The funny thing about anxiety is that it can come even when you are generally happy. Anxiety symptoms often show up as pressure in your chest, shallow breathing, a racing heart rate, or scattered thoughts. No matter the cause or how it makes you feel, time-tested tools and techniques can restore your inner sense of calm.
"After the birth of my fourth child, I was feeling anxious, and it was hard for me to do the things I wanted to do," says Michelle C., a registered nurse living in Clearfield, PA. "I was breastfeeding my new baby and didn't want to take any medications, so I looked for natural remedies. Making a point to laugh with my kids every day and doing light yoga stretches helped me feel a little calmer each day."
What Home Remedies Work for Anxiety?
While it might motivate you to get things done, most people do not want to feel anxious and stressed. It can take a toll on your health, and anxiety comes with higher levels of cortisol — the stress hormone.
Many natural solutions are practical and easy to fit into your life. We've gathered the most helpful ways to deal with anxiety that you can easily incorporate into your daily routine.
The food you eat has a tremendous impact on how you feel mentally and physically. When you eat processed foods or skip meals, your blood sugar level can become inconsistent. This can cause anxiety, with symptoms such as fatigue, nervousness, irritability, and shakiness.
Instead, eat nutritious, whole foods "by the clock" at regular intervals — every three or so hours. This can ease anxious feelings, boosting your feelings of well-being and happiness instead.
Switch to a Plant-Based Diet
Eating a plant-based diet is incredible for every aspect of your physical and mental health. Feel-good foods like avocados and walnuts are rich in nutrients like B6 and B12 and release "happy hormones," such as serotonin and dopamine, that boost your mood.[2, 3] Foods rich in magnesium, like spinach, Swiss chard, legumes, nuts, and seeds help people feel calmer.
Eat Probiotic-Rich, Fermented Foods
Eating fermented foods high in probiotics — such as kimchee and sauerkraut — can benefit your gut flora. A healthy gut microbiome has a direct link to mental wellness. Specifically, a healthy gut can reduce social anxiety among other things.[4, 5]
If you've ever suspected that your morning coffee exacerbates your anxiety and makes you feel more jittery, your suspicions are correct. Caffeine consumption can increase stress hormones in your body, making you more agitated and irritable.
At the same time, caffeine inhibits the calming neurotransmitter GABA, which would normally help you relax. It's no surprise that low GABA levels are associated with anxiety attacks.
Most of us love a little sweet treat from time to time. If you're trying to combat anxiety, eat sweets in moderation or, better yet, eliminate them. Excess sugar consumption brings feelings of irritability, worry, and sadness.
The "high" feeling you get from eating sugar is always temporary and can lead to a crash, which makes anxiety feel even more intense. Sugar is also known to weaken your body's response to stress and lower your immunity.
Make Lifestyle Changes
Your lifestyle has a major impact on the way you feel, and that includes your feelings of happiness, joy, or stress and anxiety. You've heard it a hundred times, but that's because there's wisdom in these words. Making healthy lifestyle choices — like getting enough sleep, engaging in hobbies that bring you joy, and moving your body each day — will help you feel your best and help replace the anxiety you feel with calm, centered clarity.
It's obvious that exercise is great for your physical health, but did you know it's equally good for your mental health? Physical activity is one of the most powerful tools for managing anxiety and stress as it releases endorphins to make you feel good. Even one exercise session can help reduce anxiety for hours afterward![11, 12]
If you're a newbie to exercise, start small — aim for at least 15 minutes a day, four days a week. Not a gym person? Engage in any physical activity you like, such as gardening or hiking. That counts as exercise, too.
If you haven't tried yoga, much evidence points to its amazing ability to reduce anxiety! Because of its focus on breath and mindfulness, it's not only good for your body but also good for the soul.
Meditate to Calm Your Mind
When you're anxious, you're anything but in the present moment. Instead, anxiety usually has you living in your head and worrying about all that can go wrong. Want a simple solution? Meditation brings your into the present moment, which can put your mind at ease. Meditation is a proven method of easing psychological stress, such as anxiety.
There are many types of meditation, including body scan, mindfulness, and mantra meditation. Generally, it involves sitting quietly and focusing on your breath or a simple phrase (mantra) to settle your mind. Sit in a quiet room and focus on your breathing for five minutes without interruption. Gradually extend the time.
Aromatherapy is an ancient practice involving the use of essential oils for a variety of health concerns, including anxiety. Essential oils are concentrated floral and plant parts, and they offer physiological benefits.[14, 15] Apart from smelling lovely, essential oils are effective tools for managing daily stress and anxiety. Use them topically on the skin, or diffuse the scent in your home.
Lavender oil interacts with neuroreceptors in the brain in the same way that some anti-anxiety medications. Bergamot is a citrus fruit that is well known for reducing anxiety when used as an essential oil. And lemongrass is a great go-to oil for stress and anxiety reduction, too.
Magnesium is a mineral found naturally in the body, but many people are deficient in this essential nutrient. It helps your brain reduce stress and anxiety; proper amounts help ensure the body's "fight-or-flight" response works effectively.
A lot of people worry about getting enough calcium, but the truth is more people are deficient in magnesium than calcium. Nearly two-thirds of people around the world are not consuming the recommended daily allowance of magnesium. Fortunately, a magnesium deficiency can be easily corrected by eating foods rich in the mineral such as leafy greens, legumes, nuts, and seeds, or by taking dietary supplements.
Spend Time With Pets
If you have a pet, you know that the human-animal bond is a source of unrivaled love and companionship. Research shows spending time with pets decreases stress hormones, lowers blood pressure, boosts your mood, and reduces loneliness.
In a recent survey, 74 percent of pet owners reported mental health improvements when spending time with their pets. Not into furry friends? Even if your preferred pet is an insect, that, too, has a positive effect on depression and cognitive functioning.
Quit Alcohol & Smoking
You may already know that using alcohol and smoking to help you cope with anxiety is not a good idea and just leads to more issues. In fact, the nicotine in tobacco can increase anxiety levels.
Alcohol depresses the part of the brain associated with inhibition. However, the more you drink, the more alcohol affects other parts of the brain, and negative emotions can take over. Excessive drinking can make you feel more anxious.
Herbal Supplements for Anxiety
Herbal remedies can provide extra support for daily stress and anxiety. The following supplements are backed up by scientific evidence showing they can lift mood and bring calm.
A staple of Ayurvedic medicine, Ashwagandha or Indian ginseng (Withania somnifera) has a wide range of benefits, including reducing the body's reaction to stress and improving energy. It is perhaps best known for promoting normal levels of cortisol — a stress hormone. By doing this, it can increase feelings of calm.
Tulsi — also called "holy basil" — can bring comfort to those with daily stress and anxiety. Many people using it report "significant" improvements with their feelings of stress and sleep issues. What's more, it can improve energy levels and lessen forgetfulness!
Tulsi tea is a popular way to bring calm to your day and to keep hormone levels balanced. Others prefer a supplement, such as an organic tulsi extract. For optimal results, it's ideal to take supplements or drink tulsi tea twice a day.
People commonly use valerian (Valeriana officinalis) as a sleep aid. Since sleep issues and anxiety go hand-in-hand, many people use valerian to promote feelings of ease, as it has a calming effect on the central nervous system.[26, 27]
People taking valerian for four weeks reported feeling less stressed. They also felt greater mental and psychological well-being. Taking the herb an hour before bed can lead to better sleep quality and less daily anxiety.
Native Americans have been using passionflower as a mild calming agent for centuries. Today, passionflower is available as a dietary supplement that can be helpful for anxiety and sleep issues.[29, 30]
There's scientific evidence to back this up. Patients who drank passionflower tea before a surgical procedure reported less anxiety than those who received a placebo. Passionflower may improve your memory, too! While some people like to take a stand-alone supplement, others prefer a combination of effective calming, mood-supporting herbs and nutrients, like Stress Relief.
Especially when combined with valerian, it can help reduce anxiety, specifically irritability and nervousness. As a bonus, 81 percent of people who took both lemon balm and valerian reported improved sleep.
Hemp is an incredible plant full of hundreds of health-giving phytochemicals and nutrients including the popular cannabidiol (CBD). Hemp is Cannabis sativa that has been bred to contain less than 0.3 percent THC (the substance known to give the "high feeling). So you won't get a buzz taking hemp, but people taking it usually feel an incredible sense of calm.
Ideally, you will look for organic, full-spectrum hemp. Full-spectrum means that the product is typically made from all parts of the plant — flowers, stalks, leaves, seeds, and roots. That enables a product to capture all the cannabinoids, including CBD, but also CBG (cannabigerol), CBC (cannabichromene), and CBN (cannabinol) — well known to support calm and counter daily anxiety.
Points to Remember
Anxiety is a normal part of life that we all experience from time to time. Yet you can take simple steps to help reduce these feelings and feel more relaxed. Then you'll be better able to handle life's stresses.
Effective lifestyle changes include getting a pet, becoming more active — yoga is particularly beneficial — and giving up alcohol and tobacco. Try switching to a plant-based diet and avoid sugar, junk food, and caffeine.
Approaching your anxiety with a holistic view of your health can lead to an improved sense of well-being, no matter what life throws your way.
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†Results may vary. Information and statements made are for education purposes and are not intended to replace the advice of your doctor. If you have a severe medical condition or health concern, see your physician.