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A Holistic Approach to Managing Anxiety

Get to the bottom of anxiety by treating body and mind.

Key points

  • Many treatments exist to manage anxiety, such as cognitive and behavioral techniques, but holistic approaches can also be helpful.
  • Reducing inflammation, exercising, and eating a healthy diet, for example, can help reduce stress and optimize mental health.
  • With practice, finding, feeling, and releasing emotions instead of "managing" them or holding them in can also be a healing experience.
Photo by Ella Olsson from Pexels
Source: Photo by Ella Olsson from Pexels

Anxiety is an uncomfortable experience, to say the least. The experience of anxiety is fragmenting and leaves no peace while it is visiting. And if anxiety is a chronic experience for you, it can sap the energy in your life. Many treatments for anxiety have come along: cognitive and behavioral techniques, relaxation, mindfulness. These are great options. Today, I want to tell you about a larger picture — the holistic landscape of anxiety, and how I treat this condition in my practice.

Ride the Wave of Emotions

Emotional flow is something I've written about in previous posts. It is important to find, feel, and release your emotions. They do not need to be "managed," held in, and you don't need to "think positive" to the point of not feeling them. They need to be expressed. Riding the waves of your emotions, with practice, can be a reliable healing experience. The goal here is to make space for the physical sensations and related thoughts that make up your anxiety to pass through. Check out some of my previous posts on how to rides these waves of emotion.

Reduce Inflammation

Current research shows that inflammation not only impacts the body locally. Inflammation can have consequences for how our brains function, and how our bodies make and use our important mood-modulating neurotransmitters. To reduce inflammation, consider exercising, eating a low-inflammatory diet, and talking to your doctor about making sure you have normal levels of important nutrients such as vitamin D, B vitamins, and magnesium.

Eat for Mental Health

As we just discussed, diet can impact inflammation in the body and brain. Not only this, our diet is, of course, the way we determine our nutritional status — whether we are giving our bodies the tools it needs to help us make neurotransmitters, give us energy, and handle stress, or leave us feeling sluggish, mentally foggy, and stressed. This is an opportunity to work with your doctor or a nutritionist to determine how you can feed your body in a way that optimizes mental health. With anxiety, the goal is to focus on nutrients that help us manage stress and help us make GABA (which is the calming neurotransmitters in our brains), such as the B vitamins and magnesium.

Photo by Ella Olsson from Pexels
Healthy Diet
Source: Photo by Ella Olsson from Pexels


Current research on exercise clearly shows that regular moderate exercise has a significant impact on mood regulation and stress reduction. Not only does it reduce muscle tension that can contribute to feelings of stress, it also changes our brain chemistry — altering levels of GABA, serotonin, BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor), and endocannabinoids (neurochemicals that help control pain, inflammation, and mood).


This one practice is my favorite go-to for emotion regulation and stress reduction. It actually strengthens the pathways in the brain that allow for a more positive mood and gives you a robust tool for witnessing difficult thoughts and emotions — a foundational tool for the practice I mentioned above in practicing emotional flow.

Sometimes our biology can get in the way of our psychology. So, visiting each of these elements on your journey to manage anxiety can have a significant impact. Find practitioners that can help you put these pieces together, and know that you are attending to both your body and mind to ease your anxiety and find peace within.


Brellenthin AG, Crombie KM, Hillard CJ, Koltyn KF. Endocannabinoid and Mood Responses to Exercise in Adults with Varying Activity Levels. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2017 Aug;49(8):1688-1696. doi: 10.1249/MSS.0000000000001276. PMID: 28319590.

Kiecolt-Glaser JK, Derry HM, Fagundes CP. Inflammation: Depression fans the flames and feasts on the heat. The American Journal of Psychiatry. November 1, 2015; 172(11): 1075-1091. Available at:

Su K, Tseng P, Lin P, et al. Association of Use of Omega-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids With Changes in Severity of Anxiety Symptoms: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. JAMA Netw Open.Published online September 14, 20181(5):e182327. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2018.2327



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