What You Need to Know About Therapy for Anxiety: 5 Great Holistic Recommendations
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Want to control your anxiety, stress and panic attacks using natural and holistic remedies? Here are the following 5 I tried and can’t recommend enough.
NLP stands for Neuro-Linguistic Programming.
I know this might not make anything more clear so let’s break it down and simplify the terms.
Neuro as many of you may know refers to our brain.
Linguistic relates to language and communication.
For the purposes of explaining this therapy, programming can be defined as the process of altering an established way of thought.
So, when we bring this all together, NLP can be summed up as a practice which focusses on changing certain ways of thinking by acknowledging our inner mental dialogue.
The way we act throughout most of our days could be described as reactive. We aren’t always aware of certain things which are taking place and what they are causing us to feel.
With NLP, you begin to slow down and really dissect your thoughts and emotions about events on a secular level. The way you perceive and react to both positive and challenging situations is also focussed on.
How do you feel when you have achieved something or heard some goods news as opposed to being in uncomfortable and confrontational situations?
Sometimes the experiences can also relate to non-verbal situations. Is there someone in your workplace or family that has an overbearing, aggressive and dominating presence? How does this make you feel and why?
NLP works on the principle that there is no such thing as a negative experience — only learning curves.
With this therapy, the aim is to rewire the way our brain reacts to undesirable triggers so we are able to feel more empowered, confident and calm the next time we are faced with a challenging situation.
Once your cognitive patterns have been identified and you become aware of the way you are letting something/someone make you feel, change can be made.
You will be asked to envision how you would instead like to feel and approach a situation. The biggest thing you will find is the clarity with knowing what small steps you need to take in order to create a better path of thinking.
NLP practitioners can employ a variety of techniques to help you. I worked with an NLP practitioner over a period of 18 months and we used a lot of spiritual colour therapy.
Every session, I would give an update about what had happened in the time leading up to my current appointment. I would explain and take time to reflect on the way I approached situations and what I would prefer to have happened. My practitioner would ask me a series of questions to encourage my thought process and help me identify what steps I needed to take to achieve my goals.
We would then close the session with what I like to describe as a ‘healing colour meditation’. I would be guided and asked to envision a white light engulfing my body, be mentally taken into a certain situation and acknowledge the colours that were coming up. If any negative emotions and dark colours were coming up, we would work on ‘draining’ those and clearing myself of any negative thoughts.
NLP is a great tool to use for stress and panic attacks as you are able to lean in deeper into what is causing you to feel anxious and then to also learn what you can do to change the way your mind responds and perceives situations.
If you are thinking about trying NLP, it is important to ensure the practitioner you are looking to work with is suitably certified and belongs to an accredited membership body.
Now, this is a term that you might not have heard of before. Havening is a sensory practice which works by applying a light touch on your body.
It can be gently rubbing your face, your shoulders down to your arms or even your knees.
I know you might be thinking that this makes no sense but the best way to think of it is simple. When you see a loved one in distress and who is feeling upset, what is the most common subconscious response we tend to have as humans?
Without hesitation, we might give a hug, a rub on the back or hold that person’s hand. This touch can make us feel more reassured, comforted and our mood can be positively boosted.
Essentially, Havening is a way of self-soothing ourselves when we feel stressed, anxious and panicky.
We can either be in the moment itself or try to mentally remember how we feel in certain uncomfortable situations in order to address the emotions that come up and help ourselves to eradicate these negative and hard feelings from our lives and more importantly, our minds.
I worked with a Havening practitioner for almost a whole year and for me the absolute biggest takeaway I got from it was the clarity you can obtain whilst Havening.
With anxiety, it can often feel as though you have no idea where it came from but I honestly believe we always do know — deep down.
When we are in a specific situation at the time, the emotions can be overwhelming and take our minds away from the root cause. When we then go back into a similar situation or even if we think about it, all we associate that memory with is how we felt — not entirely on what happened.
With Havening, you are ‘mentally put back into that situation’ but with the guidance of a practitioner, you are able to slow down and really dissect and detect the factors which are causing you to feel such away.
Havening can be a bit tricky to explain in writing so POP undertook a Q&A with Louise McKay (who I used to have Havening sessions with remotely) where the origin, techniques and practicalities of Havening were discussed in more depth.
3. Yoga & Breathwork
For some it may be seen as a ‘hippie workout’, others may think it’s not a ‘manly’ exercise and for some, it may just look like it requires a whole load of effort. However, yoga is the ultimate workout for anxiety.
You can take it as fast as you want, even as a HIIT session, you can slow it right down on a challenging day and you can completely customize what your practice may look like for you.
The thing that doesn’t change ever in yoga, is the attention to the breath and this is the key element in alleviating stress and anxiety.
You may have noticed that your breath is one of the first things to be affected when you enter into a state of panic. We start breathing from our chest, everything feels tight and we can begin to hyperventilate. Our mind is in a state of fight-or-flight and detects a perceived threat. Our body is essentially preparing to respond accordingly but in reality, there is nothing to be afraid of.
So how do we try and help ourselves to break this instinctive reaction? It all comes down to learning how to control your breath.
Yoga sessions incorporate varying breathwork into the practice such as belly breathing, alternate-nostril breathing and equal part breathing.
The more we work on our breath, the more we are aware of the present moment, our heart rate and blood pressure can be reduced and our body can feel stronger during the day.
If we keep practising these techniques, they will become more like second-nature to us and if you find yourself in an overwhelmingly stressful moment and focus on your breath, you will notice how much quicker that moment will pass.
Aside from concentrating on your breath throughout the entire practice, yoga is also composed of varying postures all which work different parts of the body.
Some poses are designed to open up and stretch your chest and others work to promote your digestive system but there is a big emphasis on strengthening all your muscles with a magnified interest on your core. You may notice a big increase in your flexibility, a boost in your physical health and also significant pain reduction.
For me, yoga is my ‘me time’.
It is the part of the day that I focus on nothing but how I am feeling physically, mentally and emotionally. I can work on parts of my body that need attention, I can shut down that mental dialogue going through my to-do list and I can simply take care of myself.
It is a practice that anyone can do and you build it up in a way that works for you.
As someone who was always active and worked out almost every single day, I was devastated when my anxiety made it harder for me to exercise. After 18 months of not regularly working out, yoga was my go-to in order to get back to feeling like me.
During the first few sessions, I was cautious of so many things but the more I focussed on my breathing as instructed, I began to feel empowered and knew my breath would carry me through the practice.
I now practice almost every single day. If I am having a day where I feel sluggish, I will only do a 30- minute gentle practice to raise my energy levels. On the contrary, if I feel like there is a lot of energy for me to burn and I am restless, I will do a full practice for an hour to an hour and a half to re-ground myself and restore some calm back into my day.
At the end of every session, I feel grateful, positive and best of all, I feel self-compassion and love.
Not sure where to start with Yoga? Try this free practice which has been created specifically for anxiety relief.
It is very likely that you would have heard about acupuncture. I know the thought of numerous needles being inserted into your skin can sound and look extremely daunting but I promise you there is nothing to be scared of because it can do wonders for your anxiety.
Rooted in ancient Chinese medicine, acupuncture works on the principle of meridian lines.
These are the vessels through which life energy is carried around the body and the aim of acupuncture is to keep these vessels clear and unblocked so the energy can flow through easily and keep you healthy.
When the meridian lines are clogged, the energy cannot be transported easily and pain/illness can occur.
There are also certain coordinates within the lines which are called meridian points and this is where the needles are inserted to help release any blockages.
Again, I know that the whole concept can sound a bit overwhelming or some of you may believe the system is make-believe but don’t knock it till you try it.
Initially, I was definitely sceptical because I had one experience which was not so great. I wasn’t given an explanation about what was going to happen and never provided with a chance to explain why I had to come to receive the treatment in the first place.
Almost immediately as I lay down, the needles were inserted and I was left for 30 minutes without even being asked how I felt after. The atmosphere was not calming as I was at the back of a store and to be honest, I couldn’t wait to get out of there.
This experience completely put me off and I swore I would never do it again.
Fast forward a year a later — my anxiety levels were through the roof. I researched to find a local yoga instructor who could come to my house because I wanted someone to help me focus on my breathing.
A couple of weeks later, a kind lady called Meena came over and we sat for almost 20 minutes discussing my anxiety. I explained where I felt it, the impact on my emotions and shared how I was terrified to leave the house on my own. Meena explained how she had a background in Ayurveda and recommended I try acupuncture.
The red flag came up in my mind and I was immediately thinking ‘no no no, don’t go there’ but I promised Meena that I would think about it.
With my anxiety only seeming to get worse I plucked up the courage to make an appointment for acupuncture.
Meena’s house was not even a 10-minute drive from mine but that day I realised too late that my parents were both out at the time of my appointment. I was going to have to drive by myself.
My initial thought was ‘cancel it, it’s not worth it’ but I knew it was rude and unfair.
I called up my sister and had her connected via Bluetooth in the car. I had a warm drink ready just in case I needed to be pacified.
This was the first appointment of any kind that I had gone to on my own and I felt like I was going to battle. As I was driving, my whole body was shaking, my teeth were chattering and my breaths were shallow.
I finally made it to Meena’s house. I must have looked like a mess but her welcoming warmth made me feel reassured and relaxed.
I was given a drink and we went to the back of the house where there was a room set up in the conservatory.
Meena spoke through everything she was going to do and asked me how I was feeling, and what part of my body was tense.
I lay down and the needles made an appearance. I had instant flashbacks and my whole body tightened. Seeing how tense I was, she calmed me down and explained where every single needle was going as she put them in one by one.
Calming music started to play and I was told I was going to be left for about 30–40 minutes but I would be checked in on every so often.
I’ll admit it, it felt a little awkward because I looked up to see all the needles across my body and had a mini ‘what the heck am I doing moment’ but within 10 minutes or so, I started to relax my body and I could really feel how heavy and grounded it felt on the bed.
I was staring up at the sky and could see the planes flying by and the birds elegantly gliding. I don’t know if it was because I knew I couldn’t go anywhere but I felt as if at that moment, this was the only place I needed to be.
My breathing was gentle, my body was at ease and my mind for the first time in a long while felt content.
My eyes started to softly blink their way to a close and I drifted into a light sleep.
It must have been about 40 minutes later that Meena opened the door and I became aware of my surroundings. The needles were delicately taken out and I was given some warm water with turmeric to drink.
We sat down for a little chat and it felt so easy to talk, to listen and to just be.
I made my way back to the car and waited till I was inside to let out a big sigh and even more importantly a huge grin.
I hadn’t felt this happy and like myself for too long. I felt energetic and confident.
So confident in fact, it didn’t even occur to me to call up anyone for the journey home. Instead, I opted for some music, relaxed into the car seat and drove home with a smile on my face for the whole journey.
I remained on a high for the rest of the day, felt at peace and had a great night’s sleep.
Who would have thought that such a simple practice could have such a significant impact on reducing your anxiety?
I really hope that by sharing my honest experiences, it will help you feel more confident to try out acupuncture.
It is really important to find someone you can connect with because you need to feel safe. So, when looking out for a practitioner, I would say go with someone who explains the process, shows an interest in why you are there and who you feel confident to open up to.
Acupuncture may not be suitable for those with certain conditions and who take the necessary medications for it so please be honest about your health and check with the acupuncture practitioner that it is safe for you to receive such treatment beforehand.
For those of you local to the area of Windsor, England you can contact Meena via her website to have a consultation/book an appointment.
For those of you who are not local but may be interested in Meena’s yoga classes, she has a private YouTube channel which you can learn more about and join by contacting Meena via her website.
5. Sound Bath
The name is slightly ambiguous, but a sound bath can essentially be seen as a meditation where you lie down and an experienced practitioner will play different types of gongs.
The vibrations from the gongs radiate throughout the entire room and transport you into a place of relaxation and emotional discovery.
So how does it work?
The gongs are played in a varying order to produce an array of sounds, vibrations and rhythms. This results in the brain not being able to follow as it is not a fixed pattern and our brainwaves begin to change.
Your mind lets go and quickly reaches the Alpha brainwave state which is a place where relaxation and concentration are promoted.
As your mind keeps relaxing, it then enters the Theta brainwave state which is a dreamlike and deeply meditative state.
Some people may even reach the Delta brainwave state which is associated with deep sleep.
The majority of us will find and remain in the Theta brainwave state — the perfect level at which our body and mind are able to relax and heal.
I tried my first sound bath in March 2019. My anxiety was just starting to make its way down after hitting an all-time high.
The practitioner came to my house as I was still very cautious about attending classes on my own. She set up a beautiful display of gongs, we drew the curtains and I lay down with a blanket.
I started to hear the gongs and I could feel my thoughts trying to resist the calm but it must not have even been 15 minutes before I felt myself enter a complete state of peace.
I lay there for another 45 minutes, my mind completely empty and my body still.
As the session ended, I woke up and my body was so cold I was shivering slightly but the biggest reaction I felt was emotional.
I tried to contain it but the tears just fell out, the weirdest thing was that I didn’t feel anything mentally, I was just simply letting it all out and releasing the tension that had been building up for so long.
I felt lighter, my body moved with ease and I was revitalised.
The absolute hardest thing to do when you have anxiety is to switch that brain off but there is no other option when it comes to a sound bath and it happens quick.
You don’t even have to try.
It is a time for you to simply be and to remove all the blockages that leave us feeling stressed, conflicted and agitated.
It’s a time to reset.
There is nothing you need to do to prepare for a sound bath and that’s why it is such a perfect exercise to rely on during your hardest days.
You should be able to find practitioners who offer private and group classes in your local area, however, it is easy to also find sessions online.
I found this brilliant video from YouTube — it is 3 hours but you can just put on a timer for the length that you desire. Enjoy!