Updated: Nov 14, 2019
Most of us know the unpleasant feeling of anxiety. The rapid heart rate and breathing, tightness in the chest, sweating, and feeling of nervousness. Whether it’s caused by a specific event or seems to appear with no cause, anxiety can be a nuisance and even quite debilitating at times. Luckily, there are natural ways to decrease anxiety. Through diet, essential oils, nutritional supplements, and mindfulness, you can combat anxiety head on without the side effects that prescription medications often cause.
Essential oils such as lavender, ylang ylang, frankincense, bergamot and sage are known to reduce anxiety and stress. Lavender is probably the most well known calming and anxiety reducing essential oil and has been shown to react to neuroreceptors in the same way that some anti-anxiety medications do. You can either use these oils in a diffuser or topically, but make sure to dilute them with a carrier oil because they are extremely concentrated. A little goes a long way.
Nutrition is directly related to how you feel, both physically and mentally. Vitamin deficiencies have been directly related to anxiety, making it important to get a varied diet full of different micro and macronutrients. In particular, making sure you are getting enough omega 3 fatty acids, magnesium, and zinc is crucial for reducing anxiety. If you eat a diet low in processed foods and high in whole grains, organic meats and dairy, nuts, seeds, legumes, fruits, and vegetables, you are probably on the right track.
Too much caffeine and alcohol have also been known to cause or worsen anxiety so you may want to limit your coffee, caffeinated tea and even dark chocolate intake until your anxiety is better under control.
Acupuncture has been used for thousands of years to treat various diseases and symptoms, including anxiety. During an acupuncture session, small needles are placed in specific areas of the body where it is believed that energy might be blocked. Energy, or chi as it is called in Chinese medicine, flows throughout the body along energy channels called meridians. It is believed that when chi becomes blocked, the body becomes susceptible to various diseases and disorders. A licensed acupuncturist is trained to know exactly which acupuncture points might need to be released to reduce anxiety and other symptoms.
Adaptogens are a group of plants, mostly herbs and roots, that help the body adapt to stress and bring it back into balance. Ashwagandha and rhodiola are two great adaptogenic herbs that are known to help the body deal with anxiety, stress, and depression. They interact with the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis and sympathoadrenal system which are involved in the body’s stress response.
Valerian root is another herb commonly used for anxiety and insomnia. It is recommended to take 120 to 200 mg, three times a day with the last dose being before bedtime. Studies have shown that valerian works best after taking it for two weeks, but you should consult with your doctor if you want to take it for more than a month. Valerian works similarly to a sedative and should not be taken with alcohol, antidepressants, or other sleep aids.
Anxiety is just one of the several conditions that CBD has been known to effectively treat. The quickest way to feel the effects of CBD is by vaping, but oils, edibles, and gummies work as well. Studies have shown that people not only feel better after taking CBD but there is also a change in the way their brains respond to anxiety. In particular, CBD has been shown to be an effective treatment for social anxiety disorder, panic disorder, OCD, generalized anxiety disorder, and PTSD.
GABA is the brain’s main inhibitory neurotransmitter that helps promote relaxation when your brain is overwhelmed. It can help stabilize mood, promote sleep, and reduce muscle tension, stress, and anxiety. Part of the reason anti-anxiety drugs like Valium and Xanax work is because they activate GABA activators. Though GABA comes and can be bought in supplement form, there are other ways to increase GABA production. Meditation, yoga, and exercise have all been shown to increase GABA signaling. And this actually leads me into the final natural “cure” for anxiety.
The practice of mindfulness is growing in many cultures and has been proven to help reduce symptoms of anxiety. While medications and even supplements help cover up the anxious feelings, some believe that the act of staying with the difficult feelings without suppressing them is the best way to ultimately combat them. This is what mindfulness teaches. That it is okay to feel anxious and when you do, it is best to become fully present in the emotion and explore the root cause rather than push it away. There are entire books written about the art and practice of mindfulness and you can research and explore the techniques that resonate with you.
Disclaimer: This blog is for informational purposes only and is not meant to cure or diagnose any disease or ailment. Never start or discontinue any medication before discussing with a medical professional who knows your personal medical history.