Rheumatoid Arthritis Home Remedies: 12 Natural Remedies for Pain Relief

Here are the top 12 rheumatoid arthritis home remedies that have scientific backing, proven safety, and can help ease the pain and stiffness of RA either independently or in coordination with your rheumatologist’s treatment plan.

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a disorder of the immune system characterized by excessive inflammation and pain in the body’s joints. While doctors may prescribe medication to help manage the condition and relieve arthritis pain, some RA symptoms will persist. If you’re looking for rheumatoid arthritis home remedies you can employ yourself—whether they be exercises, supplements, or care devices—this article has a variety of proven therapies that may help relieve your pain.

The Top 12 Rheumatoid Arthritis Home Remedies

While these at-home remedies may not be cures, and most certainly cannot replace your doctor’s advice and guidance, they are nevertheless some natural remedies for rheumatoid arthritis you can try on your own to relieve RA’s side effects of stiffness, pain, and discomfort. Some will be simple, like using heating pads and ice packs, while some will involve assistance from others, like acupuncture. If you have any questions about whether these home remedies are appropriate for your circumstances, ask your doctor before trying them, and once you get the go-ahead, find the treatment that works best for you.

The top 12 rheumatoid arthritis home remedies.

1. Heat and Cold Applications

Heat and cold treatments can both help ease the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, though each one offers unique benefits.

  • Cold compress: Applying an ice pack or other form of cold compress to the affected joint during an RA flare-up can help curb inflammation and joint swelling. It’s recommended that you apply cold for about 15 minutes at a time, taking a 30-minute break in between applications.
  • Heating pad: Heat relaxes your muscles and encourages blood flow to the affected area. By using either a warm, damp towel or a moist heating pad you can avoid any burns that might come from applying heat directly to the skin. A hot shower or warm bath can also act as heat therapy, but it’s recommended that you avoid hot tubs or spas in instances of heart disease, high blood pressure, or pregnancy.

2. Magnet Therapy

Magnet therapies can be found in a variety of forms, from bracelets (designed as home remedies for rheumatoid arthritis in hands) to necklaces, inserts, pads, and disks. They’re often available for purchase at natural food stores. While a lot of the data on the effectiveness of magnetic therapy is inconclusive and difficult to test for objectivity, it’s nevertheless a therapy you could evaluate on your own to see if it works for you.

3. Acupuncture

Acupuncture is a form of traditional Chinese medicine that is one of the oldest natural pain therapies on record. In acupuncture, super-fine needles are used to stimulate your body along energy pathways known as meridians, with the goal to balance your energy or qi (pronounced “chee”). Acupuncture has been shown to be a beneficial rheumatoid arthritis treatment, and has also been found to help alleviate other chronic pain conditions like back pain and osteoarthritis. If you’re considering this course of treatment, ask your rheumatologist to recommend a trusted practitioner who has worked with RA patients before.

4. Aromatherapy

While this treatment won’t influence your pain levels or causes of inflammation, it may still improve your mood and your stress levels. Your sense of smell is linked deeply with your mood and memory, and some people have found that essential oil therapy and massage improve their feelings of well-being.

5. Biofeedback Training

Biofeedback training involves placing sensors over the patient’s body to monitor the physiological data regarding automatic responses, like your blood pressure and heart rate. This monitoring is done so that a therapist can help train the patient to acquire voluntary control over these functions, and has shown positive application in rheumatoid arthritis treatment.

Biofeedback treatment may include use of one or more of these measuring devices:

  • A galvanic skin response meter: For measuring eccrine sweat gland activity.
  • A thermistor: Used to measure peripheral skin temperature.
  • Electrocardiograms or photoplethysmographs: Meant to measure peripheral heart rate, blood flow, and heart rate variability.
  • Electromyogram (SEMG): For measuring surface neuromuscular responses.
  • A respiratory gauge: Used in measuring breathing patterns, breathing rate, and expired carbon dioxide.
  • Electroencephalography (EEG): Used to measure the electrical activity of the cerebral cortex.

Biofeedback is considered a self-regulatory therapy because it is a tool to increase your awareness of your individual physiological responses in order to change them, reducing symptoms or improving performance as needed in reaction to stressors.

6. Deep Breathing and Yoga

Deep breathing techniques involve taking slow breaths from the depths of your belly, and can help calm your body, relax your muscles, and turn off certain stress receptors. Deep breathing is often a focal point in the practice of yoga, a low-impact exercise method with spiritual roots that was developed in India over 5,000 years ago. Yoga can help ease joint pain, increase flexibility, and release tension in patients with rheumatoid arthritis. If you’re seeking a yoga instructor, try to find someone with experience in guiding people with RA.

7. Exercise

Other types of exercise can help relieve symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis and increase your joint health. Your doctor may be able to recommend a physical therapist to get your body into a fit enough condition to take on some of the following exercises if you think they might help improve your quality of life. Your physical therapist may recommend:

  • Aerobics: Activities like walking, running, and swimming increase your cardiovascular capabilities and health.
  • Strength trainingStrength training helps to keep the muscles surrounding your joints strong.
  • Range-of-motion exercises: These exercises help to train your joints to move as they should.
  • Balance movesBalance training helps you avoid dangerous stumbles and falls (see the next entry on tai chi for more information).

8. Tai Chi

Tai chi is another ancient Chinese tradition that can serve to increase your balance and strength. Tai chi involves performing slow, deliberate movements in a focused manner, and, like yoga, also includes deep breathing techniques and holding various physical postures. Tai chi is a gentle martial art that teaches you to use your own bodyweight and connection to the earth to increase your strength, and has been shown to help with lower extremity mobility in RA patients, so it’s particularly good to include in home remedies for rheumatoid arthritis in knees or ankles.

9. Massage

Massage is another incredibly old and reliable natural remedy, and modern science still acknowledges that it can help ease pain, especially for patients with rheumatoid arthritis. Massage and reflexology have been shown to help manage RA pain and fatigue in patients, and you should be able to get recommendations on a qualified masseuse from your doctor or your physical therapist.

10. Fish Oil Supplements

Studies have shown that fish oil supplements may help reduce pain and joint stiffness caused by rheumatoid arthritis. Be sure to consult with your doctor before adding fish oil supplements to your regimen because they could interfere with certain medications and increase the likelihood of bleeding or bruising. The only other side effects some people report are belching, nausea, or a fishy taste in their mouth. If you do choose to try fish oil supplements, know that they contain valuable omega-3 fatty acids that will also improve your body’s fatty acids ratio.

11. Topical Gels, Creams, and Patches

At-home remedies like rubs, heat patches, and warming creams can help alleviate your pain without the need for pharmaceuticals. Many of these products contain capsaicin, the ingredient that makes your chili peppers hot and that studies show can help ease RA pain. However, it’s not recommended to use these products along with an electric heating pad, as doing so could make burns more likely to occur.

12. Turmeric

Turmeric and its derivative curcumin are natural anti-inflammatory compounds. Turmeric is a golden spice often found in Indian and Indonesian cuisine, as well as in many supplements aiming to reduce inflammation and ease pain without use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). This traditional medicine has been shown to block proteins that cause inflammation and is commonly used to treat RA.

A quick warning: while some supplements and natural remedies can truly help your condition, a lot of supplemental research is still in the early stages. These natural aids may affect other medications. Check with your doctor before taking even perfectly natural supplements to be sure they are safe for you.

Rheumatoid Arthritis Home Treatments

If you’re looking for RA or arthritis home remedies, there are many safe and effective options to choose from. If you have concern, doubt, or hesitation about these or other natural remedies, contact your rheumatologist, as any expert in the field will have a comprehensive awareness of these practices and supplements. Once you’re cleared to explore at-home options, you may well find the pain-free solution you’re looking for!

Understanding Perimenopause: The Before, During And After

Doctors refer to perimenopause as the transition to menopause. Women who notice perimenopause signs may expect menopause to set in within a few years, but menopause onset can take as long as 10 years after perimenopause signs start to manifest.

Menopause is the time in a woman’s life when she stops menstruating and is no longer able to bear children. Doctors refer to perimenopause as the time in which a woman is transitioning into menopause. Women who notice symptoms of perimenopause may expect menopause to set in within a few years, but menopause onset can take as long as 10 years after perimenopause signs start to manifest.

Understand perimenopause and menopause symptoms before you enter this important stage of a woman’s life. Preparing for this inevitable phase may drastically alleviate the emotional and physical discomfort often associated with menopause transition. And throughout it all, please remember you aren’t alone: approximately 40 million American women are likewise transitioning to menopause.

Premenopause vs. Perimenopause

Perimenopause signals the gradual decrease of the two main female sex hormones estrogen and progesterone. Ovaries, adrenal glands, fatty tissues, and the brain produce these hormones to regulate various functions of the female reproductive system, including menstrual cycles. As a woman ages and levels of estrogen decrease, follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) increases and ovarian egg quality diminishes along with fertility. You can, however, still get pregnant in the perimenopausal stage, so some form of birth control should still be used if a baby is not part of your life plan. Ultimately, the ovaries stop releasing eggs.

Premenopause describes the span of time between when a female begins menstruating, or menarche, until when she enters perimenopause or menopause—or the time between her first and last periods. Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) symptoms, such as irritability, cramps, bloating, breast tenderness, and nausea, are common during premenopause. Although sex hormone levels may fluctuate during premenopause, menstrual periods are usually regular or semi-regular, ovarian eggs are generally healthy, and fertility is most probable.

Menopause occurs when regular vaginal bleeding has ceased for 12 consecutive months. Menopause onset occurs between the ages of 49 and 52 for most women in Western societies, but onset can occur earlier or later.

Cholesterol levels tend to increase during the menopause transition. A 2011 study published in The Korean Journal of Internal Medicine recognized an increase in total and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels in females transitioning from premenopause to postmenopause. After a woman has gone through menopause, she enters postmenopause, which lasts for the remainder of her life. FSH levels are highest during postmenopause. A doctor can administer urine and blood tests that measure hormone levels to determine your menopausal phase.

Understanding Perimenopause: The Before, During And After

Perimenopause Symptoms

Perimenopausal woman may experience irregular periods that are heavier, lighter, shorter, or longer than is usual. Abnormal premenstrual symptoms may herald these changes.

Other signs of perimenopause often mirror menopausal symptoms and are primarily symptomatic of declining estrogen levels. Vasomotor symptoms (such as night sweats, hot flashes, and flushes) are common manifestations of menopause transition as well as the postmenopausal phase of a woman’s reproductive life.

Sometimes hormonal changes and mood changes can be very disruptive and compromise your daily activities and well-being. Typical perimenopause symptoms include:

  • Irritability and mood swings: Psychological and emotional discomfort are common characteristics of hormone imbalance. Problems concentrating or maintaining consistent moods can worsen during perimenopause. Severe anxiety and depression can set in if these symptoms are not properly addressed. Pre-existing psychological disorders may require mental health intervention.
  • Insomnia: Drops in estrogen levels can lead to feelings akin to chronic distress, and most women suffer sleep disturbances as a result. In addition to psychological disruptions, internal changes during perimenopause may trigger urinary urgency, feverishness, sweating, and chills—all symptoms that can lead to sleep disruption.
  • Hot flashes: An increase of blood flow can trigger hot flashes—sensations of a sharp rise in body temperature—and profuse sweating. Hot flashes can last anywhere from 30 seconds to 10 minutes and often occur around the neck, face, and torso regions. A subsequent drop in body temperature can result in sudden chills.
  • Night sweats: Hot flashes often occur at night during sleep. Sudden perspiration episodes significantly disturb sleep cycles and can induce anxiety or signs that mimic panic, such as heart palpitations. Males who share sleeping quarters with affected women may suffer the effects of insomnia as well as feelings of helplessness.
  • Weight gain: Swelling along with breast tenderness is common, as is weight gain. If you haven’t been much of an exerciser, then perimenopause is a great time to make lifestyle changes and engage in a form of exercise you enjoy.
  • Other symptoms: Vulvovaginal atrophy results from decreased estrogenization of the vaginal tissue that can lead to inflammation and vaginal dryness—which, for some women, may cause soreness and pain during sex. Thinned, damaged vaginal tissue may heighten the occurrence of urinary frequency and pelvic organ prolapse, or bulging in the vagina due to a shifted bladder or uterus that drops down and presses against vaginal walls.

Early Menopause

Doctors commonly use the term premature menopause to describe menopause onset that occurs before the age of 40. There are known and unknown reasons why a woman may experience early menopause.

The age for menopause transition is dwindling in India—a country that has seen tremendous social and economic gains over the last few decades—but India’s fertility rates have plummeted. Some health experts believe that unprecedented stressors of a newly burgeoning economy, a fast-paced lifestyle, and changes in traditional dietary practices are several reasons why women in India are exhibiting untimely menopausal signs during normal reproductive years—sometimes as early as 29 years of age.

You will likely experience more acute perimenopausal symptoms if you undergo treatments that induce early menopause. Certain chemotherapy, radiation treatments, or other medications can lower estrogen levels. Synthetic phytoestrogens are known endocrine disruptors that compromise reproductive health, and cigarette smoking or long-term opioid use have been linked to early menopause. Primary ovarian insufficiency caused by poor genetics and autoimmune illnesses, like celiac disease, can also lead to advanced menopause transition; although premature, perimenopausal symptoms are usually normal in these instances. In rare cases, however, women bypass the perimenopause stage altogether, no longer have menstrual periods, and experience menopause symptoms indefinitely through postmenopause.

Menopause that is surgically induced by way of hysterectomies without the removal of ovaries preserves gradual perimenopause responses. Under these circumstances, even though you do not experience menstrual periods, your ovaries continue to produce sex hormones. However, the removal of both the uterus and the ovaries triggers an abrupt estrogenic drop, and menopause is either immediate at the time of removal or soon-to-occur after surgery.

Perimenopause Treatment

Don’t let perimenopause symptoms dishearten you, as there are many treatment options available. For some of these remedies time is of the essence, so understand your options early on and be mindful of any harmful side effects.

Every woman’s experience is different. A doctor will cater your treatment plan based on your specific needs. Your detailed observations of bodily changes, frequency of symptoms, or any abnormalities can help your medical team in this process and can subsequently enhance the effectiveness of your perimenopause treatment plan.

In addition to consulting your doctor for treatment, you may lessen the severity of perimenopause symptoms by heeding the following tips.

Smoking

Do not smoke. Smoking cigarettes increases the risk of heart disease and osteoporosis—known complications linked to menopause.

Hormone Replacement Therapy

Take hormone replacement therapy (HRT) medication to compensate for drops in estrogen. HRT is most effective in patch form, although estrogen therapy also comes in gels, creams, and pills. Women who experience debilitating vasomotor symptoms often find relief with hormone therapy. HRT is also known to impair the effects of low bone density, which can cause osteoporosis.

HRT’s health benefits notwithstanding, it is important not to take dosages above what is deemed effective for your specific health needs. Hormone therapy has been linked to uterine cancer and breast cancer. Other side effects may include blood clots, stroke, and heart attack.

Perimenopausal woman should remain particularly vigilant about HRT and possible implications for short-term or long-term use. The Women’s Health Initiative’s 2017 guidelines regarding hormone therapy assess the benefit-risk ratios for taking HRT in relation to age and menopausal phase. Women younger than 60 years old or who are within 10 years of menopause onset appear to have a more favorable treatment response than women 60 years or older who initiate HRT more than 10 or 20 years from menopause onset.

Exercise

Many women who begin menopause transition also begin a new and exhilarating fitness lifestyle. Some women who’d never go near a gym in their premenopausal days have entered and won bodybuilding competitions in their perimenopausal and menopausal, or even postmenopausal, days.

Harboring excess weight can aggravate perimenopause symptoms. Engaging in guided vigorous activity on a continual basis helps keep your zest for life high and your body fat low. If weightlifting is not your shtick, other weight-bearing exercises, like running, yoga, tai chi, and dancing, can be just as effective for tackling weight gain.

Sex

Hormonal changes can subdue your sex drive, but menopausal transition can be a liberating time for a woman. Remedy the physiological perimenopausal impairments in order to enjoy a fulfilling sex life. Enjoyable sex can lower stress levels and fortify relational bonds with your mate. Done regularly, Kegel exercises can help strengthen vaginal muscle tissue. Water-based vaginal lubricants or local vaginal estrogen treatment can ease dryness symptoms.

Diet

Avoid spicy foods and hot beverages to ease or lessen the frequency of hot flashes. Low estrogen levels can lead to low bone density, so it is important to consume bone-nourishing nutrients like calcium, iron, phosphorus, and vitamin K. Spinach and other dark leafy green vegetables contain all of these nutrients in considerable dosages. Low estrogen is also attributable to accelerated cardiovascular illness. Consuming omega-3 fatty acids can help bolster blood circulation and heart muscle strength. Avoid foods high in saturated fats to help keep your LDL cholesterol low.

Stress

Excess stress often turns a good situation bad and a bad situation worse, so avoid or limit stressors whenever possible. Be prepared to embrace the fact that your body may be limited in what it can take on physically, as well as emotionally. This may mean that you need to set up social mechanisms, for example, to help mitigate your exertion levels as you age. The support networks—family, friends, church groups, volunteer organizations, etc.—you have cultivated through the years can be great sources of physical and emotional assistance, so communicate your needs and concerns with your growing inner circle of helpmates. Knowing that you have a trove of unconditional support at your disposal can help alleviate the psychological discomfort that can trigger vasomotor responses during menopause transition.

Coping with Anxiety: Types, Symptoms and Treatments

While it’s perfectly normal to feel a little nervous about that big date or upcoming presentation at work, chronic anxiety can have a negative effect on your life. If you’re suffering from anxiety attacks or persistent feelings of dread, you might have an anxiety disorder. Here are some tips for coping with anxiety.

Everyone gets anxious now and then. And while it’s perfectly normal to feel a little nervous about that big date or upcoming presentation at work, chronic, excessive worry that invades your everyday life can have a negative effect on your physical and mental health. So if you’re suffering from anxious thoughts, a general sense of unease, or even full-blown panic attacks, read on to discover important tips for coping with anxiety and improving your well-being and quality of life.

What Is Anxiety?

Occasional anxiety is a normal, even healthy part of life. It can heighten your senses and provide motivation in stressful situations. It can even help save your life when a fight-or-flight situation arises. But when anxiety either doesn’t go away or gets worse with time, it begins to color your entire life and can make even the most basic tasks seem impossible.

When this happens, it becomes what’s known as an anxiety disorder. In fact, anxiety disorders are the most common of all psychiatric conditions, affecting nearly 40 million people in the United States each year. However, determining who will develop an anxiety disorder and who won’t isn’t a simple task. That’s because anxiety is a complex condition that’s influenced by many different factors. Some of these include:

  • Family history: People with a history of anxiety in the family may have a genetic predisposition toward developing the condition, though not everyone with a family history will develop anxiety.
  • Personality traits: Studies have shown that children with certain traits, including perfectionism, low self-esteem, and control issues, have a greater chance of developing anxiety.
  • Stressful events: People who experienced trauma or abuse as a child are more likely to suffer from anxiety. Traumatic events experienced as an adult may also predispose someone to developing an anxiety disorder.
  • Health problems: People dealing with chronic medical conditions, including diabetes, chronic pain, and heart disease, are more at risk of having anxiety. Anxiety may also be a sign of certain medical problems, as in the case of hyperthyroidism, certain tumors, and drug and alcohol withdrawal.
  • Mental health conditions: People with coexisting mental illnesses like depression often experience anxiety as well.

Types of Anxiety Disorders

While there are many different forms of anxiety, according to the National Institutes of Mental Health (NIMH), the five major types are:

  • Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD): This disorder involves chronic feelings of worry and tension that interfere with a person’s ability to perform daily activities or enjoy life.
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD): This is a type of anxiety disorder in which sufferers experience recurrent, unwanted thoughts and sometimes repetitive, compulsive behaviors, such as handwashing, cleaning, or counting. These rituals provide temporary relief from obsessive negative thoughts, and levels of anxiety increase when they’re not performed.
  • Panic disorder: This is an extreme form of anxiety in which individuals suffer repeated episodes of intense fear, or panic attacks. These anxiety attacks often involve physical symptoms, including chest pain—which may further increase the sense of panic when interpreted as a heart attack—shortness of breath, and dizziness.
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD): This form of anxiety may arise after living through a traumatic experience, such as childhood abuse, a serious accident, or combat, and can lead to recurrent unpleasant symptoms like nightmares, flashbacks, insomnia, and even violent outbursts.
  • Social anxiety disorder: This type of anxiety disorder is also known as social phobia and is characterized by avoidance of social situations due to feelings of fear and excessive self-consciousness. This type of anxiety can be limited to one type of activity, like public speaking or eating in front of other people, or occur any time contact with other people is necessary. An estimated 7% of Americans experience social anxiety disorder.

Symptoms of Anxiety

Anxiety isn’t a subtle condition, and when you have it, you tend to know it. Whether it’s a general sense of being ill at ease or the hyperventilation and palpitations that can accompany a panic attack, anxiety lets you know it’s there. But anxiety can also mess with your head, causing you to throw logic out the window and think something positively dreadful is either happening right now or going to happen in a very short time.

If you’ve ever had anxiety, you’re probably familiar with this worry and self-doubt. But because anxiety can throw all sorts of unexpected things your way, it’s sometimes calming just being aware of the different types of symptoms that might arise. With that in mind, we offer the following list of symptoms often associated with anxiety and panic.

Feelings of nervousness and tension Insomnia
Overwhelming sense of panic or doom Frequent urination
Shortness of breath or hyperventilation Sense of detachment or unreality
Fear of losing your mind Hot flashes or chills
Palpitations or dizziness Fuzzy thinking or brain fog
Sweating or trembling Tunnel vision
Muscle pain and twitching Excessive worry
Abdominal pain, nausea, or diarrhea Desire to avoid anxiety triggers
Loss of appetite or overeating Feelings of exhaustion or weakness
Numbness or tingling sensations Difficulty concentrating or focusing on tasks

Coping with Anxiety: Treatments and Strategies

Unfortunately, no single treatment for anxiety works for everyone. However, there’s a host of both conventional and complementary and alternative treatments available for people suffering from anxiety disorders, so with a little patience, everyone should be able to find the therapy that works best for them.

Before getting into the different types of complementary and alternative treatments, let’s first take a look at the more well-known types of therapy for anxiety—medication and psychotherapy.

Medication

Various medications are available for treating anxiety. If you and your health care provider feel your symptoms warrant medication, one may be chosen based on the severity of your symptoms, the type of anxiety disorder you have, and whether you also have other physical or mental health issues. Some of the more common options are:

  • Antidepressants: Certain antidepressants have been found to be effective in treating anxiety disorders, especially selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), such as escitalopram (Lexapro) and paroxetine (Paxil), and selective norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), including duloxetine (Cymbalta) and venlafaxine (Effexor XR).
  • Benzodiazepines: While benzodiazepines (Xanax, Valium, Ativan) are widely used in the treatment of anxiety disorders, they carry a high risk of dependence with long-term use.
  • Buspirone: The anti-anxiety medication buspirone (BuSpar, Vanspar) has been shown to be effective in treating anxiety and has the added plus of carrying a low risk of dependence.

Psychotherapy

Perhaps the most well-known form of psychotherapy is counseling. This tried and true approach to treating anxiety disorders involves talking with a health care provider to address specific issues and develop strategies for coping with anxiety. Unlike other forms of psychotherapy, however, counseling is generally considered a short-term approach. Several longer term methods of psychotherapy are available also. These include:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): CBT is one of the most effective forms of therapy for people suffering from anxiety. This generally short-term treatment is designed to address ongoing problems, find more effective coping strategies, and develop new ways of processing feelings, thoughts, and behaviors. CBT can also help people who’ve experienced traumatic events process and reframe the experience.
  • Eye movement desensitization reprocessing therapy (EMDR): One of the newer forms of psychotherapy, EMDR has been proven effective for a range of anxiety disorders. Based on the observation that certain eye movements can reduce the intensity of disturbing thoughts, EMDR is designed to reduce the impact of these thoughts by utilizing specific eye movements while focusing on particular traumatic events or memories.
  • Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT): This type of psychotherapy has also been used successfully to treat a range of anxiety disorders. ACT involves learning to stop fighting and accept particular traits or emotions, recognizing that feelings are merely passing sensations, and then choosing the direction you most want to go and taking action to engage in behaviors that will move you toward that goal.

While it’s perfectly normal to feel a little nervous about that big date or upcoming presentation at work, chronic anxiety can have a negative effect on your life. If you’re suffering from anxiety attacks or persistent feelings of dread, you might have an anxiety disorder. Here are some tips for coping with anxiety.

Complementary and Alternative Therapies

In addition to the more conventional therapies, a number of complementary and alternative treatments have shown efficacy in treating anxiety. What makes these therapies especially useful is that they not only can be used in conjunction with more traditional forms of treatment in the short term, but they can also be incorporated as a series of lifestyle changes over the long term to help prevent the recurrence of anxiety in the future.

Relaxation Techniques

The opposite of the fight-or-flight response of anxiety is the so-called relaxation response. Practicing some of these simple techniques to elicit that response can be very helpful for people suffering from anxiety.

  • Deep breathing exercises: Taking a series of slow, deep breaths while focusing on nothing but your breathing can help disengage your mind from anxious thoughts.
  • Body scan: This technique involves a few minutes of deep breathing, followed by progressive muscle relaxation, focusing on one part of the body at a time and mentally releasing any tension.
  • Guided imagery: This technique involves imagining yourself immersed in a soothing place or experience. Practicing this approach can help create feelings of relaxation and improve focus.
  • Mindfulness meditation: This form of meditation involves focusing on the breath while bringing attention to the present moment, gently drawing the attention back to the present each time the mind drifts to thoughts of the past or future.
  • Tai chi, yogaand qigong: All three of these ancient practices combine rhythmic breathing with flowing movements and specific postures and have been proven to decrease anxiety, help manage stress, and improve flexibility and balance.
  • Biofeedback: This relaxation technique uses sensors to provide feedback, helping you learn to control certain bodily functions and thus reduce unwanted symptoms.

Emotional Freedom Technique

The emotional freedom technique, or EFT, is a method that involves tapping specific acupressure points on the body while reciting certain phrases. Although EFT is a relatively new method for treating anxiety, at least one study has already found it effective in reducing symptoms.

Aromatherapy

The use of aromatherapy—essential oils from plants for therapeutic purposes—has long been touted for treating anxiety, and its effectiveness has been demonstrated in several studies.

For example, one study found that aromatherapy was effective in reducing anxiety in patients awaiting surgery, while another found that rose water was useful in reducing anxiety in hemodialysis patients. And yet another study found that lavender essential oil demonstrated many of the benefits of anxiolytics without any of the harmful side effects.

Additional essential oils shown to have relaxing effects include:

  • Vetiver
  • Ylang ylang
  • Bergamot
  • Clary sage

Diet and Nutrition

Studies have shown that eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and omega-3 fatty acids and low in processed foods, sugar, and caffeine can have a tremendous effect on your state of mind. Moreover, studies have shown a link between the deterioration of the Western diet and increasing rates of mental health disorders.

In fact, a study from 2008 not only emphasizes the importance of nutritional therapy in treating mental health conditions but also references almost 30 additional studies that have found a link between nutrient deficiencies and mental illness.

Some of the nutrients found to be associated with mental health conditions include:

  • Omega-3 fatty acids
  • B vitamins
  • Magnesium
  • Vitamin C
  • Lecithin
  • Amino acids

Several amino acids, including gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), tryptophan, and 5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP), have been shown to be beneficial in treating anxiety.

For instance, GABA is an inhibitory neurotransmitter that helps induce a state of relaxation, and tryptophan and 5-HTP are both precursors of serotonin, low levels of which have been linked to both anxiety and depression. In addition, the amino acid L-theanine, which can be found in green tea, helps reduce anxiety by blocking excitatory stimuli at the brain’s glutamate receptors and by stimulating production of GABA.

A balanced amino acid supplement that emphasizes these particular substances may help provide much needed support for people suffering from anxiety disorders, including helping them get enough sleep, which is crucial for getting symptoms under control.

Finally, perhaps one of the most powerful ways of coping with anxiety is learning not to fear it. This is easier said than done, of course. But the cycle of anxiety and panic can become a self-perpetuating one as a person begins to fear the fear.

What do we mean by this?

The symptoms of a panic attack can be so severe that one begins to fear the very possibility of having one. This fear in itself can trigger another attack until they start happening seemingly out of the blue. And pretty soon, they become so crippling that a person becomes more and more housebound until they’re literally being held hostage by their anxiety.

But when it comes to anxiety, knowledge really is power, and the best way to start combating this vicious cycle is by defusing some of the fear by learning everything one can about anxiety. Then comes the scary part—accepting that to get through it, you must face it.

You see, anxiety is like a bully. If you let it have its way, it’ll just take more from you the next time and the next until you wake up one day to find you’re living a shadow of a life.

So when anxiety rears its ugly head, try not to run from it. Like exercise, it won’t be easy at first, but the more you’re able to accept the fear and sit with it until it passes—and it will pass—the looser its hold on you will be and the more you’ll be free to live your life as you were always meant to.

Of course, if you’re experiencing symptoms of severe anxiety and don’t feel capable of going it alone, don’t hesitate to speak with a health professional. They can help get you through the current crisis and guide you toward the therapy or therapies that work best for you.