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5 Ways to Cure Anxiety and Depression Naturally

5 Ways to Cure Anxiety and Depression Naturally

Anxiety affects 18 percent of Americans. If you’re female, you’re 60 percent more likely to develop an anxiety disorder.

Even though younger adults are more stressed because they’re under pressure from performing well at school or getting used to their careers, the age bracket with the most clinical anxiety is between 30 to 44 years old. Anti-anxiety pharmaceuticals can carry harmful side effects, but natural anti-anxiety remedies can be effective while also being holistically healthy for you.

Mainstream Medications and Their Problems

Your doctor may diagnose you with an anxiety disorder if you experience any of the following symptoms for longer than a month:

  • Feeling restless all the time
  • Tiring easily
  • Having trouble concentrating or focusing
  • Becoming easily irritated
  • Muscle tension
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Episodes of suddenly becoming extremely afraid without any immediate reason
  • Feeling stressed around others so much so that you avoid places you know many people will be

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, the common medications for anxiety disorders are benzodiazepines, like Clonazepam, Lorazepam, and Alprazolam, which have all been approved by the FDA.

Alprazolam, which you may know as Xanax, binds to receptors in your brain that affect your sleep, muscle relaxation, and safeguards against muscle convulsions.

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Despite Alprazolam’s effectiveness, it also poses significant risks. Some common side effects are clumsiness, depression, lethargy, difficulty concentrating, and muscle coordination loss. The uncommon and worse side effects include coughing, eye paralysis, memory problems, painful urination, and seizures! If you take the drug long-term, you could also experience a lowered sex drive, erectile dysfunction (in men), constipation, and weight loss. In fact, last year researchers linked long-term use of Alprazolam with the development of dementia!

It doesn’t stop there – taking Alprazolam while you’re pregnant can harm your baby because the drug can cross the placenta and permanently weaken your baby’s developing muscles. When your baby is born, Alprazolam also gets into your breast milk and is ingested by your newborn during breastfeeding, which can harm your newborn’s developing respiratory system.

5 Healthy Natural Alternatives

If you want to avoid the potentially devastating side effects of common anti-anxiety drugs, you can try these natural remedies. Always remember to do further research and check with your doctor before taking any medications.

1. Garcinia Cambogia

You’ve probably heard the famous Dr. Oz flaunt how garcinia cambogia can burn your fat. Researchers have also found it may help ease anxiety. Its hydroxycitric acid (HCA) content has been found to boost your serotonin levels. Since low serotonin levels can cause anxiety, taking garcinia cambogia may help treat your anxiety.

It’s best to eat the natural fruit rather than take HCA supplements. Garcinia cambogia supplements can cause serotonin toxicity, which can lead to rapid beating of the heart and high blood pressure because the amount of HCA is more concentrated than that of the actual fruit.

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The well-documented side effects of taking garcinia cambogia supplements are mild headaches, dizziness, and diarrhea. But these are associated with the supplements and not the actual fruit. If you stick to the natural fruit, there may be little to no risk of any side effects.

Almost all fruits are loaded with antioxidants, and garcinia cambogia is no exception. Its xanthones, benzophenones, and flavonoids have antioxidant properties, including lowering your overall inflammation. Abnormally low antioxidants levels have been found to cause dementia, so regularly eating antioxidant-rich foods may help protect your brain. Garcinia cambogia’s antioxidants have also been found to protect you from cancer.

2. Dogbane

Dogbane (formally named Apocynum cannabinum) is a plant used in traditional Chinese medicine and traditional Native American remedies. It’s actually a poison that acts on the heart, but it’s mostly fatal to grazing livestock. For people, the plant was actually used as a heart stimulant.

It’s used to alleviate fevers, rheumatism, asthma, and many other ailments. Researchers also found it has mild dementia-preventing properties. It also has anti-anxiety properties because it produces a small amount of morphine and is a mild opioid.

Don’t take dogbane regularly unless directed by your doctor or a certified alternative health practitioner. Its toxic properties can harm you if taken without professional guidance.

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3. Probiotic-rich Foods

Scientists have discovered that probiotics are beneficial for more than just your tummy. Doctors have found that probiotics can also help alleviate anxiety. In a survey of college psychology students, it was found that students prone to high anxiety who ate more probiotic-rich foods experienced fewer social anxiety symptoms.

Remember that probiotics’ well-known health benefit is alleviating gastrointestinal symptoms, like upset stomachs and diarrhea? Psychology professor Matthew Hillmire, Ph.D., says that since anxiety is often accompanied by gastrointestinal symptoms (like butterflies in your tummy before giving a big speech), probiotics help directly alleviate some of anxiety’s physical symptoms.

He also says that probiotics have been found to help your body respond to stress better, which also helps ease anxiety. How well your body responds to stress affects how susceptible you are to anxiety and other mental disorders.

You can take probiotic supplements or eat probiotic-rich foods, like yogurt and buttermilk.

4. Tryptophan-rich Foods

Just like garcinia cambogia’s HCA, tryptophan raises your body’s serotonin levels, which is one way it protects you from anxiety. Studies also show that directly ingesting tryptophan lowered participants’ bad behaviors and boosted their moods. They also found that tryptophan is an “effective antidepressant.”

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Where can you get your tryptophan? You might automatically think turkey, but plenty of common foods contain twice the amount or more tryptophan than turkey. A serving of light or dark-meat turkey has between 250 to 270 milligrams of tryptophan, but a serving of spinach or eggs has between 600 to 700 milligrams.

5. Exercise

Would you rather take a potentially dementia-causing pill or go for a nice, relaxing walk? Researchers have found that exercise has antidepressant and anxiety-relieving effects. They also found that exercise boosts your brain’s serotonin levels and boosts your tryptophan levels long after you’ve finished your workout.

In fact, the U.K.’s National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence published a physician’s depression treatment guide that recommends telling patients with mild clinical depression to exercise rather than prescribe antidepressants.

Does it work? Here’s a convincing case study:

Sixty-four social anxiety college patients stared at a dotted outline of a person. The researchers said that people suffering from social anxiety would think the outline is facing them and perceive it as a threat. After walking or jogging on a treadmill for 10 minutes, the participants perceived the outline as staring at them less and their anxiety levels dropped down to the same levels as that of an average person. In fact, they felt far less threatened by their environment in general!

If you’re suffering from anxiety or depression, conventional anti-anxiety medications are costly and can have serious side effects, like dementia, if taken long term. Some of these natural remedies cost less than a dollar a day and not only help treat anxiety and depression, but some help prevent dementia and cancer too! Plus, they’re good for your overall health. If you give them a try and they don’t work for you, simply go back to your previous medications!

Featured photo credit: HASTYWORDS via pixabay.com

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Published on July 29, 2020

How to Build Strategic Thinking Skills for Effective Leadership

How to Build Strategic Thinking Skills for Effective Leadership

Have you been thinking of how you can be a more strategic leader during these uncertain times? Has the pandemic thrown a wrench at all your carefully laid out plans and initiatives?

You’re not alone. The truth is, we all want some stability in our careers and teams during this disruptive pandemic.

However, this now requires a bit more effort than before and making the leap from merely surviving to thriving means buckling down to some serious strategic thinking and maintaining a determined mindset.

Is There a Way to Thrive Despite These Disruptions?

Essentially – yes, although you need to be willing to put in the work. Every leader wants to develop strategic thinking skills so that they can enhance overall team performance and boost their company’s success, but what exactly does it mean to be strategic in the context of the times we live in?

If you happen to be in a leadership position in your organization right now, you are most probably navigating precarious waters given the disruptions caused by the pandemic. There’s a lot more pressure than before because your actions and decisions will have a much greater impact these days not just on you, but also to the people who are part of your team.

Companies often bring me in to coach executives on strategic thinking and planning. And while pre-pandemic I would usually start by highlighting the advantages of strategic thinking, nowadays, I always begin these Zoom coaching sessions by driving home the point that this pandemic has now made strategic thinking not just an option but an absolute must.

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Assessing and making plans through the lens of a good strategy might require significant work at first. Nevertheless, you can take comfort in the fact that the rewards will far outweigh the effort, as you’ll soon see after following the 8 strategic steps I have outlined below.

8 Steps to Strategic Thinking

As events unfold during these strange times, you’re bound to feel wrong-footed every now and then. Being a leader during this pandemic means preparing for more change not just for you, but for your whole team as well.

As states and cities go through a cycle of lockdowns and reopening, employees will experience the full gamut of human emotions in dizzying speed, and you will often be called on to provide insight and stability to your team and workplace.

Strategic thinking is all about anticipation and preparation. Rather than expending your energy merely helping your company put out fires and survive, you can put the time to better use by charting out a solid plan that can protect and help you and your company thrive.

Take the following steps to build solid initiatives and roll out successful projects:

Step 1: Step Back, Then Set the Scope

One of the things that leaders get wrong during their first attempt at strategic thinking is expecting that it is just another item on a checklist. The truth is, you need to take a good, long look at the bigger picture before anything else. This means decisively prioritizing and stepping away from tasks that can be delegated to others. Free up your schedule so you can focus on this crucial task at hand.

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Then, proceed with setting the scope and the strategic goals of the project or initiative you plan to build or execute. Ask yourself the bigger question of why you need to embark on a particular project and when would be the right time to do so.

You need to set a timeline as well, anywhere from 6 months to 5 years. Keep in mind that your projections will deteriorate the further out you go as you make longer-term plans.

For this reason, add extra resources, flexibility, and resilience if you have a longer timeline. You should also be making the goals less specific if you’re charting it out for the longer term.

Step 2: Make a List of Experts

Make and keep a list of credible people who can contribute solid insight and feedback to your initiative. This could range from key stakeholders to industry experts, mentors, and even colleagues who previously planned and rolled out similar projects.

Reach out to the people on this list regularly while you work through the steps to bring diverse insight into your planning process. This way, you will be able to approach any problem from every angle.

Bringing key stakeholders into this initial process will also display your willingness to listen and empathize with their issues. In return, this will build trust and potentially pave the way for smoother buy-in down the line.

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Step 3: Anticipate the Future

After identifying your goals and gathering feedback, it’s time to consider what the future would look like if everything goes as you intuitively anticipate. Then, lay out the kind and amount of resources (money, time, social capital) that might be needed to keep this anticipated future running.

Step 4: Brainstorm on Potential Internal and External Problems

Next, think of how the future would look if you encountered unexpected problems internal and external to the business activity that seriously jeopardize your expected vision of the future. Write out what kind of potential problems you might encounter, including low-probability ones.

Assess the likelihood that you will run into each problem. To gauge, multiply the likelihood by the number of resources needed to address the problem. Try to convert the resources into money if possible so that you can have a single unit of measurement.

Then, think of what steps you can take to address these internal and external problems before they even happen. Write out how much you expect these steps might cost. Lastly, add up all the extra resources that may be needed because of the different possible problems and all the steps you committed to taking to address them in advance.

Step 5: Identify Potential Opportunities, Internal and External

Imagine how your expected plan would look if unexpected opportunities came up. Most of these will be external but consider internal ones as well. Then, gauge the likelihood of each scenario and the number of resources you would need to take advantage of each opportunity. Convert the resources into money if possible.

Then, think of what steps you can take in advance to take advantage of unexpected opportunities and write out how much you expect these steps might cost. Finally, add up all the extra resources that may be needed because of the different unexpected opportunities and all the steps you committed to taking to address them in advance.

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Step 6: Check for Cognitive Biases

Check for potential cognitive biases that are relevant to you personally or to the organization as a whole, and adjust the resources and plans to address such errors.[1] Make sure to at least check for loss aversion, status quo bias, confirmation bias, attentional bias, overconfidence, optimism bias, pessimism bias, and halo and horns effects.

Step 7: Account for Unknown Unknowns (Black Swans)

To have a more effective strategy, account for black swans as well. These are unknown unknowns -unpredictable events that have potentially severe consequences.

To account for these black swans, add 40 percent to the resources you anticipate. Also, consider ways to make your plans more flexible and secure than you intuitively feel is needed.

Step 8: Communicate and Take the Next Steps

Communicate the plan to your stakeholders, and give them a heads up about the additional resources needed. Then, take the next steps to address the unanticipated problems and take advantage of the opportunities you identified by improving your plans, as well as allocating and reserving resources.

Finally, take note that there will be cases when you’ll need to go back and forth these steps to make improvements, (a fix here, an improvement there) so be comfortable with revisiting your strategy and reaching out to your list of experts.

Conclusion

A great way to deal with feelings of uncertainty during this pandemic is to anticipate obstacles with a good plan – and a sure road to that is practicing strategic thinking.

In the coming months and years, you’ll need to continue navigating uncharted territory so that you can lead your team to safe waters. Regularly doing these 8 steps to strategic thinking will ensure that you can prepare for and adapt  to the coming changes with increasing clarity, perspective, and efficiency.[2]

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Featured photo credit: JESHOOTS.COM via unsplash.com

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