Natural Remedies for Anxiety
Have you ever felt nervous to speak in front of a group?
If so, you’ve experienced anxiety.
The truth is, we all have.
Anxiety is, at its core, fear.
Fear is our body’s normal, healthy response to perceived danger. When we use anxiety to our advantage, it helps us survive potentially life-threatening situations.
But, sometimes we experience fear when we’re not in life-threatening situations.
Our unique ability as humans to ponder the future can trigger anxiety-inducing “what if” thoughts as our minds imagine the worst possible scenarios.
It can even spiral into a full-blown panic attack.
When that happens, you just want to make it stop right away.
Fortunately, there are some super effective ways to reduce your anxiety the moment it hits.
Here are 10 science-backed natural remedies for anxiety and some of the best self care ideas for stress relief.
No Rx needed.
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1. Control Your Breathing
Whenever you are feeling stressed, your body reacts with the stress response commonly known as “fight or flight”.
It’s your brain’s way of protecting you in dangerous situations. You breathe faster, your heart rate speeds up, your muscles tighten.
Over time, too much of this response can lead to health problems such as high blood pressure, obesity, heart disease and depression.
According to Harvard Medical School cardiologist Dr. Herbert Benson, one way to combat the negative effects of stress and anxiety is to control your breathing.
Controlled, deep breathing:
Studies have shown that breathing exercises help to reduce symptoms of anxiety, depression, insomnia, attention deficit disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder.
So, how do you do it?
2. Relax Your Muscles
Sometimes, it’s easier to control the physical symptoms of anxiety than to try and control the all-consuming thoughts running through your mind.
One amazingly effective way to do this is progressive muscle relaxation (PMR). Developed by Harvard physician, Edmund Jacobson, PMR is an anxiety-reducing technique that also:
PMR involves tensing and then relaxing each muscle group in the body, one by one. As you release the tension in your muscles, you also release your stress and anxiety.
Especially when coupled with the deep, controlled breathing techniques listed above, PMR is a super helpful tool for reducing anxiety.
Here’s how you do it:
Progressive Muscle Relaxation
*The key is to notice the difference between the feeling of tension and relaxation.
Also try doing PMR when you are calm; it will help you to relax quicker when you are experiencing anxiety.
If you want to see how it's done, here is a great video of a 6-minute guided PMR.
Natural Remedies for Anxiety
3. Go Outside
The warmth of sunlight, the sound of birds, the smell of flowers, the feeling of a gentle breeze on your skin.
Nature is truly unparalleled in terms of its mood-boosting abilities.
Especially if you are an introvert/HSP/empath, it is one of the best natural remedies for anxiety.
Going for a walk or even just sitting outside can trigger feelings of happiness and well-being. The healing effects of nature have been well-documented and revered by many cultures for centuries.
Ayurveda, a health system developed in India thousands of years ago, is based on the mind-body connection.
One of its tenants is that we should live in tune with nature and spend time in nature every day – and with good reason.
People who regularly spend time outdoors have lower levels of cortisol, lower heart rates and are less likely to suffer from depression.
The Japanese practice shinrin-yoku (forest bathing ), which entails slowly walking through a forest and taking in the atmosphere, is a powerful stress buster that been linked to:
Studies have shown that office workers with a view of nature outside a window have less stress and higher job satisfaction.
Behavioral scientist Roger S. Ulrich found that just viewing nature scenes increases production of serotonin and lowers levels of stress, anger and aggression.
So, the next time you feel anxious try going outside. Spending just 20 minutes in a natural environment is enough to reduce your stress levels.
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4. Practice Mindfulness Meditation
Anxiety is usually a future-oriented emotion – worry over what will happen or what might happen in the future.
Mindfulness meditation is a form of meditation that encourages you to focus only on the present moment, not the future or the past.
By doing so, you will reduce your anxiety and increase your overall health.
Does it really work?
Researchers sought to answer this question by examining 17 relevant studies to examine whether mindfulness-based stress reduction is a viable method for managing stress.
Benefits of Mindfulness Meditation
They found that the combination of mindfulness meditation and yoga demonstrated positive psychological and physiological changes in healthy individuals, including:
So, it works for healthy people, but does it work for people with anxiety disorders?
Yes! According to a study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, mindfulness meditation has a beneficial effect on anxiety symptoms, even for those diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder.
It also improves stress reactivity and coping, meaning that mindfulness meditation actually makes you more resilient to stress.
Here’s how you do it:
- Sit comfortably – I recommend using a meditation cushion because they are specifically designed to relieve pressure in your joints, spine and tailbone. You’ll be better able to relax and focus on your meditation if you are comfortable and supported properly.
- Focus on your breathing.
- When your mind wanders, observe the thoughts objectively and gently bring your focus back to your breathing. Practice self-compassion by acknowledging your thoughts and emotions but not passing judgment on them.
The goal is to decrease emotional reactivity and enhance cognitive appraisal so that the next time you feel anxiety, your emotions will not take over.
Instead, you will be able to observe the anxiety, recognize where it is coming from and then release it.
Worth ten minutes of your day? I think so!
5. Do Yoga
Yoga is a combination of physical poses to increase strength and flexibility, breathing to relax the body and meditation to quiet the mind.
It is one of the most comprehensive workouts you can do, and it is an especially effective natural remedy for anxiety.
Studies have shown that yoga:
When you’re anxious, you tend to tense your muscles and take shallow breaths. Yoga helps relieve muscular tension and promotes deep, conscious breathing.
It also teaches us how to accept discomfort. Sometimes, when you step out of your comfort zone, you get nervous.
But, stepping out of your comfort zone is necessary for growth and fulfillment.
Yoga shows you that you are still in control despite the discomfort. You still have control over your thoughts, your breath and your movement.
Grab your yoga mat and practice these 5 calming poses when you are feeling anxiety:
Calming Yoga Poses for Anxiety
- Legs Up the Wall Pose: Inverted position that refreshes circulation and gives the heart a break by putting the feet above it.
- Child’s Pose: Comforting position that stretches all the muscles in the body.
- Downward Dog Pose: Grounding position that encourages blood flow to the brain and extremities.
- Eagle Pose: Challenging position that will leave you no time to think about anything else because you’ll be so focused on maintaining it!
- Corpse Pose: Calming position that lowers blood pressure and relaxes the nervous system.
Yoga is one of the most powerful ways to reduce anxiety, especially when combined with breathing exercises and meditation.
Natural Remedies for Anxiety
6. Repeat a Positive Affirmation
Positive affirmations are statements that describe a desired situation or outcome.
A study done by researchers at Arizona State University found that affirmations related to “not being crazy” and noting that the anxiety would pass in time were the most effective.
With that in mind, here are some examples of positive affirmations you can repeat when feeling anxious:
Positive Affirmations for Anxiety
Feel free to come up with your own positive affirmations. They should be meaningful to you and your unique situation.
The next time you feel anxiety, try repeating a positive affirmation over and over again. You can say it out loud or you can repeat it to yourself silently while you practice deep breathing exercises.
The key is to believe that the affirmations will work.
At first it may be difficult to believe in what you are saying, but if you just keep repeating it, it will eventually seep into your subconscious and change your negative ways of thinking.
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7. Challenge Your Negative Thoughts
Anxiety can make you think all sorts of negative thoughts about yourself.
It is important to challenge these negative thoughts before they become limiting beliefs that hold you back from achieving your goals.
At trial, cross-examination is designed to show that the witness’ testimony is inconsistent with existing evidence or that the witness is biased.
This strategy is useful for when we are struggling with anxiety- induced negative thoughts because we tend to:
Your Thoughts Are Not Facts
Debunk your “always” and “never” statements, your negative thoughts and your irrational conclusions by pretending you are an attorney for the “other side”.
Show how your thoughts are inconsistent with the facts and how your anxiety is causing you to be biased.
This reminds me of the cross examinations we used to do in law school!
“No one understands what I’m going through.”
-“Isn’t it true that an estimated 40 million people in the U.S. suffer from anxiety?”
“I’m going to die.”
-“Isn’t it true that you survived anxiety attacks in the past?”
“I will fail.”
-“Isn’t it true that you can’t predict the future?”
Remember that your thoughts are not facts.
They are largely dependent upon your perception – thanks to neuroplasticity, you have the power to change your brain.
*Tip: Focus on what you are grateful for rather than what you want.
8. Engage Your Senses
Sensory awareness is an extremely effective natural remedy for anxiety. It helps to ground you and bring you fully into the present moment.
The 5-4-3-2-1 technique is especially helpful for calming yourself down when you feel overwhelmed. To do it, name:
To really boost the effectiveness of this exercise, try incorporating these things into your environment:
Coloring isn’t just for kids! It’s actually a fantastic stress-relief tool for people of all ages.
When you color, you engage the same parts of the brain that are responsible for stress and anxiety.
(And also the parts of the brain that inspire creativity!)
As you concentrate on shape, color and patterns, anxiety-related thoughts and images get edged out, according to a brain scientist at the University of New South Wales in Australia.
Picking colors and trying to stay in the lines becomes your brain’s primary focus, allowing you to replace negative images with positive ones.
I have Johana Basford’s Enchanted Forest: An Inky Quest & Coloring Book and I love it. It’s filled with magical hand-drawn illustrations that transport me every time I color.
There are also many different coloring books for adults designed specifically for anxiety and stress-relief with themes like animals, mandalas or inspirational quotes. You can find them in book stores, grocery stores or on Amazon.
*A coloring book and colored pencils are excellent items to include in your self-care kit!
Music has a profound effect on emotions.
Many studies have found that listening to music decreases the psychobiological stress response.
It is so effective that a Department of Music scholar at Stanford University said in a press release, “listening to music seems to be able to change brain functioning to the same extent as medication, in many circumstances."
Studies have also found that music:
Classical music, instrumental music and nature sounds all work equally well. Just pick what you like best!
Essential oils are natural extractions from flowers, herbs and plant materials. Their use goes back to ancient Egyptian, Chinese and Greek civilizations.
Many recent studies have also confirmed the therapeutic benefits of essential oils and aromatherapy.
One even found vetiver essential oil to be more effective in suppressing anxiety-like behavior than prescription medication, diazepam.
Lavender is probably the best essential oil for easing anxiety. Just make sure to get Lavender angustifolia— that’s the best type for relaxation and stress relief. (Some other wonderful essential oils for anxiety: Vetiver, Bergamot, Frankinsence, Ylang Ylang.)
Essential oils are extremely concentrated, so be sure to dilute them with carrier oils (jojoba, almond, apricot kernel oil) if you’re going to put them on your skin.
You can also put them in a diffuser, mix them with water and vodka to make a room spray, or get essential oil candles.
If you pair aromatherapy with meditation, after a few sessions just the aroma by itself will elicit a relaxed state.
Drinking tea is a calming ritual. It makes you slow down.
Tea has been used for medicinal purposes by many all over the world for centuries.
Drinking tea is a perfect activity to do mindfully to pull your attention to the present moment and reduce anxiety.
Black and green tea varities also contain L-theanine, a compound that reduces anxiety by boosting GABA (Gamma- Aminobutyric Acid) levels in your brain and increasing production of the “feel good” neurotransmitter, dopamine.
Here are the top five teas for anxiety reduction and stress relief:
The next time you get anxious, try making yourself a nice cup of tea.
Studies have shown that tea increases alpha-wave activity in the brain which creates a state of relaxation similar to that achieved by meditation. Many (especially the British!) find that tea provides them with comfort, warmth and psychological escape.
I’m a huge believer in the healing power of crystals.
These beautiful gifts from mother earth have been used to treat physical and spiritual ailments for thousands of years.
Today, they are even used in modern technology like sonar, radios, watches, clocks, transistors, computer chips, cars and satellites.
Worry stones (or palm stones) are usually oval-shaped pieces of polished crystal with an indentation for you to rub with your thumb.
It’s an incredibly soothing physical distraction when you are feeling anxious and need to occupy your brain with something tangible. I also like to hold one or two during meditation.
The best types of healing crystals for calming anxiety are:
9. Take A Shower/Bath
Hydrotherapy is the use of water for the treatment of disease. It dates back to the ancient Greeks and Romans and is still an important part of many holistic therapy systems.
One study even found that water baths were more effective than drugs in treating generalized anxiety disorder.
Here are some benefits of taking a shower or a bath:
Taking a shower or bath provides instant relief for anxiety and it is one of my favorite home remedies for just about any ailment!
Consider adding epsom salt (magnesium sulfate) to your bath – it eases anxiety, lowers blood pressure and relieves muscle tension.
I also find that taking a bath gives me mental clarity. There’s something about the cleansing, calming water that leaves my mind refreshed and better able to assess stressful situations.
Natural Remedies for Anxiety
10. Keep a Journal
Many of us used to have diaries when we were younger.
We felt comfortable writing about our innermost thoughts, hopes, triumphs and struggles. I still have one from my childhood, complete with lock and key!
But somehow, as we got older, the entries grew farther and farther apart, until we no longer confided in our diaries.
Given the numerous benefits of journaling (especially for those suffering from anxiety), it’s a habit that definitely worth picking back up.
Research shows that journaling helps to:
When you start to feel overwhelmed, simply take a few minutes to write down anything you are thinking or feeling.
Don’t worry about your grammar, spelling, punctuation, handwriting, etc. This is for your eyes only!
Allow yourself to completely open up and write uncensored. You could even incorporate some reminders, quotes or questions into your journal for inspiration and encouragement.
Also, write down what you did to reduce your anxiety, how well it worked and what you think would work better next time.
This will serve as a good reference point for you in the future to see what triggered your anxiety, how you dealt with it, what worked, what didn’t and how much you’ve improved.
I hope these 10 science-backed natural remedies for anxiety help to stop your anxiety in its tracks the next time it strikes!
Over to you – what natural remedies do you use to calm your anxiety? Let me know in the comments!
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