7 natural remedies to reduce anxiety
by Harry • 8 minutes read
Last updated: 14 Jun, 2022
In today's busy and stressful world, a little anxiety feels almost guaranteed. Now in small doses, anxiety isn't all bad - it can keep you alert, make you more aware of danger and help calculate risk. But if it becomes a regular occurrence, day-to-day life can become very difficult, so we need to be prepared to act before it snowballs.
What is anxiety?
Anxiety is our body's natural response to stress. When we are anxious, we often have feelings of apprehension or nervousness for what's to come. The feelings usually stem from our fears and worries, especially when we're heading into a new or unknown situation. For example: if you're heading to a job interview, starting your first day of school or meeting your partner's friends.
Common symptoms of anxiety include:
increased heart rate
rapid or irregular breathing
agitation and restlessness
Anxiety may be very common, but we all experience it differently - some may simply have butterflies, others could have panic attacks or nightmares.
Though feeling stressed every once in a while is normal, it is important to note that mild and rare anxiety is very distinct from anxiety disorders, which also come in various forms:
post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
generalised anxiety disorder (GAD)
social anxiety disorder
How can I treat anxiety?
Perhaps the most common form of anxiety treatment is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). This aims to help us deal with things that cause stress in our lives, reducing their effect on our mental health.
There are also a range of medications that can be prescribed to those with regular anxiety. but you should always consult a medical professional when seeking medical treatment advice. Otherwise, if you are looking for natural alternatives that can alleviate anxiety, then look no further and try out some of our suggestions below...
Exercise is famously good for your mental health. It may be great for your physical fitness but it is always a reliable de-stresser. Exercise gives us an opportunity to distract our minds from the things that may be causing anxiety.
Getting active triggers your body to release endorphins - natural feel-good hormones that will lift your mood. In fact, a 2013 study showed that people with anxiety disorders were less likely to develop anxiety symptoms when they reported a high level of physical activity.
The benefits of sport and physical activity can't be understated. So, if you find yourself stressed out and anxious, try heading to a gym or joining a sports team - spend some time running around and you might find it clears your head and gives you some much-deserved peace.
2. Prioritise sleep
A good night's sleep is key to our mental health. I'm sure we all notice a difference in how we feel when we get barely any shut-eye.
The Centres for Disease Control Prevention (CDC) recommends at least 7 hours sleep for the average adult, but here are some tips to maintaining a good sleeping pattern:
avoid napping - only sleep at night when you're tired
try to avoid tv and phone screens in bed
steer clear of caffeine, sugar, large meals and nicotine close to bedtime
try black-out blinds or eye masks
go to sleep at the same time each night and waking up at the same time each morning
3. Try meditation
Another way to calm your mind is with meditation. When done correctly, you'll find yourself at peace, with much of the stress and anxiety lifted off your shoulders.
One goal of meditation is to notice and accept all of our thoughts without judgement. This helps lead to a sense of calm and contentment as we try to acknowledge how we feel, without letting our emotions take control of us.
Research shows that half an hour of meditation every day, can help alleviate anxiety:
There are many other forms of meditation, such as mantra meditation, transcendental meditation, visualisation meditation and many more, but mindfulness meditation tends to be the most popular. This consists of closing your eyes, breathing deeply and paying close attention to your thoughts as you let them pass through your mind. The aim is only to notice your thoughts and avoid getting involved with them or allowing them to cause you stress or concern.
4. Maintain a balanced diet
Different foods can have different effects on our mood. It's best to maintain a healthy, varied diet to ensure your mental state is equally as balanced.
The physical effects of a poor diet can have knock-on effects on our minds - low blood sugar levels, dehydration, or chemicals in processed foods, can greatly affect the mood of some people.
Even a lack of food as a whole, will have a distinct effect on our mood - I'm sure you've encountered the classic 'hangry' person from time to time.
If you want to know more specifics on how food affects our mood - check out our in depth article here.
5. Try aromatherapy
Aromatherapy is widely believed to have an effect on our mind and body. The practice uses natural plant extracts and essential oils to improve overall well being. There are various methods you can try, but most people either inhale the oils directly or use them in a bath or diffuser.
Aromatherapy is thought to encourage physical and mental relaxation, boost your mood, help you sleep and reduce your heart rate. Some specific oils, believed to reduce anxiety are:
6. Limit caffeine consumption
For some people, caffeine can be a catalyst for anxiety and nervousness, especially if you suffer from an anxiety disorder. Research has shown caffeine can worsen or even cause these disorders, so if you're an avid coffee drinker and often find yourself suffering from anxiety and/or panic attacks - try reducing or eliminating caffeine intake in your diet.
Caffeine is known to alter our brain chemistry over time. A 2008 study found that caffeine can increase alertness but does so by blocking the chemical adenosine in our brains. This in turn makes us feel more tired, while also triggering the release of adrenalin.
With that being said, a moderate caffeine intake should typically be fine for most people, but if you’re looking to cut back on cups of coffee, you should slowly reduce the amount you drink instead of stopping all at once.
If you fancy a naturally caffeine-free drink as a substitute, you can try chamomile tea - famous for it's relaxing effect.
7. Avoid cigarettes and alcohol
Although, a cigarette tends to be a quick fix for anxiety and stress, it can have lasting effects on our mood. Research has found that the earlier you start smoking, the more likely you are to develop anxiety later in life.
If you are a regular smoker, you may want to check out some tips on quitting - take a look at the CDC's advice for quitting smoking.
The same can be said for alcohol - it may take the edge off in the moment, but it can also have long term effects. Research suggests there could be a link between alcohol dependence and anxiety, noting that anxiety disorders and alcohol use disorder (AUD) often occur together.
A 2017 review of 63 separate studies, looking at the effects of alcohol consumption on reducing symptoms of anxiety, found that decreasing alcohol intake can improve both anxiety and depression.
- Effects of Exercise and Physical Activity on Anxiety - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3632802/
- Johns Hopkins - Meditation for Anxiety and Depression? - https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/news/media/releases/meditation_for_anxiety_and_depression
- How cigarette smoking may increase the risk of anxiety symptoms and anxiety disorders - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3683289/
- CDC Advice For Quitting Smoking - https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/campaign/tips/quit-smoking/quit-smoking-medications/tips-for-quitting/index.html
- Anxiety and Alcohol Use Disorders - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3860396/
- Harm reduction-a systematic review on effects of alcohol reduction on physical and mental symptoms - https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27353220/
- Cambridge University Press - Neuropsychiatric effects of caffeine - https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/advances-in-psychiatric-treatment/article/neuropsychiatric-effects-of-caffeine/7C884B2106D772F02DA114C1B75D4EBF
- An update on the mechanisms of the psychostimulant effects of caffeine - https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18088379/
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