12 Jun 5 All-Natural Ways to Fight Anxiety
Anxiety is truly a modern condition, triggered by the kind of constant stressors our ancestors never knew. When our body is under a constant state of stress, anxiety, and panic, it can be hard to function, and the effects of anxiety can exact a long term toll on the body.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness diagnosed in Americans. There are an estimated 40 million adults—18% of the country’s population—who suffer from anxiety.
Anxiety negatively affects the body in the form of insomnia and fatigue, irritability, muscle tension, headaches, trembling or twitching, feeling out of breath, and various stomach and digestive problems. It can even cause the fear center of your brain, the amygdala, to grow larger and more reactive, leading to a draining cycle of further worry, stress, and anxiety.
Standard medical treatment options for anxiety include pharmaceuticals, cognitive behavioral therapy, or often a combination of the two. However, those living with anxiety have other, drug-free methods for reducing anxiety, such as meditation, diet, essential oils, changes in environment, and exercise, that they can pursue on their own for a natural remedy for daily stress.
Mindfulness meditation is just one of many styles of meditation you can try. It’s widely considered a good beginner’s meditation style since it’s easy, effective, and requires no special training to get started. It’s often the meditation of choice for people regularly facing unusually high levels of stress.
Mindfulness trains you to view your thoughts differently, adjusting how you react to worrisome ideas. You learn to stop stressing about the future and wrestling with the past. Rather than following a stressful thought through all possible negative outcomes, you learn to recognize it for what it is and then let it go, thus training your brain to be less anxious.
Meditation doesn’t have to require a long time commitment. As little as 10 minutes per day is all it can take to refocus the way you think about your world. Start with basic mindful breathing meditation to center your mind. When practiced regularly, mindfulness meditation will train your brain to stop obsessing about anxious thoughts and exist in the moment.
Here’s is a simple guide to getting started:
- Sit quietly in a comfortable position with your eyes closed in a space free of distraction.
- Breathe normally and simply notice your intake and exhale on each breath.
- Adopting a mantra as simple as “breathing in, breathing out” can help keep other thoughts at bay.
- When you notice a random thought enter your mind, simply label it as “a thought” and dismiss it, bringing your attention back to your breath.
The immediate goal of meditation is not to avoid thought altogether. Thinking thoughts is what your brain does naturally. The goal of mindful meditation is to simply notice these thoughts when they occur and gently push them aside.
Mindfulness as a technique can easily be incorporated into the most hectic daily schedule and doesn’t cost a thing to start. Once you get the hang of it, you can train yourself to be mindful when doing any activity. You can mindfully walk, eat, brush your teeth, or sit in traffic, training your mind not to focus and obsess on negative thoughts and freeing you from anxiety.
Virtually any form of exercise, from aerobics to yoga, can act as a stress reliever. Not only can it help you keep your mind off anxious thoughts, but the healthful effects can counteract the negative effects of stress on the body.
Physical activity helps bump up the production of your brain’s feel-good neurotransmitters, called endorphins. Although this function is often referred to as a runner’s high, many other physical activities can contribute to this same feeling. It’s meditation in motion. After a fast-paced game or several miles covered, you’ll find that concentrating on your body’s movements allowed your mind a much needed respite.
It also improves your mood, self-confidence, and your overall quality of sleep. All of these exercise benefits can ease stress levels and give you a sense of control over your life.
Often it is not what we are missing in our diet, but what we are eating and drinking instead that most enhance our feelings of anxiety.
Excess coffee is a known anxiety stimulant. In moderation (once a day), caffeine may not trigger anxiety in most people, but the more you drink the more you increase your risk. Sugar, like caffeine, stimulates your body in a way that can create a jitteriness that exacerbates anxiety symptoms.
In addition to healthy guidelines such as eating a balanced diet, drinking enough water to stay hydrated, and limiting or avoiding alcohol and caffeine, there are many other dietary considerations that may affect anxiety.
Foods rich in tryptophan are regarded as effective at reducing anxiety. These foods have a natural relaxation component and may even increase your metabolism as an added bonus. Although best known to be present in turkey, other ingredients, like oats, soy, sesame seeds, and other poultry all have a fair amount of tryptophan.
You can also take a daily vitamin B supplement or eat foods that are rich in B vitamins, including beef, pork, chicken, leafy greens, legumes, oranges and other citrus fruits, rice, nuts, and eggs, to lessen feelings of anxiety.
Finally, omega-3 fatty acids, found in fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, lake trout, herring, mackerel, anchovies, and sardines, have been suggested to be uplifting and enhance your mood.
Nature herself also offers ways to reduce anxiety. The beauty of essential oils is that they are naturally extracted from the flowers, leaves, bark, or roots of plants. Lavender, rose, vetiver, ylang ylang, bergamot, chamomile, clary sage, and frankincense essential oils are all recognized to offer relaxation and a calmer state of mind.
When an anxiety attack begins, you can open the cap on your essential oils bottle and breathe in the vapor or warm a drop on your palms and inhale deeply.
For anxiety hot spots around your home, office, or car, add a drop or two to a porous stone and place it in that area. Oil diffusers are also an effective use of essential oils. Diffuse the relaxing essentials listed above in your home for a calm and fragrant household.
The effects of worry, fear, and self-doubt are fueled by isolation. Being alone with one thoughts often feeds the emotions that cause anxiety.
There are many outdoor activities, some physical and some not, that can be done alone or with friends that are both fun and mood-altering.
Outdoor adventures like hiking, kayaking, and rock climbing are a great way to unwind as long as they don’t trigger your anxiety – same for group and individual sports like golf, tennis, softball, and basketball.
Martial arts often combine both meditation and physical activity. Try adding low impact Tai Chi to stimulate the body and clear the mind.
Bike riding can be either physically demanding or leisurely, depending on your preference and location. Find a favorite route that is scenic and fits your capabilities. Walking alone or with friends can also be a fun way to get moving and refocus your thoughts.
Regardless of which method you choose to control your anxiety, the ideas presented in this article will help you find all-natural ways to reduce worry and stress and enhance your well-being. Learn more about ways to enhance your wellness on our education page.