Natural Remedies for Anxiety: 10 Strategies to Find Calm

Table of Contents

Anxiety is a common issue facing many Americans. In the United States, anxiety disorders may affect more than 18% of adults every year.

Any number of factors can lead to feelings of anxiety, including genetics and biology, environment, and lifestyle.

Many natural treatments may reduce symptoms based on those factors. Let’s take a look!

What is anxiety?

Anxiety is the body’s natural response to situations that create stress. Typically, this manifests as feelings of worry or fear, often in response to harmful stimuli (like the feeling you get when you narrowly miss a car accident).

In general, anxiety happens when your body senses danger and produces higher cortisol levels (the primary stress hormone) to heighten your senses so you may respond to the threat.

While different people may experience anxiety differently, common physical symptoms include:

  • Elevated heart rate
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Restlessness
  • Rapid breathing

Anxiety becomes disordered when it ceases to be an acute response to specific situations and instead becomes pervasive and uncontrollable. 

If your anxiousness impedes your everyday life, you may have an anxiety or panic disorder. In these cases, it’s a good idea to talk to a mental health or functional medicine provider about treatment options.

Treating Anxiety: Medications, Home Remedies, Therapies, and Functional Testing 

Many people turn to prescription medications such as antidepressants, anti-anxiety medications, or sedatives to treat symptoms of severe anxiety. Unfortunately, many of these are highly addictive and are accompanied by a laundry list of potentially dangerous side effects.

Fortunately, many natural remedies may provide hope. Even adjustments to daily routines may offer effective treatment and reduce anxiety symptoms.

Habit changes related to sleep, exercise, and diet are among the many options available, as well as mindfulness routines, therapy, and various herbal-based remedies.

Can I heal my anxiety without medication? In many cases, you can improve anxiety symptoms without prescription medications. Techniques like therapy, supplements, and even changing your diet can help to naturally reduce anxiety.

Caution: It’s smart to get medical advice from your physician or another provider before starting a new routine, especially when it comes to major dietary or supplement changes.

1. Physical Activity 

Physical exercise is critical for the maintenance of good physical and mental health. Regular exercise has been shown to significantly reduce potential health issues that lead to mortality in men and women by up to 27%

Just a few hours of moderate- to high-intensity exercise each week can reduce the risk of symptoms of anxiety and depression. Moving more signals your body to produce more serotonin, a chemical your brain releases to regulate your mood.

2. Dietary Adjustments

Diet is another factor that significantly impacts health more than we often think. 

Something as simple as low blood sugar levels or mild dehydration might cause mood changes. Chemicals in many processed foods may also affect mood, and the inflammation caused by too much sugar has been linked to a wide variety of health conditions.

The same foods may affect different people in different ways. Pay attention to your eating habits and note how you feel after eating certain foods, even hours later. Take note of whether you’re getting enough fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins, as these can help support brain and mental health.

Consider adding more foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids and micronutrients like zinc and magnesium, which may help reduce anxiety.

3. Mindfulness

Meditation has been linked to many physical and mental health benefits. A consistent meditation practice can reduce stress and improve sleep, both elements that significantly impact the occurrence of anxiety. 

A study from Johns Hopkins suggests that 30 minutes of meditation each day may help with anxiety and depression. Researchers found that some people may experience as much benefit from daily meditation as from medications. 

As a part of mindfulness, consider doing daily breathing exercises. The benefits of deep breaths can be one of the fastest ways to calm your mind when you feel overwhelmed.

Meditation can be challenging to cultivate, so consider this guide to make meditation a daily routine in your life.

4. Sunshine

Did you know that your exposure to sunlight can impact your mental health? It’s true! While excessive time in the sun without sunscreen should be avoided, a moderate amount of sunlight actually promotes wellness.

Exposure to direct sunlight helps your body produce vitamin D, an essential micronutrient for a healthy mind and body. If your lifestyle keeps you out of the sun too much, your vitamin D levels may be low, increasing your risk for anxiety.

Vitamin D isn’t the only reason to spend some time outside. Some research has also found that spending just 10 minutes in nature can help reduce the effects of mental and physical stress and help you feel happier.

5. Herbal Teas

Certain herbal teas (many of which are available in supplement form) have shown promising results in reducing symptoms of anxiety. Valerian and chamomile, in particular, have been shown to help with stress, anxiousness and improve sleeping habits.

  • Chamomile: Chamomile tea may be an excellent herbal remedy for treating anxiety, as it helps to reduce stress and improve sleep quality, possibly by reducing brain activity. The existing research on safety, while not extensive, does suggest that chamomile is also safe for long-term use. Some people do experience side effects, so make sure to self-monitor your physical response if you are trying chamomile for the first time.
  • Valerian: Some studies have shown that valerian positively impacts stress and anxiety reduction. It may also have some sedative components and can often be found as an ingredient in natural sleep aids. Some people report side effects of drowsiness, dizziness, and headaches, so be aware of how you respond if you begin taking valerian.
  • Lemon Balm: This herb contributes to several health benefits including nervous system relaxation, antiviral support, and an aid for those experiencing anxiety. Take this herb before bed for a decrease in cortisol and overall relaxation.

6. Dietary Supplements

Several dietary supplements may offer relief for anxiety, including:

Research on supplements for anxiety is somewhat limited and often based on very small sample sizes. Talk to your doctor before trying any new dietary supplements to address your anxiety symptoms.

What is the best natural supplement for anxiety? Based on extensive research, omega-3s are the best natural supplement for anxiety. You can also get more omega-3s by eating fatty fish — just avoid the ones high in mercury (like tuna).

7. Aromatherapy

Essential oils have long been used for their aromatic properties. Recent science confirms that aromatherapy can improve sleep and lower anxiety and stress. With a relatively low cost for both oils and diffusers, this is a great option for reducing acute stress and anxiety.

Studies on the effects of bergamot and lavender oil, when used for aromatherapy, showed near-immediate improvements in stress indicators, such as blood pressure and heart rate. Participants also experienced improved heart rate variability, a signal of good sleep quality.

Lavender oil may cause a consistent short-term impact on heart rate variability and better parasympathetic regulation. Women who used lavender for aromatherapy in one 12-week study experienced better sleep. 

Bergamot also appears to have significant immediate effects on perceived anxiety as well as cortisol and alpha-amylase levels in saliva.

Other anti-anxiety essential oils for aromatherapy include orange, rose, neroli, coriander, sandalwood, clary sage, and ylang-ylang oil.

What relieves anxiety fast? Essential oils, especially lavender and bergamot oils, relieve anxiety fast by lowering blood pressure and heart rate. Breathing exercises also provide rapid anxiety relief.

8. CBD

In multiple studies, cannabidiol (CBD) improves sleep and reduces anxiety in most people, with few participants in studies showing signs of intolerance. 

CBD is a compound found in cannabis and hemp plants. Unlike marijuana from full cannabis, isolated CBD oil (also known as cannabidiol) doesn’t have psychoactive components and doesn’t produce a “high” like its THC counterpart. This makes it potentially safer to use daily.

9. Therapy 

If you aren’t sure what triggers your anxiety, therapy with a licensed professional may help. A trained therapist may help you work through trauma at the root of your anxiety and help you develop coping skills for navigating triggers and stressors in your life. 

Types of therapy that may help relieve anxiety include:

  • CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy): CBT is often effective for people who struggle with anxiety, at least in the short term. The focus of this treatment is to help patients understand the connections between their thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. Patients with anxiety who undergo CBT have low relapse rates of 0-14% up to a year after therapy ends.
  • Exposure therapy: Exposure therapy involves exposing the subject to the object of their fears to break cycles of dysfunctional anxiety responses. The practice of virtual reality exposure therapy seems to have significant benefits for many anxiety disorders, including social anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and agoraphobia.
  • EMDR (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing): In EMDR, bilateral stimulation (usually side-to-side eye movement) is used to help patients walk through traumatic experiences at the root of mental disorders. A 2020 meta-analysis of clinical trials suggests that EMDR may reduce symptoms of anxiety, panic, and abnormal behavior.
  • Art therapy: It has been studied very little, but there is limited evidence that certain types of art therapy may reduce nervousness and anxious feelings.

10. Habits to Break

Now that we’ve looked at what additions to your lifestyle may help with anxiety, let’s discuss the factors you may want to eliminate. This can be a tough job — many habits are socially ingrained and can be likely culprits to increased anxiety. 

However, if you experience daily anxiety and find yourself engaging in any of the following, we highly encourage you to seek resources to help you quit.

Smoking

Many people turn to cigarette smoking as a stress-relieving activity. But the data suggests that rather than reducing stress, long-term cigarette use may actually worsen anxiety. 

Research has linked smoking with the development of anxiety disorders. The earlier a person begins smoking, the more likely they will develop anxiety. 

Certain chemicals in cigarettes, such as nicotine, may impact neural pathways and neurotransmitters in the brain that are linked to anxiety. 

Excess Alcohol

Alcohol is another habit that is culturally associated with stress relief. This may be true in the short term, as alcohol has a sedative nature. But just as with cigarettes, studies show that drinking alcohol may be strongly linked to anxiety, as well as a number of other health risks

Many studies suggest a decrease in alcohol consumption can help reduce not only anxiety but depression, too. Alcohol can also disrupt your natural sleep habits, further contributing to anxiety symptoms. 

If you think that your alcohol consumption may negatively impact your life, consider one of these strategies for reducing or eliminating your drinking habit.

Excess Caffeine

Many Americans turn to caffeine daily for energy, but too much caffeine can worsen your anxiety. 

Caffeine has been shown to increase alertness by increasing brain activity, which can be a problem if you are predisposed to anxiety. Caffeine consumption can even result in panic attacks in those who are susceptible. 

Alcohol & Caffeine Alternative: A favorite alternative of ours is Feel Free, a plant-based tonic that provides improved mood, sustained energy, and decreased anxiety, without the many negatives of alcohol or caffeine. For 40% off your first order use code primehealth40. Subscribe to receive an additional discount and order as many boxes in your 1st order as you’d like to capitalize on this considerable discount and cancel your subscription at any time!

11. Testing

Several functional tests may help reveal a root cause to your anxiety you may not have known about before. These may include:

  • Cortisol assessment: Cortisol is a hormone released when you encounter environmental or emotional stress. Produced by the adrenal glands, this hormone puts you in a “fight or flight response.” Although protective in the short term, long term elevations in cortisol can lead to burn out, chronic fatigue, and symptoms of depression and anxiety. 
  • Nutritional deficiency test: Your nervous system needs a plethora of vitamins in minerals in the right balance to support normal function. B vitamins, magnesium, and choline all play a role in regulating your nervous system that contributes to emotional well being. 
  • Blood sugar levels: Kicking sugar and simple carbohydrates is tough. Over time, an addiction to sugar can lead to a syndrome known as “reactive hypoglycemia,” a sudden drop in blood sugar that can spike cortisol levels and lead to anxiety. Testing may include fasting glucose, HbA1c, Insulin, and a Glycomark. 
  • Comprehensive thyroid assessment: Known as the “master gland,” the thyroid controls metabolism. Chronic anxiety may be due to high or low thyroid levels that are often overlooked in anxiety. 

All of these tests can be completed as a PrimeHealth member to get to the root cause of your anxiety on an individualized plan that works for you!.

When to Seek Help

It is never a bad thing to seek professional advice when you are dealing with symptoms of anxiety, and we are always here to help.

For a holistic approach to addressing anxiety for patients in Colorado, set up a free consultation today.

Not in Colorado, but still want to learn more about how to improve your mental and all-body health? Follow us on Instagram for educational tips and information about upcoming group health coaching sessions (available to anyone in the US!).

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