If you live with anxiety, you are not alone. Nearly 20 percent of our population lives with this potentially debilitating disorder. Anxiety disorders can be triggered by personal trauma, passed on genetically, or caused by chemical imbalances within your brain. Your symptoms could be mild, or you could find that your anxiety levels interfere with your health, your happiness and your interaction with the world around you.
It is possible to have more than one type of anxiety disorder. Some of the most common types include generalized anxiety, social anxiety, panic disorders and phobias.
While each of these anxiety disorders may have their own set of triggers, the symptoms are similar. If you have been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, you may recognize some, or most, of the following symptoms.
- Feeling tense or nervous
- Feelings of impending doom
- Feeling weak or fatigued
- Difficulty concentrating
- Sweating or trembling
- Increased heart rate
- Sleep issues or insomnia
- Digestive disturbances
- Avoiding situations that trigger anxiety
Standard Anxiety Treatments
While doctors often prescribe medications to treat anxiety, physicians generally don’t like to prescribe anti-anxiety medications for long-term use because of their potentially addictive nature. For long-term use antidepressants are often prescribed.
Unfortunately, anti-anxiety and antidepressant medications are not always effective. They are also known to involve a long list of potential side effects, including nausea, dizziness, diarrhea and suicidal thoughts.
Natural Anxiety Remedies
When prescription medications are not the best option, many people turn to natural remedies for anxiety and depression. Fortunately, many natural substances are shown to work as effectively as some prescription medications to alleviate anxiety symptoms, with potentially fewer side effects. Some natural do-it-yourself anti-anxiety treatments include:
- Alleviating Anxiety Symptoms with Chamomile
Chamomile has been used throughout history to improve sleep and calm the nerves. Recent studies show that chamomile is quite effective for symptoms of mild-to-moderate anxiety. A 2016 article in Phytomedicine reports that chamomile can be as effective as pharmaceuticals, such as valium, without the extensive list of potential side effects. To treat your symptoms with chamomile, you can use a prepackaged tea, or make your own tea from fresh or dried chamomile flowers. For maximum benefits, try drinking a cup of chamomile tea three times a day.
- The Sedative Effects of Passionflower
The passionflower is often used to help treat insomnia, but passionflower can also be used to calm anxiety symptoms. Passionflower is a sedative, so be careful not to use it with other sedating herbs like valerian, kava or lemon balm. You should also avoid passionflower if you are taking prescription medications. You can indulge in passionflower tea by adding a teaspoon of dried (or 2 teaspoons fresh) flowers in a cup of hot water and steeping for ten It is safe to consume two or three cups throughout your day. You could also try adding a few drops of passion flower essential oil to your bath to promote relaxation.
- The Benefits of Lavender
Lavender stimulates the release of neurotransmitters that offset your stress hormones. Historically lavender has been used as a sedative and studies show that the aroma of lavender has a direct effect on the autonomic nervous system and calms overexcited responses. The aroma of lavender is also shown on EEG to increase alertness and minimize pain perception.
There are many ways to experience the benefits of lavender; you can apply a few drops of lavender essential oil to your pillow, apply it directly to your skin or dilute a few drops with water and spray it into the air.
Lavender tea is shown to reduce anxiety, ease muscle tension, promote healthy digestion, soothe chronic pain and reduce inflammation. Steep a teaspoon of lavender in hot water for 5-10 minutes. It is recommended to drink 2-3 cups of lavender tea throughout the day to reduce anxiety symptoms.
Lifestyle Modifications that Can Minimize Your Symptoms
Research indicates that sugary, processed foods contribute to anxiety symptoms and make symptoms more difficult to manage. It is also beneficial to limit your consumption of caffeine and alcohol. You may benefit from limiting your caffeinated beverages to one cup per day and alcoholic drinks to 3 per week, but no more than two at one time.
While this advice may seem very general to your overall health, diet and exercise are important to help your body produce the neurotransmitters that can help your body and brain achieve good communication and balance. You may find benefit in the following suggestions.
- The Calming Effects of Exercise
Exercise is a powerful combatant in the battles against anxiety. It only takes 20 minutes each day of regular aerobic activity, any type of exercise that increases your heart rate, to have a positive impact on your emotional health. Exercise causes your body to release endorphins, the chemical compound that improves your mood and well-being. On days you are feeling particularly anxious, you may find you feel much calmer after a vigorous workout.
- The Importance of the Foods You Select
Consuming too few, or too many calories than your body needs can magnify the symptoms of anxiety. Your diet can also affect your blood sugar levels. Abnormal blood sugar levels can cause you to feel nervous or jittery. Eating a variety of anti-inflammatory foods may help to alleviate your anxiety symptoms because they help your body balance your moods and stress responses. To get the most benefit from your diet, be sure to include plenty Omega-3 fatty acids, healthy fats, seeds and nuts, lean protein, leafy greens, fruits, vegetables and unrefined grains.
Supplements that May Alleviate Anxiety Symptoms
There are many dietary supplements proven beneficial to alleviating anxiety symptoms. These herbal remedies are available over-the-counter. If you are going to try herbal supplements, it is essential to do your homework. Many herbal supplements have side effects and can interact with other medications. Some of the recommended dietary supplements include:
- B Complex Vitamins
The B vitamins are essential for maintaining a healthy nervous system. In fact, the symptoms of a vitamin B6 deficiency include anxiety, irritability, and Supplementing the B vitamins may improve your symptoms.
A supplement that relaxes muscles and calms an overexcited nervous system. Magnesium supplements are often recommended for symptoms of anxiety, digestive disorders, muscle aches and insomnia. It is best to start with a small dose, too much magnesium can cause diarrhea.
An inhibitory neurotransmitter that causes a sedative effect. It is often used to treat anxiety, relieve insomnia and reduce the symptoms of PMS. Some anti-anxiety medications such as Xanax and valium work by increasing the amount of GABA in the brain.
- Kava Root
A non-addictive anxiolytic that stimulates dopamine receptors. Kava root can interact with several medications and alcohol. The most common side effects are drowsiness, headache, and diarrhea.
An herb that helps stabilize your body’s stress responses while protecting the brain from degeneration. Ashwagandha may also help reduce fatigue and improve focus without the risk of side effects associated with many prescription medications.
While anxiety is a natural response to dangerous situations, it is also one of the most prevalent mental health conditions, affecting one out of every five of us at any given time. The conventional treatments for anxiety disorders include medications and behavioral therapy, but many natural alternative therapies, such as herbal teas, vitamin supplements, essential oils, and lifestyle modifications can also provide anxiety relief.
Whether your anxiety is mild or severe, anxiety is one of the most common reasons that people just like you, seek out a counselor or therapist to learn to understand and address their disorder. We can help you with a personalized, tailored approach to overcome the anxiety that interferes with your enjoyment of the world around you. Contact us to speak with one of our counselors.