If you're feeling stressed and overwhelmed about money, relationships, work, time management, or any number of other factors, you may need some extra help to easy your anxiety. Even if you're already taking medication for a diagnosed anxiety disorder, you may need to soothe yourself on occasion when your stressors are coming at you in waves. These 15 natural anxiety remedies can help you relax and ease your mind.
Get Out In the Sun . . .
Sunshine is nature's best source of vitamin D, a vitamin that is significantly low in people who suffer from depression and anxiety. Lower levels of sunshine are also linked to lower levels of serotonin, which is a common cause of Seasonal Affective Disorder. As an added bonus, going outside distracts you from your worries and gives you a chance to walk or jog, which will give you those endorphin benefits from exercise.
. . . Or the Woods
The Japanese practice "forest baths," or walks in the forest, as a natural cure for anxiety and depression. A walk in the forest has proven effects on your body's ability to manage anxiety, reducing pulse rate, blood pressure, and the stress hormone cortisol. This may be a combination of the exercise, the sunshine, the relaxing effect of nature, and the aromatherapy effects of the tree oil smell.
Raising your core temperature can release serotonin, naturally improving your mood. A hot shower, a retreat under some cozy blankets, or a few minutes soaking up the sunshine can help to relax both your muscles and your mind.
Take Magnesium or Soak in Epsom Salts
While you're taking that warm bath, throw in some Epsom salts. Low serotonin levels and magnesium deficiency often go hand in hand, and correcting one can correct the other. The magnesium in Epsom salts can be absorbed by your skin. You can also take a magnesium supplement or eat high-magnesium foods like tofu and nuts.
There's a good reason that chamomile tea is such a renowned anxiety reliever: chamomile's ability to soothe your nerves is scientifically proven. In a 2009 study of people with generalized anxiety disorder, people who took 220 mg of chamomile for eight weeks were less anxious than people who took a placebo. Chamomile is related to ragweed, however, so you may want to try it in small doses at first if you have a ragweed allergy.
Even in the Middle Ages, lemon balm was used to relieve anxiety. Most tests have focused on lemon balm's proven effectiveness with herbs such as hops and valerian, but one study of the herb by itself showed that it simultaneously relieved stress and increased alertness. Lemon balm may cause nausea if it’s taken for long periods, so stop taking it if it makes you feel sick.
Control Your Thoughts
A lot of generalized anxiety comes from cognitive distortions, which are thoughts that distort reality by telling you that no one likes you, the world will end if you make a small mistake, a mistake today means more tomorrow, and so on. If you catch yourself thinking one of these distorted thoughts, mindfully rephrase it in a more realistic and positive way. For example, "My husband is furious with me" can become "I should find out if my husband minds this."\
Hops - the herbs that give beer its characteristic bitter taste - are a natural sedative with anti-anxiety effects.
The bad news is that drinking it in beer won't give you enough of a dose to calm you down. Instead, try steeping the flowers in water to make a tea. Because hops is a sedative in addition to being an anxiety reliever, tread carefully when you use it; don't combine it with prescription sleep aids, and see how it affects you before driving.
A few small trials have suggested that passionflower is an effective anxiety reliever, although most of them combined it with other herbs, making it difficult to tell whether it works well by itself. Because scientists know it works in conjunction with natural anxiety remedies like valerian and lemon balm, try mixing it with those herbs in order to boost their effectiveness.
Omega-3 fatty acids aren't just good for your heart; they're also good for your mood. A 2011 study showed that participants who took omega-3 supplements for 12 weeks had lower anxiety levels than those who did not. Although you can get omega-3s from supplements, it's best to eat them in foods such as walnuts, chia seeds, spinach, and salmon or other fatty fish.
If you don't want to take supplements, try exercise. Exercise releases feel-good chemicals like endorphins to relieve depression and anxiety, and it also fights depression by boosting your immune system and core temperature. You don't have to sign up for a gym membership to exercise. Going for a walk or dancing to your favorite music can get the job done.
Taking long, deep breaths can flood your body with oxygen and release excess carbon dioxide. This slows your heartbeat, reduces your blood pressure, and generally relaxes you. Unfortunately, most people breathe shallowly rather than doing proper deep, diaphragmatic breathing. Breathe slowly in through your nose so your chest and lower belly fill with air, then out through your mouth.
Green or Black Tea
The soothing effects of a cup of tea are more than a figment of your imagination. Tea contains an amino acid called L-theanine, which has a proven relaxing effect. People sometimes assume that green tea has more L-theanine than black tea because green tea has more antioxidants, but black tea typically has more L-theanine than its green counterparts, although specialty green teas such as matcha are an exception.
Bear in mind that for natural anxiety remedies such as this one, the longer you brew the tea, the more L-theanine the leaves will release.
Most of us have heard of people filling their pillows with lavender to go to sleep. The smell of lavender can reduce anxiety and improve sleep quality, and a massage with lavender oil is more relaxing than a massage alone. Although you can take lavender orally, it can cause headaches and constipation so it's best to use it as an aromatherapy agent.
Like hops, valerian is a sedative herb that can also have anxiety-relieving effects. In fact, many herbal blends combine the two ingredients to pack a more powerful punch. Some studies have suggested that valerian isn't effective until you've taken it for four weeks or longer, so it's an herb to use for the long term rather than a quick fix for an anxiety attack you're having right now. Like with hops, talk to your doctor if you're taking a prescription sleep aid and don't drive if it makes you too tired. Because it tastes bitter, it may be better in a capsule than a tea.