Young or old, anxiety can affect us all. It can happen at any time; we can experience it once or twice, or we can feel it on multiple occasions.
Anxiety, which is usually characterised by feeling unsettled, worried or afraid, is our body’s natural response to stress. It can be caused by all sorts of things – feeling overwhelmed at work, worrying about having to give a presentation or having to go somewhere for the first time. Or going somewhere we don’t particularly like, for instance, hospitals or to see the doctor or dentist.
For some people, their anxiety is managed, e.g. it doesn’t stop them from doing the thing that’s stressing them out. But for others, it can be debilitating and, in extreme cases, the feeling is so full on, it can prevent them from leaving the house and going about their daily lives.1
Keep reading for details of 7 things that could help your anxiety. We’ll talk you through natural remedies for anxiety, herbal remedies for anxiety, essential oils for anxiety, exercise for anxiety, as well as some other useful practical measures too.
What’s it like to feel anxious?
Anxiety differs from person-to-person. Here are some common symptoms of anxiety (note – this is not an exhaustive list):2
- Increased heart rate
- Rapid breathing
- Difficulty concentrating
- Unsettled stomach
It’s not unusual to experience one or more of these symptoms at the same time or at different times. It’s also not uncommon for these symptoms to be more extreme one day and then not so bad the next; they can fluctuate in frequency and intensity.
However, people with Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) feel anxious most days and often struggle to remember the last time they didn’t feel stressed/uneasy. GAD is a long-term condition and those who suffer from it tend to constantly feel anxious about multiple situations and issues at the same time.3
What causes anxiety?
Unfortunately, there’s no definitive answer as to what causes it. However, it’s possible that if you have a close relative who experiences it, then you’re more likely to suffer from anxiety too.4
Other factors, such as things that may have happened to you as a child/in the past, your current situation (i.e. grief, moving house, money problems etc.), physical and mental health problems and drugs and medication, are known to potentially contribute to anxiety.
Interestingly, certain food and drink, such as caffeine and sugar, can cause anxiety or make it worse.5
Is there anything that can be done for anxiety?
Yes, there is. There are numerous different measures out there to help people manage and reduce anxiety, the impact of which very much depends on the individual.
There are practical self-care measures that can be implemented, ranging from talking your worries through with somebody and writing down your worries in a notebook, to mindfulness and deep breathing exercises and complementary and alternative therapies, such as yoga, aromatherapy and meditation.6
There are also natural remedies for anxiety too. They include:
- Exercise – going for a bike ride, run or walk can help burn off built up anxious energy7
- Meditation – can help stop people’s minds from racing and make them feel calmer8
- Time management – is particularly useful if people feel as though they have too much happening all of the time9
- Herbal teas – according to a study carried out in 2018, chamomile tea can bring cortisol levels (the stress hormone) down10
- Animal company – research published in 2018 revealed that pets can be beneficial for people with a variety of mental health issues, including anxiety11
Herbal options for anxiety
In addition to using natural remedies for anxiety, such as the examples we listed above, there are herbal remedies for anxiety available too. They include:12
- Passionflower – some clinical trials have been carried out that suggest that passion flower can potentially help with anxiety. It works by increasing the level of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in your brain, which may help people to relax and sleep better13
- Valerian – studies of people who’ve taken valerian root for anxiety have shown that their anxiety and stress levels have decreased. One study of 36 people with GAD found that 50mg of valerian root extract given three times a day for four weeks, significantly reduced one measure of anxiety compared to placebo14
- Chamomile – as mentioned above, chamomile is a well-known herbal remedy for anxiety and has been shown to be effective in aiding relaxation, and also helping with anxiety, depression and insomnia15
- Lavender – according to traditional folk medicine, the smell of lavender calms the nerves. More recent research also suggests that there’s a compound in lavender that can lessen anxiety by stimulating the nose to pass signals to the brain16
- Lemon balm – is particularly useful for reducing nervousness and excitability. It works by balancing your stress response system. It’s also known for helping create a healthy fight-or-flight response long-term17
Essential oils for anxiety
Certain essential oils, in addition to lavender, chamomile and lemon balm, have been used to support those with anxiety, especially when used for aromatherapy to promote relaxation. They include, bergamot oil, clary sage, neroli and ylang-ylang.18
How to use essential oils for anxiety
There are several ways you can use them. You can:19
- Inhale them – by popping a few drops of oil on a tissue or aromatherapy bracelet or necklace.
- Diffuse them – in an oil burner or a diffuser.
- Dilute them – simply add them to a running bath.
- Massage them – into your skin, always remembering to dilute them with a carrier oil, such as apricot kernel or sweet almond oil.
For more on this, read our article, ‘8 essential oils for anxiety you should try.’
Exercise for anxiety
Scientists have found that regular aerobic exercise can decrease overall levels of tension, elevate and stabilise mood, improve sleep, and improve self-esteem. Five minutes of aerobic exercise can help to stimulate anti-anxiety effects.20
Examples of good aerobic exercises include:
- Brisk walking or jogging
Ideally, you should aim to do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise a week. By doing so, it encourages the brain to release serotonin, which can positively impact people’s mood.21
3 other measures that could help with anxiety
- Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) – works by encouraging people to think differently about their anxieties. By making your problems more manageable, CBT can help change negative thought patterns and improve the way you feel.22
- Counselling – as we briefly mentioned above, sharing your worries and talking them through with another person can potentially make them feel more manageable and reduce the stress associated with them. Some people choose to do this by speaking to a professional counsellor.
- Identify your anxiety triggers – everybody’s anxiety is caused by different things. If you know what your triggers are, then hopefully you can then minimise or remove them from your routine. Some examples of general triggers include driving/travelling, phobias, caffeine and work-related stress.23
Last updated: 9 July 2020