Monday, June 11, 2018

SPONSORED: Non-Medication Tips for Anxiety + Printable Anxiety Tracker

Disclaimer: I am not a doctor or mental health professional, and this post should not be taken as medical advice in any way, shape or form. 
If you have any serious questions about your mental health, please call your doctor or 911 if you are in crisis.

If you are in crisis, please exit this post and seek emergency medical attention right away. 
To speak to a trained volunteer from the National Suicide Hotline, dial 1-(800)-273-8255.

Hello, beautiful! I don't know about you, but #MentalHealthMay just flew right by me - so you can imagine my shock this morning when I woke up and realized that it was already June.

#MentalHealthMay might be over, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't still talk about the importance of mental health. As someone who suffers from Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Clinical Depression, mental health is pretty much always on my mind - as it is for many people who suffer from mental illness like myself.

One of the things that is most challenging about suffering from a mental illness, and something I think about often, is feeling dependent on medications to alter your mood. While medication is a fantastic option and has worked wonders for getting me on track, I hate the side effects, and often find myself wondering what it would be like to wake up happy without needing to take 310 mg worth of pills each morning.

Don't get me wrong: I'm not advocating that we all flush our SSRIs down the toilet and shun modern medicine! Lexapro and Wellbutrin XL (the two medications I'm on) have made it possible for me to live a life that almost resembles that of someone without an anxiety disorder. If you told me just one year ago that I'd be happy and healthy from just a couple of pills, I'd have laughed you off. But my medication has enabled me to make big changes in my life, and for that, I am eternally grateful.

On the other hand, I must acknowledge the drawbacks to depending on medication for my anxiety and depression - for example, side effects like lowered libido, anorgasmia, headaches and irregular periods. Plus, I worry that Lexapro's warning against third-trimester use will force me to quit my meds when I decide to someday get pregnant anyways.

Thus, my goal lately has been to lower - not eliminate - my dependence on medications for my anxiety and depression. I've been actively seeking out non-medication solutions for anxiety. From supplements to yoga classes (both of which I'll discuss in more detail below), here are some of the best discoveries I've made when it comes to managing anxiety and depression with less medication. No prescription required!

Subscribe to Happiness (AD)

If you're anything like me, you probably forget to schedule self-care into your week when you get bogged down by school and work. The busier you are, the more stressed you get - and the more stressed you get, the less likely you are to remember to schedule self-care into your week in the first place.

Subscription boxes like the iCare Crate pictured below are a great way to automate your self-care routine. With a built in package of self-care goodies delivered to your door every month, you'll never have to think twice about how or when to schedule time for yourself each month. You'll simply open your iCare Crate, and be so excited to use your new presents that you can hardly wait to take some me-time for yourself!

I'm SO grateful to iCare Crate for asking me to review their summer subscription box for self-care! This season's theme was all about that summer (self-) loving, so the box included a variety of goodies themed around sunshine, beaches and self-care, such as:

  • If You Like Pina Coladas tea
  • Pink Sands face mask
  • Coconut bath bomb
  • Artisan candle
  • Summery notebook
  • Self-care booklet with exercises for personal growth
All these goodies are pictured below if you're curious - and, of course, if you want to get an iCare Crate of your very own, just click here to visit the subscription site

DASH Your Diet

You may have heard that what you eat can affect your mood, since the gut and your brain are so deeply interconnected - but without a fancy nutrition degree, it can be tricky for the average girl to figure out what she should be eating to manage her anxiety naturally.

Enter the DASH Diet, a well-rounded approach to eating originally developed to combat hypertension and diabetes, among other chronic health conditions. This style of eating, based around whole grains, lean meats, colorful produce and low-fat dairy, tied with the Mediterranean diet for the healthiest diet plans, and is the closest thing to a non-diet a healthy girl could dream of.

And, as if the DASH Diet couldn't get any better, it's also been associated with decreased risk of depression in teen girls and the elderly. Compared with subjects who followed a traditional Western diet, those who followed the DASH Diet were less likely to develop depression over the six-year study than those who ate a Western diet.

Take Action

  • Read The DASH Diet Action Plan.
  • Use a magnetic meal planner to plan meals for the week.
  • Start meal prepping with handy containers like these.

Ebb and (Yoga) Flow

The number one thing that has made a difference in my anxiety levels, by far, is starting a regular yoga practice. During the school year, I take classes at my university rec center, while over the summer, I look for Groupons and other class packages so I can get my weekly fix of flow.

One of the reasons I think yoga has been so successful in helping me manage my anxiety is its focus on your breath and bringing you back into the present moment. So often when we suffer from anxiety, we spend too much time reliving the past or worrying about the future - so much that we forget to focus on all the wonderful things right in front of us. But that's exactly what I love about yoga: it challenges you to forget about all the other items on your to-do list commanding your attention and focus on living in the present moment, if only for an hour.

Take Action

  • Try ClassPass to find affordable yoga classes in your area.
  • Grab a matching mat and towel to tote to class in style.
  • Keep your favorite mantra close at hand with a Mantra Band. 

Say Hell-iola to Rhodiola 

Ridiculous puns aside, if you haven't heard of rhodiola yet, it's about time you got familiar with this anxiety-busting medicinal herb.

Rhodiola is a traditional Ayurvedic treatment that has been taken as a supplement for years to support a calm, clear mind and peaceful body. From writer's block to shot nerves, this supplement is the perfect addition to a healthy diet for supporting a healthy brain, mind and body.

Since I've started taking rhodiola, I've noticed I've become more creative and focused and less scatterbrained when working on projects for work, school and the blog. I like to take it once a day (around lunchtime) with food, to avoid the upset stomach that can sometimes be a side effect of this anxiety-busting adaptogenic herb.

Take Action

  • Supplement your diet with my favorite rhodiola capsules from HUM Nutrition (+ use my affiliate code 14B2CC for $10 off your first order!)
  • Or, try a rhodiola roseola tea for an alternative way to enjoy your new favorite superfood.
  • Use the Round app to track how often to take your vitamins and supplements.

Push Some Buttons

And I'm not talking about the mobile kind - because as much as calling your BFF or playing Candy Crush can help relieve stress and anxiety, there's an even better kind of button to press to relieve the physiological symptoms of anxiety: acupressure points!

Acupressure follows the same theory as acupuncture in that believers say certain areas of the body are linked to certain bodily functions or organ systems. For example, feeling a little nauseous? Next time you're on a boat or down with a stomach bug, try putting pressure on your forearm three finger widths from the bottom of your wrist crease for a quick fix that's literally built into your bod.

Don't worry if you're initially skeptical of natural remedies like acupressure - I totally get it! I was a skeptic, least, until I saw the science pointing to acupressure as a successful remedy for anxiety. I've been converted ever since!

Take Action

  • Stress headache? Press down in the middle of your foot to relieve that built-up tension ASAP.
  • Fatigue can be an irritating symptom of anxiety. Try rubbing the back of your hand for a quick energy boost on the go! 
  • Massaging your earlobes - yes, your earlobes - might sound weird, but is actually a great stress reliever according to acupressurists.

BONUS: Trace Your Triggers!

Want to catch your automatic anxious thoughts and stop them in their tracks? Check out my free trigger tracker, which is based on CBT principles used to treat anxiety and is 100% yours to print! 

Click here to print your free trigger tracker!