5 Natural Ways to Ease Anxiety

Rose close up - 5 Natural Ways to Ease Anxiety

Anxiety, heartbreak, and tenderness mark the in-between state. It’s the kind of place we usually want to avoid. The challenge is to stay in the middle rather than buy into struggle and complaint. The challenge is to let it soften us rather than make us more rigid and afraid. 

~Pema Chödrön

Recently someone I am close to asked me for some advice on anxiety. This led to a lengthy conversation ranging from dietary changes to emotional freedom technique. That conversation was of course tailored to that particular individual; however, it made me think about how often I hear anxiety coming up for people.

Whether, it’s in a treatment room or a yoga class, people are admitting to feelings of anxiety. They often see it as a normal part of life. To a certain extent, I have to agree. Based on how we are living in western societies, it is understandable that many are feeling anxious. This leads me right into my first way to naturally ease anxiety.

1. Stop seeing anxiety as a problem that needs to be fixed. Start seeing anxiety as a message that needs to be listened to. This is really a game changer. So often our immediate response {myself included} is to want to get as far away as possible from unpleasant experiences. This ultimately creates more suffering as we struggle to distance ourselves from the experience that is right in front of us. What would happen if instead you turn towards it? Get intimate with your anxiety. What does it feel like in your body? What sensations does it bring about? What thoughts are arising? By asking it some simple questions and pausing long enough to listen to the deeper messages, you can begin to transform your relationship to anxiety. You can extract wisdom from the experience. Trust your own inner guidance and know that anxiety is a signal that something in your life isn’t working for you on a psycho-emotional or spiritual level.

2. Find a breathing exercise {pranayama} that is calming for you. My go to recommendation here is alternate nostril breathing, which has a profound effect on easing the fluctuations of the mind. Find instructions here. Another possibility is simply placing one hand on the low belly (between navel and pubic bone) and one hand to the center of the chest. Allowing the breath to move between these two points helps to release the diaphragm down and drop more into the parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest). On an energetic level, it helps to re-establish the connection between the Heart and the Kidneys. In Chinese Medicine, these two organs have a dynamic relationship where the water element associated with the Kidneys comes up to meet the fire element of the Heart. When this connection is missing, fire can move excessively upward, agitating the Heart and mind. Breath is a powerful tool to connecting more intimately with the workings of the mind. Implementing a daily breath practice of even just 5-10 minutes can result in big changes. It also creates more space for you to practice #1, listening to the messages behind your anxiety.

3. Cut down on stimulants, including: coffee, tobacco, alcohol, caffeine, electronics, sugar. {That covers the biggest culprits, but there are many others.} This doesn’t mean that you can never drink coffee or red wine again. It simply means that for a period of time you are responding to your body’s need for less stimulation. Anxiety is a state of overstimulation, which is easy to understand in our instant gratification and high speed internet era. The beauty of this is that it will make breathing exercises (#2) easier to sit through and it will create a clearer state of mind for listening to your body (#1).

4. Use the acupressure point found at the center of the chest. Ren 17 is a powerful point to move Qi in the chest and simultaneously create a calming effect. If you are experiencing an acute episode of anxiety and maybe don’t have time to do 10 minutes of deep breathing, this can be very useful. Find the point on the sternum (midline of the chest) at the level of the nipples (or the level of the 4th intercostal space). This is the same area where you would place your hand for the breathing exercise explained in #2. You can stimulate this point by gently tapping on it or rubbing it with the palm of the hand. The palm of the hand is also connected to the Heart, so I prefer that one personally. Both are effective for quick relief, especially during a stressful situation.

5. Practice yoga nidra {yogic sleep}. Yoga nidra is a state of consciousness that is between waking and dream states. In essence, you relax the body by moving your awareness to different places in the body to achieve a state of yoga nidra, or deep relaxation with inner awareness. This technique promotes complete relaxation of the body, mind and spirit. It has the ability to take you into the parasympathetic nervous system with ease and release deeply held tension. You can find my downregulating and relaxing yoga nidra practice that guides you through the process here. According to Swami Satyananda Saraswati, “In yoga nidra, the state of relaxation is reached by turning inwards, away from outer experiences. If the consciousness can be separated from external awareness and from sleep, it becomes very powerful and can be applied in many ways, for example, to develop the memory, increase knowledge and creativity, or transform one’s nature.”

This list includes some life-changing possibilities! These are very potent ways to ease anxiety. If you found this useful, please share it! I will be sharing around this topic again to include some essential oils and herbal medicine that can also naturally ease anxiety. If you are just starting your healing journey around anxiety be gentle with yourself as you explore these tips.

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