Anxiety can be short- or long-lived, depending on its source. The more long lasting the anxiety, the more additional symptoms you can experience.
Anxiety is a normal response to stress or a dangerous situation, sometimes referred to as “fight or flight” response. It becomes problematic when it is consistent.
Constant anxiety can lead to high blood pressure, insomnia, digestive problems and bad panic attacks. Stress, excessive alcohol, caffeine or sugar intake and hormone imbalance can make your anxiety much worse. The great news is there are a lot of natural remedies. By eating certain foods while avoiding others, taking supplements and utilizing essential oils, you can treat anxiety naturally.
If your anxiety is a reaction to a single, isolated event — the shot the doctor is about to give you, for example — your anxiety level will decrease and your symptoms will disappear after the event. If it is is caused by friction between you and someone you see often, you’re likely to experience anxiety for a period of time before and after you see them. In this case, the symptom list can grow.
Then there’s that job, a source of anxiety that never leaves you. You dread getting up in the morning because you have to go to work, dread going to bed at night because when you wake up you have to go to work, dread the weekend because when it’s over you’ll have to go to work. When the source is always present, you can experience the following symptoms: chest pain, insomnia & loss of sex drive.
All three situations described above are types of everyday anxiety. But even though such anxiety may be common, it can take its toll on you – physically, mentally, and emotionally.
What Causes Anxiety?
Essentially, anxiety is part of the “fight or flight” mechanism, a carryover from our ancient ancestors. They were hunters, but they also were the hunted; their instincts readied them to attack — or run from an attack. Anxiety kept them alive, as it caused adrenaline to be released into the bloodstream. When that big ole scary bear was breathing down our ancestor’s neck, his adrenaline surged as a warning, causing his liver to release energy-stimulating sugars into his system to get him ready for the fight.
That warning system is still necessary for today’s emergencies. Trouble is, we experience the manifestations of the “fight or flight” mechanism even when it’s not really appropriate. You could run from your job or your doctor or life, and you could physically fight that person you don’t like, but the results would not be as helpful for you.
When anxiety is severe or prolonged, the powerful “fight or flight” chemicals can damage your body’s organs. Eventually, anxiety can cause a full-fledged illnesses, such as headaches and high blood pressure.
Anxiety and its various symptoms:
- heart palpitations
- sense of fear, something bad happening
- inability to concentrate
- muscle tension
- queasy, jittery feeling in the pit of your stomach
If you have a jittery moment, a cup of chamomile tea may help calm you down. Some compounds in chamomile (Matricaria recutita) bind to the same brain receptors as drugs like Valium.
You can also take it as a supplement. In one study at the University of Pennsylvania Medical Center, patients with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) who took chamomile supplements for eight weeks had a significant decrease in anxiety symptoms compared to patients taking placebo.
Some herbal supplements reduce anxiety without making you sleepy (such as L-theanine), while others are sedatives. Valerian (Valeriana officinalis) is in the second category. It is a sleep aid, for insomnia. It contains sedative compounds; the German government has approved it as a treatment for sleep problems.
Valerian smells…pretty disgusting, so most people take it as a capsule or tincture, rather than the tea. If you want to try it, take it in the evening! I drink the sleepy time tea and it is mixed with other herbs like peppermint & lemon balm so it’s not bad at all and works quite well.
Named after the Greek word for “honey bee,” lemon balm (Melissa officinalis), has been used at least since the Middle Ages to reduce stress and anxiety, and help with sleep. In one study of healthy volunteers, those who took standardized lemon balm extracts (600 mg) were more calm and alert than those who took a placebo.
While it’s safe, be aware that some studies have found that taking too much can actually make you more anxious. So follow directions and start with the smallest dose. Lemon balm is sold as a tea, capsule, and tincture. It’s often combined with other calming herbs such as hops, chamomile, and valerian.
Getting regular exercise is good for relieving stress. Cardiovascular exercise has been shown to help lower stress levels and anxiety, and improve the immune system. Cardiovascular exercise means getting your heart rate up for 30 minutes. Developing a regular exercise routine can help you feel more in control of your health, which can also reduce your anxiety.
The amazing soothing aroma of lavender (Lavandula hybrida) may be an “emotional” anti-inflammatory. In one study, Greek dental patients were less anxious if the waiting room was scented with lavender oil. In a Florida study, students who inhaled lavender oil scent before an exam has less anxiety.
In one German study, a specially formulated lavender pill (not available in the U.S.) was shown to reduce anxiety symptoms in people with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) as effectively as lorazepam (brand name: Ativan), an anti-anxiety medication in the same class as Valium.
Lavender smells amazing and is very soothing (at least for me!) You can use lavender essential oil and put into a diffuser. You can buy dried lavender from a health store or online and put into a little sachet in any room. Lavender tea is tasty and calming. I always have that in our house at all times because I am a lavender lover 😉
Meditation & Breathe
Taking time to clear your head can do wonders. Meditation doesn’t change the world around you, but it can change the way you respond to it. Successful meditation can help you better understand the source of your anxiety and to overcome it.
Meditation relaxes your body and can help in the treatment of phobias and panic disorder. One way to meditate is to sit still in a quiet place and focus on nothing except breathing deeply. When another thought tries to enter your mind, acknowledge it, and then let it go.
Breathing techniques can help you learn to control your breathing, so you don’t hyperventilate during an anxiety-producing event. This can help to keep you calm. Try sitting down with your back straight. Then, breathe deeply, inhaling through your nose from your abdomen and try to get as much air into your lungs as possible. This will help bring more oxygen into your body, which will help you feel less tense, short of breath, and anxious. Once your lungs are full, slowly exhale through your mouth and repeat as needed.
**And most importantly….. Focus on right now. Live in the moment.**
The reason I’ve done so much research on anxiety is because a tragedy triggered anxiety for me 8 years ago. My father suddenly passed away one morning while we were at work. I saw everything. After that moment, every single day – multiple times a day, I suffered from anxiety…sweating, heart racing, worrying & every single time this happened – I wasn’t aware at the time what it was. I felt like going to the hospital each time as I thought something bad was happening to me, I was dying.
Shortly after it started, I did go to the doctors and after tests – they told me it was anxiety. They, of course, tried to give me some anti-anxiety meds. I told them no but they love being pushy so I just took them home with me. I continued to have anxiety many times per day and I didn’t know how to get rid of it. I hadn’t done much research on natural remedies at the time – so one morning before work, I took the pill the dr gave to me.. well half of one. When I got to work and I had to go home because all I wanted to do was sleep. It knocked me out for about 8 hours. It was such an awful feeling, and as it did take my anxiety way for those few hours, I didn’t want to sleep my life away!
So, I started googling, reading & learning a ton and I found out about lemon balm helping anxiety. I tried that, in tincture, and whether it is mentally for me or whatever – it works, instantly. every. single. time. for the last 8 years. I no longer have anxiety every single day, multiple times a day. Now, I may get it once a week, but usually not even that often – and first, I will take a bunch of deep breaths. If that doesn’t completely work, then exercise.. or do things to keep busy. Sometimes none of that works — there are days that trigger BAD anxiety for me, like my dads birthday or significant holidays — and breathing, keeping busy doing things — just isn’t working. I take around 20-30 drops of lemon balm in a little bit of water and after a few minutes, it is gone.
Like I said, it may be mental for me but at least the symptoms go away and it makes ME feel better. I do notice that drinking alcohol triggers my anxiety the next day a bit.
Always listen to your body + try to stay in the moment + and breathe. Are things really bad or are you making up stories in your head?
Find what works for you. Try to combine some of the remedies I have above. Exercise and breathe is a huge anxiety reliever. Drink some lavender tea before bed. Try lavender oil in the shower or you can put a little lavender oil in your vacuum and when you vacuum, it releases the lavender scent. (I actually do this but I use eucalyptus & lemongrass…mmmm soo good!)
Some Foods To Avoid
High sugar foods – Sugar can give you blood sugar highs and lows throughout the day increasing anxiety.
Caffeine – Too much caffeine can cause more anxiety. Limit coffee or black tea to no more than one cup per day.
Alcohol – Can cause anxiety-like symptoms and is NOT a positive way to manage stress (even though it can be tough to stay away from it)
Processed and refined flour – These foods act very similar to sugar in the body, leading to fluctuations in blood sugar and mood swings.