Natural Coping Methods for Panic Attacks, OCD, and PTSD

October 19, 2019

Taking care of our mental health should be one of our top priorities. Unfortunately, common conditions like anxiety, OCD, PTSD, and panic attacks are too often left untreated due to the stigma attached with them. Since the symptoms often aren’t visible to others, the sufferer may not feel they are worthy of seeking treatment, or they fear judgement or being accused of being over dramatic. 

If treatment is sought, drugs are often prescribed which alter chemicals in the brain — sometimes in good ways, sometimes in bad ways as well, causing terrible side effects. That’s not to say that medication isn’t sometimes necessary. 

However, there are also other natural ways to help combat symptoms of anxiety, OCD, PTSD, and panic attacks that are safe and effective. Try one of these four ways to help calm your mind, ease your anxiety, and relieve your symptoms.

Do a HIIT Program to Boost Your Mental Health

We all know that exercise can improve our mood and increase endorphins, but High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) specifically can really create some major benefits and changes in both our bodies and brains. Research performed by UC Davis Health System showed that bouts of intense exercise can help prevent and treat depression. They also found that glutamate and gamma-aminobutyric acid, two common neurotransmitters responsible for chemical communication in the brain, were also increased.

Another study by the University of Texas found that performing HIIT can actually change your brain by boosting BDNF, a protein that is involved with cell repair, mood regulation, and cognitive function. When people have low BDNF levels, they often suffer from bipolar disorder, depression, and schizophrenia. Regularly incorporating HIIT into your routine can help your brain stay healthy and keep BDNF levels high.

HIIT is done by performing at 80-90% of your full effort for a set amount of time, followed by a rest period, and repeating this pattern for an allotted amount of time — usually between 10 to 30 minutes. For example: on a stationary bike, pedal as fast as possible for 30 seconds then rest for 30 seconds. Repeat for 15 minutes. You can perform HIIT with nearly every cardio exercise (running, swimming, cycling, aerobics, etc.).

Use 4-7-8 Breathing to Ease Your Anxiety

Try taking long, deep breaths to help calm yourself down if you’re feeling anxious, upset, or angry. Deep breathing has been shown to decrease fatigue, manage stress, and reduce hypertension, anxiety, and aggressive behavior. One study has shown that six weeks of practicing a controlled breathing movement can improve cognitive function and help decrease anxiety symptoms and panic attacks.

The 4-7-8 breathing technique requires a person to focus on long, deep breaths, in and out, for up to four cycles. To perform the technique, complete the following breathing pattern:

  • Completely empty your lungs of air
  • Breathe in quietly through your nose for 4 seconds
  • Hold the breath in your lungs for 7 seconds
  • Exhale forcefully through your mouth, making a “whooshing” sound through pursed lips, for 8 seconds
  • Repeat this cycle four times

If you find that you are unable to hold your breath for this long, you can shorten the pattern — 2 seconds inhale through the nose, 3.5 seconds holding the breath, 4 seconds exhale through the mouth.

Herbs and Plants to remedy PTSD symptoms

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), is a psychiatric condition that usually arises after an individual is involved in or witnesses a traumatic and/or life-threatening event. Symptoms often arise in the form of nightmares, flashbacks, insomnia, depression, and more. Natural, homeopathic remedies can help ease symptoms and have been proven to have a profound effect on many who suffer from PTSD. Here are the top natural products to look for:

  • Stramonium, otherwise known as jimsonweed, is a plant in the nightshade family. It is believed to be highly effective for nightmares and night terrors, especially in children. Stramonium is also helpful for anxiety disorders caused by violence, fear, or insomnia.
  • Gelsemium is a flowering plant that is useful for quelling fears that something bad will happen. The plant is also used as a painkiller and migraine treatment.
  • Chamomilla, more commonly known as chamomile, helps bring about a sense of calmness to those who have experienced trauma and tend to feel hypersensitive or hypervigilant.
  • Inositol is a vitamin-like substance found in many animals and plants, and it is also produced in the human body. Inositol supplements are purported to help balance chemicals in the brain to help manage mental conditions such as panic disorder, depression, and obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Progressive Muscle Relaxation for OCD

Progress Muscle Relaxation (PMR) can also be used in conjunction with the deep breathing described above. A very popular stress relief technique, PMR can be very helpful in identifying hidden tension throughout the body.

To practice PMR, lie or sit in a comfortable position in a quiet room and begin the breathing exercise above. As in your inhale, clench all of the muscles in your face. Hold this for 10 to 20 seconds and then release the tension while slowly exhaling. Repeat this a couple of times and then gradually move down your body — shoulders, arms, stomach, buttocks, legs, calves — repeating this pattern of inhalation/tensing and exhalation/relaxing. Use this to stretch and breathe OCD symptoms away.

The Bottom Line

Coupled with a healthy anti-inflammatory diet and other healthy lifestyle approaches, these natural techniques can go a long way toward better mental health.  

As a final note, please keep in mind that mental health struggles are nothing to be ashamed of. If you are experiencing symptoms that can’t be managed using natural methods, if you are having suicidal or harmful thoughts, or if you just need someone to talk to, seek out a therapist or support group.

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