Anxiety has the potential to interfere with our daily lives. We are all prone to experiencing feelings of worry, nervousness or uneasiness at times. Consider these simple lifestyle changes that are natural remedies for these symptoms.
1. Drink Chamomile tea
Chamomile tea has been used for thousands of years as a herbal medicine to calm anxiety and help people sleep. Its medicinal properties come from the terpenoids and flavonoids in the dried flowers. According to a study by the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Medicine, chamomile extracts reduced anxiety symptoms significantly compared to placebo.
2. Inhale lavender
Studies have proved the calming, soothing and sedative effects of breathing in lavender oil. It has been found to reduce blood pressure, heart rate and skin temperature significantly. Test subjects in studies were found to be more energised and felt fresher after inhaling lavender oil. Try rubbing 2-3 drops of lavender oil in your cupped palms and inhaling deeply. It can also be rubbed onto your temples and wrists and at night, and you can also put a few drops onto your pillow to help you sleep.
3. Consume 1-3 grams of omega-3s per day
A new study has revealed that the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oils may help reduce anxiety (and inflammation) in young healthy adults. Ohio State University conducted the 12-week study and found that symptoms of anxiety in the bloodstream of test subjects was 20 per cent lower during higher stress periods after consuming omega-3s.
Eating omega-3 fatty acids at least twice per week may provide the body with these healthy oils and lift your mood. Omega-3 is found in fish, including salmon, tuna, and halibut, other seafoods including algae and krill, some plants, and nut oils. You may also consider a fish oil supplement.
The National Institutes of Health recommends that at least two per cent of your total daily calories are consumed as omega-3 fats. Thus a person consuming 2,000 calories daily would need to eat at least two grams of omega-3 fats.
4. Spend 15 minutes a day in the sun
Soaking up 15 minutes of sun each day is the best way for the body to naturally absorb vitamin D and can reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression. Take a 15 minute break to de-stress and enjoy some outdoor activity.
In a 2007 study, researchers at Kyoto University’s Graduate School of Medicine discovered the calming, psychological affects associated with taking a walk through a forest: “Forest environments are advantageous with respect to acute emotions, especially among those experiencing chronic stress. Forest environments can be viewed as therapeutic landscapes.” If you’re in an urban area, lower your stress hormone by taking a walk through a nearby park or tree-lined street.
Further reading: Top 3 Sources of Vitamin D
5. Yoga/Meditation/Deep breathing exercises
Many studies support the improvement of anxiety through breathing exercises in yoga and meditation, by lowering heart rate. One study conducted in India involved test subjects participating in an integrated lifestyle program over ten days. Subjects had an array of conditions, from diabetes and hypertension to depression and anxiety. Subjects had significantly alleviated their anxiety within ten days as a result of practising relaxation techniques such as shavasana and meditation.
Dr Andrew Weil recommends three breathing exercises, from stimulating breath, to relaxing breath and breath counting. You can read more about them here. You don’t have to be in a yoga class to breathe deeply; try it from your couch or office.
6. Reduce caffeine consumption
A stimulant that raises your heart rate and your muscle’s ability to relax, caffeine boosts energy levels and can make you anxious and jittery. Try cutting down your caffeine intake and you may notice small improvements in your mood and more frequent moments of calm. Remember that caffeine is found in an array of foods, including chocolate, tea and soda. If your caffeine intake comes from coffee, try switching to a drink with less caffeine such as green tea, which has more health benefits.
Further reading about green tea: Health Lessons From International Cuisines – China
7. Exercise for 10 minutes daily
Exercise has been found to improve mental health by assisting the brain in coping with stress. Some studies have revealed that exercise has the power to immediately lift mood in depressed people. Though the effects are temporary, a brisk walk or other simple activity has been shown to provide several hours of relief. Exercize floods your body with endorphins to make you feel good. Evidence also exists to support that those who exercise regularly and vigorously are 25 per cent less likely to develop depression or anxiety disorders. People who are fit an active also generally have lower rates of anxiety and depression, compared to sedentary people (Anxiety and Depression Association of America).
9. Assess your diet for anxiety-aggravators
The link between stress/anxiety and nutrition is not new. For many people, making food changes is enough to eliminate anxiety. Certain foods that have been found to trigger and aggravate stress/anxiety include;
- Tea, coffee, cocoa, energy drinks
- Butter, cheese
- Fried foods and foods high in saturated fat
- Processed meat and shellfish
- Alcohol, soda and chocolate drinks
- Almonds, macadamias and other nuts
Make yourself aware of these and note that you don’t have to avoid them completely, but consume them in moderation to relieve anxiety (Stress Management Society).
Foods for anxiety relief include fresh fruits and vegetables, fish and yogurt. Make sure these are abundant in your diet and drink plenty of water.
“Bring a spirit of exploration to how you eat, learning new recipes and food preparation techniques, trying new foods and finding enjoyment in shopping, cooking and eating. If you simply start eating real, whole, good quality foods, you’ll notice how much better you start to feel mood-wise, and you’ll probably start to sleep better and have fewer cravings.” – Trudy Scott, author, The anti-anxiety food solution
If you experience anxiety, be mindful of these ideas and pay close attention how you feel when you make these dietary and lifestyle changes. Some of these tips will provide temporary relief, while others are geared toward alleviating anxiety long term. It may take some time to learn what works for you in reducing anxiety.