It’s Time To Beat Stress For Good!
Here Are The Best Ways To Kill Anxiety Naturally
Anxiety is without doubt one of the most pernicious and diffuse problems facing modern people. It also happens to be one of the most poorly understood.
Telling people that you are suffering from anxiety is very different to telling someone that you suffer from depression, paranoia or mania. It often isn’t taken anywhere near as seriously, and many people will even assume you are just feeling a little over-worked right now.
Most of the time, people don’t realize that anxiety conditions are a recognizable and diagnosable mental health problem. They think it’s just a word that means you’re letting your job get to you or you’re worried about an upcoming interview.
But anxiety is a very serious issue. It can have a profoundly negative effect on your life, and it can last a really long time. The fact that few people take it seriously only makes things worse.
A brief look at the statistics tells us that things are indeed getting much worse, and fast.
Anxiety disorders of varying kinds are easily the most common form of mental illness in the United States. Over 40 million adults – or nearly 20% of the population – suffer with acute anxiety every single year (acute here simply meaning serious enough to warrant diagnosis). According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, less than 40% of people suffering with serious anxiety receive treatment, despite the ease with which it can be treated.
The situation is not much better elsewhere. In the UK, for example, there were 8.2 million distinct cases of anxiety in 2013.
This all sits perfectly with our intuitive conception of modern life. We all talk about how busy we are; how little time we make for ourselves; how our work somehow always manages to follow us home. There are thousands of articles and blogposts published every single week talking about the difficulty of switching off in the modern world, not to mention how hard it is to meet people and start a family.
Clearly, anxiety is a much more serious problem than many people realize.
With so few people receiving proper treatment, it really isn’t surprising that so many people are self-medicating; be it with drugs, alcohol, or pharmaceuticals. This is essentially a public health problem born out of our inability to properly deal with anxiety.
Too often people are immediately given anti-anxiety medications when they report even the mildest of symptoms. Either that, or they just get hold of them by other means. However they get them, the end result is all too often abuse and dependency.
Either way, we think people stand to benefit a great deal from trying less extreme measures first (assuming you don’t have serious, acute anxiety that is being treated by a doctor).
We’re going to go through some of the simplest, most effective, and least harmful ways to reduce anxiety naturally.
Before we get into that, however, we need to talk a little about what anxiety is, what the symptoms are, and where it comes from.
What Is Anxiety?
The goal here isn’t to give you an exhaustive medical definition of anxiety that you can go and use to diagnose people.
Not at all – we aren’t clinical psychologists, and none of this is medical advice.
But it is helpful to list some of the signs and symptoms of anxiety disorders. That way, you can see how the different natural remedies listed below might help with different aspects of stress and anxiety.
Here are some of the most common symptoms of anxiety:
- Constant feelings of panic
- General uneasiness
- A sense of impending doom (usually ill-defined)
- Shortness of breath
- Elevated heart rate
- Heart palpitations
- Inability to concentrate
- Inability to think clearly
- Constant nausea
- Loss of appetite
- Insomnia/disturbed sleep
- Feeling of hopelessness
- Muscle tension
These symptoms have a wide range of different causes, which is why anxiety itself is a very complicated problem to have to deal with – both as a patient and a clinician. We’ve discussed where anxiety comes from in this article. We recommend you check it out if you want to learn more.
It is also important to talk about what anxiety isn’t.
If you feel nervous before an important presentation, or you’re worried that your date didn’t call you back because you did something wrong, you don’t have an anxiety disorder; those are completely normal feelings of concern.
Anxiety disorder is when you have a feeling of serious concern or worry without any real, identifiable cause. Or if there is a cause, it is extremely trivial relative to the amount of anxiety it is causing you.
This is the kind of anxiety that stops people from getting on with their lives; it prevents them from making any decisions whatsoever, stops them progressing at work, and ultimately just makes them miserable.
Imagine experiencing the symptoms listed above for days on end.
Of course, prolonged, serious anxiety is relatively uncommon. Much more common is mild generalized anxiety.
Most of us will only experience a handful of those symptoms for a week or so at a time. While still serious (anxiety should really only last a couple of hours at most), it doesn’t necessarily need the same kind of urgent care as someone who experiences those symptoms regularly and has done for a long time.
If you find that you are going through a particularly stressful few weeks at work, or for some reason you’ve started to feel a little more anxious than usual, then you might consider trying less invasive measures before you consider getting medical care (or instead of doing nothing about it at all).
Below we have listed some of the most practical ways of naturally reducing anxiety levels. They don’t all work in the same way, and obviously not all of them are for everybody. You might just want to pick a couple that sound good to you and try to introduce them into your life.
What have you got to lose?
Best Natural Anxiety Remedies
Anxiety has many different causes, and different people can experience anxiety in different ways. We all have our own triggers, as well as our own cures.
However, we can identify some of the most common causes of anxiety, as well as some of the natural methods or substances that seem to be most useful at lowering that anxiety. If you take the time to properly think about the way you experience anxiety, as well as the main causes, then you will be better able to find the best way for you to go about keeping a lid on the symptoms.
Here are the best natural anxiety remedies we are aware of. It is really important that you know this isn’t medical advice. We ARE NOT clinical psychologists, nor medical professionals of any kind. This is merely information we have compiled after a lot of research and after dealing with anxiety ourselves (either personally or in helping those close to us).
We have tried to back up every claim with independent scientific references. Where we haven’t we have used extensive anecdotal data and a mechanistic explanation.
Right, let’s get to it!
1. Eat A Proper Breakfast
Dietary interventions can only go so far in treating anxiety. Still, people usually under-estimate the impact that simply foods can have on their anxiety levels.
For starters, the mere act of eating is known to acutely lower anxiety levels.
This makes perfect sense; as a primate, you’re hardwired to constantly seek out food, and when you find some, you become less anxious. Simple.
There are ways to exploit this fact more effectively. With hunger comes the first signs of anxiety, so staving off hunger for longer can really help keep you calm and focused throughout the day.
So, the most important thing you can do is to start eating a good breakfast in the morning. This is especially true for people who find themselves feeling anxious first thing in the morning.
Try to eat a meal that is high in fat and protein. Either that, or eat something that is predominantly complex carbohydrates.
Fat and protein take longer to digest, so they keep you fuller for longer.
Complex carbohydrates provide a slow drip feed of energy, keeping your blood sugar at a nice, constant level throughout the morning. Carbohydrates raise serotonin levels, so eating plenty of complex carbohydrates first thing in the morning can help keep your serotonin levels nice and high all day long.
2. Eat More Monounsaturated Fats
Another great way to curb your anxiety levels is to up your intake of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.
One of the primary symptoms of anxiety is hypertension. The relationship is bi-directional; anxiety seems to raise blood pressure, while elevated blood pressure seems to cause anxiety (as well as irritability and erratic mood swings).
Several epidemiological studies have looked at diets high in monounsaturated fats and how they seem to affect heart disease risk. As this paper notes, foods high in monounsaturated fatty acids (olive oil, avocado, peanuts, hazelnuts, etc) are usually associated with lower incidences of hypertension than diets high in saturated fats.
The authors of the cited paper went as far as to suggest that, pending further studies, the administration of monounsaturated fatty acids could be used as a primary treatment for hypertension: “In conclusion, there is laboratory and epidemiological evidence to suggest that MUFA, and particularly olive oil, could be components of a diet with some potential to be recommended for the prevention of HT. The results presented here suggest that adherence by the population at large to a Mediterranean dietary pattern, with an abundant supply of virgin olive oil, might reduce the overall prevalence of HT in Western societies, with important consequences for public health nutrition.”
We’re not saying that monounsaturated fatty acids are a cure for chronic hypertension. But if you find yourself constantly feeling tense, pent-up or anxious, adding in some more foods that contain lots of these fatty acids might help a lot.
Up Your Folate Intake
As well as providing lots of monounsaturated fat, avocados provide a healthy dose of folate, which also helps reduce anxiety.
Folate, or folic acid in particular, is an incredibly important B Vitamin. It is needed by the brain to make various neurotransmitters and RNA.
Some clinicians believe that folic acid deficiencies may be causally related to certain instances of depression. More specifically, folic acid deficiencies seem to correlate very highly with lower levels of serotonin. In one study, folate supplementation was able to restore depleted serotonin levels to normal.
Restoring serotonin levels is a very good way to improve mood and reduce anxiety levels.
There are lots of reasons to doubt this link. We have read a couple of papers suggesting that the link between folate levels and depression is not causal but merely a correlation. That could be true; diets low in folate could be low in other essential nutrients, such as B12.
But given the abundance of foods high in folate, it seems a little silly not to at least explore this route if you are suffering with low mood, stress or acute anxiety.
We were reluctant to include this one, given how in vogue meditation is these day. Meditation is billed as a cure for pretty much everything at the minute, just as yoga is constantly pushed as “the best exercise you can do exercise”.
But the weight of the evidence means that we have no choice but to add it to this list.
Meditation is extremely effective at treating mild, chronic anxiety. The clinical data on this is quite compelling and very difficult to overlook.
This clinical trial found that ‘mindfulness based stress reduction’ techniques were able to significantly reduce symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder.
This study, published in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology in 2010, found that meditation was a very reliable and effective treatment for some symptoms of anxiety. It was not a total cure – not by any means – but for such a simple, cheap and safe intervention, the results really are quite impressive. The authors stated that “mindfulness-based therapy is a promising intervention for treating anxiety and mood problems in clinical populations.”
These results have been replicated in dozens of trials. Some, such as this one, have even found that meditation lowers blood pressure as well as actively helping with anxiety symptoms.
Many researchers put great emphasis on the limitations of these studies. They stress that the results obtained from meditation are nothing like a complete cure; the reductions in anxiety achieved through meditation alone are modest. But they are very real.
When you consider how cheap and easy this remedy is to implement, it actually starts to look like quite an incredible natural anxiolytic.
This is probably one of the most effective and healthy ways you can reduce feelings of stress and anxiety. It is also probably the most widely-used.
Exercise can have an immediate and profound effect on your stress levels.
Getting out for a run, moving some serious iron, or pounding away on a punch bag are some of the oldest and simplest ways people have let off some steam. Many people use running or weightlifting as a natural anxiety cure without ever really being conscious of it; they just have a bad day at work and can’t wait to take it out on the bench press.
But we wouldn’t have included exercise on this list if it was just something we intuitively ‘feel’ is right. There is a lot of empirical evidence proving that exercise has a powerful anti-anxiety effect.
This systematic literature review mentions several robust studies which point to a direct and significant relationship between regular exercise and lower anxiety levels.
The authors note that many of the most robust studies they looked at returned mixed results. However, there was an identifiable trend towards exercise being beneficial for people with anxiety.
They concluded: “In summary, findings from the present review suggest that exercise could be a useful, affordable, accessible treatment for anxiety.”
This study explains how regular exercise has a significant and reliable effect on personality traits, including neuroticism, as well as depression and anxiety levels: “This study corroborates and extends previous findings: regular exercise is cross-sectionally associated with lower neuroticism, anxiety and depression and higher extraversion and sensation seeking in the population”.
We can also explain the relationship mechanistically.
According to some of the best research papers we have seen, exercise seems to work primarily by triggering a release of endorphins and by influencing monoamine activity.
As you probably know, endorphins are peptides that act on the brain’s opiate receptors. This means that they exert a powerful analgesic effect – basically, they make you feel relaxed and happy.
Exercise has been shown to reliably trigger endorphin release, which is probably why it is such a reliable and immediate cure for anxiety.
You don’t need to do an awful lot of exercise to experience an endorphin release. Just 20 minutes of running at a moderate pace is enough to get you feeling happy and content.
5. Utilize Natural Supplements
There are plenty of natural substances out there capable of significantly lowering anxiety levels. Some can help reduce stress while also helping you stay calm and focused on your work. A small number are particularly useful for treating things like performance anxiety or helping you get to sleep at night.
To put that another way, there really is no one size fits all solution to anxiety when it comes to supplementation. What you decide to use will very much depend on your own specific needs.
Things like rhodiola rosea, for example, are incredible at lowering anxiety, attenuating the symptoms of stress, and supporting cognitive function while you’re under acute strain.
The simple amino acid tyrosine, on the other hand, has been proven to improve cognitive function during times of severe environmental stress (when you’re tired, placed in extreme conditions, etc).
Then there is something like melatonin; a naturally-occurring hormone which promotes feelings of drowsiness. You can’t usually supplement with hormones orally, but melatonin is one of the few that is genuinely effective. Supplementing with high quality melatonin shortly before sleep will help hasten the onset of sleep and let you drift off without a problem. This is particularly useful for those of you whose worries keep you up at night.
These substances are extremely safe, widely used, and proven to work by numerous, independent clinical trials.
If you want some help with your anxiety levels – or help fighting specific symptoms of mild anxiety – then you might consider using some of the substances mentioned here.
High quality extracts can be obtained from most good supplement or health food stores. For more complete stacks, check out our top rated products in the nootropic and sleep categories!
Synthetic vs. Natural Anxiety Remedies
With so many safe, natural anxiety remedies available today, there really is no need to let the stresses of modern living keep you down. From specially formulated herbal remedies to simple meditation, there’s a huge array of options for anyone looking to take the edge off.
Furthermore, there’s fewer reasons than ever to turn to synthetic, prescription strength drugs to help you unwind after a busy few days, weeks or months.
Thanks to advances in our understanding of both nature and the manufacturing process, you now have access to a wide range of effective, herbal remedies for anxiety. Unlike synthetic or pharmacy-grade drugs, these herbal products are typically designed take the edge off your stress without leaving you intoxicated or impaired. They don’t carry the same risk of dependency either – a pretty huge selling point in our opinion.
They will often carry none of the side effects that are usually associated with strong relaxants and depressants. Most importantly, they will leave you feeling refreshed and ready to face the next day rather than foggy and sluggish. Why opt for anything less?
6. Give yourself A Task To Complete
Completing a difficult, necessary task has both a profound psychological effect, but it also has a deep physiological response.
Human beings are goal-oriented. That is pretty much unquestionable; we are driven to identify problems and then to solve them.
It is actually one of the tragic things about the human condition. We are always drive to move forward, which makes it very difficult to enjoy the present. We’ll always find it hard to be satisfied with what we have now, because our psycho-biological hardware makes us always keen to move on and find something better.
This is one of the reasons why people start suffering with generalized anxiety in the first place.
But this fact can be used against anxiety.
One of the most common experiences of anxiety is the feeling that there is far too much to do, that the deadline for completion is looming, and that you have no hope of succeeding. You worry what will happen when you don’t get everything done, and obviously you assume the worst.
One quick way to get yourself out of this terrible spiral is to simply get something done.
You should try to set yourself a useful, reasonably difficult, but definite task to complete.
By definite, we mean that it needs to have a defined, concrete goal, which once you complete you will know you’ve done the job.
By reasonably difficult, we mean something more than “getting out of bed”, but something less ambitious than “finish my book”.
For a lot of people, this might mean “clean up the kitchen”, “answer all of my emails”, “go out for a run”, or whatever.
The exact task is completely irrelevant; what’s important is that you are able to sit down and get it finished within an hour or two, and that you are going to be better off for having completed this task.
It sounds laughably simple, but this can have an absolutely incredible effect on your anxiety levels.
When we set ourselves a concrete, easily defined goal, we make it very easy for our brain to release dopamine.
Dopamine is the neurotransmitter which we release in anticipation of a goal-related reward. It is the engine behind classical conditioning; it’s dopamine that is basically telling our brain, “keep going, this is going to be SO worth it.”
We love having dopamine released. Us humans can’t get enough of it. If we use it in the right way, we can motivate ourselves out of our anxiety spiral and get ourselves on track to get a good day’s work done.
This process has a positive feedback effect: you get work done, you feel less overwhelmed, you feel less anxious, so you feel more motivated, you get more done, and round and round we go!
It isn’t a magic bullet of course, and it wont work well for someone suffering with severe, acute, generalized anxiety (especially if it has a primarily biological cause). But if you are struggling with feelings of powerlessness, if you’re feeling overwhelmed, or if you find yourself waking up early worried about the day’s work ahead, then this tactic might work wonders for you.
7. Talk To Somebody
This will always be found on any good list of ways to combat anxiety. That’s because it is the most reliable, effective, and ultimately helpful way of curing anxiety of all kinds. Even with the worst cases of generalized anxiety, the road to being cured begins with talking to somebody.
Sharing your feelings with another person does a number of things all at once:
- It alerts others to the fact that you need help
- You get a chance to properly process your problems by vocalizing them
- It gives you a chance to hear other interpretations or opinions on your problems
- You learn that everybody else has problems too
- If you’re talking to a professional, you’ll get the advice you need to really start combating your anxiety in a deep, meaningful way
We’re not necessarily saying that you need to pay top dollar and go see a psychiatrist every time you feel remotely anxious.
If you have strong feelings of anxiety that have persisted for several weeks, then yes, you really do need to talk to a professional (especially if your mood is getting low and your health seems to be suffering).
But if you are just feeling a little more anxious than usual, you can get a lot of benefit out of just talking to a friend, a relative, or maybe a trained counselor at your work. You could even try posting on some anxiety forums and seeing what other people have to say (it’s best to stay away from social media).
There are also lots of different types of therapy that you can pursue.
One of the most effective treatments for anxiety in the long-term is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).
CBT is based on the basic idea that our internal perspectives affect how we feel about a given situation, not the situation itself. To put that another way, we can react in multiple different ways to the exact same scenario.
CBT therefore seeks to train individuals to think about situations which trigger their anxiety in different ways. This can involve reflecting on your feelings, examining how realistic they are, and then replacing them with different interpretations: “actually, it probably isn’t going to be that bad, because X”.
This is one powerful tool. People often say that CBT has been a bigger help to them and their struggle with anxiety than any anxiolytic medication.
If you feel like the walls are closing in, then we urge you to please talk to somebody. This can be anyone willing to listen, and you’d be surprised just how willing people are to listen to you. If you have serious anxiety that’s lasted for over a week, it might be worth considering talking to a professional.
Luke is our Editor in Chief. He is the main driving force behind NaturalNootropic.com, and he creates most of our most important content. He is extremely passionate about enhancing human cognition; he has experimented with many different nootropic substances over the years, sometimes with negative results. He wants to help people get more out of performance-enhancing supplements, and he is fascinated by recent advances in longevity research. He can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.