Generalized Anxiety Disorder, also known as GAD, is a serious condition, which according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, effects about 6.8 million adults in the U.S. The condition is characterized by incessant and uncontrollable worrying about many things, including financial, work, and family issues. People with GAD always tend to expect the worst, even when there is no reason for concern. The condition is generally diagnosed when a person has been exhibiting these symptoms consistently for at least six months.
As is generally the case, mainstream medicine usually ignores the root causes of the problem and only treats its symptoms, usually either with antidepressants like Zoloft or Prozac, or with anti-anxiety meds like Xanax or Valium.
These treatments are habit-forming, have potentially serious side-effects, and aren’t that effective to begin with.
Researchers from Georgetown University Medical Center recently decided to search for an alternative solution. Their study, which was published in the January 24 edition of the journal Psychiatry Research, offers new hope to people with this debilitating condition.
The researchers divided 70 patients who all suffer from GAD into two groups: The first group underwent an eight-week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction course (MBSR), while the control group embarked on a stress management course that focused more on diet, sleep, and other factors.
Subjects all underwent the Trier Social Stress Test (TSST) both before and after embarking on their courses; a stress response was induced by making each of the participants give a speech before an audience.
Participants who had undergone the MBSR course exhibited a great reduction in two stress markers: adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) and pro-inflammatory cytokines.
Researchers were very optimistic about their findings, and stated in their study abstract:
“We found larger reductions in stress markers for patients with GAD in the MBSR class compared to control; this provides the first combined hormonal and immunological evidence that MBSR may enhance resilience to stress.”
At this point you’re probably wondering just what exactly mindfulness is.
The organization, Mindful, defines it as follows:
“Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.”
It is when we stop focusing on the here and now that our minds wander and we start to worry about things beyond our control.
A simple way to achieve a mindful state is to:
- Take your seat somewhere solid and stable;
- Make sure your legs and feet are comfortable, perhaps by crossing them;
- Gently straighten your upper body without stiffening;
- Make sure your upper arms are next to and parallel to your body, then let your hands drop where they naturally fall;
- Let your chin fall gently forward and lower your gaze (you can close your eyes if you want to, but you don’t have to).
- Stay in that position, gently concentrating on following your breath in and out for a few minutes.
While mindfulness has certainly proved its worth as a gentle, natural way to treat anxiety, there are several other things that patients with GAD can do to naturally ease their symptoms. These include:
- Cleaning up your diet, reducing caffeine, sugar and dairy, and eating more fruit, veggies, seeds, nuts, and healthy whole grains;
- Supplements can help, including GABA, Omega 3s, magnesium, and 5HTP;
- Try to aim for 30 minutes a day of exercise;
- Herbs like chamomile, kava kava, valerian root, and passionflower have been proven to be effective at calming people with anxiety;
- Try using aromatherapy oils like lavender, ylang-ylang, geranium, rose, bergamot, and jasmine.
Nature has provided us with everything we need to ease the symptoms of anxiety; it’s up to each of us to use what we’ve been given.