For anyone who has experienced anxiety, the feelings that come with it—fear, restlessness, panic—can consume our thoughts and be debilitating. It can also feel incredibly frustrating when these thoughts take over and we lose a sense of control.
Whether you struggle with anxiety from time to time or persistently, a condition known as Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), there are ways to reduce feelings of anxiousness in the moment and over time.
Here, we’ll explore nine natural remedies for anxiety that are worth trying.
But first, let’s take a look at what exactly is anxiety.
What is anxiety?
Anxiety is a feeling of worry, intense fear, or nervousness, usually about an upcoming event or an uncertain outcome.
Many people experience anxiety, for instance, when a loved one is sick or before a job interview or big presentation. This type of anxiety is normal and goes away after the event passes or there’s no longer cause for concern.
However, for some people, feelings of anxiety persist beyond situations that would warrant worry, so much so, that it affects their daily life. In this case, anxiety is a disorder.
Although there are many types, Generalized Anxiety Disorder is one type that affects 3.1% of the U.S. population. It is defined as “persistent and excessive worry about a number of different things” according to the Anxiety & Depression Association of America,
Is anxiety a mood disorder?
Anxiety is not considered a mood disorder, although anxiety and depression (a mood disorder) often occur together. While anxiety is not a mood disorder, it can still affect one’s mood. Worry can cause someone to feel tense, irritable, wound up, and lead them to avoid certain situations, all of which can impact mood negatively.
How do you know if you have anxiety?
You can identify normal anxiety pretty easily. Perhaps your heart is beating fast, you’re breathless, you can’t sleep or you can’t focus on anything but the object of your worry.
If you have been experiencing symptoms of anxiety daily, or on and off for longer than six months, your doctor can help diagnose your anxiety. They may order an anxiety disorder test or test for other underlying conditions.
With this better understanding, your doctor can then recommend the best next course of action.
What does anxiety feel like?
Anxiety may feel different depending on the individual. However, it is typically characterized with a feeling of worry, fear, or uneasiness. While some anxiety can be completely normal, too much can be debilitating. Severe or crippling anxiety can cause feelings of panic and the inability to focus on anything else.
Physical symptoms of anxiety
Aniety can also cause a variety of physical symptoms. The most common physical symptoms of anxiety include trembling, sweating, trouble sleeping, stomach aches, and headaches. Generally, these will be indicators that prompt individuals to seek out medical attention.
How to reduce anxiety naturally
While anxiety can manifest in physical symptoms, and even be crippling, it doesn’t have to. These natural remedies for anxiety can help support anxiety management. As always, you should consult with a trusted healthcare provider before making changes to your lifestyle or starting/stopping any medication regimen.
1. Get regular exercise
We know that regular exercise is good for our overall health, but a recent study found that exercising three times a week can improve symptoms of anxiety. Once you find a workout you enjoy, it’s important to stick to it; those who did a combination of cardio and strength training for at least 45-60 minutes, three times or more per week, for at least three months showed the greatest reduction in symptoms.
2. Spend time outdoors
Kick your treatment plan up a notch by taking that workout outside. Spending time in nature can improve mood and cognition and lower stress, all of which can reduce symptoms of anxiety. Go on a hike through the forest or play with your dog at a nearby park.
3. Alter your diet
Maintaining balanced blood sugar levels can help reduce feelings of anxiety. This is because low blood sugar, which can result from skipping meals or a spike followed by a crash, can leave you feeling jittery, which can worsen anxiety. To avoid this, eat regular, balanced meals throughout the day.
In terms of specific foods, incorporate omega-3-rich foods such as salmon, and foods high in vitamin B, such as avocado and almonds, into your diet. Oysters, cashews, liver, beef, and egg yolks are rich in zinc, which has been also linked to lowered anxiety. Additionally, avoid simple carbohydrates like processed or sugary foods that lead to spikes in blood sugar levels. Avoiding caffeine and alcohol can also help limit the onset of anxiety.
Can caffeine cause anxiety?
Caffeine doesn’t directly cause anxiety but it can be a trigger. If you love coffee, consider switching to decaf to avoid worsening symptoms.
Can alcohol cause anxiety?
Like coffee, alcohol can aggravate anxiety and trigger panic attacks. On an empty stomach, drinking alcohol can also cause blood sugar to spike. Finally, alcohol might interact poorly with certain anxiety medications. For these reasons, it’s smart to avoid alcohol when dealing with anxiety.
4. Consider Supplements
Supplements can also help support an anti-anxiety diet. Talk to your doctor to see if any of the following supplements may be right for you.
Magnesium for anxiety
According to multiple studies, magnesium may help alleviate anxiety and stress. Magnesium is available in foods such as leafy greens, nuts, and seeds, but many Americans don’t get enough magnesium in their diets. Thankfully, this crucial nutrient is also widely available in supplement form.
Chamomile for anxiety
Chamomile is known to help people sleep, but it can also help reduce anxiety symptoms. In patients with GAD, chamomile supplements, in particular, have been shown to significantly decrease symptoms over time.
Vitamin B for anxiety
We mentioned that foods rich in vitamin B can help reduce anxiety, but if they aren’t a regular part of your diet, taking a vitamin B supplement may help.
5. Take a few deep breaths
Deep breathing signals to our body that it is time to relax. While it may seem too simple to be true, pausing to take a few deep breaths can reduce anxiety in the moment. Diverting our attention to our breath can also help as it limits how much we can focus on the object of our anxiety. Try breathing in and out slowly for a minute or two, counting to four or five with each inhale and exhale.
6. Try meditation
Meditation is another great way to pause and redirect our attention away from the source of our anxiety. There is no shortage of meditation apps or practices available on Youtube or even Spotify. In just 5 to 10 minutes, you can become calmer and reframe your mindset around whatever is worrying you.
7. Seek out an anxiety therapist
Therapy can have a slew of benefits on our mental health. Simply talking to a therapist can help minimize the problem at hand, but an anxiety therapist can also provide coping skills for anxiety, such as breathing exercises, affirmations, and stress-reducing activities. Finding a therapist is also easier today than ever before thanks to telehealth and companies like Betterhelp.com.
8. Avoid anxiety triggers
You may not struggle with anxiety on a day-to-day basis, but then—seemingly out of nowhere—it sets in. There’s likely a reason. Is it something someone said? Is it work or school, or a certain social setting? By identifying your anxiety triggers, you can make efforts to avoid them. If you’re not sure what’s triggering your anxiety, journal about your feelings and specific worries. In that moment, or after a few journal entries, you may be able to notice a pattern that pinpoints your anxiety triggers.
9. Prioritize sleep
Quality sleep is one of the hallmarks of a healthy functioning body and mind. However, lack of sleep or lack of good sleep is often one of the symptoms of anxiety and one of the causes. To counter this catch-22 scenario, try establishing a bedtime routine. Put your phone away and shut off the TV an hour before bed. Take a bath or shower, meditate, journal, stretch, read, sip chamomile tea—do anything that calms your mind and helps you prepare for a good night’s rest.
How to help someone with anxiety
It’s one thing to practice these natural remedies for anxiety for yourself, but it’s another to see someone you love struggle with anxiety or depression and not know how to help them. And although everyone can benefit from a good night’s sleep, exercise, and a healthy diet, tactics for dealing with anxiety in the moment will be different for everyone.
However, discussing how certain practices, such as meditation or therapy, have helped you can be a good way to broach the subject and encourage your friend or loved one to take similar action.
How to get anxiety medication
If you think that you or a loved one may need anxiety medication after trying these methods to reduce anxiety naturally, talk to your doctor about anti-anxiety medication and if a prescription is right for you.