“People tend to dwell more on negative things than on good things. So the mind becomes obsessed with negative things, with judgments, guilt and anxiety produced by thoughts about the future and so on.”
– Eckhart TolleFew things are more uncomfortable than anxiety. The American Psychological Association (APA) defines anxiety as “an emotion characterized by feelings of tension, worried thoughts and physical changes like increased blood pressure. The symptoms, both mental and physical, are often enough to send those suffering from it running to their doctors for a prescription. While not discounting the positive results of anti-anxiety medication, the general public seems to lack awareness for more natural treatments to the sometimes debilitating effects of anxiety. Many of these natural treatments are just as effective as prescription medications. Some are even more effective than medications, especially in the long run. Not to mention, these have WAY less side effects.
To be perfectly clear, having occasional anxiety is completely normal. All of us get overwhelmed from time to time with the demands and stressors of life, however, it is still a good idea to have a tool box full of ideas to help control or manage any anxiety or stress that may come your way. If your anxiety is getting out of control and is starting to severely affect your daily functioning (i.e. losing a job because of it, can’t leave the house because of it, etc…) then I do still recommend that you seek professional advice from a qualified and licensed mental health care professional.
1. Remember, anxious feelings are temporary
As with nearly everything else that is in this world, anxiety also comes and goes. When you’re feeling an enormous amount of anxiety or stress and you feel like you’re out of control or going crazy or as if you’re going to explode, just remember that these feelings are temporary and repeat to yourself “This too shall pass.” Uncertainty is without a doubt the most powerful and common antecedent to anxiety. When we feel out of control in any way, we are almost assuredly going to experience some varying degree of anxiety.
However, once you realize that it won’t last forever, well, it begins to go away
2. Move around more
Exercise is probably the best remedy for anxiety. It doesn’t matter what kind: bike, hike, swim, run, play a sport, do whatever as long as the heart is pumping and you are up and moving around. Exercising releases endorphins while reducing adrenaline and cortisol, two stress hormones that contribute to anxiety. Target around six aerobic 30-minute workouts a week. Aerobic workouts are the most advantageous as they raise the heart rate.
Moving around more and getting some exercise simply put boosts our mood. In fact, exercise of any form has been shown to be as or even more effective than antidepressants. Also, if you can get some exercise by doing something outside, whether it’s actual exercise or some chore/work that at least gets you up and moving around outside, that would be the most ideal form to help reduce feelings of anxiety. The exposure to fresh clean air and sunshine can also brighten your mood very quickly. Get some of that vitamin D.
3.) Get Into Nature
Along those same lines of getting up more and moving around to get some more exercise, new research has indicated that nature walks can actually lower stress levels and improve overall mood. Go sit by a body of water and just take in the scenery. Breathe in the fresh air and relax. Be in amazement at the vastness of the ocean or the lake. If you can’t find anywhere near you that has a forest where you can go take a walk, just go find a small park, of if you have grass in front of your house, and walk along the grass barefoot.
There is something about feeling the fresh grass in between your feet that is calming and anxiety reducing. You can also just go sit outside at night and stare at the starry sky and appreciate the earth that we live on. Be in amazement at the limitlessness of space. If you can do so in the morning, try to catch the morning sunrise and just sit there looking at the sun and sky for a few minutes while doing nothing else.
Actually, walking in nature with a group of people has been shown to be even more helpful than walking in nature alone. Both are super beneficial but when in the company of other good friends who are getting in some nature time with you, you get more out of it. Nature, walking/exercise, and socializing have all been shown to reduce anxiety levels individually so why not combine all three.
4. Remember to breath!
Depending on where and when our anxious feelings occur, we may be limited in how they’re dealt with. In certain contexts where we can’t just get up and mediate or go run a mile or go find a lake to sit next to; bringing attention to your breath is a great way to help ease anxiety.
Bring focus to the breath for a few moments and try to consciously start breathing more deeply. The reason is because when we are anxious we have a tendency to breathe in a more shallow fashion. Make a conscious effort to fill up the abdominal/diaphragm/belly area with deep mindful breaths. Then slowly exhale while feeling the anxiety release from every part of your body. Literally picture it leaving with every exhale.
Try to take a deep breath in for 4 seconds, hold it for 7 seconds, and slowly exhale over an 8 second count. Perform this three more times if you need to, but no more than twice a day if you do it this many times. Proper oxygen sent to the brain can immediately bring you a sense of relaxation allowing your anxiety to diminish.
Chamomile is an herb that has been used to treat symptoms associated with anxiety for thousands of years. It is even used in many cultures as a treatment for certain physical ailments as well. A cup of chamomile tea with a little bit of natural fresh honey is a good choice, but nowadays it can be taken as a supplement. Just go to your local vitamin or health food store and I am sure they will have a chamomile supplement for you to take in a pill format.
However, I would strongly recommend investing the time into making yourself a nice cup of fresh chamomile tea. I find this to work best. If you have a Keurig you can even simply pop a K-Cup of chamomile tea in and drink that, or you can go looking for some fresh chamomile herbs and make yourself an even fresher cup of relaxing tea.
The longer the chamomile herb is consumed, no matter what the format of consumption is, the more effective it can be. So it is important to take it consistently if you want the most out of it.
There are numerous health benefits that can be found in bananas but anxiety sufferers will be ecstatic to hear that they work as an all-natural beta blocker, which can actually block adrenaline! Eating a banana or two a half hour before an anxiety-provoking event has been shown to actually help reduce symptoms of anxiety. The best part is, they’re cheap and can be found in your grocers aisle without a prescription.
Just like chamomile, lavender is an herb that has been around for centuries and has been used widely to treat symptoms of anxiety. You can add lavender scented bath salts to a warm bath, light a lavender scented candle, or buy it in an oil format. Many people like to use lavender scented oils in an oil diffuser for aromatherapy. There are even lavender scented pillows, shampoos, stuffed animals, soaps, sleep masks, and laundry detergent. Pick whichever you would like but lavender as a bath salt or used in aromatherapy with an oil diffuser seem to work the best.
Here is a link to an Amazon Oil Diffuser that I use:
And…some oils to use in the oil diffuser including lavender for some aromatherapy that you can do on your own in your house:
Omega-3s are fatty acids that can increase serotonin, a chemical that sufferers of anxiety and depression are often lacking. Incorporate omega-3s into your diet by eating more fish such as salmon or by taking a supplement containing 700-1,000 mg of EPA and 200-500 mg of DHA daily.
Meditation isn’t always simple, especially when you’re starting out (not to mention while experiencing anxiety), however, it can be extremely useful. Ten minutes of meditation twice a day is typically all it takes.
Here are some other blogs I wrote on how to mediate and why we should meditate.
10.) Sleep more and better
Research has suggested that lack of adequate sleep can trigger areas of the brain responsible for anticipatory anxiety. Don’t get too caught up in finishing everything in one night and forgetting to sleep. You will most likely not do as good of a job on your work if you don’t get enough sleep anyways. So, take the time out and go to sleep. Your work can wait until tomorrow usually.
Insurance companies even reimburse for the treatment of the slightest of sleep disorders for an individual’s anxiety or depression. Sleep studies and C-PAP machines are the new fad because research has consistently shown how important good sleep for at least 7-8 hours is for us.
Some of us need more sleep than others so monitor how many hours it takes for you to wake up feeling minimal anxiety. If you need some help sleeping better, contact your doctor and go in for a sleep study. Your insurance will most likely cover it.
11. Distract yourself
When anxiety is rampant, we want to get out of our own heads as much as possible right?
It really doesn’t matter how it’s done: a movie, game, book, magazine, or a puzzle. As long as it gets the mind to focus onto something else is all that really matters. Basically, even meditation is in theory a form of distracting yourself from your own anxious thoughts.
12.) Get nice and warm
When was the last time you were stressed out while on the beach or in a bathtub? When our bodies experience warmth, we are reducing muscle tension and anxiety.
Whether it is in a sauna or even while exercising, our bodies are hardwired to associate feelings of warmth with relaxation and tranquility.
13.) Have some good ole fun!
As adults, it’s easy to become so busy and wrapped up in responsibilities that we forget to do things simply for some good ole fun.
Think back to activities you enjoyed as a kid. You may be surprised by how much you still enjoy them… and by their ability to reduce your anxiety. Having some good ole fun is basically a form of distraction from your anxiety, and usually you are up and moving around doing something so you are getting some exercise too! What a win-win situation!
14. Laugh more
Put simply: “Good humor is a tonic for mind and body. It is the best antidote for anxiety and depression. It is a business asset. It attracts and keeps friends. It lightens human burdens. It is the direct route to serenity and contentment.”
“Anxiety is the dizziness of freedom.”
Find your Freedom
God Bless. Namaste.
-The Greek Guru Guy