Hello, friends! Well, it’s been quite a stressful time for me lately. We’ve recently had a death in the family, another family member’s serious illness, and my oldest is graduating from college this weekend. Combine that with traveling for Mother’s Day, and you have one very stressed out Valerie. If you’re like me and 18% of our population, you also struggle with anxiety disorders. It’s the most common mental illness in the U.S.
Anxiety is characterized by the same fight or flight response as stress which means increased heart rate, circulation and reflexes so as to fight off or escape a potential threat. It’s actually a normal stress response that spirals out of control, so that even if it’s not a situation that would provoke anxiety, like flying in an airplane (one of my favorite former sources of anxiety!), we still feel those same fight or flight responses. The problem is, we get so used to these feelings of anxiety that we don’t realize there is a problem and suffer in silence. As anxious feelings intensify, it can lead to social isolation, physical symptoms, and related mental health problems, like depression.
So how do we combat this anxiety thing without using prescription meds? That’s a great question, and there are some really easy fixes that can substantially change your life, as they have changed mine. Read on for my list of natural anxiety remedies.
1. Refocus your mind- Chronic anxiety is an internal process and it can actually change your brain. If you grew up in an environment in which there was frequent yelling or abuse your brain can become “wired” for anxiety, so one of the remedies involves rewiring your brain by focusing your mind on positive outcomes. Saying the words, “I’m so excited!” out loud to yourself is one of the ways to rewire your brain. Even if you don’t believe it at first, it increases authentic feelings of excitement and can reduce anxiety.
2. Exercise- Exercise boosts levels of potent brain chemicals like serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine, which may help buffer some of the effects of stress. It also creates new neurons, including those that release the calming neurotransmitter GABA. Exercise is also addictive in a good way, as I well know, because even though sometimes I don’t want to exercise I know it feels so GOOD to get my heart rate up and my body moving. It’s good for mind, body, and spirit. It’s a win-win-win!
3. Start your day with BREAKFAST- I didn’t know this but many people with anxiety disorders skip breakfast. I used to be one of those people until I realized that I was depleting my body of energy and GAINING WEIGHT because of it. Eating my favorite breakfast of EGGS is especially helpful because they are satiating (make us feel satisfied when eating) and a filling source of protein, as well as nature’s top source of choline. Low levels of choline are associated with increased anxiety. In fact, any time we feel anxious, eating is one of the most effective ways to reduce it. Now, of course I mean eating HEALTHY foods like nuts is a must, but even a square of dark chocolate is an effective anxiety reducer.
4. Yoga breathing- Yoga is super good for relieving stress and anxiety, but did you know that yoga breathing is also effective at lowering stress and anxiety? In his bestselling 2011 book Spontaneous Happiness, Andrew Weil MD introduced a classic yoga breathing technique called 4-7-8 breathing. One reason it works is because you can’t breathe in deeply and be anxious at the same time. Here’s how it goes, exhale completely through your mouth, then inhale through your nose for a count of four. Hold your breath for a count of seven, now let it out slowly through your mouth for a count of eight. Repeat at least twice a day. I’ve done a form of this for the last few years during my morning prayers and meditation time, and it really does help.
5. Take your supplements- Taking probiotics, omega-3 fats, and magnesium helps me reduce anxiety. Probiotics have a marked effect on GABA levels in certain brain regions and lower stress induced hormone corticosterone, resulting in reduced anxiety and depression related behavior. The omega-3 fats EPA and DHA play an important role in emotional well-being, aned research has shown a dramatic 20% reduction in anxiety among medical students taking omega-3s. Magnesium is a mineral that is present in many foods, unfortunately millions of people have a very low level of magnesium intake, because it has been essentially stripped from most modern diets due to farming and food production practices. Low levels of magnesium are not responsible for anxiety but for some of the physical symptoms of anxiety, like unusual feelings in the body. Anxiety can actually decrease your magnesium levels, as magnesium is burned up during times of stress. As I’ve said before, make sure you are taking pharmaceutical grade supplements and don’t buy them at a big box or grocery store.
There are so many other things you can do to reduce anxiety, drink chamomile tea, take herbal remedies like valerian root, passion flower, lavender, lemon balm, and my favorite that I take every day for energy and anxiety ashwagandha. Anxiety is a complex issue so please consult with your doctor before taking anything. However, as a lifelong anxiety sufferer myself I can tell you that the above listed remedies really do work, and you can live a life free of most of the effects of it. Utilizing natural remedies to reduce anxiety will definitely help you live a life of vitality- with Valerie! 🙂