Can you Relieve Anxiety Naturally?
Anxiety – it’s not the taboo topic it once was, but it’s still widely misunderstood and under-treated. It’s also incredibly common: Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 18% of the population.
Despite how common anxiety is, many find the treatment options lacking. Benzodiazepines (anti-anxiety medications) carry a risk of dependence and can be difficult to integrate into your life – many of them also have sedating effects, or can worsen depression. Professional counseling or therapy specific to anxiety are effective at treating the disorder, but are not widely available to many people for whom affording or accessing therapy is an issue.
But living with anxiety doesn’t have to be hopeless – there are a number of things you can do at-home to help relieve anxiety naturally and quickly.
Natural Methods for Relieving Anxiety
Overall lifestyle changes will always be the route to take for long-term mental health improvement. But while you work on long-term relief, there are a number of tools you can use to help relieve acute anxiety - and keep it down.
Switch out Coffee for Matcha Green Tea
You’ve almost definitely heard of green tea, but are you familiar with matcha? It comes from the same plant, but is processed in a different way - matcha is made from new leaf growth from green tea plants that are grown in shade. The different growing process leads to a much higher l-theanine content.
L-theanine is an amino acid found in other green and black teas, but it is much more concentrated in matcha powder. And this is good news for us, because it has powerful anti-anxiety effects on the brain.
A study done on Japanese university students showed that l-theanine reduced both self-reported levels and physical markers of anxiety and stress, and studies done on mice show that l-theanine significantly reduced physical evidence of stress and anxiety. https://www.superfoodscience.com/blogs/health-blog/matcha-tea-reduces-anxiety
While caffeine is known to aggravate and even cause anxiety, the lower dose of caffeine combined with the calming effects of l-theanine make matcha green tea both energizing and relaxing - at the same time. In fact, matcha decreases stress while enhancing focus as well as coffee, with half (or less!) of the caffeine content.
If green tea isn’t your thing (it’s kind of an acquired taste) or you want to nix caffeine completely, you can also find L-theanine supplements in many health food stores.
Try CBD (Cannabidiol) Oils or Extracts
CBD is new on the scene for natural anti-anxiety remedies, but it is quickly making a name for itself in this area.
Cannabis’ legalization across North America is making it now possible for researchers to fully study the effects this plant can have on the human brain. CBD is one of the chemical compounds found in hemp plants, and the research on its potential as a pain reliever, anti-inflammatory, and anxiety treatment is looking very promising.
Many studies are showing that CBD is showing huge potential for anxiety relief in many areas, including social anxiety disorder, post traumatic stress, and anxiety-related insomnia. Anecdotally, people who turn to CBD to manage their anxiety report significant relief, and many people take it every day to help manage their anxiety and stress.
If you’re interested in integrating CBD into your daily regime, check out our guide How to Make Your Own CBD Gummies.
When it comes to aromatherapy, lavender may be the most well-known contributor for its ability to calm the mind. Studies show multiple benefits of lavender for anxiety, sleep, and overall mood. Aromatherapy works by using scents to stimulate the limbic system - the part of the brain that regulates mood.
While traditionally, lavender stalks were dried and placed in sachets to be smelled, there are a lot more options for lavender-based aromatherapy today. Lavender essential oil may offer more therapeutic benefits than dried lavender, but be careful - as with any essential oils, they can make pets (and sometimes children) very sick, and lavender oil should not be ingested.
Lavender itself can be consumed, however, and teas made from lavender have been shown to have similar calming benefits from being ingested as from aromatherapy.
Breathing exercises to combat anxiety aren’t a new trick, but they’re incredibly effective. When your anxiety is high, your sympathetic nervous system is triggered - this is what knocks you into “fight or flight” mode and releases adrenaline, which spikes your anxiety even higher.
Consciously slowing and focusing on your breath sends the signal to your body that you’re not actually in danger, and this helps activate your parasympathetic nervous system instead - the one responsible for fight-or-flight’s more relaxed cousin, “rest and digest” mode.
One way to do this is called box breathing, or the 4x4x4x4 method. It involves consciously slowing down breathing by holding each action for a count of four - inhale, hold, exhale, and hold. Many people find it helps to visualize the four sides of a box while using this technique to encourage deeper focus.
Another method involves taking twice as much time to exhale as you do to inhale - releasing tension in your muscles and regulating oxygen levels in your body.
Lifestyle Changes for Long-Term Mental Health
If you’re experiencing chronic anxiety or depression, it’s worth taking a look into how your current lifestyle may be affecting your mental health. Common-sense solutions like sleep, diet, and exercise are frequently overlooked but changing these can lead to a snowball effect of positive effects, including both your physical and mental well-being.
Get regular exercise. Studies show that regular exercise stimulates production of serotonin and endorphins, which give you a feel-good blush at the time but continue to have positive effects on your body afterward. Regular exercise can also help combat chronic inflammation, which research has shown can contribute to worsening mental health.
Stay hydrated. You already know your body needs enough water to function well, but did you know that even being a little dehydrated can have big effects on your mood? Dehydration slows down your brain functions and can push your system into a survival mode, where your brain believes your basic needs are at risk of not being met. For best results, drink 8 glasses of water a day, although you may need more than that if you’re maintaining an active lifestyle.
A diet rich in nutrients can help. Did you know that certain vitamin and mineral deficiencies can cause anxiety and depression? Specifically, low levels of vitamin D, vitamin B12, and magnesium have all been linked to mental illness. Additionally, one study showed that consuming more Omega-3 fatty acids can help relieve symptoms of anxiety disorders. A diet rich in whole grains, fruits and vegetables, and fish can go a long way to supporting healthy brain - and body - function.
Sleep well. Anyone who’s had a late night and an early morning knows - missing even a little bit of sleep can have a big impact on your mood, and those effects are much more pronounced if you’re already struggling with anxiety. But if you’re consistently getting less than 8 hours of sleep, this can trigger or significantly worsen anxiety symptoms. Trying some of the remedies above to help with anxiety before bed can promote restful sleep: in turn, consistent nights of good rest can help you manage your anxiety.
There is Hope for Managing Anxiety
If you’re struggling with anxiety, know that you’re not alone: At any given time, up to 18% of the population also experience these symptoms, and there are safe, natural ways to help relieve anxiety.
As always, these methods are intended to enhance and accompany, not replace, medical attention and treatment. If your symptoms are unmanageable on your own, there is no shame in seeking medical help - anxiety management and mental health are, after all, part of your overall health.