by Tim Stoddart
As I sit in the waiting room, I can feel a lump building in my throat, and my palms are getting sweatier by the moment.
“Dr. Kim will see you now.”
You might think I was waiting for a colonoscopy, but it was just another therapy session. Man, did I dread those things. I kept going because I thought it was the only way. I knew I needed help for my crippling anxiety, and I didn’t know how else to get it.
I have to admit, I often thought about skipping these sessions and just becoming a hermit. After all, I didn’t have any anxiety over staying home. But if I didn’t go to work, I’d lose the house and have a whole new set of things to be anxious about. So, I kept going.
I thought if I just showed up every time, it would eventually get easier. I know it works that way for many people, but it didn’t work that way for me.
Not only was it difficult for me to talk about my problems one-on-one, but there was also the matter of a $50 copay every session.
After just a few weeks, I knew I needed an alternative.
Therapy works wonders for so many people, but I know there are others like me who need an alternative. If you’re among them, check out these effective substitutes for traditional therapy:
Meditation isn’t exactly a mainstream remedy, but it has been practiced for centuries longer than traditional therapy. There have been so many studies done on the benefits of meditation that researchers at Johns Hopkins University were able to sift through nearly 19,000 of them to form a conclusion on the topic. Forty-seven trials met their criteria. In the end, researchers concluded that mindful meditation is effective for easing psychological stresses like anxiety, depression and pain.
Acupuncture is a form of alternative medicine that has been used for ages to treat various illnesses, including general anxiety disorder (GAD). A recent review of the research found high-level evidence to support using acupuncture as an anxiety treatment for pregnant women. More research must be done before we can come to any definitive conclusions about acupuncture for anxiety and depression, but it’s worth a try. If it works for you, it doesn’t matter how many studies support the method.
In alternative medicine practices, there are a few herbal remedies that people use to treat anxiety and depression. One common herbal remedy has a growing body of evidence to support its use. Although you will find some conflicting studies, herbal remedies may have an impact on symptoms of anxiety and depression.
- People have been using St. John’s wort in other parts of the world for thousands of years to treat anxiety and depression. There are conflicting studies on its efficacy, but one review of 29 studies shows that St. John’s wort may be better than a placebo and as effective as a standard prescription at treating mild to moderate depression.
St. John’s wort, Hypericum perforatum, is a wild plant that is widely prescribed to treat depression in Europe. It’s available as tinctures, pills and powder. If you’re thinking of giving this natural remedy a try, you should first talk to your doctor. This herbal remedy has many drug interactions, so it’s best to be on the safe side and get an approval from your general practitioner.
- Ginkgo biloba is best-known for its memory-enhancing properties, but it is also used to treat symptoms of anxiety. In fact, some research has shown that gingko biloba is effective for treating PMS, mood swings, headaches and anxiety.
Much like St. John’s wort, there are drug interactions you should know about before taking gingko biloba. This plant extract is available in tea form, tinctures and pills.
Emotional support animals (ESAs)
Do you know how good it feels to hug your pet? That’s the idea behind emotional support animals. These pets don’t need any special training, but they should be well-behaved around people, including kids, and other animals. If you already have a pet, you can see about getting it certified as an ESA. You simply need to get a letter from your doctor.
You can take an ESA in the flight cabin with you and you can have these pets even if your apartment doesn’t allow pets. But if you want to take things a step further, consider getting a therapy pet. These dogs provide unique therapy for their owners exactly when they need it. In the case of someone with severe anxiety, a therapy pet may know to go for help during a panic attack. They may also be trained to get medicine and provide affection whenever their owner gets anxious.
Modern medicine provides anti-anxiety and anti-depression medications that can help quell your symptoms. These medications also come with scary side effects (e.g. increased risk of suicide).
Consider for a moment that your anxiety may come from a nutritional deficiency. This isn’t always the case, but we shouldn’t rule it out before investigating.
If you’re feeling depressed or anxious, talk to your doctor about supplementing with the following:
- Vitamin D
- Fish oil
- B-complex vitamins
In addition to supplements, be sure you’re eating a well-balanced diet that includes lots of fruits and vegetables. It’s always best to get these vitamins and minerals from their natural source. Also, consider taking a probiotic. Studies have shown that gut health can have a major impact on your mood. So, if your gut flora isn’t well-balanced, it may be at the root of your symptoms.
Traditional therapy works very well for many people and it has numerous benefits, but it’s not a one-size-fits-all solution. It wasn’t the best fit for me, and I don’t think I’m alone.
Personally, I found that a combination of alternative therapies work best for me. If you’re interested, consider trying a few therapy substitutes to find out which combination is right for you.
About the author:
Tim Stoddart is the co-founder and current president of Sober Nation. Tim is a big believer in the power of thought, positive living, health, and kindness. A recovering addict and admitted adrenaline junky, Tim has found new and healthier ways to fill the void. He gives credit for his “spiritual awakening” to his loving family, meditation, and reading thought-provoking books.