5 Ways to Naturally Reduce Anxiety
Some anxiety is a typical part of life. It’s a byproduct of living in a busy world.Anxiety isn’t all bad, though. It makes you aware of danger, motivates you to stay organized and prepared, and helps you calculate risks. Still, when anxiety becomes a daily recurrence, it’s time to act before it snowballs.
What is anxiety?
Anxiety is your body’s natural response to stress. It’s a feeling of fear or worry that could be caused by a combination of factors that researchers believe range from genetics to environmental to brain chemistry.
Some common symptoms of anxiety include:
increased heart rate
However, it’s important to note that anxiety can present itself in different ways for different people. While one person may experience a butterfly feeling in their stomach, another might have panic attacks, nightmares, or painful thoughts.With that being said, there’s a difference between everyday anxiety and anxiety disorders. Feeling anxious about something new or stressful is one thing, but when it gets to an uncontrollable or excessive point and starts to affect your quality of life, it could be a disorder.
Some anxiety disorders include:
post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)
social anxiety disorder
5 natural remedies for anxiety
1. Stay active
Regular exercise isn’t just about physical health — it can be a huge help to your mental health, as well.A 2013 study found that people with anxiety disorders who reported a high level of physical activity were better protected against developing anxiety symptoms.This could be for a variety of reasons. Exercise can divert your attention away from something that’s making you anxious.Getting your heart rate up also changes the brain chemistry to create more space for anti-anxiety neurochemicals, like:
gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA)
brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF)
According to the American Psychological Association (APA), regular exercise leads to an enhancement of concentration and willpower, which can help certain anxiety symptoms.When it comes to what type of exercise, this is more of a personal preference. If you’re looking to really get your heart rate up, something like a HIIT class (high-intensity interval training) or running is your best bet.But if you’re looking to start off with something with a little lower impact, workouts, like Pilates and yoga, could also be just as beneficial for your mental health.
2. Steer clear of alcohol
Drinking alcohol may take the edge off at first, since it’s a natural sedative. However, research suggests there’s a link between anxiety and alcohol consumption, with anxiety disorders and alcohol use disorder (AUD) occurring hand-in-hand.A 2017 review that looked at 63 different studies showed that decreasing alcohol intake can improve both anxiety and depression.Heavy drinking can interfere with the balance of neurotransmitters, which can be responsible for positive mental health. This interference creates an imbalance that may lead to certain symptoms of anxiety.Anxiety may temporarily increase in early sobriety but can improve in the long run.Alcohol has also been shown to disrupt your body’s natural ability to sleep by interfering with sleep homeostasis. And as we’ll later point out, a good night’s sleep is incredibly helpful when combating anxiety.
3. Consider quitting smoking cigarettes
Smokers often reach for a cigarette during stressful times. Yet, like drinking alcohol, taking a drag on a cigarette when you’re stressed is a quick fix that may worsen anxiety over time.Research has shown that the earlier you start smoking in life, the higher your risk of developing an anxiety disorder later. Research also suggests nicotine and other chemicals in cigarette smoke alter pathways in the brain linked to anxiety.If you’re looking to quit, there are lots of different ways you can get started. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends finding a safe substitute for cigarettes, like toothpicks.You can also take up habits that may distract you in order to create an environment that works for your smoke-free life. Additionally, you can make a plan with a support system who can provide everything from encouragement to distractions.
4. Limit caffeine intake
If you have chronic anxiety, caffeine is not your friend. Caffeine may cause nervousness and jitters, neither of which is good if you’re anxious.Research has shown caffeine may cause or worsen anxiety disorders. It may also cause panic attacks in people with panic disorder. In some people, eliminating caffeine may significantly improve anxiety symptoms.Similar to alcohol, caffeine and anxiety are often linked, due to caffeine’s ability to alter brain chemistry.For example, a 2008 study showed that caffeine increases alertness by blocking the brain chemical adenosine, which is what makes you feel tired, while at the same time triggering the release of adrenalin.With all this being said, a moderate intake of caffeine is safe for most people.However, if you’re looking to cut back or completely cut out caffeine, you’ll want to start by slowly reducing the amount of caffeine you drink daily.Start replacing these drinks with water to quench the thirst. This will not only satisfy your body’s need to drink a liquid, but it will also help flush caffeine from your body and keep you hydrated.Gradually reducing your caffeine over the course of a few weeks can help adjust the habit without the body going through withdrawal.
5. Prioritize getting a good night’s rest
Sleep has been proven time and time again to be an important part of good mental health.Even though a 2012 survey found that nearly a third of adults get less than 6 hours of sleep a night, the CDC recommends that adults get 7 to 9 hours of sleep every day.
You can make sleep a priority by:
only sleeping at night when you’re tired
not reading or watching television in bed
not using your phone, tablet, or computer in bed
not tossing and turning in your bed or going to another room if you can’t sleep
avoiding caffeine, large meals, and nicotine before bedtime
keeping your room dark and cool
writing down your worries before going to bed
going to sleep at the same time each night