We’ve considered healing our bodies holistically, but what about our minds? Well, just as our body can be impacted by mind and spirit, so can anxiety. Mental health, as well as spirituality and physical health, can be complex and every individual experiences these differently.
Therefore, having a holistic approach to dealing with anxiety means everyone’s journey is different. There is no ‘one size fits all’ with mental wellness, so taking a holistic approach to each person’s unique experience of anxiety will create their own path towards managing symptoms and recognising causes or triggers.
A combination of medical, holistic and spiritual practice are increasingly being recognised and incorporated in treatments for a number of disorders, including addiction and anxiety. In fact, there are rehab centres across the country that involve, and even prioritise, holistic healing as part of treatment.
Considering the mind, body and spirit, alongside medical treatment and supplements can all work together to further understand anxiety, and find a treatment plan that works with your individual experience of suffering from anxiety.
With many mental health disorders, a disconnect from the mind or feeling as though you don’t understand what is going on in your own mind is common. Practicing meditation and mindfulness can help you reconnect with your mind.
Creating a space that is peaceful and relaxing may set the atmosphere to help you practice meditation. There are many different ways to use meditation to help soothe the symptoms of anxiety and stress. Focusing your attention on specific issues you are facing each time will make this as effective as possible, for example trying to relax the jaw, a common unconscious symptom of stress and anxiety. There are also many apps that include meditation prompts that can help discover new ways to meditate.
Setting aside time for meditation each day or week will help to encourage you to create time in your schedule for this. However, it’s important not to feel guilty if you cannot always meditate, or that it doesn’t work for you. Feeling that you have failed will only worsen your anxiety. Find other ways to practice mindfulness and self-care that works with you, not against you.
While physical health is often taken into consideration when mapping out how to deal with anxiety, we are often encouraged to keep active to alleviate worry and stress. However, a holistic approach encourages you to take care of your body, beyond just exercising.
Ensuring to look after the body’s basic needs, like eating healthy, balanced meals, drinking enough water and personal hygiene can give structure and room to explore other physical mental management methods.
Yoga, Pilates and Taichi
Finding a physical practice that works for you, your lifestyle and your body will help to make it part of your routine. Explore different practices, like yoga or taichi to see what works with you.
Even short routines, practiced regularly, will make sure your body is moving, building mental and physical resilience. The importance placed on breath in these practices is also great for combating some physical symptoms of anxiety.
Tuning in to the feelings of anxiety, like the racing heart, shallow breath or dry mouth sometimes associated with anxiety, can help to understand and tackle them. Learning to harness the power of breathing can lessen the impact of anxiety symptoms. As in yoga and pilates, making the most of breathing, and being conscious of your breath patterns focuses the mind and body to the here and now.
Our bodies are filled with energy, and sometimes that energy can get displaced or clogged. Practices like reiki or acupuncture can help to transfer energy and realign the flow of it through the body.
While reiki is performed with hands, acupuncture uses thin needles instead. Fundamentally though, they both release trapped energy. While it is commonly accepted that these practices can release and relieve physical pain, like injuries, it can also help to heal mental pain, such as anxiety, by enabling relaxation and reducing stress.
Medication and supplements
Taking medications and supplements, whether they are prescribed synthetic ones or herbal alternatives, can help to manage symptoms and rebalance vitamins and chemicals in the brain and body.
While anxiety sufferers can often be prescribed drugs like Xanax or Klonopin, taking a holistic approach may mean this isn’t the best option for everyone. There are risks and side effects to consider, as well as the chance of addiction.
But, there are many vitamins and supplements that can be taken to help to manage symptoms. These could be taken daily to build up levels, or situationally, when you feel an anxiety attack approaching.
Vitamins D and B are vital to mental health. Vitamin D deficiency has strong links to depression. Low levels of Vitamin D can increase your risk of seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Vitamin D can be absorbed through sunlight, although this isn’t always possible depending on location and time of year. So, taking a Vitamin D supplement can help.
Vitamin B also has links to stress levels, with people suffering from low levels of B-12 often struggling with depression or anxiety. Those following a plant-based diet are often at risk of low B-12 levels. But, eating foods like Marmite or Vegemite, or taking supplements can improve this.
Magnesium is important for almost every system in your body. Luckily, it can be found in many nutritious (and tasty) foods, like dark chocolate, almonds and cashews. For an extra boost, tablets can also be used. But too much magnesium can be bad for your body, so make sure not to go over 350 mg a day.
Many flowers and natural extracts can also have a positive impact on anxiety symptoms. Whether ingested via teas or used in oils, creams or candles, natural remedies can be used alone, or alongside other physical and mental practices.
Chamomile and lavender have long been used to aid relaxation and sleep. Their calming properties can ease stress and anxiety. Try having a chamomile tea when feeling anxious, or using lavender pillow mists or aromatherapy diffusers.
Valerian root is an ancient remedy with many medicinal properties. Used to aid sleep, it can also reduce anxiety and help to release serotonin-like signals in the body. It is available as a tablet, as well as in liquid and tea forms.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) guide to recovery states it is important to consider “an individual’s whole life, including mind, body, spirit, and community” when planning their treatment plan and road to recovery.
This aligns perfectly with the aim of a holistic approach to anxiety. A strong consideration of mind, body and spirit can help to find routines, practices and methods to manage anxiety that are as individual as the experiences you have.
Understanding, respecting and learning about how anxiety not only affects all parts of you, but also how it makes you feel, is key when trying to overcome it. Through deepening the relationship and connections you have with your anxiety, you can discover how best to manage it, and adapt to changes in your life.
Article by Sophie Bishop
Sophie Bishop is a medical journalist. Sophie aims to spread awareness through her writing around issues to do with healthcare, wellbeing and sustainability and is looking to connect with an engaged audience. Contact Sophie via her website: https://sophiebishop.uk/.
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