when you exercise. Also, regular exercise can help you sleep better.
I think this also goes back to the cold-shower scenario. When your body experiences some physical stress, it distracts the mind from freaking out about silly day-to-day stressors.
Additionally, raising your heart rate with a brisk walk outside it a fantastic way to decrease stress. Soaking up some vitamin D and breathing in some fresh air is calming and gets you out of your head.
Related: 7 Ways to Connect with Nature
7) Get in Touch with Your Spiritual Side
The results were astonishing. Those who read the bible at least 4 days a week saw drastic changes in anger (dropped 32%), alcoholism (dropped 57%), and loneliness (dropped 30%).
For me, the new testament (and Jesus) is inspiring, calming, and guiding. It helps me see that I am wasting my time being anxious about things that I can’t control. Here are some verses on anxiety:
- “And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?” Matthew 6:27
- “An anxious heart weighs a man down, but a kind word cheers him up.” Proverbs 12:25
- “Say to those who have an anxious heart, ‘Be strong; fear not! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God. He will come and save you.’ ” Isaiah 35:4
- “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” Philippians 4:6
- “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?” Matthew 6:27
Check out these other ways to get in touch with your spiritual side.
8) Learn to Say NO
I am a natural born people pleaser.
Since I was always so worried to let others down, the word No simply didn’t exist in my vocabulary. “You need me to bake 3 dozen cookies for a bake sale? Sure! I will do it at 10 pm after I get my kids to bed!”
When I realized that my avoidance of the word “No” only made me overwhelmed and irritable with my family, I made a change.
Create boundaries, learn to turn things down, and stop doing those pointless things that bring you and your family zero joy.
I promise – when you have more quality time to spend on your family – you won’t look back.
Start with this 5 Step Recovery Plan for the Habitual People Pleaser.
9) Romanticize Your Life
Romanticizing your everyday life is about finding joy and romance in the little things. It’s about infusing your daily routine with a sense of wonder and excitement.
I felt like less of a “failure” when I started actively do this. For example, if we stayed in on the weekend, instead of feeling guilty that I didn’t plan something for the kids to do – I lit a candle, made some popcorn and found the beauty in a movie night with the children.
When I started to see the beauty in the little things in life, I fell in love with life all over again and the anxiety started to dissolve.
My best tip on how I cured anxiety without medication is based on these tips on Romanticizing Your Life.
Final Thoughts on How I Cured my Anxiety Without Medication
Amazingly, these simple lifestyle changes worked way better than the medication ever did.
Do I still get anxious and worried sometimes? Sure. But it doesn’t control my actions and mood anymore.
Controlling my anxiety without medication helps me feel empowered and strong. I am able to be present for my children in ways I never knew.
Life is a short trip – and living in a state of anxiety is no way to experience it.
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If you feel that you need help, or have thoughts about hurting yourself or others- seek professional care immediately or you can also contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) Disaster Distress Helpline at 800-985-5990,