Everyone experiences anxiety from time to time. In our fast-paced world, it is impossible not to worry about personal relationships, jobs, finances, health, and what lies ahead of the road. When we are anxious, our palms get sweaty, our hearts palpitate, we get headaches and tight chests. Luckily, there are a number of natural and non-invasive methods that can help us cope better with the immediate and long-term effects of anxiety.
We explore the signs of anxiety and examine the best natural remedies to treat them. All in an effort to help you achieve a balanced, calmer, and less anxious life.
What is anxiety and what causes it?
Anxiety is a common and often healthy emotion. We all have experienced anxiety at some point in our lives. It is that feeling of fear or apprehension about what’s to come, be it a job interview, moving to a new place, or the first day at school. When you are anxious, you are typically tense, have racing thoughts, and experience physical changes like increased blood pressure or sweating.
When anxiety is more than an unsettling, temporary emotion, it might be a medical disorder. Known as an anxiety disorder, this condition means that you live in a permanent state of fear. It is intense, long-lasting and, sometimes, physically and mentally debilitating. If an anxiety disorder is not properly treated, it might become worse and more difficult to control over time.
There is no unanimity among researchers regarding the exact cause of anxiety, but most of them agree it can be a combination of several factors including stress, external and genetic causes, as well as brain chemistry. Regardless, the root of anxiety varies from person to person.
Anxiety is more common than you think
Nowadays, anxiety has become one of the most common mental health concerns for adults. In our modern-day and age, it’s so easy to get caught up in all that’s going on around us that we often find it difficult to cope with. There is so much negative information thrown at us that we don’t even realize how much it can affect our mental health. In the US alone – over 40 million adults suffer from some sort of anxiety disorder each year.
A survey covering Great Britain revealed that 1 in 6 adults has experienced some form of ‘neurotic health problem’. The most common types were anxiety and depression. At some point in life, 1 in 10 people is likely to have a ‘disabling anxiety disorder’.
Regardless of nationality or statistics, anxiety is a condition that can affect anyone – it doesn’t distinguish between age, gender, background, or social group. Even some of the most confident and successful people in the world live with anxiety. After all, the human body is programmed to react naturally whenever we perceive threats. It’s part of who we are.
Anxiety is primal, it’s a part of who we are
From a scientific perspective, anxiety is in human beings’ nature. There is a part of our brains geared to sense threats and it causes an action response. Not a lot of careful thought is involved when this part of our brain kicks in. The great — but sometimes not so great — thing is that it’s there for all of us, latent. Its functioning varies from person to person. For some, it fires up much sooner and with less apparent reason than it does for others.
It could be that you are standing at the edge of a cliff looking down, and you suddenly start feeling worried and out of breath. Meanwhile, those standing beside you might feel totally at ease in the same situation. In such a dreadful scenario, you might experience a rush of cortisol (also known as the stress hormone) and adrenaline. This chemical release is intended to prepare your body to physically handle the situation, to fight it or flee from it. All with the purpose of remaining safe and healthy.
Anxiety isn’t just normal, but also necessary for survival. Thousands of years ago, the human body was already reacting to deal with numerous threats. Whenever a predator was approaching, it would set off our ancestors’ alarm bells.
For many of us, running from large animals is a less pressing concern than it would have been for early humans. Nowadays, our concerns revolve around work, money, family, health, or other factors that don’t require the ‘fight-or-flight’ reaction. Whenever you’re faced with these ‘new’ threats, you might experience uncomfortable physical symptoms. These usually include nausea, shortness of breath, stomach cramps, increased blood pressure, and heart-rate.
If you are, however, experiencing constant anxiety and worry, and prolonged physical symptoms, you may be experiencing what is known as generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). It is important to be able to identify what type of anxiety you might be experiencing as there are different types and each might affect you in particular ways.
Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD):
Generalized anxiety disorder is often characterized by extreme and persistent worrying. People with GAD experience long-lasting worries and concerns. Although this is the most common kind of anxiety disorder, those who might suffer from it are not always able to identify it.
GAD symptoms may change from time to time…
Symptoms of an anxiety attack
Sometimes your anxiety can become so intense that you may experience an anxiety attack. These attacks are usually momentary and occur after a specific situation that caused stress or worry. The symptoms include hyperventilation, increased heart rate, difficulty breathing, fear, and irrational thoughts.
There is a difference, however, between a panic attack and an anxiety attack. A panic attack is more serious, and, unlike an anxiety attack, it occurs rather suddenly. The person may feel the same symptoms as that of an anxiety attack, but they also truly believe that they are going to die.
Related: Differences between a panic attack and an anxiety attack
What is a Panic Attack?
Similarly to anxiety, a panic attack is characterized by a sudden sense of intense fear and apprehension. Such attacks can result in confusion, breathing difficulties, nausea, dizziness and more. A panic attack typically tends to escalate very fast, peaking after about 10 minutes. However, in some people, it is possible that they might last for hours.
Although those who suffer from anxiety might experience panic attacks, experts agree that they are different things. They may feel very similar and do have a lot of emotional and physical symptoms in common. However, when comparing panic and anxiety attacks we should look at the intensity of the symptoms and duration time.
Panic attacks usually happen out of the blue without an obvious, immediate trigger. It’s a sudden intense response to normal thoughts or specific situations. In contrast, anxiety intensifies over a period of type, prolonged by thought processes and rituals. Unlike a panic attack, the symptoms of anxiety may be persistent and long-lasting. As a result, a person can avoid certain situations which, they believe, will exacerbate their anxiety.
Signs of anxiety
Identifying an anxiety disorder or episode can be difficult as a person might not be familiar with the signs. People who suffer from any kind of anxiety might experience symptoms while in uncomfortable situations. These symptoms are uncontrollable worry, increased irritability, difficulty concentrating, and sleeplessness. Other immediate anxiety symptoms include increased heart rate, hyperventilation, sweating, trembling, and nausea.
On a long-term basis, anxiety and panic attacks can lead your brain to continuously release stress hormones. Usually, whenever you feel stressed out and anxious, your brain floods your nervous system with chemicals and hormones (cortisol and adrenaline). Long term exposure to stress hormones can have a negative impact on your physical health. For instance, high levels of cortisol can contribute to weight gain.
Anxiety can also impact your immune system in the long run. As anxiety triggers the release of cortisol and adrenaline, your pulse and breathing rate increases momentarily so your brain gets oxygen. After the stressful situation passes, your body returns to work normally. However, when you are constantly under stress, your body never gets the signal to return to normal functioning. This weakens your immune system, leaving you more vulnerable to viral infections and frequent illnesses.
The deeper impact of Anxiety
Not only does anxiety have a negative effect on your physical health, but it also impacts your emotional and mental well-being. People who struggle with anxiety on a regular basis might experience feelings of helplessness and a sense of impending doom. Such feelings of dread can persist for an extended period of time. They cause people to worry excessively about upcoming situations or events that might not happen at all.
There is plenty of evidence indicating that anxiety can lead to depression. Often, both disorders go hand in hand. Although anxiety and depression are two different things, people often present similar symptoms. These symptoms include irritability, nervousness, problems sleeping, and lack of concentration. Many people who experience one symptom will develop the others at some point. According to the ADAA, nearly half of patients diagnosed with depression suffer from anxiety disorder too.
Related: Depression Symptoms and Types
11 Natural ways to reduce anxiety
When anxiety becomes a daily struggle, it’s time to act. There are many natural remedies and tweaks you can incorporate into your daily routine to ease the symptoms. Of course, we do recommend that you seek advice from a specialist to treat anxiety and get all the help you need. The following remedies can be used alongside more conventional therapies for better results.
1. Get some sleep
Not enough sleep and insomnia are common symptoms of anxiety. This is why it’s crucial to make high quality sleep a priority. Try changing your routine little by little and you will be surprised by the effect it can have. You can start by not using your phone, tablet, or computer in bed. Avoiding caffeine, large meals, and nicotine before bedtime can also help. And remember, it is best to sleep only when you are tired, and not toss and turn in your bed when your mind won’t turn off.
It is difficult to define what meditation actually is. Meditation — at its core — is a skill you learn to train your conscious awareness, deepen your concentration, and gain a better sense of perspective. Humans have been meditating for as long as 5000 years. Many cultures, religions, and inquisitive individuals have discovered the transformative power of meditation practices enjoying its hundreds of benefits.
One of the main goals people wish to achieve while meditating is to take control of the mind — that is, to become more mindful of the present moment. It makes sense that meditation can help with your mental health. If you are able to take control of your thoughts, you will have the strength to overcome problems and not let them drown you.
There are a number of studies that have identified meditation as an effective anxiety treatment. In a study conducted by Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, scientists demonstrated how meditation decreases anxious feelings. “Interestingly, the present findings reveal that the brain regions associated with meditation-related anxiety relief are remarkably consistent with the principles of being mindful,” said Fadel Zeidan, Ph.D. Every year, similar studies continue showing how achieving a meditative state can help managing anxiety disorders.
How can you achieve a meditative state?
Unfortunately, there isn’t a straightforward answer. Monks and masters of meditation devote their entire lives to this practice and its teachings. Cleansing your mind and controlling your thoughts requires effort and constancy. If you are new to meditation or have lost the habit, here are a couple of things you can try:
- Focus on your breathing. Close your eyes and think of each breath-in and out. Slow down gradually so you are taking very long breaths in and out. While you do so, focus more on the act than the result.
- Get your brain working, but remain in the present moment. Feel where your body parts are, how they are positioned, what your heartbeat feels like, etc. Just try to be mindful of your immediate surroundings.
- Once you feel ready to focus on one thought, transport your mind there and see how long you can hold your focus.
The more you repeat these steps and the more you remain focuses on one thought, the more successful your meditation sessions will be.
Let it go!
Through meditation, we become familiar with anxiety-inducing thoughts and storylines. We learn to see them, analyze them, and finally let them go. By doing so, we learn that our thoughts do not have the power to define us and, most importantly, they are not real. With this new mindset, we are capable of changing our relationship with anxiety for the better, successfully differentiating between an irrational episode and a rational one.
At Synctuition, we have developed a technology to help you achieve a meditative state easily and naturally. When you listen to any of Synctuition’s audio journeys, your mind will be stimulated with beautiful sounds, entrainment frequencies, and binaural beats. You will not only relax but also cleanse your mind from negativity and worries, enough to tone down anxiety.
3. Ditch bad habits
How many times have you heard that alcohol, cigarettes, and caffeine affect your health? Probably more than you can count. And in fact, those three habits have been repeatedly linked to anxiety in some way or the other.
For instance, alcohol is a natural sedative. When you are at a family dinner drinking a glass of wine, it feels like your nerves begin to calm down. However, once the buzz is over, anxiety may return and hit you like a truck. Turning to alcohol for a solution to anxiety might cause you to develop a dependency. This kind of dependency will inevitably take negative tolls on your physical and emotional well-being.
Smoking might also seem like a good way to just let go for a while. Yet, similarly to drinking alcohol, smoking a cigarette whenever you feel anxious may worsen the problem over time. Research has demonstrated that the earlier you start smoking in life, the higher the risk of developing anxiety-related disorders is. Research also shows that nicotine and other chemicals found in cigarettes alter the pathways in the brain that are linked to anxiety.
And, although caffeine might seem harmless compared to the previous two, it will do you no good. Especially if you suffer from chronic anxiety. Research has pointed out that consuming caffeine in excess, like the other unhealthy habits, can contribute towards the onset of anxiety disorders. For some people, getting rid of coffee and caffeinated products may improve anxiety symptoms and general quality of life.
4. Stay active
Time to start hitting the gym! Regular exercise is beneficial for your physical and emotional health. When you stay active by going for a stroll, a swim at your local pool, or cardio classes, you might immediately feel a positive change in your spirits. Most amazingly, you may even experience anxiety relief for hours after your daily workout.
It has been said time and time again that physical exercise is good for both the mind and body. Researchers have proven that exercise reduces stress, tension, and anxiety. When we exercise, an increased amount of endorphins are released into the body. These “happiness chemicals” allow you to feel good, and, hence, alleviate our stress and anxiety levels.
Related: 2015 Study on Exercise and Anxiety
Exercise also makes a person feel relaxed due to the increased body temperature, as heat has a calming effect on the body. When you are feeling warm and energized after physical activity, you also decrease the recurrence of panic attacks.
There are various forms of exercise that help reduce anxiety. These include:
Studies show that yoga (especially the yoga poses known as asanas) help to modulate neural activity in the nervous system. Yoga helps the body by producing a calming effect.
Related: What is asana in yoga?
It takes approximately 20 minutes for your mood to lift up when doing aerobic exercises. A brighter and more balanced mood doesn’t only benefit those with anxiety but also those suffering from OCD and panic disorder.
5. Eat healthily
Opting for a healthy diet will not only do wonders for your figure; it can also help you ease your anxiety. For certain people, low sugar levels, dehydration, or chemicals in processed foods may cause changes in mood. A high-sugar diet may also impact temperament. If your anxiety worsens after a meal, it is worth checking your eating habits. You can start by slowly changing your diet, drinking water regularly, eliminating processed foods, and eating more fruits, vegetables, carbohydrates, and lean proteins.
Some foods are especially great to reduce anxiety and improve your mood. These are:
Salmon can help reduce anxiety due to it being high in omega-3 fatty acids. Studies suggest that when one introduces omega-3 fatty acids into their diet, their anxiety levels decrease. Other foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids include sardines, lake trout, mussels, soybeans, and mackerel.
Introducing blueberries into your diet is another natural way that one could relieve anxiety. Blueberries contain vitamin C and antioxidants which help to improve brain health and, in turn, reduce any anxiety the body may be feeling.
Almonds are known for containing magnesium, which is a chemical proven to be helpful in relieving anxiety. This tasty nut contains 0.075g of magnesium in just one ounce of them. If you are not a big fan of almonds, you can always try other magnesium-rich foods such as spinach, avocado, and black beans.
Yes! Dark chocolate may help reduce anxiety. Studies showed that dark chocolate eases anxiety symptoms in women and aids in relieving their stress. Chocolate contains a high amount of tryptophan which results in the body creating feel-good chemicals in the brain such as serotonin.
If you wish to eat dark chocolate to reduce your anxiety, make sure you eat it in moderation, as too much of any food is harmful.
Recent studies show that yogurt can indeed help reduce anxiety including those suffering from social anxiety. Yogurt contains probiotics that are known to help improve physical and mental health. You should bear in mind that not all yogurts contain probiotics. If this is one of the options you would like to try to ease your anxiety, make sure to look for the ingredient “live active cultures”, as these yogurts contain probiotics.
Related: Foods that help reduce anxiety
6. Drink chamomile tea
Tea can be much more than a delicious afternoon drink. In fact, a cup of chamomile tea is a well-known home remedy to calm nerves and promote a good quality of sleep. A 2009 study revealed that chamomile may be a strong element to combat anxiety disorder. Participants who took German chamomile capsules (200 milligrams up to five times daily) had a greater reduction in scores for tests, which measured symptoms of anxiety than those participants who were given placebo.
7. Try Aromatherapy
Aromatherapy is a form of holistic therapy that uses essential oils to help improve your emotional and physical balance. It uses fragrant essential oils to promote health and well-being. A 2012 study tested the effects of aromatherapy with lavender on insomnia in 67 women aged 45–55. Results suggest that aromatherapy may reduce the heart rate in the short term and relieve sleeping issues in the long term.
Aromatherapy uses plant extracts and essential oils to create home remedies for anxiety. You can start by inhaling the fragrances directly or adding the oil to a warm bath or diffuser.
Plants are known for increasing air quality and boosting our moods. According to a study in the Journal of Physiological Anthropology, participants who were in contact with plants had an improved heart rate and blood pressure. Most incredibly, they felt calmer and more comfortable. From lavender to passionflower, there are specific plants, which can relieve anxiety symptoms. Below are some of the best plants, which you can keep in your garden and also use them to make oils and delicious teas.
Kava Kava or simply Kava is an herbal remedy found in the tropical evergreen shrub, Piper methysticum. The roots of the plant, when mixed with water or coconut milk, create an interesting herbal remedy. You can ingest the root in tea or capsules. The compound kavapyrones found in Kava are what eases anxiety, relieve stress and improves sleep.
Like Kava root, valerian root is also used to relieve anxiety and adjust sleeping patterns. It is a remedy that has been around for thousands of years and has shown to be effective. The herb helps modulate neurotransmitter activity and calm ones-self. Take valerian root in the form of tea, extracts, and capsules. Regardless of your preferred method, remember to take valerian root during the evening or one hour before bedtime as it makes you feel drowsy.
This plant regulates neurotransmitter activity in the brain thus resulting in reduced stress and anxiety levels. Take passionflower in the form of capsules or as an extract. It can be taken with a capsule containing 0.4g of passionflower or, if you wish to take it in the form of a liquid extract, 45 drops are the ideal dose.
Lemon balm may be the tastiest of these calming herbs to use. Unlike the herbal remedies mentioned above, lemon balm is more refreshing and bitter. You can take lemon balm in various forms – through tea, extracts, capsules and, arguably the most beneficial- oils. What makes this herb truly special are certain chemicals that regulate neurotransmitter activity in the nervous system.
Related: What are the benefits of Lemon Balm and how to use it?
Ashwagandha is a 3,000-year-old herb that is often used in remedies for anxiety. Apart from soothing anxiety, it also increases energy levels and improves concentration. The charming thing about this herb is that it has no side effects pertaining to drowsiness and – even better – it prevents the effects of aging.
Lavender Essential Oil
Nowadays, this is one of the most used essential oils — you have probably heard of it already. Most recently, it has been linked to a calming effect, soothing anxiety. Since this type of essential oil regulates the activity in the nervous system, it is regarded as one of the greatest natural anxiety relievers. The oil can be inhaled, massaged over the body, or used in a diffuser in the bath.
Related: Lavender essential oil and the different ways to use it
9. Detox from social media
Sometimes, we get lost in one of the many internet rabbit holes. We don’t even realize how much time passes as we scroll down through our notifications, photos, and stories. Recent statistics show that the average person spends about two and a half hours on social networking and messaging per day. Most alarmingly, it is estimated that 210 million people suffer from internet and social media addictions worldwide.
In recent years, there have been abundant conversations about the toxic effects of online media on our minds. When you spend more than a healthy amount of time on social media, you begin comparing your lives to those you see on the platforms. Ultimately, this can make you feel lost, sad, and stressed. Sometimes, unbeknownst to you, social media can be another source of anxiety.
Someone once said, “comparison kills joy.” This cannot be more accurate. What’s more, unnecessary comparisons kill peace. The best remedy for social media-induced anxiety is to try a “digital detox”. Simply cut out your social media for a day. If this is too hard, try cutting one hour of internet and social media use per day. Soon, you will notice how this makes a positive difference in your life.
Related: Social Media Obsession and Anxiety
10. Writing / Journaling
Transcribing your emotions and thoughts on a page can be very beneficial for those with different types of anxiety disorders. As confirmed by a 2016 a study, expressive writing and therapeutic stories had a positive impact on teenagers struggling with anxiety. This is how writing or journaling helps in detail:
- Writing down your thoughts may help you to distinguish the rational thoughts from the irrational. This helps to not formulate unlikely circumstances in your head.
- Following on from the above point, writing can also help you identify what is making you anxious. This is helpful because once you know the reason for your stress, it is easier to come up with a solution even if that means talking to someone about the problem.
- Journals can also help with keeping track of the symptoms you are experiencing. For example, if you get more anxious in the evening, you can choose to use this time to meditate or exercise. By knowing when you are anxious, you can find something during that time that you know will relieve the anxiety.
11. Time Management Strategies
This world can be very overwhelming at times. There is no pause button on life and it is, therefore, very easy to feel anxious with all of your responsibilities. Sometimes it is important to look at these and find an efficient strategy to manage them. If the amount of commitments you have makes you anxious, you should work on your time-management skills. A good way to start is by creating a planner or calendar to help you get through the day.
Don’t worry, there is a solution for anxiety
Anxiety is a condition, which affects about 264 million people around the world. Suffering from anxiety can seriously disrupt a person’s everyday life. Feelings of worry and doom rule the mind. Each person experiences it in a different way, presenting certain anxiety symptoms and types of anxiety that can affect both their physical and mental well-being. As people and their experiences vary, the ideal treatment to help you cope with anxiety will differ. Although it is extremely crucial to contact your health provider when suffering from severe anxiety, there are a number of natural remedies that can help you. From exercising to healthy eating and meditation, these methods will soothe your anxiety and improve your wellbeing.
At Synctuition, we provide you with the best relaxation technology to relax your mind and improve your everyday life.