Many of those suffering with anxiety disorders are seeking natural remedies to manage their anxiety in a healthier way, without dependence on prescription medication and without self-medicating with harmful substances such as excessive alcohol consumption. The constant worrying, fear and debilitating negative thoughts that come with anxiety disorders are enough for anyone to want to seek out proper treatment. Prescription anti-anxiety medication, however, can be addictive and can come with a load of negative side-effects. Now, although there are a ton of tips out there for ‘natural’ cures for anxiety, a lot of those natural cures you read about are bogus. For example, although the scent of lavender can be somewhat calming, smelling lavender will not kill anxiety within an individual suffering from a serious episode where anxious thoughts are consuming and paralyzing them. That’s why I wanted to offer up a list of natural remedies for anxiety that actually work. I myself have an anxiety disorder and I have found that these 9 natural cures really did make a difference for me during times of suffering:
1. Practice the 4-7-8 Breathing Technique
In his bestselling book entitled Spontaneous Happiness, Andrew Weil, MD, introduced an anxiety-reducing breathing technique called the 4-7-8 breathing exercise. It’s very simple to do. You inhale a deep breath for a count of 4 seconds. You then hold your breath tightly for a count of 7 seconds, and exhale slowly by pushing the air out of your open mouth for a count of 8 seconds. Repeat a few times.
One of the reasons this breathing exercise works is because anxiety is, in essence, is a lot of pent up and tense emotions and fears that need to be released. The act of holding your breath for a count of 7 seconds and then releasing that breath symbolizes you releasing your anxiety, and provides a satisfying feeling of a physical release when you get to let that breath out. Another reason this exercise works is because anxiety causes you to tense up your body, but deep breathing forces you to relax your body. Plus, a lot of the time when we’re anxious all day, we forget to take a moment to just breathe.
2. Spend Time With Pets
Spending time with a friend’s pet – or better yet, getting a pet yourself – will do wonders for your anxiety and for the animal’s anxiety, too. There’s nothing wrong with being alone, but loneliness isn’t exactly great for those with anxiety. Loneliness can trigger anxiety and depression. If you have a dog, however, that dog will always be there when you wake up, kissing your face and jumping all over you, encouraging to start your day. That dog will offer you unconditional love and companionship. The presence of a dog is relaxing and dogs intuitively know when you’re feeling anxious and they’ll be by your side. They’ll snuggle with you whenever you need cuddles, and there’s something incredibly therapeutic and calming about holding and petting your dog (or cat!) The best part is they want to cuddle with you. Canna-Pet points out that dog anxiety is a real problem that exists when dogs don’t get to spend enough quality time with their owners. This means that by spending quality time with your dog to ease your stress, you’re simultaneously reducing your dog’s stress as well. Knowing that a dog wants to be by your side and needs you just as much as you need them gives your day meaning, and having purpose helps with anxiety! There’s even such a thing as a service dog for anxiety, or an emotional support dog. Psychiatrists sometimes prescribe their patients treatment in the form of an emotional support dog instead of anti-anxiety drugs.
3. Try Kava
Kava is a natural plant known for its calming and anxiety-killing effects, and some people compare its effects to those of the anti-anxiety drug Valium (but much safer.) Kava naturally increases dopamine in the brain and induces a slight euphoria, which allows the body and mind to enter a relaxed state while anxiety dissipates. Double-blind studies have proven Kava’s anxiety-reducing effects. Kava has been used as a natural medicine for thousands of years, and it’s recently become common knowledge that it helps with anxiety. I recently discovered KATY, a natural mood-boosting supplement which has Kava in it. By including other key ingredients, the effects of the Kava are “potentiated” in KATY. This means, by adding select ingredients, in the right proportions, the supplement called KATY enhances the benefits of Kava which as helped my anxiety and helped to regulate my mood. You can also drink Kava in tea, but I personally found the natural supplement to work better. KATY also has green tea extract in it, which counteracts the feelings of drowsiness you’d otherwise get when you consume Kava, and I prefer not to be drowsy – because I’d like to still be able to get work done and get household projects done!
4. Stop Procrastinating
Speaking of getting work done and being productive, procrastinating important tasks, projects, household chores, work or other important responsibilities will only make your anxiety worse. Procrastination adds to anxiety because your unearned leisure time will make you feel anxious when you know you should be doing whatever it is you’re putting off doing.
5. Get Daily Exercise
Exercise is an extremely effective, natural cure for anxiety – for several reasons. For one thing, inactivity or unused energy can cause anxiety. If you don’t exercise and you’re too inactive, that unused energy will turn into physical tension. The stress hormone known as cortisol depletes when you exercise, and exercising releases feel-good endorphins that help improve your overall mood. Plus, a completed workout gives you a sense of accomplishment – because you did something productive. This in itself can reduce anxiety. You’re even better off if you exercise outside, because spending time outdoors and in nature is linked to feelings of happiness and general well-being.
6. Eat Well
Just as exercise is an important form of self-care that reduces anxiety, eating well can have a positive effect on the mood as well. Certain foods can help reduce stress such as avocado, blueberries, almonds, oatmeal and turkey – just to name a few. These foods are known for their stress-reducing effects, but even if you don’t believe in all of that, believe this: eating healthy makes you feel good about yourself, and eating crap foods will make you feel bad about yourself, which heightens your overall anxiety. Any sense of accomplishment can help with anxiety, and if you go to bed tonight knowing that you ate healthy today, you’ll feel that sense of accomplishment dissipating your anxiety.
7. Have Sex
Orgasms are a fantastic, natural anxiety-killer because they increase dopamine and serotonin levels in the brain and help you physically release, let go and relax. Plus, having sex is a great way to burn off some of that anxious energy that’s pent up inside of you. Bonus points if you can convince your partner to give you a soothing massage afterwards and cuddle you. Just being held by someone is therapeutic for anxiety sufferers, and it feels great after a sexual release of all that tension.
8. Be Social Instead of Alienating Yourself
Social interaction with friends, outside of the house, is extremely important for your health. Those with anxiety need social interactions to get out of their heads and to feel human connection. The problem is that anxiety sufferers often would rather be alone. It’s common to not be in the mood for social interaction, and it’s common to assume you should stay home if you’re in a ‘mood’ because you won’t be very good company. However, if you force yourself to get up, get dressed, and go meet some friends – I promise you’ll feel better once you’re out and you’ll be glad you did. Interacting with others in social settings is crucial to your mental health – remember that.
9. Write Down Your Thoughts in a Journal
By now, you’ve probably noticed a theme in many of these tips of ‘releasing’ your body and mind of its anxious thoughts, whether it’s from a physical or emotional release. By journaling each night and writing down your thoughts, fears and ideas, you’ll release that anxiety onto the paper, which helps you move on instead of staying stuck. Journaling also helps you understand and dissect your fears and anxieties, which leads to problem solving and a sense of hope. Plus, if you start to write down instances of extreme anxiety or instances of unusual calm, you might start to figure out what triggers your anxiety, and what happens to calm it down. Journaling helps you to decipher these patterns that ultimately control your anxiety. Remember that there are no rules when it comes to journaling. You just need to buy a notebook, and write anything you want down. Don’t worry about structure, spelling mistakes, or what you should be writing. Just write whatever you’re feeling or whatever you want to write, and I promise it will feel good.
Erica Gordon is the author of Aren’t You Glad You Read This? The Complete How-To Guide for Singles with a History of Failed Relationships Who Want their Next Relationship to Succeed, available here.