Anxiety is rooted in 2 places. The physical and the mental. As a long-time anxiety sufferer, I have some simple natural solutions… and some not as simple ones. But I think they are all important to mention. Some treat the cause and some are just ways to get you through without damaging your body and creating more problems. So because I don’t want to hold you up, let’s get started!
Magnesium. Experts estimate that approximately 80% of us are deficient. I know that even with an impeccable diet, some people will still do better with more magnesium than other people. It is recommended to get yours from foods first but supplementation is also recommended: usually 200 mg is recommended. Some people will need more. Other signs of possible low levels or deficiency are constipation, tense muscles, stress, pain, and more. A blood test is not a suitable test for testing your body’s magnesium levels.
Magnesium is a complex mineral to address by supplement because it has a relationship with the other electrolytes and can affect and be affected by the levels of potassium, sodium, and calcium you consume and have in your body. It also regulates heart rate and blood pressure. If you decide to take more than the recommended dose of 200 mg, I encourage you to do so under the guidance of a trained healthcare professional to prevent negative side effects. This doesn’t mean I think you should be scared to take more, but I would hate for you to be the person that has negative side effects. Also, different forms of magnesium will effect your body differently.
I most recommend magnesium glycinate because it is the best absorbed form or magnesium threonate because it is the best for neurological treatment. I also am a huge fan of Epsom salt baths, especially for children or added supplementation with adults (especially those adults with compromised digestion). Since anxiety effects the nervous system, either of these would be appropriate for long term use. You will see others for short term use, like Natural Calm which is magnesium citrate (best for constipation). Be sure to balance your magnesium with adequate potassium and calcium intake for best results.
L-theanine: this extract from green tea is used as an anti-anxiety in functional and integrative doctor’s offices. But don’t think that all brands will give you the same result. Pharmaceutical strength brands will be much stronger and you will have to take much less. It is not recommended for an adult to exceed more than 800 mg per day. Smaller amounts are safe for animals. This supplement will not leave you tired, drugged, or high feeling but will simply chase the anxiety away
Valerian. Often called herbal valium, I find that this stinky herb (you cannot taste it in this tea) is quite effective but not as long lasting as the L-theanine. It also will not leave you feeling high or drugged. This one actually calms the central nervous sytem, as well as your muscles and the GI tract.
Skullcap. Also an herbal relaxant. Used often with those that experience high strung mania, which is anxiety based.
Chamomile: the gentlest anti-anxiety (second to lavender) and is available in tea form most of the time.
Lavender: although this is in some teas, it is mostly used aromatically, as an essential oil used in a diffuser or topically on pulse points. It is proven to calm those who use it.
Kava Kava: I haven’t tried this one personally, but hear that it can be a little strong. It is often used for sleep and sometimes is mentioned as a substitute for marijuana (but I cannot confirm that at this time).
Foods and Eating
Leafy Greens: for their magnesium content and detoxification support. Those with mthfr need extra detoxification support and folate to help manage their anxiety. Anxiety disorders are common with a mthfr gene nutation. Also, eating a nutrient dense diet is key to any health problem. If you aren’t sure if your diet is nutrient dense, then track your nutrition for a week to see your average daily intake. I use cronometer.com to give me an idea of how my intake looks and I recommend it to others.
Sulphurous Vegetables. This group of vegetables that include garlic, onions, mushrooms, broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus, Brussel sprouts, mustard greens, arugula and more are particularly helpful in detoxification
Detox: Doing regular detoxes and supporting detoxification can reduce anxiety. Other things that support detoxification are Ascerola Cherry powder, a potent whole food form of Vitamin C which chelates heavy metals. (too much can lead to low levels of necessary minerals) 1000 to 2000 mg is recommended. (3) For best results, sip on 1 to 4 teaspoons diluted in water daily with added lemon or other citrus. A whole food source is always best for any vitamin, whenever possible, to avoid negative side effects.
Balancing Blood Sugar: Balancing your blood sugar can prevent highs and lows which can lead to ups and downs with any mood related chemicals. It also helps to control inflammation, which is a cofactor in anxiety disorders (1).
Lifestyle habits that help
Meditation. This can actually help to rewire your brain and calm your central nervous system while activating you parasympathetic nervous system (your relaxed state nervous system- the exact opposite of fight or flight). A simple method for beginners is to simply count your breath. (2)
Coloring. While this is touted to mimic meditation, I do not think it is as beneficial but can still be relaxing. It forces you to be mindful and still (in your thoughts). This is especially helpful for children but can also be used with adults if they enjoy it.
Yoga or Tai Chi. Like coloring, this encourages you to be mindful and present but also focuses on deep breathing. Excercising also reduces anxiety levels. This also activates the parasympathetic nervous system. It also relieves tension in muscles to stretch them as one does in yoga.
Regular Aerobic Exercise. Even just 10 to 30 minutes will release anxiety and calm a body. Exercising outdoors or in the woods (such as hiking) will only increase the calming effects of exercise.
Spending time outdoors. Eating outside, going for a walk or simply sitting in a chair and thinking or reading a magazine has an effect on the nervous system that sitting inside just does not. I encourage you to find time to be outside as often as possible. Daily time outside encourages us to slow down, breath fresh air and be still and present. You may choose a stroll or just staring at water or tress, but you will be surprised how relaxed just getting outdoors can make you feel.
Warm baths. I don’t have to tell you that an Epsom salt bath, both because it contains magnesium sulfate (and hopefully some essential oils too!) can be relaxing. I find this a great time to read or catch up on Netflix (keep the computer away from the water, right?!)
Support Your Adrenals: Getting enough carbohydrates (but not too much) and the right nutrients in addition to any necessary herbal support (as determined by your health care practitioner) will improve your physical response to stress. Having strong adrenals is a major player in the battle against anxiety!
Support your gut health. Serotonin, known as the happy chemical, also effects anxiety levels. If your gut health isn’t stellar (acid reflux, candida, bacterial overgrowth or leaky gut for example) then you may have trouble producing and managing neurotransmitters and hormones that are crucial in regulating anxiety levels. The GI tract is called the second brain for a reason!
Practice mindfulness and being present. Anxiety is the habit of living in the future and focusing on fear of things that have not happened yet. True, it is also a physical thing. But some of the equation is up to us. If you find your thoughts thinking about what may happen or what has not happened yet, then practicing mindfulness and practicing being “present” is definitely something to start practicing! Mindfulness means that you r mind is on what you are doing, where you are doing it and when and how you are doing it. This focus on what is happening now will help you be more present.
Another tactic to practicing being “present” can be an exercise during meditation or yoga. Simply draw your attention to your breath, close your eyes and notice the things around you: the sound of the hum of the fridge, the birds outside, the rhythm of your breath, your body, how you feel and how the room feels and sounds to you. Take in the details, all the things your mind usually shuts out and doesn’t notice. Experience what it is like to be completely aware of what is here and now. Now notice that you are not thinking of what isn’t here and now. Use this memory to practice the same exercise later when you are experiencing high anxiety, even if you cannot close your eyes and get on your yoga mat. Wherever you are, you can focus on the what, where, when and the environment’s details to bring you to the moment of now and away from negative thought that are in the future and therefore, imagined as of yet.
Dance Party. I actually learned this from my friend Heidi (pictured above), who is one of the happiest people I know. When she gets stressed, she throws an impromptu dance party. She puts on a happy song and starts to boogey! I tried this and I will definitely be keeping this habit in my mental tool box. I even keep a list of songs that make me happy just for this and mood boosts. I highly recommend this, even if you only are dancing with your dog. It usually makes the dog happy too. Unless it’s a slow dance. They don’t always like that.
Laugh. It releases endorphins and happy chemicals that relieve stress. So laugh. Call a friend, go have some fun, watch a comedy, whatever it takes. But laugh.
What to avoid
Sugar, and Refined grains. These foods make it difficult to control blood sugar (see above for why that is important). They also are devoid of nutrients and keep you from absorbing minerals needed for a calm mind and nervous system
Caffeine. This is the worst thing for anxiety! It literally activates the sympathetic nervous system (the fight or flight part of your central nervous system) and depletes your adrenals, which are in charge of how you handle stress.
For more ideas on mood management, be sure to read my post on Depression Solutions, as the two often go hand in hand and even when they don’t, some of the same ideas and supplements work. It goes into more depth about ways to help brain function and resources for “bio-hacking” your brain and body to get the results you want. Here is the link.