One of the biggest personal struggles that I have had to face, in terms of caring for my anxiety, OCD, and bipolar 2 disorder, is the ongoing search for the right medication. Being a yoga instructor, I disliked the idea of relying solely on a medication, or perhaps several, to make me feel better. Over the past few years I have been drawn more towards combining holistic healing approaches with medication. Having the knowledge of even the simplest holistic tips for anxiety gives me a certain additional aspect of control. The fact that I have these tips on hand when needed tells me that I am not completely powerless over my illnesses. I would like to share some of these tips with you so that you, too, can utilize natural ways of calming your anxiety. These tips may not work for everyone, but it is a great place to start when searching for alternative healing methods.
1. Alternate Nostril Breathing
Have you ever noticed how shallow your breathing is when you feel anxious? People with anxiety disorders often have trouble breathing deeply in anxious situations or during panic attacks. One of the key concepts I was taught during my yoga training was to always return to your breath. Pay attention to your breathing. This breathing technique may seem a bit strange, but it has a calming effect on me when I am feeling especially anxious:
First, find a comfortable place to sit. Sit tall and close your eyes. Pay attention to your natural breathing pattern and try to slow your breath down. Next, place your fingertips between your eyebrows and close your right nostril with your thumb. Take a deep inhale through the left nostril only. Then, close your left nostril with your ring finger and exhale fully through the right nostril. Once you’ve completed that exhale, inhale fully through the right nostril only. After fully inhaling, close the right nostril with the thumb and exhale fully through the left nostril. That is one round. Do three to five rounds.
Alternating your inhalations and exhalations through each nostril aims to balance out the calm and active sides of the body. By drawing even breaths through each, you are creating a state of balance. This breathing technique is a good way to bring your anxiety down even slightly less than before.
2. Lavender Essential Oil
Lavender essential oil is believed by many to have calming properties. Placing a few drops of lavender oil on your wrist to wear throughout your day can be helpful, especially when you are feeling stressed or anxious. When you are in a state of anxiety, bring the scent to your nose and take a few full, deep breaths. There are also other ways to utilize this scent, other than the essential oil itself. Lighting lavender-scented candles when you are at home or using an oil diffuser are additional ways to incorporate lavender into your life.
Regardless of your physical activity level or how “in-shape” you are, yoga can be helpful for many people. Even basic poses such as Child’s Pose or Forward Bend can help create a state of calm of mind. As a practice of the self, yoga is accessible for all skill levels. There is never any competition. Try out a beginner’s class at your local yoga studio or check out some simple “Yoga for Anxiety” videos online.