There’s no question—we’re in the midst of a worldwide anxiety epidemic. According to the World Health Organization, 1 in 13 people globally suffer from anxiety. In the U.S. alone, nearly 40 million people experience an anxiety disorder in a given year. Of those 40 million, approximately two-thirds are women and 8% are children and teenagers. So it comes as no surprise that many of those struggling with anxiety are looking for support and treatment—including how to reduce anxiety naturally.
Everyone experiences stress and anxiety at some point in life, but for too many people, it’s becoming the norm. And scary fact: stress and anxiety can be deadly if they’re not addressed.
If you grapple with anxiety, you may be wondering: What’s the best way to manage my anxiety? Is medication the only option? Are there ways to naturally reduce anxiety?
Fortunately, there’s an entire arsenal of ways you can manage and reduce stress and anxiety. Today, we’ll be diving deeper into the multi-layered topic of anxiety, what your anxiety could be telling you, and arming you with some techniques and support options for the next time it rears its ugly head.
But first, let’s talk a bit about what anxiety is, and some of the ways anxiety manifests in the body.
What is Anxiety?
In simple terms, anxiety is how your body reacts to stress, and it can present with both physical and psychological features. The feeling of anxiety is thought to originate in the amygdala part of the brain that controls many intense emotional responses.
Anxiety is your normal, built-in, biological mechanism to your body on high alert and prepares you to fight a perceived crisis. However, if it becomes chronic, anxiety can become detrimental and can damage both your mental and physical health.
Common Effects Of Anxiety On The Body
Increased blood pressure
A sense of doom
Muscle aches and pains
Change in appetite
Loss of libido
Furthermore, anxiety has been associated with several chronic diseases, like heart disease, some gastrointestinal conditions, and chronic respiratory disorders. According to a Harvard Medical School article, for people with these conditions who also have untreated anxiety, the condition itself has shown to be more difficult to treat, physical symptoms tend to worsen, and in some cases, they die sooner.
Common Stressors Linked To Anxiety
Anxiety triggers can, of course, be very individualized. But generally speaking, these are some of the most common stressors linked to anxiety:
- Starting a new job or changing schools
- College preparation
- Job dissatisfaction, overwhelm, or misalignment
- Toxic workplace relationships
- Traumatic family relationships
- Financial insecurity
- Having an injury or illness
- Having a friend or family member who is injured or ill
- The death of a family member or friend
- Getting married or going through a divorce
- Having a baby
For people suffering from an anxiety disorder, however, they may feel intense, persistent, excessive anxiety, worry, fear, or other upsetting emotions as a result of everyday situations, which results in frequent panic attacks. For these individuals, it is best to be evaluated by a professional to determine if medical treatment is needed.
How To Reduce Stress and Anxiety
Stress and anxiety can often be helped with a combination of natural remedies, including diet, exercise, rest, mindfulness, and self-care. Some natural remedies for anxiety we recommend include:
- Spending time outside
- Doing yoga
- Practicing deep breathing
- Getting enough sleep
- Limiting alcohol and caffeine intake
- Spending time planning and prioritizing
- Connecting with others
- Seeking the support of a Health Coach, therapist, or counselor
How a Health Coach Can Help With Tackling Anxiety
If you’ve been struggling with anxiety, a Health Coach can be a fantastic resource and support. A Health Coach can suggest techniques, tools, and strategies that can help you ease anxiety specific to your goals and lifestyle, and can also work with you to identify what’s causing your anxiety in the first place.
Dr. Xuemei Zhong Ph.D. is a Health, Wellness, and Life Coach and founder of HOE Holistic Wellness Coaching who works with medical professionals that are experiencing high levels of anxiety, burnout, and depression, and who are feeling disassociated from their job.
Dr. Zhong helps her clients break free from burnout and ultimately decide whether or not to leave their profession. She shares that for this specific demographic, anxiety can be particularly persistent—even after her clients have made various lifestyle changes that typically help ease anxiety. Dr. Zhong works with her clients to identify what’s behind the anxiety and decode what it’s trying to tell them.
“Anxiety is a messenger,” Dr. Zhong says. “The chest pain, headaches, neck pain, and other symptoms we treat with medicine are all messengers. We need to figure out what message these messengers are trying to deliver.”
For Dr. Zhong’s clients, oftentimes, the anxiety symptoms they’ve tried over and over again in vain to eliminate miraculously disappear once they uncover the message behind the anxiety. Sometimes that message their bodies have been sending all along is that it’s time to quit that soul-crushing job and move on to build their dream career.
How to Reduce Anxiety Levels
In her work with the medical population, Dr. Zhong has found three tips to be extremely valuable in helping to understand and reduce anxiety.
TIP #1: “Don’t kill the messenger.” Instead of focusing on eliminating the symptoms, appreciate the emotions you’re feeling and your body’s discomfort. Don’t see them as something negative to get rid of, or something to be ashamed of or embarrassed by. If you keep killing the messenger without getting the important message, the messengers will keep coming back louder and louder, until you take the message. Be smart, simply thank the messenger and take the message.
TIP #2: “Instead of letting your reality lead your imagination, let your imagination lead your reality.” When you’re faced with a stressful situation, visualize a more desirable outcome. For example, let’s say you’re stuck in traffic. You’re anxious and you start thinking, “I’m going to be late…My boss is going to be mad at me…My team is going to be disappointed…I’m keeping my patient waiting and they’re going to complain.” Imagining all of these negative consequences is what creates the anxiety you feel. Instead of imagining the worst-case scenario, Dr. Zhong suggests visualizing the opposite: “I’ll be just in time for work…Traffic will lighten in the next few minutes…My boss is in a good mood today and will be happy to see me…My team is so supportive and they’ll know exactly what to do without me…My patient is waiting patiently and enjoying watching TV in the waiting room.” These thoughts and visualizations can help to create a feeling of calm and inner peace despite the stressful situation you’re faced with.
TIP #3: “Focus on what you REALLY want.” This means getting super clear on what you want for yourself and your life and decluttering anything that’s “blurring” you from seeing that for yourself. This also means letting go of others’ opinions and expectations, and how you and your decisions will be perceived by them. You can’t change how others view you, but you can change how you view yourself and what actions you take to feel calm, fulfilled, and joyful.
Where to Seek Help For Your Anxiety
It’s important to note that there are times when medication can be beneficial and necessary to manage anxiety. If you think you have an anxiety disorder, please seek a doctor’s opinion. Dr. Zhong also shares, “If your anxiety is causing depressive symptoms, severe discomfort or pain, or threatens your life or those around you, these are all cases that warrant medical attention.” In such instances, the medication should be used as first aid to stabilize the situation.
Dr. Zhong emphasizes, “Once you’ve received medical help and you feel a little bit better, this is the moment you really should seek outside help from a Health Coach to figure out the message your illness was trying to deliver. If you don’t grasp that critical window, your symptoms could become more severe and chronic. You will be put on medication for life, and accumulate toxins and experience many side effects. Stop killing the messenger, grasp the window, and take the message.”
Do you find yourself giving tips like these to family and friends all the time? If so, you should check out our Become A Health Coach training program! You just might spark the transformation needed in those around you.
Are you a medical professional suffering from burnout? Email Dr. Zhong at firstname.lastname@example.org for a FREE copy of her book: The Joy of Letting Go of Your Biomedical Career: The Ultimate Quitter’s Guide to Flourish Without the Burnout.