People from all walks of life experience, in one way or another, anxiety. At work, we might feel really scared about a company presentation. At school, we are afraid because we don’t know what our examination is going to cover. In making decisions, we are bothered about the outcome of such decision. All these things are normal. But these will go away once the “stressor” is overcome.
What is Anxiety?
Anxiety is more than just feeling stressed at work, at school and even at home. Anxiety is when these anxious feelings don’t go away – when they’re ongoing and happen without any particular reason or cause – a serious condition that makes it hard to cope with daily life (1). You may experience anxiety that is persistent, seemingly uncontrollable, and overwhelming, an excessive, irrational dread of everyday situations, disabling and interferes with daily activities, you may have an anxiety disorder (2). According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 1 in 13 globally suffers from anxiety and reports that anxiety disorders are the most common mental disorders worldwide with specific phobia, major depressive disorder and social phobia being the most common anxiety disorders (3).
Ten natural remedies for anxiety:
- Eat a clean and well-balanced diet. Several studies show that there is a connection between the diet choices and psychology, physiology and behavior (4). Consuming too many or too little calories can increase anxiety symptoms including moodiness, fatigue and abnormal blood sugar levels that cause nervousness and the jitters (5). Research shows that consuming foods that have a high glycemic index can contribute to anxiety and depression (6). Too much alcohol can contribute to anxiety. A study published by the British Journal of Psychiatry found that abstinence from alcohol is associated with a lower risk of anxiety, hence, to reduce anxiety, avoid alcohol completely or limit your alcohol intake to 1–3 drinks per week, but no more than two at a time (7).
- Physical activity or exercise. Exercise may also help with anxiety caused by stressful circumstance which is supported in the results of a 2016 study which suggest that exercise can benefit people with anxiety related to quitting smoking (8). Having regular exercise will help one achieve enough and quality sleeping time, reduce inflammation, boost confidence, improve energy levels and contribute to ease stress and tension in the mind and body. According to Drew Ramsey, MD, Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at New York-Presbyterian Hospital, Columbia University, “If you exercise on a regular basis, you’ll have more self-esteem and feel healthier.” It is safe, good for the brain, and a powerful antidote to depression and anxiety, both immediately and in the long term (9).
- Enough sleep or rest. Insomnia is a common symptom of anxiety (10). Sleep duration of 8 and a half hours or more on school nights may be associated with the lowest risk of depression/anxiety on average in male adolescents is revealed in a study (11). Some form of sleep disruption is present in nearly all psychiatric disorders and studies also show that people with chronic insomnia are at high risk of developing an anxiety disorder (12). Doctors recommend 8 hours of sleep at night. The deepest stage of quiet sleep produces physiological changes that help boost immune system functioning (13). When you are having difficulty sleeping, smelling soothing plant oils like lavander can be of help. A 2012 study tested the effects of aromatherapy with lavender on insomnia in 67 women aged 45–55 and it is found out that the aromatherapy may reduce the heart rate in the short term and help to ease sleep issues in the long term (14).
- Meditation helps remove chaotic thoughts from your mind and replace them with a sense of calm and mindfulness of the present moment, in effect, you are relieved from stress and anxiety (15). Research from John Hopkins suggests that 30 minutes of daily meditation may alleviate some anxiety symptoms and act as an antidepressant (16). Since anxiety is cognitive state of mind, a consistent meditation practice reprograms neural pathways in the brain and, therefore, improves our ability to regulate emotions according to a research study (17). Meditation techniques can be used to adopt an attitude of acceptance that no matter what happens; you can give yourself permission to be peaceful (18).
- Have time management strategies. Time is a very important resource. Failing to manage our time will make us lose our focus and start to worry. There’s a reason people with anxiety often struggle with time management: stress transforms your brain into a worry-monster. Easily achievable tasks become impossible to start more so to finish. And it hits you – your days are filled with avoidance behaviors, and an unending list of things you plan to do. Working with a qualified therapist can help (19). Some people feel anxious if they have too many commitments at hand. Having a plan in place for the next necessary action can help to keep this anxiety at bay. Do not juggle. List practical and feasible number of tasks every day. This will help you on your feet and finish one task after another in no time.
- Take a deep breath. When stress overwhelms your nervous system, your body is flooded with chemicals that prepare you for “fight or flight” (20). Stress is unavoidable but you can counteract its detrimental effects by learning how to produce the relaxation response, a state of deep rest that is the polar opposite of the stress response that puts the brakes on stress and brings your body and mind back into a state of equilibrium (21). Belly breathing stimulates the vagus nerve, which runs from the head down the neck, through the chest, and to the colon and activates your relaxation response, reducing your heart rate and blood pressure and lowering stress levels. Progressive muscle gives you an intimate familiarity with what tension—as well as complete relaxation—feels like in different parts of the body, helps you react to the first signs of the muscular tension that accompanies stress and eventually relaxes your mind (22).
- Take herb supplements. Many supplements help reduce anxiety. Some research suggests that Ashwagandha may be just as effective as certain medications in reducing anxiety (23). For protection of neurons, Bacopa can be used because it is found out to reduce cortisol, a stress hormone. Other anxiety remedy herbs are Chamomile and Passionflower, natural remedies for anxiety symptoms; Kava kava, a traditional calming tonic; Lavender, with soothing stress remedy; Lemon balm, with sedative properties; Rhodiola, a nerve tonic and calming agent; St. John’s wort, classic herb used for depression; and Valerian, a sleep remedy (24).
- Spend time with animals. Pets offer companionship, love, and support (25). They can be beneficial to people with a variety of mental health issues, including anxiety. Some people who are allergic to furry animals can take care of crickets instead. A study reveals that it could improve psychological health (26). Interactions with animals can help people manage their long-term mental health conditions and this is supported in the 2016 study that explored the role of pets in the social networks of people managing a long-term mental health problem and found that pets provide a sense of security and routine that provided emotional and social support (27).
- Listen to music. Listening to music can have a tremendously relaxing effect on our minds and bodies, especially slow, quiet classical music (28). Sound therapies have long been popular as a way of relaxing and restoring one’s health and for centuries, indigenous cultures have used music to enhance well-being and improve health conditions (29). It soothes our worried mind and calm or troubled hearts. Moreover, a study was conducted to find out which type of tunes has a greater impact to us and it reveals that the top song produced a greater state of relaxation than any other music tested to date (30).
- Get a hobby. Finding ways to release anxiety is a good thing. A creative hobby such as drawing, painting or writing engages us in a sense of “flow” where we lose track of time, removing the stresses of life (31). They allow us to visually communicate what is difficult to express using words, an outlet for dealing with difficult times, past traumas or intense emotions and a safe way of dealing with harmful (32). Writing, for one, is a good way to release anxiety. Research suggests that journaling and other forms of writing can help people to cope better with anxiety (33). A 2016 study, for example, found that creative writing may help children and teens to manage anxiety (34).
Final Thought on Anxiety
Anxiety is common. Anxiety can get worse and may cause more stress in a person’s life but is highly treatable with therapy, natural remedies, lifestyle changes, and medications (35). The earlier it is identified, the sooner people with anxiety get support and likely to recover. The above remedies are helpful. However, the doctor’s advice should be consulted for treatments needed to be continued for a long time especially when symptoms worsen in a patient.