Many people with anxiety symptoms turn to alternative and complementary therapies as additions to their conventional treatments and medications. Regularly practicing these activities can lead to improved overall well-being and psychological awareness, strengthening the ability to manage stress. Some of the most commonly used and reliable complementary therapies are yoga, meditation, breathing retraining, biofeedback, and massage.
What is it? Yoga is a mind-body exercise in which you learns and practise a series of postures (asanas) and breathing exercises (pranayama).
How might it help ease anxiety? Research suggests that yoga can help to enhance mood and well-being, balance stress, and improve muscle relaxation. It can also positively affect levels of certain brain chemicals that are at reduced levels in the brains of people with anxiety disorders.
What is it? Meditation is a mind-body practice through which you learn to focus your attention, enhancing their mindfulness of your thoughts, emotions, and sensations.
How might it help ease anxiety? Through the practice of meditation, individuals often become more aware of negative thoughts that can contribute to anxiety, and may gain practice dismissing such thoughts to prevent worsening anxiety. Meditation can help you to more readily achieve a state of relaxation, which may help to attune you to your body's stress responses and to learn ways to better tolerate and react during moments of anxiety.
What is it? Breathing retraining involves learning breathing techniques that help to reduce shortness of breath and deliver adequate oxygen to muscles.
How might it help ease anxiety? By learning to modulate your breathing, you may be able to relax and learn to fend off some of the hyperventilation-related symptoms of anxiety, like chest pain, dizziness, and fainting.
What is it? Biofeedback uses electrical sensors attached to your body to give information about heart rate, skin temperature, and other bodily functions.
How might it help ease anxiety? For some, biofeedback provides an opportunity to see exactly how their body reacts to stress. With this information, a person can learn ways to modify these stress responses and react better to anxiety.
Learn more about biofeedback here.
What is it? Massage therapy includes a variety of techniques in which a therapist manipulates the muscles and soft tissue of the body by pressing, rubbing, kneading, and tapping with varying degrees of pressure and intensity.
How might it help ease anxiety? Massage therapy has been confirmed through research to help reduce "state anxiety" (a reaction to a particular situation) as well as "trait anxiety" (general anxiety-proneness). One theory about the effectiveness of massage to lessen anxiety is that it stimulates the release of serotonin or endorphins, neurotransmitters that can stimulate feelings of relaxation and well-being.
Learn more about massage here.