Mental Health

24 Holistic Strategies for Improving Anxiety

February 13, 2022

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I'm Kimberly - a women's health functional nurse practitioner.  I am here to help you achieve vibrant health!

Meet Kimberly

Anxiety is one of the most common conditions I treat in women. I have seen a very definite increase in anxiety since the onset of the Coronavirus pandemic. Anxiety can take a variety of forms. It can express itself in a subtle sense and generalized fashion, or it can be more targeted and towards specific triggers or situations. At its best is can be irritating, and at its worst, it can be unpredictable, crippling and even paralyzing.

Anxiety can invade the mind, the spirit, and the body. It can disguise itself in forms that appear like unquestionable physical conditions, or it can co-occur with other mental health conditions such as depression and ADHD. It often goes undiagnosed. Anxiety can be destructive. It can trap a person into isolation. Anxiety can paralyze a person in social situations. It can prevent one from participating in even the most basic daily activities at times. Anxiety can destruct relationships. It can rob a person of vitality.

What is Anxiety?

Generalized Anxiety Disorder is defined by the DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition) criteria as at least 6 months of excessive worry about everyday issues that is disproportionate to any inherent risk, causing distress or impairment. To be classified as anxiety, the worry may not be confined to features of another mental health disorder or as a result of substance misuse or a general physical health condition.

Symptoms of Anxiety

Anxiety is diagnosed based on symptoms. Symptoms include excessive anxiety or worry about ordinary, day-to-day situations Anxiety can be associated with sleep disturbances, restlessness, fatigue, irritability, poor concentration. Additionally, anxiety can cause physical symptoms such as headaches, muscle tension, sweating, dizziness, gastrointestinal symptoms, muscle aches, trembling, and an exaggerated startle response. Anxiety can cause heart racing, shortness of breath, and sometimes chest pain. At least three of the following symptoms must be present most of the time: restlessness or nervousness, being easily fatigued, poor concentration, irritability, muscle tension, or sleep disturbance. Anxiety type symptoms can also occur due to other medical conditions or imbalances including thyroid dysfunction, electrolyte imbalance, hormone imbalance, other mental health conditions such as OCD, bipolar disorder, ADHD, schizophrenia, PTSD. Certain substances such as excessive caffeine can cause symptoms as well as some medications.

Treatment for Anxiety

Anxiety is often treated in primary care or psychiatry clinics with the use of prescription medication such as SSRIs, SNRIs, anxiolytics, and others. Although prescription medication can be very effective, research has also shown the benefits of behavioral health therapy such as cognitive behavioral therapy for treating anxiety. Both prescription medication and behavioral therapy can be very effective, and a combination of both even more so. Holistic therapies or approaches are often times forgotten in discussions about managing anxiety. However, there are many strategies that can complement traditional management of anxiety.

Holistic Therapies for Anxiety

Holistic therapies and strategies can be helpful in managing anxiety. While there is quality research to back up many of these therapies, much of the research is observational or preliminary in nature. More research is needed to reinforce the scientific evidence behind these strategies. Having said that, the ideas below are generally considered to be not harmful, and most of the time result in positive outcomes. Below are some of the holistic approaches I frequently recommend.


Journaling can improve anxiety. Writing can be helpful to identify triggers for anxiety. Utilizing journal prompts to write about anxiety is another strategy that can be helpful. You can find 50 journaling prompts for anxiety HERE. Journaling can be a means to express gratitude. Daily gratitude journaling can actually cause the brain to produce new and healthy pathways and reduce anxiety. It can shift your mindset in profound ways. Writing 3 things you are grateful for each evening or morning for 21 days can be surprisingly effective.


I generally recommend a whole food and anti-inflammatory diet for mood support. I suggest avoiding any dietary substances that can aggravate anxiety such as highly processed carbohydrates, caffeine or other stimulants, alcohol, or foods that cause sensitivity reactions. An Elimination Diet can be a therapeutic measure for eliminating common food triggers that can cause or aggravate anxiety (read about it on my blog HERE). A colorful and balanced diet will allow the body to absorb the many nutrients that the brain and nervous system require in order to function at optimal level. I believe that food truly is medicine, and with intention, can go far to relieve anxiety. You can read about how I used a functional medicine nutritional test to help treat my depression HERE.

Food is Medicine!

Healing the Gut

There is a huge connection between the gut and the brain. Most of our neurotransmitters are made in the gut. In order for this to occur, the gut must be healthy. What I mean by that is the gut bacterial flora needs to be balanced, the lining of the gut needs to be intact, and digestion needs to be functioning at an optimal level in order to take in the nutrients we feed our body through food. A leaky gut wall or lining, or a bacterial imbalance will cause symptoms of inflammation in the body and can contribute to mood disturbances such as anxiety.

Lacking certain vitamins, minerals, nutrients because of an unhealthy gut can contribute to anxiety and other mood disorders. I recommend healing the gut lining and balancing the microbiome for anyone who has anxiety. A therapeutic diet, identification and elimination of food triggers, probiotics/prebiotics, and other supplements can promote healing of the gut lining. As a result, a healthy gut lining will allow for proper nutritional absorption. You can find my recommendations for treating gut health and get a 10% discount on probiotics/prebiotics and other gut healing supplements HERE.


A number of herbal and botanical remedies exist for relieving anxiety. Some are valerian, ashwagandha, chamomile, lavender, 5HTP, SAMe, St. John’s Wort, lemon balm, and Rhodiola. Herbs and botanicals can be used as teas, supplements, and tinctures. Additionally, vitamin supplements such as a vitamin B complex or vitamin D are helpful for mood support. Taken once daily, a vitamin B complex can work wonders for both depression and anxiety as well as energy level. Omega supplements support healthy moods through reducing inflammation. Omegas also provide healthy fats that the brain needs.

If you would like my personalized recommendations for supplements to support healthy moods and improve anxiety as well as a 10% discount on very high quality supplements, go to THIS LINK and set up an account. You will find my recommendations there, and there is no obligation to purchase.

Aroma Therapy

Lavender aroma can reduce symptoms of anxiety in both situational and generalized anxiety disorders. The essential oil of lavender is often used in a diffuser. Lavender also comes in the form of a balm for topical use. This botanical can be quite calming, especially if placed by the bedside at night as this may also help with sleep.

Lavender aroma or supplements can help relieve anxiety.

Salt Baths

Epsom salt baths are one way to absorb magnesium into the body. Magnesium supplements or topicals are also an effective method and both act as a muscle relaxant and can relieve anxiety. Magnesium is an important co-factor for many body processes that have influence on the hormonal and neurological systems which influence our moods. Unfortunately, given poor soil conditions, most of us do not absorb the proper amount of magnesium from food sources. Therefore, salt baths are one way to help ensure adequate magnesium intake.

Breath Work

Breathing methods can be quite helpful in treating anxiety. Strategic breathing can act to calm the nervous system and help the body achieve a parasympathetic response which will produce relaxation and reduce anxiety. Breathing exercises, used on a daily basis or when anxiety symptoms occur are very effective. Breathing devices can encourage paced breathing. I use a device called the Shift, by Komosu. Amazingly, it can calm the breath during anxiety spells or attacks. And furthermore, it is a beautiful piece of jewelry as well. Find our more about this device, and get your own HERE. Many APPS can be used to teach and encourage healthy breathing to calm the nervous system. I use one called Breathe which I can access on my Apple Watch and reminds me when to stop and take some deep breaths.

This is my SHIFT… I love it! Get yours by visiting KOMOSU

Mindfulness and Meditation

Meditation has been shown to help the body produce a parasympathetic nervous system response that calms and eventually can help reduce and prevent anxiety. There are many forms of meditation, and meditation can be very simple. Furthermore, practicing meditation for just a few minutes each day can foster amazing results. “Relaxation Response” is one type of guided meditation to calm anxiety. It works to progressively relax each part of the body and is a wonderful way to calm the mind and the body. Meditation apps, such as “CALM”, can be very useful to assist with practicing meditation. Go to to find more information. I highly recommend this program. You can follow them on Instagram HERE.

Meditation practiced daily can have profound effects on anxiety.

Weighted Blankets

Research suggests the evenly distributed pressure of a weighted blanket can help with anxiety and insomnia. I, personally, find them very comforting. In my experience, it almost feels as if you are lying inside a gentle hug. You can find more information about weighted blankets HERE.

A weighted blanket feels like a warm hug!

Music Therapy

Anxiety can improve with music therapy. Listening to enjoyable music daily can be a form of meditation. Certain types of music carry a vibrational frequency that calms anxiety. As an example, research suggests that monaural beat stimulation can reduce anxiety states as suggested in this article.


Physical activity reduces anxiety. Daily exercise or movement/activity is most beneficial. Mind body exercises are particularly helpful for relieving anxiety and preventing symptoms. Practices such as yoga, tai chi, Pilates are all mind body exercises that can assist the body to operate from a parasympathetic state and promote a reduction of anxiety. Actually, any activity you enjoy… kayaking, dancing, hiking, strolling on the beach… can shift your mind to a restful state and calm anxiety.


An affirmation describes a specific type of positive statement usually directed toward yourself with the intent of promoting change and self-love while eliminating worry and fear. Some examples are:
1. “I choose to help myself by thinking positive and calming thoughts”. 2. “I am doing the best I can with what I have in this moment”. 3. “I am safe. There is no imminent danger. I am watchful but calm.” 4. “All I have to figure out is the next step”. You can find daily affirmations for anxiety on Instagram HERE

CBT and TelePsychiatry

There are a variety of forms of talk therapy that can be truly amazing strategies for addressing anxiety. “Cognitive Behavioral Therapy” is one form of directed therapy that can help heal anxiety. CBT can be done individually or in groups. To find out more, you can read about CBT HERE. Many therapists are well versed in CBT and other therapies to support healing from anxiety.

Virtual therapy sessions have become a popular option during the COVID pandemic and for some, it is a more convenient and accessible option. As an example, Cerebral is a telehealth mental health program. It can be accessed from anywhere in the world. Telepsychiatry is often a more convenient way for people with anxiety to receive counseling support. Check it out at I am a contracted provider with Cerebral in the state of Washington and would love to see you there. We offer a team approach and utilize a combination of counseling, therapy, and medication to support depression, anxiety, ADHD, insomnia and bipolar disorder.

NOOM also has a behavioral health program that you can use through an app. Their weight loss program is highly effective and is psychologically based, and now they also offer support for stress and anxiety through their Healthy Mind program. You can find out more HERE.


Sleep and anxiety have an interesting relationship. Anxiety can cause sleep problems such as trouble falling asleep due to worry or trouble staying asleep. And conversely, insomnia or sleep deprivation can cause symptoms of depression and aggravate anxiety as well. It is always a priority to address sleep issues and put a plan into place if this is a contributing factor to anxiety. The sleep foundation has a helpful article about the connection between sleep and anxiety. If you like, you can read about it HERE.

Sleep is critical for mental wellness!

Animal Therapy

Animal therapy can reduce anxiety. Having an emotional support animal is a strategy that is helpful for many people. Animals can provide companionship, a calming presence, a living being to love and care for, and all of these help shift the mind and body to a more restful state that allows a sense of calm. I often write letters for my clients to give to their landlords or employers so as to help support their use of companion animals as a part of a care plan to address anxiety.

Nature Bathing

Time spent in nature is an antianxiety strategy that is free! Nature can be calming in it’s visual beauty, sounds, tactile experience, and can also through the experience of a “nature bath”. Time in nature can produce astounding results in calming and reducing anxiety. Following is an article about the benefits of using nature as an alternative and complimentary therapy for the treatment of anxiety. You can read it HERE.


Knitting can reduce symptoms of anxiety. In doing so, it can produce feelings of calm and happiness. I use knitting as a form of meditation. Following are two nice articles about knitting and anxiety. You can read them HERE and HERE. Bonus: If you work with me, I will teach you how to knit!

yarn and knitting needles
Knitting can relax the mind and calm anxiety.

Spiritual Connection & Prayer

Spiritual connection can reduce stress and anxiety for many people. Spirituality is an important aspect of mental health. Spirituality involves belief that there is a connection with something we understand as all powerful or a greater power than ourselves… something more than being human… a greater good. This belief can foster a sense of connection and purpose and meaning in ones life and provide for support during stressful times. Spirituality is an accepted concept in psychiatry and research has shown that spirituality is beneficial in both lowering risk of mental illness and also helping to cope with the stress of mental illness. Read more about this HERE.

Energy Healing

Energy healing is a fabulous way to address anxiety. It works to balance the biofield or energy body and calm the nervous system producing a calm and relaxed state. Being a trained Reiki Master, I have seen the amazing results that Reiki can provide for those who suffer from anxiety. To find out more about Reiki, you can read my blog post titled “Reiki Meditation for Women“. In this article I describe what Reiki is, how it works, and what the Reiki experience is like. Following is another nice article about Reiki and anxiety. Read it HERE.

Technological Devices

Many technological devices on the market help to promote relaxation and reduce anxiety. Relaxation encourages our nervous system to operate from a parasympathetic state. This state of being calms the mind and emotions and relieves stress. Sensate is one such product. It uses sensate resonance therapy to achieve lower stress and relaxation. The Heart Math Institute utilizes technology to foster understanding the heart-brain connection. Understanding this connection, helps to develop coherence that can change perspective and result in improvement in depression, anxiety and other health conditions.


Research supports the theory that acupuncture can be helpful for those who suffer from anxiety. Therefore, I often recommend this type of therapy to my patients. Furthermore, many health insurance plans cover acupuncture services. Read more about acupuncture and anxiety HERE.


Muscle tension is a frequent symptom of anxiety and massage can do wonders for relieving this and thus helping to improve anxiety through relaxation. Here is An article from Psychology Today which discusses this further. I often recommend massage therapy, and this is frequently covered by health insurance plans.


Biofeedback can reduce anxiety. In my practice, I commonly use measurements of patient’s heart rate variability as a form of biofeedback. This helps patients learn what the state of their nervous system is both before, during and after behavioral methods used to address anxiety. For example, if I teach breathing exercises to a patient, I can then show them how their body is responding as a result of doing those exercises. Therefore, the patient learns how the body feels and responds to the breathing exercises, and this helps reinforce the healing response. Biofeedback has many uses in medicine, and treatment of anxiety is among those as mentioned in this article that explains the therapy in more detail.

Emotional Connection

Connecting with our emotions is a critical skill in addressing the problem of anxiety. Anxiety is a form of emotional resistance as this article describes. Therefore, by learning how to connect with our emotions, a form of exposure therapy, can be profoundly helpful to reduce anxiety.

An Integrative Approach

Anxiety is so prevalent today. Despite this, many providers overlook holistic treatment options or complementary strategies in our traditional western medicine model. In this blog post, I have presented some of the missing pieces for you to consider. I hope this information has been helpful. An integrative approach, utilizing both traditional and holistic strategies and treatments, is truly the best way to go when treating anxiety. I hope that you get the chance to put some of these techniques and strategies into action! Let me know how you do!

Have a fabulous day!


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