We all encounter moments in life where our emotions and thoughts may become overwhelming. Our mind can begin to swirl with ruminating thoughts and we can feel the emotions running rampant throughout our body.
For some of us, these tumultuous states seem to appear more often than not (shoutout to my fellow anxiety-prone friends) and often, we are at a loss for how to stop these energies from taking over our day.
Maybe a personal project isn’t going as planned or work is becoming increasingly stress-inducing. Perhaps interactions with loved ones at home are triggering unhealed wounds or we feel isolated in our struggles.
At these times, it can be challenging to know how to best handle these turbulent states in order to accept and subsequently overcome these mental hurdles.
It is no surprise that in our disconnected, chaotic society, the therapy industry is alive and well. For many, speaking to a therapist on a regular basis can prove beneficial for mental wellness. I had an amazing therapist that I worked with during a weekly appointment until I felt that the therapy was no longer as effective for me.
This doesn’t mean I have forgone therapy altogether; I simply decided to take matters into my own hands at this point!
For those who have tried traditional therapies such as cognitive behavioral therapy, psychotherapy, or dialectical behavioral therapy with little or no progress, here are 7 alternative therapies for those who better process experience and emotions through a more creative avenue.
1. Art Therapy
Pick up a pen, crayons, some paint, and go to town! Need to scribble wildly? Do it! Want to haphazardly fling a bunch of paint at a canvas? Go for it! (Just be mindful of any clean up process as paint can be tricky to get rid of once dried.)
One form of art therapy I find interesting is the use of color. In this kind of art creation, I like to select colors that appeal to my mood at the moment. They don’t necessarily have to fit a scene or color palette, they just need to speak to me in the moment. After finishing the session, I take a few moments to reflect and write down how I feel the colors correlate to certain emotions and where those emotions stemmed from in the situation.
For example, if I used a lot of blues in the art, I examine what about my current situation is making triggering sadness or inhibiting me from speaking my truth. If I used darker colors, I reflect on where I may be feeling withdrawn or discouraged.
Another way I used to incorporate art therapy was in finding a replacement coping mechanism to self harm. Rather than punishing myself by cutting, I would draw a small animal, flower, or alien on the area I wanted to self harm and envision that creature coming to life until the overwhelming urge had passed. In this way, I perceived that I was creating beauty rather than causing myself harm.
The point here is to encourage self expression through art of some kind – whether that be through drawing, playing with watercolors, making a collage from magazine cut-outs, or doing some cool sidewalk chalk doodling – it’s up to you!
It’s important to remember that the way each individual chooses to express themselves will be vastly different. Expression is a subjective thing! Follow your intuition as to how your emotions may be flowing through you during this experience and why you are feeling them.
2. Music Therapy
Put on your favorite tunes and sing, yell, dance, bang on some pots and pans if you need to! If you are musically inclined, pick up your instrument and go to town with it!
In many African and Native cultures, the use of music is strongly tied to spirituality and music is often central to community bonding events. The idea is that is central to these cultural staples is music can stimulate mind and heart. It can even affect learning and neuroplasticity and change how you engage your emotions and memory.
Music with a strong, fast-paced beat can stimulate the release of feel-good neurotransmitters into the body that cause the heart rate to increase. Calming music can help to lower blood pressure when in a state of agitation.
This was one of my favorite therapies when I was in inpatient and outpatient programs. I absolutely loved the drum circles because it was a community like event in which people could participate as they felt comfortable. The feeling of not being alone and joining creative energies through drumming with others was remarkably healing and therapeutic.
Some may suggest listening to “happy” music in order to change your current state. I agree that music is a powerful mood influencer and can be used in this way when the desire of the practice is indeed to alter the emotional-mental state.
However, if the desire is to understand and process the emotion at hand, defaulting to a “positive vibes only” mindset can be a harmful philosophy to adopt because in refusing to acknowledge undesirable emotions, we enstrange ourselves from them.
In essence, we walk further away from truly understanding why we create these energetic states within ourselves. In failing to understand and address the root cause of these states, we cannot effectively create lasting change and growth.
So listen to whatever you feel strongly drawn to at the moment! If you feel like listening to thrasher metal or heartbreak ballads, do it! Be cognitive of your reasoning behind the music you choose. This can be key to understanding how we contribute to emotional patterns.
3. Exercise Therapy
Throw on some sweats and hit the road, grab your yoga mat and head to a studio, sign up for a free kickboxing demo class near you!
Feeling restless? Some cardio heavy activity such as running, rowing, cycling, or swimming can release some of the built up energy stores to help you find your relaxation zone at the end of the day.
Feeling angry? Martial arts may be the perfect way to channel and discipline some of that potent anger energy productively. Feeling scattered? Try a grounding practice such as yoga or tai chi to get more in touch with your inner peace.
Physical activity works really well to release pent up emotions, particularly anxious energy. Engaging in exercise helps us to become more present in our bodies rather than being trapped in a state of powerlessness from limiting thought patterns.
Emotion is energy in motion and anxiety tends to build when we are inactive. Anxiety is a funny thing. Often it prevents us from doing the very thing that would in fact ease our anxiety – taking action!
Obviously there are specific circumstances that can trigger anxiety and panic attacks that may not be effectively addressed by exercise therapy. However, for the built up anxiety and stress that tends to occur within me after working all day, exercise is the perfect way to unload some of this so I can better unwind during my downtime in order to be a better me the next day!
4. Meditation Therapy
Find a quiet spot in nature or in your own space and set some time aside for no-interruptions, me-only meditation!
Notice the thoughts that are running through your mind as you focus on your breath. Are the thoughts self-defeating? Worrisome? Self loathing?
Try and challenge the negative thoughts that arise by asking questions like, is this true? Am I truly a failure or am I living a life of constant comparison? Is this useful? Does trying to live up to the expectations of others help me or hurt me? What is this emotion trying to tell me?
The key here is to tune in to your inner voice and connect with your higher guidance and intuition. We want to sort out the noise our minds make in order to process the emotions we are feeling. Introspection and reflection is a powerful tool to become your best self!
Give yourself time to sit with, fully experience, and accept your feelings. There will likely not be magical results overnight. The fruits of this practice are earned over consistent time invested, much like talk therapy also does not resolve issues in a single session.
For those who are interested in making meditation a part of their daily practice, check out my post 5 Meditation Tips For Beginners.
5. Role Play Therapy
Grab a friend or two and slip on your perspective glasses to give role play therapy a whirl!
Sometimes it can be impractical to solve all of our issues alone, single-handedly. Especially when the nature of the issue involves more than one person. Role play therapy can be rather eye-opening when dissecting the nature of our interactions with other people in our lives.
Let’s say you’re having relationship challenges with a significant other. Have a trusted friend or loved one role play the perspective of you while you play the perspective of your significant other. Act out a recent disagreement or conflict in that relationship and really try to step into the shoes of your partner.
Try to approach the exercise from a place of understanding and love for your partner. Having a neutral friend play the role of you can be revolutionary in identifying where you are contributing to the problem.
Many times, we are so caught up in a conflict that we forget that it takes two to tango! We fail to acknowledge that both parties are responsible in favor of the “I win, you lose” mentality.
Role Play Therapy exercises can also be incredibly effective for sorting out internal cognitive dissonance as well.
If, for example, one of my primary issues was procrastination, I would ask my partner or a trusted friend to play the part of myself that consciously wants to procrastinate while I take on the role of the part that hates my procrastinating behavior. I would converse with the fragment of myself (played by the friend) in order to better understand that part’s perceived contribution to my life.
I may find that the fragment of myself that cannot tolerate the behavior is actually a parent’s voice that was instilled in early childhood. I might ask myself, is it necessary to be so harsh towards myself as long as I get the work done? I may discover that the procrastinator’s perception involves the delay of perceived pain of being productive – for instance, being productive only to find that my work is not good enough.
I may challenge those thoughts with further questions in order to get to the root of the problem, such as “who do you perceive your work is not good enough for?”
Rather than judging others and ourselves by trying to “win” or “be right” in external and internal conflicts, this form of therapy can help us come to a place of mutual understanding. We can then begin to address the issues within ourselves or in our environment.
6. Nature Therapy
Toss on some shoes (or not!) and head out into the great outdoors!
Nature therapy is excellent for practicing mindfulness and becoming present in the current moment.
It has been shown that regular contact with nature reduces anxiety, anger, and fear while increasing feelings of wellbeing and contentment. Being immersed in nature can actually decrease the production of stress hormones such as cortisol as well as promote healthy blood pressure and heart function.
One way to incorporate nature therapy is through earthing or grounding – the practice of making direct contact with the Earth’s surface.
This means getting rid of those pesky shoes and socks for a few minutes and really feeling the Earth beneath our feet! In this way, we allow the flow of Earth energy into us while releasing (grounding) some of our less fun energy into the Earth.
Earth and everything in it, including humans, are conductors of free electrons. When we connect our bare skin to the Earth, we take in free electrons from the Earth which are critical antioxidants and can help stabilize the body’s biological rhythms, neutralize damaging free radicals in our bodies, and eliminate chronic inflammation and pain.
Earthing can be done by lying on a soft patch of grass and running our fingers through the blades. Walking along a beach barefoot. To incorporate some animal therapy, bring along your best furry, scaled, or feathered friend! (If conditions permit, of course.)
The human species has grown increasingly disconnected from our Earth and all our Mother does for us. It is this lack of connection to our planet, the world, and subsequently ourselves that allows for the issues we are currently having in our society – greed, corruption, intolerance.
A person who sees the Earth and others as extensions of themselves is far more likely to treat others with the love, respect, and acceptance that they themselves desire.
This connection to the planet and other creatures that inhabit it are vital to our health and sense of belonging.
7. Youtube Therapy
Curl up with a blanket and a comforting beverage and fire up YouTube on your mobile device or computer!
This one might seem a bit odd to some. However, I think most of us can agree that some days, all we want to do is lounge around and recharge in our own solitude.
There was a period of time not so long ago where even just getting through the day seemed borderline impossible for me. I’d often spent days on end in my bed, leaving only for occasional food and shower time. The mere thought of creating, exercising, or even eating properly would have sent me into a crippling bout of panic attacks.
I lament about the woes of technology quite often, but the fact remains that technology is simply a tool – it all depends on how we use it. In the case of a person who is severely mentally ill, it may not be reasonable to expect them to throw on some hiking boots and trek out into nature to resolve their issues with the infinite divine.
When trying to help ourselves or a loved one to cope, it is important to remember to hold back unreasonable expectations and allow time to heal before encouraging growth. If the desire to heal is present, we can address this need with whatever energy level we have at our disposal at the moment.
Lotus Aware Share’s Favorite Youtube Channels For Healing & Growth
Some of my favorite YouTubers for spiritual awareness and personal development are Teal Swan, Infinite Waters, Jay Shetty, and Spoon Of Consciousness.
I first started watching Sachin at Spoon Of Consciousness during the midst of my most crippling depression. Sachin really made traumas and healing relatable with his no nonsense, zero bullshit approach.
If you’re looking for a powerful, inspirational mood booster with heaps of positive energy, I suggest checking out Ralph Smart at Infinite Waters. Ralph gives out bite-sized doses of truth doused with loads his own charismatic energy.
If what you’re looking for is more in depth and directed at healing for growth, check out spiritual catalyst Teal Swan’s channel. She brings deep understanding to many psychological, relationship, and spiritual issues with her delightful and potent flare of the divine feminine. Be ready to get into the nitty gritty with Teal!
For an eye-opening creative approach to important issues of our society and culture today, check out Jay Shetty’s channel! He brings wisdom, empathy, and understanding to interpersonal and societal concerns we all need to take a look at.
I also listened to motivational speakers and entrepreneurs Tony Robbins and Gary Vaynerchuk on various YouTube channels quite often. These are great if you’re interested in changing your mindset and adapting an empowerment perspective!
These are just a few of my favorites! The wonderful thing about the internet is that it can be used however you see fit. Tailor your searches to subjects you’re interesting in covering (or uncovering).
So What About Traditional Therapy?
This is not to discourage anyone from a traditional therapy route, as that can be highly beneficial for many individuals.
These alternatives are simply things we can do on an individual level to further contribute to our self discovery and growth, with or without the help of a therapist. These methods can even expedite the process when used in conjunction with seeing a therapist regularly who is right for you personally.
There is nothing shameful or embarrassing to admit when we need help from others! In fact, it is important and necessary to seek help should we need it. Remember, what works for one person may work differently for another!
The way in which you learn, heal, and grow is valid.
Have you tried traditional or alternative therapies? Share your story in the comments section below!