Whether you struggle with day-to-day worries or a clinically diagnosed disorder, you may need support for your anxiety. Conventional treatments like medicine and psychotherapy are popular ways of dealing with anxiety and other mental health issues, but there are many natural approaches — including some fairly simple (and perhaps unexpected) lifestyle adjustments.
What does science say about natural remedies?
It all depends on how you define “natural remedy.” Science demonstrates that exercise and diet, for example, play a huge role in mental health; however, evidence is blurrier regarding natural supplements, which have been anecdotally helpful for some but are not regulated by the FDA, and as such are not studied or proven safe like medications. While a number of studies show some natural remedies to be effective in managing mild to moderate anxiety, Dr. Daniel K. Hall- Flavin of the Mayo Clinic says more severe forms of anxiety will likely respond better to medication and psychotherapy. For this reason, if you’re interested in trying a natural remedy for anxiety, make sure to have a conversation with your doctor first about the best and safest approach for you.
Here are a few of the most common natural remedies for anxiety.
1. Diet: A well-balanced diet is one of the most important and well-known facets of dealing with stress and anxiety. One way to use food to reduce anxiety, according to Harvard Medical School, is to keep blood sugar as stable as possible by replacing simple sugars with complex carbohydrates, which metabolize more slowly. It’s also crucial to drink plenty of water and limit caffeine and alcohol, both of which can spike anxiety. You may find increasing minerals like zinc and magnesium helpful too.
2. Supplements: There are certain herbs and vitamins known to support our bodies as they deal with stress. Keep in mind that some herbs can negatively interact with medicines, so please discuss supplements with your doctor. Some of the most common supplements for anxiety include:
- Probiotics: Dr. Janelle Louis, a naturopathic doctor who specializes in treating mental health conditions with natural remedies, told us that the probiotic strains Lactobacillus helveticus and Lactobacillus rhamnosus can have potent effects on mood, particularly stress.
- Ashwagandha: Dr. Louis also recommends Ashwagandha, an herb that supports the adrenal glands, for reducing anxiety and managing situational stress.
- Passionflower: According to some small clinical trials, passionflower can be an effective treatment for anxiety. It can, however, cause dizziness and drowsiness, so make sure to use it under the supervision of a doctor.
- Chamomile: Studies show that chamomile capsules could help people suffering from mild or moderate generalized anxiety disorder.
3. Exercise: Regular workouts can decrease tension, elevate and stabilize mood, support sleep, and improve self-esteem. Even five minutes of aerobic exercise can stimulate anti-anxiety effects, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. Yoga can also reduce stress and anxiety because it involves breathing techniques, relaxation, and taming the body’s stress response through a lower heart rate and blood pressure.
4. Meditation: Meditation, which can help the body and mind regulate responses to perceived threats, is another great way to get some relief when things become overwhelming. “Anxious feelings force people into worrying about the future or regretting the past, and practicing mindfulness meditation helps you to stay in the moment and avoid those negative feelings,” said Dr. Mirsad Serdarevic, Program Supervisor for Clinical Psychology and Behavioral Health Consultation Programs at Center for Behavioral Health at Palomar Health.
If you struggle with anxiety, seeking the support of a therapist or another mental health practitioner is a great first step, especially if you would like to address the root of what’s causing your anxiety. And while natural remedies can be helpful tools for overcoming stress and managing our mental health, it’s always best to involve a doctor.
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