There are 40 million adults in the United States suffering from stress, panic attacks or a panic disorder, anxiety attacks, and depression according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. These conditions may be debilitating and disruptive to home and work life. If you are suffering from a panic disorder, anxiety disorder or any anxiety symptoms, it’s important to know the symptoms and how to manage your condition, since it may not only hold you back, but can also contribute to or aggravate to other chronic diseases.
Your doctor can prescribe anti-anxiety medications, which are helpful to many people. If you're concerned about your anxiety and depression and want to know if an antidepressant or other anti-anxiety medications can help ease your anxiety symptoms, consult a mental health professional to discuss your options.
There are also natural remedies for anxiety that you can try without a prescription. Many of them have no or minimal side effects. Plus, many of these remedies are easy to have at your fingertips, if an anxiety attack strikes at the office.
One thing to note: While you may be able to use natural remedies for anxiety alongside prescription medication, it is critical for you to consult with your doctor before you try any of these herbal supplements and other natural remedies to ensure that they will not cause a negative interaction with other anti-anxiety drugs.
Herbal supplements are popular and natural alternatives to traditional pharmaceuticals. In fact, 25 percent of drugs worldwide come from herbs or plants of some kind. Many of the herbal remedies for anxiety can be easily incorporated into your diet.
• Lemon balm is an herb that’s a member of the mint family that was traditionally used to treat anxiety and insomnia. The balm can be taken orally in your tea or in a capsulate, but beware that some studies have shown that too much lemon balm can make your more anxious.
• St. John’s wort is another plant that is traditionally used to treat ADHD, anxiety and depression. Although not FDA approved for OTC or prescription use in the United States, there is some evidence that it is effective in soothing anxiety.
• Chamomile tea contains apigenin and luteolin, both of which are herbs that promote relaxation. You can take it orally in a supplement or aromatically using essential oils. And, of course, you can drink chamomile tea as a beverage.
• Similarly, green tea contains L-theanine, which curbs rising heart rate and blood pressure. This can also help reduce your anxiety. Like chamomile, green tea can be taken orally.
Essential oils are made by distilling the natural oils from plants—which means they are highly concentrated and powerful—and have been used therapeutically for centuries. Certain oils, which can be purchased at health food stores or through subscription services such as Young Living and DoTERRA, can help lower anxiety. They can be applied topically, inhaled through a diffuser and used as part of aromatherap—and you can mix and match them to create your own unique scent.
• Lavender has a calming effect and considered a nervous system restorative, helping sleep patterns, reducing general tension, and a soothing a nervous stomach.
• Rose relieves depression and helps balance.
• Vetiver supports the amygdaloid nucleus, which is the area of the brain stem that is responsible for regulating heart rate, blood pressure, and other functions in response to emotions.
• Ylang Ylang reduces stress by promoting positive emotions and fighting insomnia.
• Bergamot is a natural remedy for anxiety and depression and can support metabolic rates by helping balance hormones.
• Chamomile, as described earlier in herbal supplement form, helps reduce anxiety by lowering the body’s stress response.
• Frankincense can reduce heart rate and blood pressure, as well as negative emotions that come with mental health disorders and problems.
Acupressure and acupuncture
Acupressure and acupuncture are both Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) practices that treat a wide variety of conditions, including as a remedy for anxiety. Acupuncture, performed by trained professionals, involves stimulating specific points using thin needles and is a (mostly) painless procedure. It works by working to restore Qi, a metaphor for metabolic functions, in the body.
For the needle-averse crowd, acupressure, like acupuncture, involves stimulating specific points on the body, but without the needles. Acupressure can be performed by a professional, or you can perform it on yourself by applying pressure or gently massaging to each point for one to two minutes. The pressure points that relieve stress are:
• Between your eyebrows
• Three fingers below the wrist on your forearm
• The center of your torso where your ribs meet
• The top side if your foot, between your big and second toes
• The inside of your arm where it bends
• Under your collarbone, where there is a small gap near the breastbone
• Exercise and meditation
As little as 21 minutes of exercise can help reduce anxiety, whether you have an anxiety disorder or occasionally feel anxious. Exercises such as running, cycling, weightlifting and really any exercise you enjoy, helps to improve your mood by burning off lactic acid and producing mood-boosting endorphins. Yoga and t’ai chi are also two common exercises recommended to help anxiety because they connect breath to movement, which can reduce feelings of anxiety. In addition, regular exercise improves your self-esteem and can eliminate anxiety about health issues.
While exercise focuses on burning off lactic acid and producing endorphins, meditation uses focused breathing and mind exercises to reduce cortisol levels, thereby lowering stress and anxiety. You can meditate a number of different ways, including with sound and images, or by using breathing techniques. There are many mobile apps are available for free download to guide you through the practice, and it can be done in the comfort of your own home or in the car before you head into the office.
Vitamins and supplements
Though not "anti-anxiety herbs" per se, vitamins and other supplements can fill in gaps left by your diet and help you make up for any deficiencies. If you struggle with stress and anxiety, you may be lacking in one of these nutrients:
• Calcium, magnesium, and vitamin B complex are three nutrients that are critical to ensuring your nervous system is functioning correctly. Make sure your multi-vitamin includes them, and consider taking individual supplements.
• GABA, short for gamma-aminobutyic acid, is a brain transmitter that counteracts the effects of glutamate, a neurotransmitter that increases your excitability.
• L-lysine is another type of amino acid that’s vital to the health of neurotransmitters and is found in meat and fish as well as in oral supplements.
• Omega-3 fatty acids can help lower stress chemicals like adrenaline and cortisol, according to some studies.
There are a number of factors that connect anxiety to your diet. A poor diet resulting from eating the wrong foods, not enough of the right ones, or too many or too few calories, can cause anxiety, moodiness, fatigue, and general nervousness. In addition to the supplements recommended above, an anti-anxiety diet limits caffeine, alcohol, excess sugar, and processed foods, while increasing the intake of anti-inflammatory foods. These foods are important to keeping your neurotransmitters healthy, so they can create and balance mood and stress response.
Anti-inflammatory foods include:
• Wild-caught fish, such as salmon, tuna and herring
• Grass-fed beef
• Organic chicken
• Leafy greens like spinach and kale
• Fresh fruits and vegetables
• Legumes, nuts and seeds
• Health fats, like coconut oil, olive oil and avocado (Pass that extra guac, please!)
Samantha Smoak is a journalist turned PR professional based in Nashville, Tennessee. For sports jokes and dog pictures, follow her on Twitter and Instagram at @samanthaksmoak.