When it comes to anxiety, everyone seems to have their own go-to solutions. While some people may opt for medication (generally coupled with therapy), others go a different route and try natural remedies for anxiety. And anxiety is quite prevalent — according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), approximately 31.1% of U.S. adults experience some type of anxiety disorder at some point in their lives. And stress can fall under all types, including generalized anxiety disorder (excessive, constant worry that lasts more than six months), social anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder (to name just a few).
“Anxiety is a feeling of worry or dread about the future,” Andrea Wachter, a psychotherapist, author, and meditation teacher, tells TZR. “It can manifest as worrisome thoughts or as unpleasant physical sensations — or both.” And a number of things can bring on feelings of anxiousness and stress: You may be worried about an upcoming work review, a talk with a significant other, medical test results, and so on. Per the American Psychological Association, physical sensations could include sweating, dizziness, or a rapid heartbeat. At its worst, anxiety can interfere with your daily life and may impact your work performance and relationships, too.
Wachter says that if you’re grappling with anxiety, it’s important to remember it is not your fault — it’s the result of a variety of factors. “Nobody chooses to walk around with a pit in their stomach or worrisome thoughts in their mind,” she says. “If you are struggling with anxiety, you need compassion and support, not shame and blame.” To that end, if you’re looking for some natural ways to help alleviate your anxiety, Wachter and a couple other experts have some ideas that range from the more well-known to the surprising.
Consume More Turmeric and Black Pepper
“Turmeric is one of my favorite spices for reducing anxiety, as it is a powerful antioxidant,” Dr. Uma Naidoo, a Harvard-trained nutritional psychiatrist and biologist and author of the bestseller, This is Your Brain on Food. “It helps the brain reduce the damaging effects of inflammatory exposures linked to increased stress.” She advises to always be sure to add a pinch of black pepper, too, as it makes the active antioxidant, curcumin, 2000% more effective.
Try Supplements & Herbs
“Anxiety can sometimes be caused by chemical imbalances, such as low serotonin levels or high chronic cortisol levels,” naturopathic doctor Sadi Jimenez tells TZR in an email. “Certain supplements and herbs can help correct chemical imbalances.” For example, ashwagandha has been shown to reduce anxiety and stress. And it comes in many forms, from pills to mushroom coffee. Adaptogen supplements — made up of plants and mushrooms — can also help lessen anxiety and boost your mood.
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Yes, this is an obvious one. “I’ve often noted that meditation and medication are almost the same word,” says Wachter. “A regular meditation and mindfulness practice can help quell anxiety immensely.” Research, too, has found that meditation has many health benefits — in addition to helping with anxiety, it can lessen stress, depression, and insomnia, too.
Try Various Breathing Techniques
“With my patients, I see anxiety manifest when we feel out of control, usually by an external factor or future event,” Jimenez says. “Breath awareness can help, as it brings us to the present moment and we have a lot of control over how fast, and how deep, we breathe.”
Similarly, you can try breathwork yoga, Dr. Naidoo, says. As you probably guessed, it’s a form of yoga wherein you bring attention to your breath to help clear your mind. “It has been shown to modulate activity and connectivity in the areas of the brain that are involved with emotional processing, attention, and awareness,” says Naidoo. “This helps to reduce symptoms of anxiety.” She adds that focusing on breathing also acts as a means of “taking the mind off” of things that are causing stress, which will give you an improved sense of calm.
Practice ‘The Work’
In her Insight Timer anxiety courses, Wachter says she loves to provide people with a variety of tools since everybody needs different things at different times. “There are many, many moments an anxious mind needs consistent soothing and healthy redirecting,” she says. If you’re going to therapy, for example, these tools can be good to do between sessions.
“One of the best tools I know for quieting an anxious mind is called ‘The Work,’ which is a very simple, but powerful, thought-questioning process from the author Byron Katie,” Wachter adds. The process entails choosing one anxiety-producing thought at a time and asking yourself a series of illuminating, and often freeing, questions: 1) Is it true? 2) Can you absolutely know that it’s true? 3) How do you react, what happens when you believe that thought? 4) Who would you be without that thought?
So if you’re anxious about being fired, for example, you can go through each question to assess if your anxiety is grounded in reality — or not.
Do EFT Tapping
“On-the-spot techniques, like EFT tapping (also known as the emotional freedom technique) can also be effective for calming the nervous system,” says Wachter. It involves tapping on various acupressure points on the body — which someone, like your therapist, can show you, or you can learn through an online video. While you tap, you recite a statement about the issue you are dealing with.
For example, if you have anxiety about an upcoming job interview, YWCA Tucson suggests saying, “Even though I’m anxious about my interview, I deeply and completely accept how I feel.” The more you say it, the more it sinks in and helps make you less anxious about whatever situation’s been troubling you.
Wachter also suggests self-havening, wherein it’s as though you’re giving yourself a hug, crossing your arms over your chest. You then rub your arms in a downward motion, shoulders to elbows. The sensory input helps alleviate anxiety and calm you down. It’s as though you’re creating an internal safe haven, which can help you reprocess (and eventually escape) emotional and physical pain. “This can be very self-soothing,” Wachter says.
Go Out Into Nature
Many studies have shown that getting out in nature has many physical, and psychological, health benefits — it helps reduce stress and anxiety while boosting your mood. Plus, all the sensory input can give you something new to focus on vs. your worries.
“Getting out into nature can be soothing, as it’s akin to other practices that stimulate the vagus nerve [the main part of the parasympathetic nervous system, which helps control our mood], like humming or chanting,” Wachter explains.
You may know to drink at least eight glasses of water a day, but you may not realize doing so can help reduce anxiety, too. “Adequate hydration is key for mental fitness, as it promotes healthy blood flow and oxygenation of the brain, which is linked to a healthy stress response,” Naidoo explains. “Staying hydrated also helps to reduce inflammation in the brain, which is associated with fewer symptoms of anxiety.”
See A Therapist
Another solution that likely feels like an obvious one. If you’re thinking about seeing a therapist to help you manage your anxiety, Jimenez says it’s a good idea. “At the first feelings of anxiety, someone should seek out help — a therapist is a great asset to help you create tools to overcome, or prevent, anxiety,” she says. “I recommend doing so even as a preventative measure if it runs in the family.”
Wachter agrees. “A qualified therapist can certainly help guide you if you’re struggling with anxiety,” she says. They can provide you with ways to reframe anxious thoughts and give you suggestions if your mind cannot quiet down. “Whether your anxiety is situational and short-term, or if you’ve struggled with it a while, therapy can be beneficial,” she adds. And, in the interim, you can use the self-guided anxiety relief tools above.