From worrying about what to wear to the prom to stressing about an exam you have coming up, most of us have experienced feelings of anxiety at one point or the other.
According to the WHO, 1 in 13 people suffer from anxiety making it the most common mental health disorder in the world.
Sadly, as common as it is, there is no definitive cure for anxiety yet. But many methods have been developed to manage it. One of these methods is the use of drugs. The problem, however, is that most of the drugs used to manage anxiety have many side effects and they offer only a short-term solution.
There are other more natural ways to fight anxiety. These methods come with long-term benefits minus the negative side effects. In this article, we will tell you about 7 of these methods. But, before we delve into that, let’s get to understand exactly what anxiety is.
What is Anxiety?
In simple terms, anxiety is a feeling of worry or fear. It is normal to experience anxiety in certain situations. Your body uses this reaction to help you become more alert when it senses danger.
But, when anxious feelings are extremely intense, occur for no reason, or occur in response to everyday activities, they become a problem. This is when they become what we refer to as anxiety disorders. There are several types of anxiety disorders. Some are:
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder
- Panic Disorder
- Social Phobia or Social Anxiety Disorder
- Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Anxiety disorders can seriously affect the lives of those who suffer from them. Not only do they wreak havoc on mental health, but they can also affect physical health. They can cause physical symptoms like an upset stomach, headaches, and fatigue. Also, studies have shown that they can increase the risk of developing chronic conditions like cardiovascular disease.
7 Easy Ways to Battle Anxiety Without Using Drugs
Below are 7 natural, research-backed ways to fight anxiety. These methods would not only leave you feeling more relaxed, but they will also help you handle stress better and improve your overall health.
You’ll be surprised to find that there is a whole lot of truth to the saying, “Laughter is the best medicine”. This simple action releases dopamine, serotonin, and other “feel good” hormones that can combat stress and make you feel relaxed. At the same time, laughter decreases the level of “stress hormones” like cortisol and adrenaline. Studies have shown that even fake laughing and simply smiling can have a good effect on your mood and reduce anxiety.
What’s more, apart from helping you fight anxiety, laughter has several other short and long-term benefits. For instance, it can improve your memory and help you fight off infections. One study done in Norway showed that laughing more may even help you live longer.
So make efforts to laugh more. Watch a sit-com. Log on to YouTube and laugh at the latest compilations of funny videos. Guffaw at witty challenges on TikTok. Or, find funny memes that will leave you snickering.
Get Warm and Cozy
You know that relaxed, blissful feeling you get when you are all cuddled up in bed? Well, it turns out that there is a scientific explanation for this. The feeling of warmth causes your body to physically relax and makes you feel safe. This, in turn, gives your brain the signal that it can relax and start sending those “feel good” hormones coursing through you.
Basically, any practice that makes you feel warm and fuzzy may help you calm your anxiety. For example, one study showed that sleeping under weighted blankets can significantly reduce anxiety. Other simple things you can try out are drinking a hot cup of tea, eating a hot meal, soaking in a warm bath, sitting in front of a fire, or cuddling with a loved one.
Use Essential Oils
There are hundreds of essential oils out there. And many of them have been found to have some benefit in fighting anxiety. One of the well-known ones is lavender oil.
Several studies have shown that this wonderful smelling oil can significantly reduce anxiety levels. One particular study found that lavender oil - given as a capsule preparation called Silexan - was as effective in treating Generalized Anxiety Disorder as lorazepam, a prominent anti-anxiety medication.
There are many ways in which you can use essential oils. You can spray them around your house. You can use them for massages. Or, you can apply them to the skin of your wrists. But remember that these oils are extremely concentrated and powerful. Always dilute them before use, especially when applying them to your skin.
Pay Attention to the Health of Your Gut
Your brain and your gut are intimately connected. Their relationship is like that of two young lovers in the “honeymoon phase”. They are always holding hands. They are constantly talking to each other. And one’s happiness heavily depends on the other. This tight connection is referred to as the gut-brain connection.
Normally, there is a healthy balance of bacteria in your gut that keeps your gut healthy and happy. Whenever this balance is thrown off, it can lead to inflammation. When your gut is inflamed, it sends distress signals to your brain. This can contribute to symptoms of anxiety, stress, and depression. This is why paying attention to your gut’s health could drastically improve your mental health.
Whenever you are feeling anxious, it is tempting to reach for junk or “comfort” food. But, remember that these foods are usually high in fats and refined sugars and low in fiber. They can throw off your natural balance of gut bacteria.
Eating healthy gut-friendly foods such as fruits and vegetables, on the other hand, does the opposite. Foods like yogurt contain live bacteria and yeasts. They are referred to as probiotics. They are especially good for your gut because consuming them can help you replace good bacteria in your gut whenever they are lost and also contribute to a healthy balance.
Shake That Body
Recent studies are showing that exercise is as beneficial to your mental health as it is to your physical health. Just like laughter, exercise triggers the release of “feel good” chemicals. These attach to opiate receptors in your body, increasing your sense of well-being and combating stress.
And, don’t worry, you don’t have to hit the gym if you don’t want to. There are several fun ways to exercise. For instance, dancing is a delightful way to exercise. One study showed that it can significantly reduce anxiety.
Get Some Sunshine
Spending time in the sun is simply good for you. It leaves you with that warm, cozy feeling, improves your complexion, and most importantly, helps you get some much-needed vitamin D. This unique vitamin serves several functions in your body. One of the most important being its contribution to the health of your nerves and brain.
Although there is a need for more conclusive evidence, studies have shown a link between Vitamin D and disorders like anxiety and depression. In one study, women with depressive symptoms were given weekly vitamin D supplements for 6 months. At the end of the study, it was found that there was a significant reduction in depression as well as anxiety in those women. They also experienced improved overall mental health.
Most of the time, what causes us to become anxious is worrying about the future. The practice of mindfulness can help you fight this. It helps you stay focused on the present. You learn to appreciate what is going on within and without at each point in time.
Several studies have shown that this practice can significantly reduce symptoms of anxiety. It can even serve as an effective means of treating anxiety for some people.
If you have never done it before, you can start today with a simple exercise like mindful breathing. This can be done anywhere. But it helps to find a quiet space where you won’t be distracted. Close your eyes (or keep them open if you want – whatever works best for you!).
Take a deep breath in and then let it out. Try to concentrate on this simple act of drawing air into your lungs and letting it out. Thoughts can come up but that’s okay. The trick is to avoid judging yourself.
Just let them pass and try to gently bring yourself back to the present moment. Notice how your chest rises as you breathe and the sound the rush of air makes. Just let yourself be present in that moment and action.
You can start by doing this for just one minute. And then work your way up. You’ll be surprised at how relaxed it makes you feel.
Start Fighting Anxiety the Natural Way Today
If you have been experiencing mild symptoms of anxiety but do not want to use drugs, try out the above methods. You might have to do some experimentation to find out which combination of methods works best for you. Please see a mental health specialist if symptoms persist or start to interfere with your day-to-day activities.
If you are already on medications for anxiety, please speak to your doctor first before incorporating natural remedies into your treatment plan