by Ron Burg
While a little bit of nervousness can be a good thing, those who suffer from serious anxiety know that it can have a deeply negative impact on a person’s life. As the most common mental health disorder in the United States, you or someone you know probably has struggled with serious anxiety issues at some point in their life. Before turning to drugs prescribed by doctors, there are some natural ways out there that can help ease your anxiety. Try one of these natural options that have been shown to successfully reduce anxiety in some people:
Ditch the Caffeine
If you drink a lot of caffeinated drinks, try swapping them for decaffeinated drinks instead. Caffeine is a stimulant that blocks a chemical called adenosine (which acts as a depressant). This gives us a boost of energy that can give some people focus, and others deep anxiety. If you suspect that caffeine may be exacerbating your anxiety, try switching it with soothing teas that contain chamomile or lavender, both of which are known for their calming effects. However, make sure that you talk with your doctor before trying any herbal teas if you are on some sort of medication (especially warfarin), as the teas can alter its effects.
Exercise may not be the cure-all that some people make it out to be, but exercise can make a huge difference to both your mental and physical health. The busiest people with high-stress jobs often wake up early to sneak in some exercise so that they can keep calm under pressure. It doesn’t take much, either. Just 30 minutes of exercise a day (which can be broken into 10-minutes sessions throughout the day) can significantly improve your mood and reduce stress. Brisk walking, tennis, biking, dancing—it doesn’t matter what the activity is, as long as you are getting your heart rate up. In addition, exercise helps people sleep better, and getting eight hours of sleep each night also plays an important role in controlling anxiety.
People take supplements for a variety of reasons. Whether it’s because you are not getting your recommended daily allowance of vitamin D or because you want to treat hair loss, supplements are often a possible solution. When it comes to treating anxiety, the evidence is mixed. Some supplements such as magnesium have insufficient evidence when it comes to reducing anxiety, while melatonin has shown stronger evidence in its effectiveness. GABA (gamma amino butyric acid) has also shown evidence of reducing anxiety in people. Just like herbal teas, it is important that you consult a doctor before taking supplements to reduce your anxiety.
Lean on Friends and Family
Work, family, school—no matter what is triggering your anxiety, leaning on family and friends can be a huge help. It is particularly helpful for those who often turn to unhealthy habits during stressful periods in their life, such as overeating or binge drinking. If you have supportive friends and family, it is important that you reach out to them when you are feeling anxious.
Talking in person or on the phone can effectively calm you down and make you feel safe. It can be very difficult for some people to talk to therapists when their anxiety is out of control, because they are strangers, but family and friends can make them feel secure and comfortable. Talking with your family and friends about personal issues also has the potential to bring you even closer.
Another way of reducing anxiety is by practicing mindfulness meditation. This is a form of meditation that makes one more aware, or mindful, of both the inner and outer experiences, with acceptance and compassion, rather than negative emotions. Mindfulness meditation was born out of a 2,500-year-old Buddhist practice called insight meditation and became widely popular in the West.
Studies have shown that mindfulness meditation can improve a person’s sense of wellbeing, and many people find meditation and daily exercise an effective combination, when it comes to reducing symptoms of anxiety. If you aren’t sure where to begin, try finding a class in your area or use Headspace, a free meditation app.
Have a Laugh
If you are feeling anxious, pull up a comedy special on Netflix or go to a comedy club with friends. Laughing has the power to lower your stress levels by triggering the release of endorphins, serotonin, and other beneficial chemicals. It also reduces the body’s secretion of cortisol (the stress hormone) and epinephrine (adrenaline). In fact, even smiling can trigger this reaction––even if the smile is forced. For this reason, there are many clubs dedicated simply to laughing, and there are even yoga classes that incorporate laughter into them for ultimate stress relief. Scientists think that laughter may combat stress, because it signals to the body that there is no reason to fear when we are taking deep breaths induced by laughter. Exhalation is a relaxation response, which is why we are instructed to take deep breaths to calm down in times of panic.
Listen to Music
There has been a lot of research done on the effect music has on those with high levels of anxiety. A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) found that when individuals being treated in an intensive care unit listened to music, nurses didn’t need to give the patients as much medicine to calm them than as without music.
Scientists have also found that listening to music can reduce pain in high-anxiety patients. For this reason, more hospitals are encouraging patients to bring music devices and playlists with them into the hospital.
Depending on what you listen to, music can help you relieve some of your anxiety. Build a playlist on Spotify or download music that you can listen to when you’re feeling anxious. It is a good way to manage stress.