The use of alternative treatments for mental health conditions like anxiety and depression is on the rise. One therapeutic method that seeks to combine traditional medicine (e.g., cognitive behavioral therapy, prescription medication, etc.) with alternative options (e.g., deep breathing, essential oils, etc.) is holistic therapy. This approach shows promise in treating anxiety and relieving its symptoms. If you are looking for a new way to reduce anxiety symptoms, it may be worthwhile to learn more about these all-encompassing treatment methods.
What Is Anxiety?
Anxiety is sometimes used as a catch-all term for a variety of anxiety disorders. More commonly, it’s used as shorthand for generalized anxiety disorder. Generalized anxiety disorder, or GAD, is a mental health condition characterized by a persistent feeling of worry that lasts six months or longer.
Everyone experiences feelings of anxiety from time to time. It is common to feel anxious for long periods of time if you are working on an intense project at work, for example, or dealing with an illness in your family. However, if your worrying continues once the stressor is gone (once the project is complete or your loved one gets better), it may be an indication of GAD or another mental health condition.
Anxiety is marked by a variety of physical and emotional symptoms that can impact a person’s ability to function. Some of the most common anxiety symptoms are listed below.
Physical/Behavioral Symptoms Of Anxiety
- Fatigue and energy levels that are altered from your normal state
- Trembling, shivering, shaky hands
- Feeling “twitchy”
- Persistent nervous movements such as pacing
- Muscle tension, aches, and soreness resulting from prolonged muscle exertion
- Nausea or other digestive issues, including Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
- Difficulties with sleep
- Increased blood pressure, which can lead to other health impacts later in life such as cardiac issues
Emotional/Mental Symptoms Of Anxiety
- An ongoing and obsessive sense of worry
- Cognitive impacts related to that worry: difficulty concentrating, trouble with decision-making, etc.
- Worry that is disproportionate with the level of worry a situation realistically calls for
- “Catastrophizing,” or thinking the worst is going to happen
- Feeling on edge
- Irritability, often without any clear cause
- Suicidal thoughts
If you are thinking about suicide, considering harming yourself or others, feeling that any other person may be in any danger, or if you have any medical emergency, you must immediately call the emergency service number (1-800-273-8255 in the US and 0800-689-5652 in the UK) and notify the relevant authorities. Seek immediate in-person assistance.
Different anxiety disorders outside of the scope of GAD may exhibit different symptoms. A person with panic disorder, for example, may experience regular panic attacks. It can be helpful to fully understand the type of anxiety you are experiencing before you explore a potential treatment for anxiety.
What Is Holistic Therapy?
Holistic therapy is often referred to by different names, including holistic psychotherapy, body-centered psychotherapy, integrative therapy, eclectic therapy, alternative medicine, or complementary medicine. Regardless of what it is called, holistic therapy focuses on the entire person, treating their mind and body as a whole.
Traditional mental health treatment might focus exclusively on a person’s mental or emotional state, and traditional medical treatment might focus exclusively on the physical symptoms a person is experiencing in their body. Holistic therapy attempts to integrate the two. This form of therapy may be helpful in addressing mental health disorders since many disorders demonstrate both mental and physical symptoms.
Perhaps the main goal of holistic therapy is to increase a person’s self-awareness, including a better understanding of the following:
- Their mental health symptoms
- The greater connections between their mind, body, and relationships
- How these connections impact mental health and overall well-being
Holistic therapy can be used as an umbrella term to encompass a wide variety of treatment methods. Many of these treatments, which could be considered “alternative,” are often used in conjunction with more traditional therapeutic methods such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), person-centered therapy, emotion-focused therapy, and other research-backed therapy methods.
Holistic Therapy Treatment Methods
- Mind-body therapy
- Somatic therapy
- Spiritual therapy
- Guided imagery
- Art therapy
- Tai chi
Benefits Of Holistic Therapy For Anxiety
Holistic therapy shows promise as a treatment to reduce anxiety symptoms. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America states:
“Evidence based psychotherapies can often be complemented and enhanced by treatment approaches that may be more traditional or natural. Many are based on folk systems that are hundreds or even thousands of years old. While modern scientific thinking may take issue with the traditional explanations of how these interventions work, there is no question that randomized controlled trials have demonstrated that some of these conditions do work for depression, anxiety, PTSD, pain management and other challenges, while others have yet to be sufficiently supported.”
Not all holistic therapy methods have been tested and found effective in research settings, but some have. One study found that regularly practicing deep breathing exercises can reduce symptoms of anxiety and stress as well as depression, anger, and confusion. This could mean these practices may have benefits beyond simply managing your anxiety.
Holistic therapy focuses on integrating the mental and physical aspects of a person’s life and better understanding the relationship between the two. Thus, it can help to address some of the physical symptoms of anxiety that may be exacerbating mental and emotional symptoms. For example, sleep disruptions (a physical anxiety) can often lead to increased irritability (an emotional symptom). Practicing holistic therapy techniques such as meditation and yoga that help you connect more deeply to your body can enhance your knowledge of your physical and mental self and how they are related. This could lead to stronger feelings of control over your anxiety.
Finding Support For Anxiety
Anxiety can be a persistent and ongoing mental health condition, even after years of therapy or taking prescription medications. If you are interested in exploring holistic treatment options for your anxiety symptoms, you may want to connect with a licensed professional counselor with training in both traditional talk therapy and holistic treatment methods.
Some anxiety disorders, including social anxiety, may make it difficult to leave the house to access in-person therapy. In these instances, online therapy can be a helpful alternative. With an online therapy platform such as BetterHelp, you can connect with a therapist from the comfort of your home. You can also access mental health care services when it works best with your schedule. There are thousands of licensed professional counselors to choose from with experience in a wide variety of methods of anxiety treatment, including holistic therapy options.
A recent study showed that online therapy is an effective treatment for anxiety and can help address some of the barriers to accessing care that those experiencing anxiety may face. If you are interested in exploring holistic therapy treatment options for anxiety, online therapy may be a worthwhile path to pursue.
Holistic therapy combines the principles of traditional and alternative medicines by creating a therapeutic experience that engages the whole person, focusing on elements of both their mental and physical state. Holistic therapy can be effective in reducing anxiety symptoms as it connects a person to the relationship between their mind and their body. To support your holistic well-being, reach out to a BetterHelp therapist today.
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