Natural Anxiety Relief Tips
Alternative Remedies and Techniques
Updated: August 11, 2021
Good mental health is an important part of maintaining general well being, and stress and anxiety seems to be at an all-time high these days. Therapists and psychiatrists report a sharp increase in new patients and booking more frequent sessions for existing ones. Many symptoms of anxiety disorders can be eased with natural remedies. Herbs like lemon balm or lavender combined with other stress relieving activities are more accessible and cheaper than prescription medications.
Please note that the following suggestions for natural remedies are in no way are meant to replace therapy or psychiatric treatments. This is especially true for people who have been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder by a professional.
If you are currently receiving treatment for anxiety disorders make sure to consult the medical advice of your doctor before trying any diet or lifestyle changes.
Keep in mind, this is just a helpful informational guide to natural home remedies that may help reduce day-to-day stress.
Good old-fashioned exercise is a great natural remedy to reduce stress and anxiety symptoms! That includes working out at a gym, taking classes, creating a home-gym experience—and those suggestions are valid. But not everyone has the money to purchase equipment and memberships, time to dedicate to daily exercise, or bodies that can tolerate very much exertion. So, let’s focus on something simpler that may reduce anxiety: just getting outside.
Activities & Exercise
In an ideal world, we would all have the ability to take a jog every day or hop on our mountain bike and ride the trails, but this is not always the case. If you can’t jog, can you hike? If you can’t bike, can you swim? If you can’t run a 5K, can you take a walk around your neighborhood? Can you just get outside and sit for a spell? If you can do that, then do that.
There are many mental health benefits of getting outside and spending time in nature. The American Heart Association says that getting outside improves your stress levels and memory.1
If you are lucky enough to live in a region with good air quality, the fresh air alone can have therapeutic effects on stress and anxiety. If you are not that lucky, you may have to seek it out—take a drive to a wooded area, visit a local a park, go to a beach, or climb a hill.
In case you haven’t already noticed, nature can be pretty darn beautiful. The changing leaves, the different types of sunlight, the rolling waves, the meandering streams, even your neighbor’s flower garden, all have a touch of beauty. Sometimes more than just a touch.
The Japanese practice something called “forest bathing” or shinrin-yoku, according to Qing Li writing for Time Magazine. “Shinrin” in Japanese means “forest,” and “yoku” means “bath.” So shinrin-yoku means bathing in the forest atmosphere.2 This concept doesn’t have to exist in forests alone. You could practice shinrin-yoku by lying in the sand, digging your toes in the mud, running through a meadow, sitting in a park, or swimming in a lake. It can be as simple as sitting under a tree and looking up. It’s anything that connects you to nature as you take in your surroundings.
“This is not exercise, or hiking, or jogging,” Li writes. “It is simply being in nature, connecting with it through our senses of sight, hearing, taste, smell, and touch. Shinrin-yoku is like a bridge. By opening our senses, it bridges the gap between us and the natural world.”3
When utilizing all of your senses to allow nature to work her magic on your stress, you are seizing upon a remedy for stress that is natural, even spiritual. Best of all, this activity is free and accessible to most people.
Get Acquainted with your Neighborhood
It may very well be “a beautiful day in the neighborhood,” but how would you know if you didn’t get outside? Take a walk, a bike, or a skate around your neighborhood. Even the oldest neighborhoods are constantly changing. Someone might have just adopted a puppy or planted a new garden. The new couple that just moved in may become your best friends, or you even can just get acquainted with your postal delivery person.
Mark the changes (not literally—that’s graffiti!). Note what does not change. Discover what you love about living where you live.
Exercise can help relieve stress and make you healthier, but don't forget that your diet is important too! Anxiety can affect your blood sugar levels, which may cause you to reach for unhealthy comfort foods. Choose nutrition-dense foods like leafy greens, whole grains and legumes, plenty of vegetables, healthy fats, and lean proteins. When your body is well-balanced and functioning properly, it is easier for your mind achieve balance.
Anyone with an animal in their care that they love knows that there’s a lot more to owning a pet than just having something cute to look at or post on Instagram to get “likes.” And pet love is not just limited to cute puppies and kittens. It’s senior dogs who smile when their bellies are rubbed or cats who head-bump their owners when they need attention. It’s the guy making the rounds on the internet who is gaga for his turtle, named Hope, who lives with an exposed heart (the turtle, not the man).4
It doesn’t matter how cute, how fuzzy, how scaly or slimy your pet is. If you have a pet, most of the time that pet makes the list of your best friends. The unconditional love a pet gives its person is a good reminder that the person is worthy and deserving of love. And they can help those suffering from an anxiety disorder to find some relief.
Cuddles & Snuggles
Petting and playing with your pet is a great natural way to reduce blood pressure, and ease tension and anxiety! The idea of pets helping to reduce anxiety is such a universally held truth that we have animals across the spectrum who have jobs dealing in stress-reduction and providing therapy needs for those with anxiety disorders.
Every day, pets visit hospitals, nursing homes, schools, and airports because it’s difficult to be anxious when you’re petting a friendly dog or holding a cuddly cat. Therapy animals trained to help with an anxiety disorder can help sooth you during panic attacks. Companion animals can help people navigate their space and feel protected. Therapy pets come in all shapes and sizes, and they serve as anxiety-relieving guides when their people are out of their comfort zones.
Something That Needs Care
Sometimes when you find it hard to care for yourself because you’re experiencing anxiety, having a pet who needs care and attention can remind you of your own needs. Pets need to be fed, groomed, and have their bathroom needs met. Some need a tank cleaning, and others need outdoor exercise.
Mostly, pets need safety and kindness and love. You need those things, too.
The act of feeding your pet may be just the reminder you need to put something healthy into your own body as well. The cat loves you; therefore, you must be deserving of love. Simply put, caring for a pet could reduce your anxiety.
Deep Breathing Exercises
Breathing mindfully is a great way to reduce anxiety and stress. Deep breathing can help decrease heart rate and reduce blood pressure so you can relax easier. Sometimes just paying attention to how you are breathing is enough, and you can do that incognito. However, there are many techniques that you can practice that may help reduce anxiety symptoms. Here are the two most popular ones:
The 4-7-8 Breathing Technique
According to Healthline, “The 4-7-8 breathing technique is a breathing pattern developed by Dr. Andrew Weil. It’s based on an ancient yogic technique called pranayama, which helps practitioners gain control over their breathing.”5 This exercise is possibly the most popularly practiced, likely because you can do it anytime and anywhere.
- Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose to a count of 4.
- Hold your breath for a count of 7.
- Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound to a count of 8.
- Repeat as many times as you wish.
Progressive Bodily Relaxation
In this exercise, you are aiming to release the tension held in the muscle groups in your body by first tensing them and then relaxing them, each action accompanied by controlled breathing.
- Lie on the floor or a stiff mattress.
- Take a few deep breaths.
- Take a deep breath in.
- Tense up the muscles of your feet. Hold the inhale for a count of 5.
- Relax the muscles while breathing out in a count of 8.
- Take a deep breath in.
- Repeat steps 4 and 5, but now with a focus on your calf muscles.
- Take a deep breath in and repeat steps 4 and 5 with each muscle group, working your way progressively from your feet to the top of your head: thighs, belly, chest, fingers, arms, shoulders, neck and face.
As you continue to use this method of relaxation, you should be able to increase the amount of time you inhale and exhale and tense your muscles.6
Meditation is an ancient practice with countless techniques. This cross-cultural practice involves using a chosen technique to help calm yourself and achieve mindfulness, sometimes with spiritual goals.
Anxiety can make your mind cluttered and your thoughts race. Meditation seeks to counter those reactions to stress. Meditation also may help lower your heart rate, reduce blood pressure, and ease pain. It also may help reduce anxiety, and depression. Some people may even be able to meditate their way out of a panic attack. (However, definitely seek professional care for severe panic disorders!)
When it comes to learning how to meditate to ease anxiety, many people start with “guided meditation” apps or online videos. In these guided meditations, the voice of a trained practitioner leads you through the process of centering your thoughts and achieving intense focus, sometimes with the aid of visual stimulations.
There are many methods of meditation. You can teach yourself without audio aids using guidebooks or tracts provided by your personal faith or philosophy. There’s even a Meditation for Dummies book available. Practitioners advise trying a variety of styles until you find the one you’re comfortable with.7
The list of herbal supplements that may help with stress is fairly extensive. Home remedies involving medicinal herbs have a long history of being used to counter the effects of anxiety.
Most often taken in pill or tincture form, herbal supplements may appear as one active ingredient or as part of an herbal blend. You can also find various blends of herbal essential oil that can have calming aromatherapy benefits. For example, using lavender oil at night has been widely regarded to have calming effects.
When you are considering an herbal remedy, here are just a handful of popular herbal supplements to look for.
Kava kava (or just one “kava”) is a member of the nightshade family of plants from the South Pacific islands. The nightshade family includes bell peppers, eggplant, and tomatoes. Some species of nightshades are toxic, including belladonna, also called “deadly nightshade.” Pacific Islanders have long used kava as part of their spiritual and ceremonial practices to achieve a state of relaxation.
According to Healthline, regular ingestion of kava may have the following beneficial effects:
- Reducing anxiety symptoms
- Protecting neurons from damage
- Soothing pain.8
One drawback to kava is that it isn't intended for long term use. It can also react with certain medications that may increase the chance of liver damage. It is also widely advised that you avoid alcohol while taking kava for the same reason.
Lemon Balm has been used since the Middle Ages as a natural remedy for symptoms of anxiety disorder. The herb can be taken in a capsule or as a tea to help calm the nervous system. Lemon balm has many additional benefits, besides helping to achieve relaxation. Those may include:
- Soothing digestive issues
- Alleviating headaches
- Improving mood
- Countering stress and anxiety symptoms9
Lemon balm is native to south-central Europe, the Mediterranean basin, Iran, and Central Asia but now is naturalized all over the world. It grows to a maximum height of 2-5 feet. Lemon balm is relatively easy to grow in most parts of the United States.
One of the most popular herbal supplements that touts itself as a natural sleep aid is valerian root. Its sedative like properties allow it to also help with generalized anxiety disorder and everyday stress. The root portion of this flowering herb has been used by humans for at least 2000 years. Benefits associated with valerian root include:
- Improving sleep quality
- Reducing anxiety symptoms and helping you relax
- Reducing GABA breakdown which helps you maintain calmness
Trying various combinations of calming herbal supplements may help some people see huge results in anxiety relief. You can try combinations like valerian root and lemon balm, or lemon balm and chamomile tea, or lemon balm and lavender oil... you get the idea.
Therapy: Talk it Out
Finally, sometimes the best way to reduce anxiety is to share your feelings. Getting something off your chest almost always feels good. Talking it out with family or friends can allow them to take some of the load of stress off you, let them help you find solutions to external forces that are causing you anxiety or causing you to have panic attacks. It will allow you to feel understood and connected. And it can ground you and give you stability you can rely on.
But sometimes family and friends aren't enough. Sometimes you need a therapist. If you're new to therapy, it's easy to find a therapist these days. Talk therapy was never anything to be ashamed about, but these days it carries far less of a stigma than it did a decade ago.
If you're familiar with therapy, then talk to your therapist about increasing your visits. Or, if your therapist isn't helping you cope, then find a new therapist. There’s no shame in that. Maintaining your mental health and well being is just as important as maintaining physical health.
You can find support groups and 12-step groups in your area, if that's helpful to you. And if you're just done talking to people, you can talk to your pets because they are the ultimate listeners. No interruptions, except maybe some barking. No judgements. No shaming. Unconditional love and acceptance.
If things get too bad, there's people who can help!
Look, stuff is crazy out there. There’s no shame in feeling down. If managing your anxiety on your own ever gets too hard never be afraid to seek more help.
SAMHAS Hotline from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration:
1-800-273-8255 or text “Hello” to 741741
Check out this great photo of Cooper, the three-legged Labrador retriever, enjoying time with Cornbread Hemp. If Cooper can feel this great despite his challenges, then so can you. Hang in there! You totally got this.
But let’s not end this on a down note!
What is Shinrin-yoku?
Shinrin-yoku is theJapanese practice of “forest bathing” or shinrin-yoku, according to Qing Li writing for Time Magazine. “Shinrin” in Japanese means “forest,” and "yoku" means “bath" — bathing in the forest atmosphere.
What is the 4-7-8 breathing technique?
(1) Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose to a count of 4. (2) Hold your breath for a count of 7. (3) Exhale completely through your mouth, making a "whoosh" sound to a count of 8. (4) Repeat as many times as you wish.
How does anxiety effect diet?
Anxiety can affect your blood sugar levels, which may cause you to reach for unhealthy comfort foods. Choose nutrition-dense foods like leafy greens, whole grains and legumes, plenty of vegetables, healthy fats, and lean proteins.
1. “10 ways to relax in nature and stress less.” American Heart Association. Pub 22 Aug. 2018. Accessed: 14 Oct. 2020. https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/10-ways-to-relax-in-nature-and-stress-less
2, 3. Li, Qing. “’Forest bathing’ is good for your health. Here’s how to do it.” Time Magazine. Pub: 1 May 2018. Accessed: 14 Oct. 2020. https://time.com/5259602/japanese-forest-bathing/
4, The Dodo: Little but fierce. “Big guy adopts tiny special needs turtle with an exposed heart. YouTube. Pub: 14 March 2019. Accessed: 14 Oct. 2020. https://youtu.be/c3s4n8MI2u4
5. Gotter, Anna. “What is the 4-7-8 breathing technique?” Healthline. Pub: 20 April 2020. Accessed: 15 Oct. 2020. https://www.healthline.com/health/4-7-8-breathing
6. “Breathing techniques for stress relief.” WebMD. Accessed: 15 Oct. 2020. https://www.webmd.com/balance/stress-management/stress-relief-breathing-techniques#2
7. “8 Things to Know About Meditation for Health.” National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. Accessed 16 Oct. 2020. https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/tips/things-to-know-about-meditation-for-health
8. Van De Wall, Gavin, MS, RD. “Kava kava: benefits, side effects and dosage.” Healthline. Pub: 10 Feb. 2018. Accessed: 15 Oct. 2020. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/kava-kava
9. Cronketon, Emily “10 Benefits of Lemon Balm and How to Use It.” Healthline. Updated: 8 March, 2019. Accessed 16 Oct. 2020 https://www.healthline.com/health/lemon-balm-uses
10. “CBD for sleep and insomnia. American Sleep Association. Accessed: 13 Oct. 2020. https://www.sleepassociation.org/sleep-treatments/cbd/