March 07, 2019
Sweaty palms, jarring heart palpitations, light-headedness, sudden difficulty breathing, stomach cramps, dissociation— anxiety surpasses average nervousness. It is physical, exhausting, and debilitating. People struggling with chronic anxiety often have issues moving through their day-to-day tasks and are sometimes left feeling as if they don’t have control over their mind or body.
Anxiety is the most prevalent mental disorder in the U.S., affecting over 40 million adults per year. The nature of anxiety disorders varies widely and can be categorized into multiple diagnoses including general anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, social anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and specific phobias.
While many people experiencing anxiety seek professional help, less severe cases can often be alleviated with a few natural solutions:
Before pharmaceuticals, humans had to rely on raw environmental elements. Consequently, there are a number of herbal supplements known to improve the mental and physical manifestations of anxiety, stress, and panic.
Ashwagandha, an herb native to the drier regions of India, North Africa, and the Middle East, is one of the most powerful herbs used to achieve emotional balance for those in distress. It’s proven to lower cortisol levels by an impressive 28 percent and is an adaptogen—a substance that helps modulate the body’s response to tension, overstimulation, and trauma. Ashwagandha can be ingested in the form of a capsule or powder. It can be easily purchased from online retailers specializing in organic, all-natural supplements.
Chamomile also has a clinically meaningful impact on anxiety levels, and its use dates back to ancient Egyptian, Roman, and Greek cultures. Primarily known for its presence in calming teas, a study using refined chamomile extract showed an improvement in anxiety symptoms and psychological well-being.
Physical activity can have an astounding impact on a person’s mental health. The idea of exercising can seem daunting to a person in emotional distress, and it might even feel impossible during moments of anxiety-induced physical exhaustion. In reality, exercise increases energy levels, both short-term and long-term.
During exercise, the body releases endorphins, which are hormones that supply a burst of energy and help increase your mood. It’s these endorphins that produce the feeling of euphoria post-exercise, often referred to as the “runners high.”
Despite the phrase, running isn’t the only exercise that produces this jolt of energy and phycological improvement. Yoga has been widely recognized in the wellness community as one of the most effective physical activities to reduce the symptoms of anxiety disorders, along with other movements that engage the full body and focus on the alignment of breath and movement.
A regular exercise routine will also encourage higher quality sleep, a sharper memory, and enhanced focus—three things that are often negatively impacted by chronic anxiety.
Similar to exercise, meditation works to improve the relationship between the brain, breath, and body. Unfortunately, meditation can be especially hard for those with an anxiety disorder. Racing thoughts, a common and persistent symptom of anxiety, can be hard to shake during a meditation session. But the purpose of meditation isn’t to erase these worrisome thoughts; it’s learning how to live alongside them without fear or self-judgement.
Mindfulness-based meditation is the primary meditation method used in the treatment of anxiety disorders. The practice focuses on learning to detach from obsessive, intrusive, or anxious thoughts, primarily by concentrating one’s awareness on the sensations present in the body at that moment. Studies have shown that a consistent meditation practice significantly reduces symptoms of distress in those who meet the criteria for anxiety disorders classified in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5).
While these natural methods can have a positive influence on those combatting an anxiety disorder, severe cases of anxiety may require professional medical intervention. It’s important to seek professional care if anxiety symptoms cannot be self-managed. Anti-anxiety medications, like SSRIs, can be life-saving, along with consistent counseling. If you or someone you know is experiencing a mental health crisis, these hotlines provide 24/7 support:
This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. The information on this web site is for general information purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or health care provider on any matters relating to your health.