The world is anxious ‒ there’s no denying it. Anxiety is a feeling that comes and goes and shouldn’t interfere with your everyday life. Everyone experiences stress and anxiety at some point. In the case of an anxiety disorder, however, the feelings of fear and the intense worrying may be constant, intense, and even debilitating. One in 10 people worldwide suffer from anxiety, with 40 million affected in the U.S. alone. Of those 40 million, approximately two-thirds are women, and 8% are under the age of 18.
Those who struggle with anxiety are looking for treatment, support, and understanding ‒ and many are looking for ways to reduce their anxiety naturally, sans medication. Working with a mental health professional, like a therapist, or a wellness professional, like a Health Coach, can give you holistic tools for dealing with your anxiety.
What Is Anxiety?
Anxiety is how your body reacts to internal and external stress, and it can present with both physical and psychological symptoms. The feeling of anxiety is a disruption in the emotional processing center in our brains. The limbic system – made up of the hippocampus, amygdala, hypothalamus and thalamus – is responsible for how we process emotions.
Anxiety is a normal, biological mechanism that keeps your body on high alert in case of danger. Our “fight or flight” response is initiated by the nervous system, and it tells us we’re in danger. The release of stress hormones tells your body to preserve as much energy as possible, getting you ready to either defend yourself or run away.
Unfortunately, our brains can’t always tell the difference between real danger and modern-day stressors. This can result in symptoms of anxiety for seemingly no reason: sweaty palms, a rapid heart rate, tense muscles, hyperventilation, trouble concentrating, and digestive problems. Anxiety can be caused by chemical imbalances in the brain, a family history of anxiety, and things like:
- Stress at school or work
- Financial worries
- Relationship troubles
- Stress from world events, like a pandemic
- Childhood trauma
- Complications from an illness or a medical diagnosis
Health Coaches and Anxiety
While Health Coaches are not mental health professionals, they can offer holistic support to people suffering from anxiety. This is especially true if the root cause of the anxious feelings is related to the coaches’ niche or area of expertise. Health Coaches utilize holistic healing practices to support clients in resolving their anxious feelings as well as getting to the bottom of why they feel anxious in the first place (the root cause).
Healing is a process
Coaches often work with their clients over a period of months or years – and healing can take even longer than that. Anxiety isn’t something that develops overnight, so you shouldn’t expect that it can be treated quickly, either.
The best thing you can be for clients experiencing anxiety is compassionate. Not only are they dealing with the physical and emotional symptoms of anxiety, but it also has become disruptive enough in their everyday lives that they’re seeking help. Clients don’t need to be talked down to ‒ and in fact, Health Coaches find that their sessions are most effective when they let the client lead the conversation. Treat clients like you want to be treated; be kind, understanding, and patient.
How Health Coaches Can Reduce Anxiety
Health Coaches provide support, advice, and a safe space to talk when it comes to dealing with anxiety. They can suggest techniques, tools, and strategies specific to your goals and lifestyle that may help you ease anxiety. Coaches can also act as a sounding board in times of stress and offer personalized solutions to manage those day-to-day problems.
Provide physical and emotional support
As a Health Coach, clients come to you for all kinds of support. They may be looking to change jobs, begin their health journey, or get life advice. Coaches work with clients of all kinds, and every client has different needs ‒ this is IIN’s concept of bio-individuality. When dealing with anxiety, it’s important to provide both physical and emotional support.
Creating a safe, confidential space for clients to express their feelings and concerns goes a long way toward assuring them they are physically supported. Reassuring clients that there’s nothing inherently wrong with them, and that most people suffer from anxiety at least once in a while, shows them they’re not alone. If you’re comfortable doing so, even sharing your own struggles with anxiety and stress can help normalize and rationalize the feelings they’re experiencing, and this can be particularly useful for establishing the coach-client relationship with trust and empathy.
Empower clients to develop healthy habits
A healthy body can lead to a healthy mind. Living a healthy lifestyle has been shown to reduce feelings of anxiety and stress. There aren’t any diet changes that will cure anxiety, but eating balanced meals, staying hydrated, getting exercise, and avoiding caffeine and alcohol can help.
Meals rich in complex carbohydrates increase the amount of serotonin in your brain, which produces a calming effect. Dehydration can exacerbate symptoms of anxiety, leading to light-headedness and a racing heart rate, so drinking plenty of water or unsweetened beverages during the day can mitigate these effects.
Focus on foods and spices that are known to help anxiety, like turmeric, leafy greens, and even dark chocolate. Some herbs are known to promote feelings of calm and reduce anxiety, too.
Teach coping tools
Coping skills for anxiety will look different depending on the client, how severe their anxiety is, and where it stems from. But that’s not to say that clients won’t benefit from more generalized coping skills, like grounding exercises, meditation, breathing exercises, and yoga. Meditation can also be combined with yoga for a double dose of mindfulness.
Essential oils like chamomile and lavender have also been shown to aid in dealing with feelings of anxiety and stress. Using an essential oil diffuser during your coaching sessions and during meditation soothes the senses and calms the mind even more.
The Bottom Line
Everyone experiences anxiety, but being overwhelmed by these feelings is reason to seek help. Health Coaches can provide a holistic approach to managing anxiety, but they aren’t a replacement for a mental health professional. If your anxiety is debilitating or interrupting your day-to-day life, seek help from a psychologist or psychiatrist.
What Health Coaches can do is provide information on lifestyle changes that can help mitigate, minimize, and even prevent anxiety in the first place. If you’re looking for a holistic treatment for stress and anxiety, check out our free Stress 101 Guide, which includes even more information about stress and anxiety, the impact on health, and how to deal with the effects on diet and lifestyle.