How I Reduced My Anxiety Without Medication
My Experience With Anxiety
I have had anxiety since I was a child. My first recollection of anxiety was when I first came to Canada, nearly thirty years ago. We were refugees who escaped Vietnam in the mid-1980s. When I first came to Kingston, Ontario, I could remember vomiting in a government office. This was due to my anxiety of being in a new country and going through all these changes in my early life. The main physical symptoms of my anxiety are nausea, gagging, and vomiting.
Shortly after arriving in Kingston, I was placed in grade 3 and had supplementary ESL classes. There were times during elementary school that I felt like vomiting, mainly due to my anxiety. My condition got better as I got older. I didn't have any anxiety-induced nausea in high school, but during my graduate studies, my anxiety returned. Once again, I would feel like throwing up when I was at the gym or traveling.
This year has been really terrible in terms of my anxiety. Normal chores and activities that never once bothered me now make me feel like gagging and vomiting. Things like cleaning the bathroom, drying laundry, taking out the trash, going to the gym or shopping, and particularly flossing and brushing my teeth. I do have a sensitive gag reflex and every time I floss and brush my teeth I wonder whether I will gag and vomit. In the past several months, I have gagged and vomited many times while I am performing oral hygiene.
This problem is at its worst when I have to go to the dentist. I am always afraid that I will gag and vomit in the dentist chair. That's why I bring a bag with me just in case I do throw up. I haven't actually vomited at the dentist office, but I have gagged many times there.
Sometimes, I find sucking on a lozenge helps with the gag and vomiting. I always carry a bag full of Hall's Vitamin D drops or a single drop with me everywhere I go in case I have an attack.
Three Strategies That Have Helped Reduce My Anxiety
I have done a lot of research online to find strategies to alleviate my anxiety. I have found three things that have helped me a lot: exercising, yoga, and deep breathing.
Since applying these strategies, I have seen a reduction in my anxiety. I don't feel like gagging or vomiting while doing some of the aforementioned activities. Furthermore, I haven't had to suck on my drops as frequently as before. I strongly believe that this is the result of consistently doing physical exercise, yoga, and deep breathing.
I go to the gym about four times a week. On Mondays and Wednesdays, I work out for about 40 minutes doing strength training. After my work out, I play badminton for about an hour and a half. On Tuesdays and Fridays, I do strength training and then light cardio for about half an hour. I really think that this routine has helped keep my anxiety down.
How does exercise help with anxiety? Exercise can decrease your body's stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol. It also increases the release of endorphins. These are chemicals in your brain that act as natural painkillers and can lift your mood. The changes in these chemicals in your body help calm you down.
I read that yoga could help with anxiety. I use to do yoga a couple of years ago but I stopped doing it since I didn't know its beneficial effect on anxiety. I began to do it again hoping that it would lower my anxiety. I started doing about half an hour of yoga every day. After several months, its effect is clear. Yoga really does help me feel less anxious. Before I relied on the drops for my gagging. But since doing yoga, I am not dependent on it as much.
What happens when you do yoga? Yoga appears to lessen anxiety by decreasing your heart rate, lowering your blood pressure, and easing your breathing. These combined effects make you feel more relaxed and less anxious.
3) Deep Breathing
I needed something that I could do anytime to relieve my anxiety. I found out that deep breathing can help lower my anxiety on the spot. When I am experiencing intense anxiety or feel like gagging, I start deep breathing. I have found that it is effective most of the time. It doesn't always relieve my anxiety though. However, it's one convenient technique to diminish anxiety that I can do anytime and anywhere.
Deep breathing is breathing in slowly through your nose and filling your lungs to its fullest with air. When you do this, your chest should expand and so should your belly. Hold your breath for a few seconds then exhale slowly through your nose. Repeat several times.
How does deep breathing decrease anxiety? Deep breathing can enhance full oxygen exchange. This is the beneficial trade of oxygen coming in and carbon dioxide going out. It can also slow your heart rate and reduce or stabilize your blood pressure. These effects help you feel more relaxed.
Applying all three strategies has helped me tremendously. I do feel less anxious. I have fewer attacks of gagging and vomiting. It isn't completely gone. When I have to go to the dentist, I still feel anxious and nauseous. However, the intensity of the anxiety is much less severe since using all three methods to reduce anxiety. I prefer this route rather than taking anti-anxiety drugs. Natural remedies are associated with fewer side effects.
Exercising to Relax. 2011. https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/exercising-to-relax
Take a deep breath. 2009. https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/take-a-deep-breath
Yoga for anxiety and depression. 2017. https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/yoga-for-anxiety-and-depression