I used to get really annoyed when I would read about natural anxiety remedies and chamomile tea would be listed. As in, do you really think I would be researching this topic if all it took to cure my anxiety was a cup of f*cking tea?
I get a little less fired up about the mention of tea these days, because of a couple of things I have realized.
First, anxiety is a normal human response to potential threats. Everyone has some degree of anxiety. It’s just that some of us have anxiety to the point that it becomes a major problem keeping us from living our best lives.
Second, if you have the NormalEveryDayAnxiety that hasn’t developed into MajorProblemAnxiety, relaxing rituals like drinking a hot cup of tea can actually help calm you down. I’ve been in recovery from MajorProblemAnxiety for a while now, but I still experience the NormalEveryDayAnxiety from time to time. And whaddaya know? There are times when a cup of f*cking tea is all I need to reach my zen. 😉
I think things get confusing, because when people write about anxiety, they don’t always specify what degree of anxiety they are talking about. Like have they been on the verge of mental breakdown for the past six months or have they been a little bit on edge for the past couple of days?
So even though I’ve written about managing anxiety without meds before, I wanted to write this more comprehensive listing of all the anxiety remedies I use on a daily basis in order from most impact to least impact based on my personal experience. I also wanted to explain why some of these remedies had to be employed first before the others would become effective.
I used the first four anxiety remedies listed below to get out of MajorProblemAnxiety and I still use them every single day to stay out of MajorProblemAnxiety. The rest are icing on the cake so to speak. They help – they really do – but used alone without the first four, they do nada for me.
And by the way, if you are looking for the ONE magic remedy that will cure you, I don’t know of one (other than the one that starts with and ends in an x). For me, overcoming anxiety has required a holistic lifestyle change. Just implementing one of these remedies didn’t do it for me. I needed to do them all.
(Pssst #1, I am in no way opposed to nor do I pass judgment on anyone taking medications to control their anxiety symptoms. Medications help a lot of people. I just didn’t do well on meds myself and that’s why I focus on natural anxiety remedies.)
(Pssst #2, I like to share my personal experiences managing anxiety with the hope that some of my discoveries might resonate with some other people. Making lifestyle changes has greatly contributed to my own well-being, and as a life coach, I help people make impactful changes in their own lives. But I’m not a mental health professional and I’m not qualified to diagnose or treat mental health conditions. If you have questions about the appropriate intervention for you, please consult a qualified professional.)
8 Natural Anxiety Remedies That Actually Work
1. Cardio Exercise
If I was forced to pick just one anxiety remedy and I wasn’t allowed any others, it would be exercise. Hands down. It would not be hard for me to choose. Exercise is the closest thing to a magic remedy that I have found. I often wake up feeling anxious, and exercise, or more specifically running, magically erases the anxiety away and lets me start the day from a place of calm. It literally has the same impact as Xanax, but without the brain fog and lethargy.
If I wasn’t able to run, my second choice would be swimming. And if I wasn’t able to swim, my third choice would be the elliptical machine or some sort of stair stepper. If I was too out-of-shape to run, I would start by walking and build up to jogging.
The key here is effort. I have to put enough effort into it to break a sweat and breathe hard for an extended period of time (> 30 minutes). Doing anything less is not enough to calm my body down. And as I get in better shape, I need to keep increasing my distance and speed in order for it to have the same effect.
2. Reducing Exposure To Anxiety Triggers
A whole lot of people will say that the worst thing you can do when you have anxiety is avoiding whatever it is you are anxious about. Well, I’m going to go out on a limb here and disagree with a whole lot of people. 🙂 In addition to exercise, becoming more picky about what and who is worth fighting anxiety over has been one of the best things I’ve ever done for myself.
Contrary to popular belief, repeated exposure to anxiety triggers and “facing your fears” is not an instant anxiety cure. At least it hasn’t been for me. My fight or flight response is of the stubborn kind. 😉
Now, I don’t advocate going to the other extreme and completely closing yourself off from the world. But I have been able to take away a whole lot of unnecessary anxiety simply by asking myself these questions:
- Is facing this fear necessary, because it’s in alignment with my authentic values and goals in life?
- Is facing this fear going to take away from or add to my health and happiness?
When I quit being a people-pleaser and quit being a perfectionist and found my authentic self and got on the right path in life for me, a great many sources of anxiety just faded away from my life naturally.
3. Low-Stress Lifestyle
Contrary to another popular belief, stress is not just a fact of life that we are obligated to endure.
Yes, there is some stress that is beyond our control. But there is also a whole lot of stress we take on by choice. Stress that we could eliminate from our lives by making different choices.
It took me a long time to understand this. I used to feel totally helpless in the face of stress – to the point that it almost did me in. And the more stressed I would get, the more my anxiety would be triggered. And the more my anxiety would be triggered, the more stressed I would get. It was a vicious cycle.
But this cycle can be broken. You can jump off the hamster wheel. Check out this post for all the ways I have learned to eliminate stress from my life.
4. Limiting Caffeine
Here’s another vicious cycle I used to partake in:
Stress + Anxiety -> Exhaustion -> Caffeine -> Anxiety
This is a great example of how all of this is interrelated and how just doing ONE thing isn’t going to solve the problem.
Yes, limiting or quitting caffeine can help decrease your anxiety, but the reason for consuming caffeine in the first place needs to be addressed as well. That is why I listed exercise, reducing exposure to triggers, and low-stress lifestyle before I listed caffeine.
And by the way, if you would like to quit caffeine, you can find my pointers here.
5. Nipping Anxiety In The Bud
Barring some terrible life catastrophy beyond my control, I am now fairly confident that I will never experience MajorProblemAnxiety again. I’m confident of this, because I have learned to nip anxiety in the bud before it has a chance to grow into MajorProblemAnxiety.
First, because I start every day from a place of calm (thanks to #1, #2, #3, and #4), I’m able to notice right away when my anxiety is triggered. It used to be that I was anxious all. the. time. so I couldn’t even isolate when I was starting to feel more anxious or what might have caused it. The whole world was one big-ass anxiety trigger out to get me. Now, I’m able to be mindful and notice when anxiety is starting to rise.
Second, because I notice the anxiety triggers right away, I’m able “to process” them and work on calming my body down before the feeling escalates and intensifies. I breathe calmly, do my best to objectively evaluate the trigger, and sometimes I ask my husband to help by reminding me that my brain is either overreacting or totally malfunctioning and listing all the reasons why there is no reason for fear.
Third, because I’m facing fewer triggers (thanks to #2), I’m able to process one trigger before I deal with the next, so that there is less of a cumulative effect.
Fourth, if I ever do get the feeling that too much anxiety is starting to accumulate, my response now is to pull back and rest rather than to “face the fears” and “do things anyway”. This way, whenever I do face the world with its many triggers, I’m always coming from a place of calm and strength. Not from a place of piled up fear and weariness.
6. Adding Awesome Stuff To Your Life
In my other post about managing anxiety, I called this “replacing worry with excitement”. It could also be called “distraction”. But whatever you want to call it, I simply mean that I have found it insanely helpful and anxiety squashing to do my best to create a happy life for myself and to put effort into adding good things to my daily routine.
I’ve done tons of self awareness exercises and self reflection to figure out what kinds of things make me happy and then tried to add as much “happy” into my life as I can. I find that the more my mind is focused on things that I’m genuinely interested in and things that truly make me happy, the less time there is for my mind and body to get anxious.
But if adding good things to your life is insanely helpful, why is it so far down the list? Because back when I was completely consumed with anxiety and stress, I was way too overwhelmed and exhausted to a) figure out what might make me happy or b) enjoy the things that the healthier version of me enjoys. I had to do #1, #2, #3, and #4 first to get out of MajorProblemAnxiety. And now that I’m out, I can use #5 and #6 to stay out.
7. Adding Relaxing Stuff To Your Life
Another thing that helps me stay out of MajorProblemAnxiety is setting aside time for relaxation every single day. I not only put effort into adding happy things to my life, but I also put effort into adding relaxing things, such as:
- Relaxing music.
- Hot showers.
- Stretching or yoga.
- Progressive muscle relaxation.
- Silly TV and movies.
- Chamomile tea! 😉
Again, just taking a hot shower or drinking a cup of tea wasn’t enough to fix the root cause of my MajorProblemAnxiety: living a fast-paced, stressful lifestyle with too many anxiety triggers for me to be able to effectively process. But now that MajorProblemAnxiety is behind me, these relaxing activities work magic as part of my new KeepAnxietyAtBayLifestyle.
8. Eliminating Sugar And Grains
I hesitated a little bit before adding this one to the list, because I personally recovered from MajorProblemAnxiety before eliminating sugar and/or grains from my diet.
I do strongly believe that there is a connection between blood sugars and anxiety, but in my experience as someone who has been borderline diabetic and who has her blood sugars tested regularly, all of this worked kinda backwards. For me, it wasn’t that keeping my blood sugar levels stable helped reduce anxiety. It was that reducing anxiety helped keep my blood sugar levels stable.
When you are experiencing high levels of anxiety and/or stress, it makes it harder for your body to function normally, including metabolizing carbohydrates. And that’s what was happening to me.
We all know that stress impacts your physical health. But I was still shocked to see that the single biggest drop I have been able to achieve in my hemoglobin A1C (a measure of blood sugar levels over an extended period of time) came not from taking medications or from running 35 miles per week or from eating a low carb diet. It happened in the six-month period when I implemented #2 and #3 from this list of anxiety remedies.
All that being said, I decided to include eliminating sugar and grains on this list.
First of all, although having high blood sugars makes me personally feel sick more than anything else, I can see how it might make someone else feel jittery.
Second, there is growing scientific evidence about the impact of inflammatory foods (like sugar) on neurotransmitters and brain function.
Third, I have eliminated sweeteners and grains of all kinds from my diet and I do feel much better and stronger overall as a result, which may not have a direct impact on my anxiety levels, but it sure as hell makes me better able to deal with whatever I have to deal with on any given day, including anxiety.
These Are Not Quick And Easy Anxiety Remedies, Are They?
You may have noticed that this list of remedies is not of the “quick fix” kind. I didn’t tell you to consume an herb or sniff some essential oils.
While I would love to tell you that overcoming severe anxiety without taking meds is quick and easy, I can’t in all honesty tell you that.
What I can tell you in all honesty though is that it might not be easy, but it’s totally worth it.
And I can tell you in all honesty that thanks to implementing the eight anxiety remedies above, I am healthier and happier than I have ever been in my 41 and a half years of life so far.