Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the United States, affecting 40 million adults in the United States, or 18.1% of the population every year, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. Aside from conditions considered “anxiety disorders,” anxiety is a natural part of life and something that we all experience from time to time. Understand anxiety and how we can naturally reduce our anxiety is a great way to maintain our mental health.
What Is Anxiety?
Anxiety is defined as “a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome.” It is commonly associated with symptoms of “fast heart rate, rapid breathing, sweating, and feeling tired,” and can be either mild or severe, ranging from mild stress and worry to full on panic attacks.
Experiencing occasional anxiety is a normal part of life. However, people with anxiety disorders frequently have intense, excessive and persistent worry and fear about everyday situations. Often, anxiety disorders involve repeated episodes of sudden feelings of intense anxiety and fear or terror that reach a peak within minutes.
How Do People Normally Treat Anxiety?
Often, people with severe anxiety are prescribed selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs, a class of drugs that block the reuptake of serotonin, meaning that more serotonin is available. As serotonin is involved in feelings of well-being, these can help people experience more happiness and alleviate some of the symptoms of their anxiety or depression. However, like many modern medicines, these only suppress symptoms. They don't get to the root of the problem. They may be useful or helpful when needed, but they are not an idea long-term solution.
Many people also prefer not to take pharmaceutical medications, and look for an alternative to SSRIs for anxiety. There are many natural alternatives to SSRIs for anxiety, but they don't work in the same way SSRIs do.
How Can Someone Reduce Their Anxiety Levels Naturally?
Anxiety is a complex psychological state that has numerous causes, some being the result of our thinking, and some being the result of chemical imbalances in the brain and body. With all mental states, they are largely subjective and their causes differ from person to person. To really understand anxiety in depth requires that one explore human psychology, nutrition, neurology, and biology, and understand the relationship of the brain, body, and the personality.
Though anxiety in itself is a big topic, and one we won’t be exploring in depth in this article, there are many different methods that people use to reduce their anxiety naturally.
In this article, we’ll discuss 8 effective ways that you can reduce anxiety naturally. We hope that these methods of reducing anxiety can bring more peace and calm to your life!
1. Practice Meditation
One of the greatest ways to reduce anxiety naturally is to develop a regular meditation practice. Meditation is defined as, “a practice where an individual uses a technique – such as mindfulness, or focusing the mind on a particular object, thought, or activity – to train attention and awareness, and achieve a mentally clear and emotionally calm and stable state.”
Essentially, meditation is a practice in focusing our attention on the present moment, observing our thoughts, and training ourselves to relax in this state of present moment awareness. It is a very simple practice, but one that can have profound effects as it helps us to better understand ourselves and our minds.
Meditation helps tremendously with reducing anxiety because much of our anxiety is caused by our way of thinking—and most people are largely unaware of their minds and the way that they think, as well as how these thoughts lead to their emotional experience.
If we look closely at our minds, we will see that a certain process happens that leads to an experience of anxiety. We begin with experiencing a situation in the present moment, we then feel uncertain about the situation we are experiencing or like we don’t have control in the experience, we then begin to think about could happen or what could go wrong, and these thoughts then stress us out and give us anxiety, even though the outcome that we fear exists only in our minds and not in the reality of the present moment experience.
A helpful way to reduce our anxiety, therefore, is to notice these thoughts that create the feelings of stress and anxiety, and to no longer give them our belief and attention, but instead to focus our attention on relaxing in the present moment, and being okay with uncertainty.
Let’s use the example of being on an airplane—something that commonly gives many people anxiety. Our present moment experience is that we are on an airplane—this is the absolute fact of the situation. We may feel nervous and worry that we are unsafe on the airplane, that we might crash—this is just a fearful thought, not an absolute fact. Here we have a choice, we can either entertain that fearful thought, and feed it with more worrisome thoughts, ultimately leading to a panic attack, or we can notice the fearful thought at that very moment, see that it is only a thought and not the reality of our experience, and therefore we can let that thought go, stop investing our attention in it, and bring our attention back to the present moment.
When we are relaxed in the present moment, we are free of anxiety, and this is the wonderful benefit of meditation, as it is a practice in training oneself to be aware and relaxed in the present moment. There are many different forms of meditation, but typically, meditation involves focusing the mind on a single object, such as the breath, and just observing the immediate sensations of breathing, without adding any stories, opinions, or thoughts onto the experience. When one does get distracted by thinking, which inevitably happens, they simply recognize they were distracted by thoughts and then return their attention to the object of their attention. As one continues to do this, they grow increasingly aware of their thoughts and how they distract them from their immediate experience, they become better at returning to their focus when they’ve been distracted, and they naturally learn how to become more relaxed simply being aware of the present moment.
If you would like to read more about how to develop a daily meditation practice, here is a blog our team wrote on "How to Practice Meditation". Also consider downloading a daily meditation app such as Calm or Mindspace, similar to having a personal trainer at the gym, having a meditation coach can help make daily meditation easier.
2. Practice Breathwork
Breathwork is another practice that helps significantly in reducing anxiety. Breathwork, as the name implies, is working with our breath to support mental, emotional, and physical healing. There is a wide range of breathwork practices, and many of them have quite different results.
The general idea, however, is that our breath and our nervous system are intimately connected, and we can actually “hack” some of our body’s natural responses through intentional breathing.
For example, the vagus nerve, the largest cranial nerve in the body, begins in the brainstem and extends down into abdomen, connecting to many major organs along the way. The vagus nerve is a part of the parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for many of the involuntary processes in the body, such as breathing, maintaining our heartbeat, digestion, etc.
Breathing, however, is both an involuntary and voluntary process. In other words, our body is always breathing when we aren’t aware of it, but we can also choose to breathe and control our breath. When we do make this a voluntary process, we can affect this parasympathetic nervous system.
The parasympathetic nervous system controls the restorative and regenerative response of the nervous system, or our “rest and digest” response, as opposed to the sympathetic nervous system’s “fight or flight” response. Through slow, deep breathing, we can actually stimulate the vagus nerve, as well as this “rest and digest” response, and we can trigger a relaxation response in the body.
Put simply, we can become aware of our breathing, and we can choose to breathe slow, deep, and relaxing breaths, and this will calm our stress and anxiety, and will stimulate this restorative response of our parasympathetic nervous system.
If you would like to read more about breathwork practices, here is a blog our team wrote on "Diaphragmatic Breathing".
3. Balance out Amino Acid Deficiencies
Anxiety can be caused by chemical imbalances in the brain and body. When we experience stress and anxiety it affects our brain chemistry and depletes neurotransmitters, the chemical messengers of the brain. The more these neurotransmitters are depleted, the more difficult it becomes to recover from stress, and it causes the body to be prone to states of stress and anxiety.
To restore these neurotransmitters from the damaging and depleting effects of long-term stress and anxiety, supplementing with amino acids can be very beneficial. GABA (gamma-Aminobutyric acid), for example, is a naturally occurring amino acid that works as a neurotransmitter in your brain. It is considered an inhibitory neurotransmitter because it blocks, or inhibits, certain brain signals and decreases activity in your nervous system. When GABA attaches to a protein in your brain known as a GABA receptor, it produces a calming effect. This can help significantly with reducing feelings of anxiety, stress, and fear.
Amino acids are organic compounds that combine to form proteins. Amino acids and proteins are the building blocks of life and are needed by the body for the regeneration of all body tissues. Depletion of amino acids can be very damaging to our health, and conversely, ensuring that you receive adequate amino acids in your diet can help restore chemical imbalances and nutritional deficiencies in the body that may cause psychological imbalances such as anxiety and depression.
Consider including a quality amino acid supplement such as our Complete Amino Acid Complex as a part of your daily regimen to help balance out amino acid deficiencies and to support a healthy brain and body.
4. Supplement with the Amino Acid L Theanine
L-theanine is a unique amino acid found in the green tea plant Camellia sinensis. Just as adrenaline causes the release of cortisol, theanine acts as a precursor to dopamine in your brain. Dopamine is the second largest brain chemical (in terms of amount, not size), and plays a key role by preventing your brain from accessing adrenaline. Since the brain is unable to access adrenaline, cortisol release is restricted.
Not only does theanine prevent the body from elevating cortisol, but it rewards you by stimulating relaxing alpha waves in your brain. Now your brain can prioritize thoughts, improve concentration, and increase learning ability while you’re awake. At night, theanine helps your brain shut down, and allows you to get a better night’s sleep instead of racking your brain with a slew of problems. Although theanine can’t repair its’ effects, the amino acid can help alleviate anxiety and stress from adrenal exhaust.
We recommend supplementing with the amino acid L Theanine every four hours throughout the day as the half life of L Theanine is four hours. Our clinical grade L Theanine Supplement contains 200mg of plant based L Theanine derived from high quality suntheanine. We highly recommend using a quality L Theanine supplement when supplementing with this amino acid as many of the products on the US market are from overseas, lack bioavailability, and can have contaminants such as heavy metals.
5. Exercise Daily
Exercise is not only essential for physical fitness; it is essential for mental fitness as well, and it can help to reduce stress and anxiety. Studies show that exercise is very effective at reducing fatigue, improving alertness and concentration, and at enhancing overall cognitive function.
When stress affects the brain and its many nerve connections, the rest of the body feels the impact as well. On the same note, if your body feels better, it has a positive impact on the mind. Exercise and other physical activity produce endorphins—chemicals in the brain that act as natural painkillers—and also improve the ability to sleep, which in turn reduces stress.
Scientists have found that regular participation in aerobic exercise has been shown to decrease overall levels of tension, elevate and stabilize mood, improve sleep, and improve self-esteem. Even as little as five minutes of aerobic exercise can begin to stimulate anti-anxiety effects.
6. Focus on Sleep Quality
Sleep is essential to our mental and physical health, and anxiety is frequently connected to sleeping problems. Excess worry and fear make it harder to fall asleep and stay asleep through the night. Sleep deprivation, in turn, can worsen anxiety, spurring a negative cycle involving insomnia and anxiety disorders.
Because of the relationship between anxiety and sleep, getting better rest may help combat feelings of anxiety. It is important that we build healthy sleep habits that make going to bed a more pleasant experience, as well as facilitate a consistent routine to enhance our sleep.
Healthy sleep habits can include making your bed more comfortable, eliminating sources of sleep disruption like light and noise, and avoiding caffeine and alcohol in the afternoon and evening. Trying relaxation techniques can also help identify ways to get rid of anxiety and make it easier to fall asleep quickly and peacefully.
If you would like to read more about how to improve sleep patterns, read our blog on "How to Improve natural Sleep Patterns".
7. Spend Time in Nature
In Japan, there is a therapy known as shinrin-yoku, or forest bathing. Shinrin in Japanese means “forest,” and yoku means “bath.” So shinrin-yoku means bathing in the forest atmosphere, or taking in the forest through our senses. It is a practice of simply being in nature, connecting with it through our senses of sight, hearing, taste, smell and touch.
We all know how good being in nature can make us feel. The sounds of the forest, the scent of the trees, the sunlight playing through the leaves, the fresh, clean air — these things give us a sense of comfort, they ease our stress and worry, and they help us to relax and to think more clearly. Being in nature can restore our mood, give us back our energy and vitality, refresh and rejuvenate us.
In Japan, the practice of forest bathing, sometimes referred to as nature therapy, is actually utilized as an effective therapy for those suffering from psychological disturbances like stress, anxiety, and depression.
David Yaden, a researcher at the University of Pennsylvania’s Positive Psychology Center, says, “There have been studies comparing walking in nature with walking in an urban environment and testing people on their mood, different aspects of depression, and in some cases, brain scans. In the natural setting, people are more relaxed and less stressed.”
8. Supplement with Adaptogenic Herbs
Adaptogens are a select group of herbs that support the body’s natural ability to deal with stress. They are called adaptogens because these herbs aid our bodies in adapting and responding to, or recovering from, both short-term and long-term physical or mental stress. Some also have other medicinal properties and are known to boost immunity and overall well-being. Research shows that the benefits of adaptogens include combating fatigue, enhancing mental performance, easing depression and anxiety, and helping you thrive rather than simply just maintaining.
Adaptogens work at a molecular level by regulating a stable balance in the hypothalamic, pituitary, and adrenal glands—all of which are involved in the stress response. Essentially, they work by “hacking” the stress response in the body.
When we face a stressor, whether physical or mental, our bodies go through what is called general adaptation syndrome (GAS). GAS is a three-stage response: alarm, resistance, and exhaustion. Adaptogens help us stay in the resistance phase longer, via a stimulating effect that holds off the exhaustion. Instead of crashing in the midst of a stressful moment, task, or event, we attain equilibrium and can move through it.
Consider adding a supplement such as our Liposomal Curcumin Tonic for adaptogens in a liposomal form. Liposomal technology boosts the absorption of these adaptogenic herbs which will make you feel the stress relieving effects much more rapidly and stronger than you would from capsule supplements or tea powders.
How Long Do Anxiety Disorders Last?
Often, people that have anxiety disorders wonder how long does anxiety disorder last, or how long does it take anxiety to go away. The reality is, anxiety doesn't typically go away on its own. There is a psychological or chemical imbalance that is causing the anxiety, and that must be addressed in order for the anxiety to be alleviated long-term.
You can take natural mood stabilizers for anxiety, or pharmaceutical ones, but these are often just useful for managing symptoms. To treat anxiety, you need to make sure you are getting proper nutrition in your diet, have a healthy chemical balance, and need to learn new ways of relating to life that don't cause you to fear and stress. This often takes time and consistent practice, but just take it one breath at a time. The more you can accept life circumstances and relax with them, the more your anxiety will be transformed into peace.
Anxiety is something that we all experience in our lives, and some people experience greater anxiety than others and even suffer from anxiety disorders. While anxiety in itself is a complex and multifaceted subject, there are many natural ways that we can reduce our anxiety. A lot of these methods have to do with having greater self-awareness and understanding of our minds, as well as actively learning and practicing methods of genuine self-care.
Becoming more aware of your thinking through mindfulness and meditation, stimulating your parasympathetic nervous system’s restorative response through breathwork, getting sufficient amino acids in your diet, exercising regularly, getting adequate rest, spending time in nature, and using adaptogenic herbs are all natural and effective ways for reducing stress and anxiety.
Anxiety is not a comfortable state to experience, but through observing our own anxiety, what triggers it, what it feels like, and what reduces it, we can get better insight into how our own minds work and how we can decrease our anxiety and increase our mental and emotional well-being. Anxiety is a natural part of life, and the more we understand it, the more empowered we become in knowing how to reduce our anxiety and experience greater calm and ease in our lives.