How to Treat Anxiety Without Medication

Are you a problem solver?

Maybe you're the type of person where, when you see a problem, you want to do something about it. You want to lose weight, you know you need to change your diet and exercise more. You get a bad grade on a test, you have a plan to study longer and change your note taking skills. You put the work in, and you see results.

Sometimes, people want quick solutions to their problems. It's very understandable! We know the amount of work that goes into making changes across a lifetime. Losing weight takes commitment! Improving test taking scores takes a lot of time. What if, instead of diet and exercise, we just took diet pills. Or we bought a test cheat sheet off of someone else.

Medication for anxiety, while an important tool to consider, is not the only solution - nor is it a "quick fix."

Because I'm not a medical professional, I always recommend you talk with your doctor, psychiatrist, and/or pediatrician about any questions you have for psychotropic medication. Anti-anxiety medication is a really great tool for managing serious anxiety. And, at the same time, it's not the only tool. It takes time to find the right dosage and right drug to truly improve symptoms.

Medication is not the only way to treat anxiety in you, your child, or your teen. 

Before jumping into medication, your doctor will typically recommend other changes to make that may help to manage symptoms of anxiety. One of these changes can include meeting with a counselor.

As an anxiety management specialist, I primarily focus on building tools to manage symptoms of anxiety. Below are five tips that may help manage anxiety, without medication.

1. Track your mood.

Over the course of one or two weeks, make a note of your anxiety level in the morning, afternoon, and evening. I find it helpful to set an alert on the phone, so that you remember to track it at the same time each day. Also note what was going on, or, if you're experiencing anxiety, what you think may be causing it. 

If you are tracking for your younger child, give them three options: Do you feel super super nervous, medium nervous, or not that nervous. 

2. Find your triggers.

You may start the morning feeling little to no anxiety, and it gets bigger as the day continues. Or, you may not even notice a pattern - until you really look at the data. With the other notes you took, you can see if you experience more anxiety on work days, or if there are projects due. For your child, did they experience anxiety around tests, or do they have a general anxiety throughout the day?

3. Exercise and diet (really!)

A huge component of our mood is based on our nutrition and exercise levels. These directly impact the brain and body. Healthy eating, combined with regular exercise, is shown to improve mood across the board. Make sure that you're eating vegetables, fruit, and lean protein.

Some studies suggest that eating gluten can cause spikes in anxiety and depression, if you're gluten-intolerant. So, you may want to consider if you or your child have any food allergies.

Continue to track your anxiety levels after diet/exercise changes.

4. Incorporate mindfulness and relaxation.

Studies suggest that yoga helps with anxious symptoms, because it increases our ability to self-soothe. Another important tool in helping our bodies fucntion is ensuring that we're getting enough oxygen in our blood - so make sure that you are checking in with your body and breathing deeply, throughout the day. 

5. Delve deeper with a counselor.

Finally, it can be helpful to work with a counselor to explore any patterns in your/your child's journal, build mindfulness tools, and ensure that you're working to manage your stress through a combination of cognitive-behavioral therapy and mindfulness practice. Many studies even show that counseling alone can provide relief for anxiety symptoms, without the use of medication. 

If you're curious to hear more about this, or if you feel like it's time to explore counseling options for you or your child, contact Kelsey at compassionatecounselingstl@gmail.com to schedule a free 15-minute phone consultation. Kelsey serves families in St. Louis, Webster Groves, Maplewood, Kirkwood, and Brentwood.