Natural Remedies for Anxiety and Depression

Caitlin ParsonsFounder of The Aligned Hygienst

Whether you struggle with anxious thoughts moment to moment, in your every day, or in social settings, this article is for you. Let’s just call it like it is — living with anxiety sucks. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), Generalized Anxiety Disorder affects 6.8 million adults yet only 43.2% of the population are receiving treatment. That’s a lot of people…

I’m here writing this because I struggled with chronic anxiety for years. Anxiety kept me from getting to sleep at night, it held me back from going certain places, seeing certain people, and living authentically. If you’re here, I’m guessing that you or maybe someone you know is struggling with anxiety or depression, too. Maybe it looks similar to my journey and maybe it looks very different, but either way, I want to share some of the practices that helped work my way through out of chronic anxiety.

I’ve never had an anxiety attack, but I know for certain that living with anxiety can be really hard. One of the most challenging parts about it was the fact that it’s such an inward journey; I had so many people reach out to me and say, “I had no idea you had anxiety!” It took me a while to find different tools and practices that helped ease my anxiety, and slowly I started to implement them throughout my day and into my daily routine. This sense of stability, structure and support was exactly what I needed to heal my own anxiety.

Yoga Therapy Practices for Healing Anxiety

My journey into yoga therapy didn’t start because of my anxiety. I actually found yoga therapy when I had chronic pain and was working full time as a dental hygienist. After years of struggling with chronic pain from years of bad posture and a car accident, I stumbled into my first yoga class. After a few classes of hot yoga, I started to feel better. It was the increase in energy and decrease in general discomfort that prompted the download, “You get to heal your own pain then help others heal theirs.”

Fast forward through 1,000+ hours of studying to become a Certified Yoga Therapist, I no longer had chronic pain. Once I felt better physically, I really started to feel the mental and emotional benefits of Yoga. Now, I help people all over the world ditch chronic pain, stress and anxiety inside my monthly Yoga Therapy + Wellness program, Aligned. It is such an honor to share the practices that have helped me so much, so let’s dive in with a few here.

Practice One: Create A Morning Routine

This Healthline article talks about anxiety, and the fact that most people that experience anxiety, feel it in the morning time. Furthermore, our stress and overwhelm levels are sky high when we wake up in the morning, According to a report from NCBI, the levels of cortisol, the “stress hormone,” are the highest in the first hour of waking people with an increased level of stress.

Now I KNOW that morning routines are hyped up and “morning routine” has sort of become a buzz word, but when you actually create and implement a morning routine, the results are so powerful. Let me show you why.

First, it helps to create structure, stability, and support for your wandering and worried mind. It can ground you and bring you into the present moment. It can be the one time every day for you to be present in your body and your heart. For those of you who struggle with anxiety, you know how important those are.

Your morning routine can be anything you’d like but I suggest you start simply. Here’s a few steps to help you get started:

Set some lose guidelines so you don’t wake up in the morning wondering what to do.

Let this be an exploration: some of the practices may not resonate with you and that’s okay, focus on finding what works.

Be clear: how much time will you spend?

Be clear: what does your morning routine entail? (Write it out + start simple)

Set a goal for yourself and add in a fun prize if you hit your goal!

If you’re looking for some practices to add to your routine, check out the ones I suggest below. If you’re interested in live classes and on-demand classes that are specific to anxiety, consider joining Aligned, my affordable monthly program.

Breathe Deeply as a Natural Remedy for Anxiety and Depression

Now let’s talk about utilizing something that you do all of the time as a natural remedy for anxiety and depression — breathing! Breathing is actually a really common form of psychotherapy used throughout the world. When you learn how to use and shift your breath, you have the capacity to heal anxiety in your physical body. Honestly, I didn’t believe it until I actually tried it, which is why you might be wondering how that’s possible!? Let’s dive in.

According to the Australasian College of Nutritional and Environmental Medicine, this article discusses how people with anxiety tend to chronically over breathe or hyperventilate. If you’ve ever experienced high levels of anxiety, or an anxiety attack, this probably makes sense. Luckily, there are different breathing practices in yoga therapy that focus on creating the opposite affect–instead of hyperventilating, you slow down your breath. Regulating your breath helps to calm the nervous system and bring the body into a state of relaxation, also known as parasympathetic nervous system.

One example of breathing practices for anxiety is to slow down your breath, and more specifically, slow down your exhalation. Simply slowing down your exhalation allows the body to shift into a state of relaxation, where healing can happen. Not surprisingly, according to this article on NCBI, the slower that you breathe, the longer life you are expected to have. That’s right, all you have to do is focus on slow breathing and not only will you minimize anxiety but also expand your capacity to live a longer life.

You can do this by letting each breath that you take get longer and longer. The longer and slower your breathing, the more at ease you’ll feel. Try it now. Start by noticing how your breath feels right now: the inhalation and the exhalation. Is it long? Short? Fast? Slow? Rigid? Easy? Pay attention. Then start to stretch it out so that each inhalation gets a little longer (try for 1 second longer) and each exhalation gets longer. Just like with anything, this can take some practice, but believe me, if I can do it and completely shift my breathing pattern, so can you.

Richard Miller, author, Yoga Therapist, Founder of IRest Institute and Breath Facilitator, recommends doing breathing practices every day that focus on lengthening your breath. Start in the morning or before you go to bed at night–set an alarm for a couple minutes, explore your breath and notice how you feel afterwards. Again, like with anything, it simply takes practice.

Move Your Body to Heal Anxiety and Depression

That’s right, moving your body can help to decrease anxiety, so choose a movement practice that you enjoy doing and do it more often. I truly believe that when we take time to move our bodies, we tap into deeper healing capacity in our bodies. From Yoga therapy and exercising to shaking and dancing to your favorite song, getting into your body is EXHILARATING. Let’s talk about why that is.

Moving your body helps to release muscle tension, which in turn helps to reduce feelings of anxiousness.

Increasing your heart rate helps to change your brain chemistry, increasing the availability of important anti-anxiety neurochemicals, including serotonin.

Exercise activates the frontal regions of the brain which are responsible for executive function, which helps control our reaction system to real or imagined threats. Regular movement helps to build the resources in our bodies that create resilience against the up and down waves of emotion. In fact, 

according to NCBI, engaging in exercise can divert you from the very thing you’re anxious about.

Types of Movement to Help Heal Anxiety

Yoga therapy

Running or exercising

Shaking exercises

Dancing to your favorite song(s)

Set an alarm in your phone or a date for yourself on the calendar to dive in. I highly recommend daily movement. If you have no idea where to start check out my free Anxiety Guide on my website to help you dive in deeper!

Simply Sitting with the Anxious Thoughts

Before I dive in, I want you to have an open mind with this next subject, because I understand that a lot of people’s initial reactions to this is, “That can’t be true.” Most people with anxiety and stress, tend to avoid sitting with their emotions. We get good at keeping it close enough but ignoring it at the same time. However,  learning to listen to the feelings, thoughts and subtle cues hidden beneath the layers of anxiety. The layers that make you feel less than or different than others. It’s time to slow down and start to pay attention.

Your body and feelings are the gateway to your healing.

First, I would recommend that you incorporate a deep awareness and listening practice into your daily routine and perhaps in addition to, or combined with, your breathing and movement practices. GAME-CHANGER!

Secondly, there’s no “comfortable” way to dive in, just dive in. If you’re not used to getting quiet and paying attention to your inner world, it can feel really challenging, overwhelming and confusing.

Thirdly, set parameters for yourself. Whether you want to do this practice “on-the-go” when anxiety hits or you want to incorporate this every day, be clear.

Lastly, just listen, notice and feel. Here’s a few steps to help guide you:

Connect to, follow and slow down your breathing.

Feel your body relax and soften

Ask yourself, “What/how do I feel?”

Where do you feel this in your body? What’s it telling you?

Can you breathe into it and let is soften, relax or release?

If needed, ask yourself, “What’s beneath that?”

Using Natural Remedies for Anxiety and Depression

Your body holds deep wisdom and the healing codes you need; keep digging with a sense of curiosity.

Don’t forget to grab my free guide for Anxiety, and if you’re interested in trying other breathing, meditation and movement practices to help become your own healer and ditch anxiety, check out Aligned.

Aligned is an affordable monthly membership program designed to help you live pain free, ditch stress and anxiety and start connecting with your truth, power and passion. With 100+ on-demand yoga therapy classes, live classes every week, and more, this program will help assist you into deeper levels of awareness and healing.

I hope this helped! I’m curious to see how these practices resonate with you, so feel free to share in the comments below; I’d love to hear from you!

Here for you,

xo Caitlin

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Aligned Online is a monthly membership program for people that want to lead a pain free life and ditch chronic pain aches, & injuries by improving posture, building strength & mobility & managing stress through guided yoga therapy classes.

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