I was talking to someone a little while ago about the number of people taking SSRIs (what we’ll generically call ‘Prozac’), when they said: “You know, when you told me that half the people in your town were taking Prozac, I really thought you were exaggerating. But yesterday I was talking to one of my neighbours, and they started telling me about what’s going on with the people in my neighbourhood, and half of my village is also on them! The woman I was talking to was a pharmacist, and she told me that as fast as she’s stocking them, people are cleaning them out. It’s an epidemic.”

Since the latest war in Israel, anxiety has become a major problem for a lot of people. It’s easy to understand why: anyone with eyes in their head can see that the threat to Israeli security posed by Gaza and Hamas was only temporarily curtailed. Sooner or later, the rockets will be back, and they may well be joined by other rockets from Hezbolla in Lebanon, and who knows what else from ISIS, currently camped out on the Jordanian, Syrian and Egyptian borders.

And the economy? Pleeze, let’s not talk about the economy. Until now, Israel has escaped most of the ‘down’ experienced by the rest of the world, but the cracks are starting to show. I live in Jerusalem, and businesses are starting to close (including my own, in the Old City). Money is starting to be pretty tight. Banks are starting to pull in their credit in quite an aggressive way.

All of this puts a lot of stress on most people’s nervous systems. As a result, they are more on edge, more likely to fight with their spouses, more likely to have kids acting up and acting out, and finding it harder to unwind, relax and even to sleep.

It’s a vicious spiral down, and many people are struggling to cope, and hoping that drugs like Prozac are the magic panacea that’s going to solve all their problems.

One day soon, I’m going to write a few detailed posts (with citations) showing why SSRIs are dangerous drugs, that usually cause far more problems than they solve. But today, I want to focus on natural alternatives for reducing anxiety, because if more people knew there were other things out there that really worked to reduce their anxiety, they’d probably be less inclined to start trying to drug their problems away.

The first thing you can do if you’re feeling incredibly anxious is to gently hold the neurovascular points on the front of your forehead (the bony bits just above your eyebrows) for a couple of minutes. It’s a very simple technique, but it brings blood back into your forebrain and away from the limbic system, and helps to eliminate the physical ‘stress response’ that causes anxiety.

Just actively bring to mind the thing you’re worrying about, gently hold the front neurovascular points for up to five minutes, and you’ll see that it’s somehow ‘de-compressed’ the problem.

You can still think about the issue or worry, but without the pounding heart, nausea, dry mouth and sense of panic. You can go through all your worries one by one, and defuse them with this technique.

The next thing you can do is use aromatherapy. Put a few drops (up to 6) of sweet marjoram or chamomile (or another ‘sedating’ essential oil) in the bath, soak for 20 minutes and you’ll feel physiologically much calmer and able to deal.

The next thing is to turn off the news. Go ‘news-free’ for a week, and I guarantee you’ll notice a marked difference in your equanimity and peace of mind.

The last thing is to start talking to G-d about what’s bothering you. Drop the mask, and come clean, because the more we try to shove our issues and anxieties under the carpet, the larger they start to loom in our subconscious.

Today, we are all full of worries, fears and anxieties, whether we want to admit that or not. Running away from our problems is not an answer – the anxiety we continue to feel at an unconscious level will simply seep out into myriad health issues, ‘stress’, insomnia and anger.

We need to face our anxieties head-on; we need to be honest about what’s worrying us; we need to put G-d in the picture – and then we need to hold our neurovasculars in the bath for five minutes.

And if we do all those things, we’ll start to feel calmer, happier, and less anxious, and we won’t need the Prozac any more.

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