While medication and therapy are proven to be very helpful with anxiety disorders, there are also some natural remedies that can supplement these forms of treatment.
First let me say a few things about anxiety. Anxiety in itself is natural and healthy in certain situations. In other words, anxiety serves a biological and evolutionary purpose. When there is a true threat to our life, our body goes into a physiological state of anxiety which causes the release of adrenaline and endorphins. Adrenaline helps with the flight or fight mode; it is what helps us perform great feats under stress such as running very fast or for long distances, or fighting off a threat to our life. Endorphins are released to help limit the feeling of pain, among other results, which helps us through that time of stress to focus on the task at hand (fighting off the danger).
Unfortunately most people feel stress or anxiety during times when there is not an actual threat to their life. For the purposes of this blog entry, I am talking about people who suffer from an anxiety disorder, where they may feel frequent anxiety during times with little to no apparent cause or trigger. Here are some things that you can incorporate into your every day life that may help eliminate or reduce the symptoms of anxiety:
Limit your caffeine intake
Caffeine a stimulant, so even if your have a general tolerance to caffeine, it can still contribute to feelings of anxiety because it stimulates the central nervous system. Especially if you drink more caffeine than you’re used to, you are likely to feel symptoms that may contribute to your anxiety.
When we feel anxious, we are probably breathing shallowly. Taking long slow, breaths naturally negates feeling anxious. When you’re breathing deeply you are likely to feel less anxious. Try breathing in through your nose while counting to 4, hold the breath for a second and breath out through your mouth while counting to 4. Hold your breath at that point for a second and repeat. Diaphragmatic breathing helps us breathe where we should be breathing: from our stomach/diaphragm, rather than our chest. Diaphragmatic breathing helps us completely fill our lungs with air and then completely empty them, which not only slows down our breathing but increases our oxygen intake. Take a deep breath, following the instructions above, while holding your hand to your stomach. Aim to lift your stomach as you breath, rather than your chest. Then when you let the breath out, feel your stomach lower/shrink with your hand.
Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR)
Progressive Muscle Relaxation is a relaxation technique that can help reduce anxiety. Lay down or sit in a comfortable, safe, quiet spot. Begin tightening your muscles in succession, beginning with your head/face. Tighten your forehead muscles, tightly close your eyes, scrunch up your face, tighten your jaw, hold for a few moments. Notice and feel the tension in these muscles. Release. Feel your head and face muscles completely relax and notice that feeling for a few moments. Then move to your neck and shoulders, flex and tighten your neck, scrunch up your shoulders, hold for a few moments. Notice and feel the tension in these muscles. Release. Feel your neck and shoulder muscles completely relax and notice that feeling for a few moments. Continue this process with your arms and hands, stomach, buttocks, legs and feet. After you have completed the process with all the muscles in your body, notice the feeling through your whole body. You should feel more relaxed and less anxious. Practice this regularly so you can more naturally/instinctually do it in times of higher anxiety.
It has been speculated that certain foods, herbs, supplements or vitamins can be natural remedies to anxiety. The first one is chamomile tea. Often people drink chamomile tea just generally to relax at night or to help them sleep, since it’s an herbal tea and can have a calming effect. Valerian root and lemon balm are other herbs that are known to have a calming or sleep inducing effect. See information here about Valerian Root. And here is information about lemon balm. The vitamin magnesium is known to help with anxiety. You can take a supplement or get magnesium naturally in such foods as leafy greens, certain nuts and seeds, beans and many others. See information here about magnesium. Finally some information has shown that plums can help with anxiety. Here is some information about the health benefits of plums.
Finally, just like with many other conditions, exercise can be very helpful with anxiety. Increasing our heart rate through exercise and then feeling our heart rate come back down after exercise can help us recognize normal and healthy causes of an increased heart rate (a common anxiety symptom). The more we associate a rapid heart rate, sweating and shallow breathing with something healthy like exercise, the more we’re going to not worry as much when we have those as anxiety symptoms. Exercise can also improve the functioning of your central nervous system and brain functioning which can help with anxiety.
*Disclaimer: the information provided in this blog contains opinions of the writer and is not intended to be used for counseling or crisis management purposes. If you need help with a mental health problem, please find a therapist in your area. If you are experiencing a psychological or medical emergency, please call 911 or go to the nearest hospital.