A comprehensive guide on top natural methods to reduce anxiety and stop it in its tracks so you can live life without chains holding you back.
Anxiety is a condition that is debilitating at times. Those who suffer from anxiety find themselves very frustrated because they try to live life like everyone else but yet they have this shadowing fear and frustration that plagues them. Chronic anxiety equals chronic stress, which ultimately can lead to serious health conditions. Lets review the top natural methods to reduce anxiety.
It is estimated that 40 million people suffer from anxiety. Unfortunately many people who suffer from anxiety also experience depression as well, adding more complexity to an already difficult issue. Those who suffer from anxiety have a remission rate of 38%, which is certainly not a compelling number for those who suffer.
Causes of Anxiety
You are probably wondering why you may have anxiety, while others do not. One doesn’t choose to have anxiety; their brain chooses for them. There are two pathways in the brain, the parasympathetic and the sympathetic. The parasympathetic is activated while you are resting, calm and healing, and the sympathetic is activated when a stressful or dangerous situation is presented. Those suffering from anxiety stay locked into that sympathetic or stress state. Causes of anxiety include:
- Chronic stress
- Traumatic experiences
- Neurotransmitter dysregulation
- Hormonal imbalance
It is important to remember that your brain operates on subconscious autopilot 99% of the time. This is why you react based on subconscious beliefs rather than conscious knowledge. Our brains are designed to be able to consciously focus on one belief at a time, meaning we are genetically designed for most decisions to fall to subconscious programming. This is a great advantage if our beliefs are of good moral integrity, but a disaster if not. As the book “The Neurophysics of Human Behavior” states, “Events in our external environment are experienced not as they are, but as we are, as our nervous systems are organized to process and respond. This is so relevant to anxiety simply because traumatic situations or life experiences can cause you to misinterpret and distort reality to be more stressful and scary than it really is.” (1)
Furthermore, when the hypothalamus of the brain senses a perceived danger, it releases corticotropin hormone to the pituitary gland. The pituitary as a result sends adrenal corticotropin hormone (ACTH) to the adrenals to activate the release of stress hormones such as norepinephrine, epinephrine, and cortisol.
Anxiety Signs and Symptoms
Negative or stressful thoughts that form negative or stressful beliefs and emotions have been shown to significantly contribute to worsening chronic or physical illnesses. (2) Although anxiety is defined as excessive worrying and tension, other symptoms of anxiety include:
- Chest tightness
- Poor concentration
- Panic attacks
- Muscle and chest tightness
- High blood pressure
- Difficulty concentrating
- Digestive problems
- Difficulty sleeping
Chronic anxiety wears on your nervous system. It causes a sympathetic stress response, boosting stress hormones and breaking down your body in many ways. So what are the top natural methods to reduce anxiety?
Conventional Anxiety Treatments
Anti anxiety and anti psychotic medications have very enditing evidence that unequivocally implicate that common pharmaceutical treatments such as benzodiazepines or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) can be very dangerous. In addition, a prospective cohort study of nearly one thousand Finnish subjects published in the journal World Psychiatry demonstrated that current use of benzodiazepines elevated risk of suicide and homicide by 45% compared to controls (3).
The believed reason for this issue of elevated suicide and homicide is that a genetic variance in some individuals liver that causes them to metabolize the prescription improperly. This causes the individual to enter into auto intoxication and develop Acathegia Induced Impulsivity. This state is characterized by a feeling of wanting to crawl out of your skin all while remaining calm and collective. Many horrific incidences involving death are related to individuals on these prescriptions.
A meta-analysis of 17 studies published in the journal of Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics found that in the general population, antidepressant medications increase all-cause mortality (death from any cause) by 33% and the risk of cardiovascular incidents (heart attacks and strokes, for example) by 13% (4). According to researchers, “The results support the hypothesis that ADs [antidepressants] are harmful in the general population” (4).
A meta-analysis involving 6,944 patients participating in 38 studies underwritten by drug manufacturers found that “antidepressants demonstrated a clinically negligible advantage over inert placebo” (5). This is all the more shocking, since the efficacy of the drug was likely artificially inflated. Researchers state, “This analysis probably overestimates the antidepressant effect because placebo washout strategies, penetration of the blind, reliance on clinician ratings, use of sedative medication, and replacement of nonresponders may penalize the placebo condition or boost the drug condition” (5).
I share this in order for you to make an informed decision. Many times people are not aware of the studies that directly correlate harmful behavior with commonly prescribed medications. Though I only mention a few studies stating potential harmful effects of commonly prescribed medications, these studies are vast in number.
The Top Natural Methods to Reduce Anxiety, Stress and Depressive Symptoms
Natural methods for healing conditions should be the first go to. Whereas chemically altering the body to achieve a result by covering up the symptoms should be last go to.
1. Daily Exercise
Daily exercise has so many incredible health benefits through both the mental and physical realms. In a study performed by the Journal of Anxiety Disorders researchers found that exercise supports the reduction of psychological distress and anxiety disorders. Exercise to reduce anxiety can be as little as a 30 minute walk a day or doing a yoga class (6).
In 2012 a review of studies was published in the Alternative Medicine Review. The results were that of the 35 trials that addressed the effects of yoga on anxiety and stress, 25 of them were found to significantly decrease stress and anxiety symptoms as a result of practicing yoga. Exercise is on of the great natural methods to reduce anxiety
2. Daily Planning
For those who suffer from anxiety, there is huge relief brought on by having order in their life. A daily planner that lays out your schedule, goals, and tasks, that can be visibly seen, will reduce anxiety. I personally like to keep my daily schedule right next to my positive psychology journal where I write down what I am grateful for, and list some positive things happening in my life. The journal is designed to create peace of mind through gratitude and the schedule reduces surprises.
Meditation literally makes changes within the brain. How cool is that as one of the natural methods to reduce anxiety? In a study done by the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, it was found that mindful meditation was significantly beneficial in reducing stress and anxiety.(7) Mindful mediation was also found beneficial in reducing stress and reactivity when faced with challenges.
4. Healthy Diet
A healthy diet free of processed foods, excessive sugar intake and caffeine will certainly help reduce anxiety. Reducing toxicity, inflammation and constant stimulation of the brain allows our body to function properly all while supporting a better mood. For my patients, I recommend following the Heal Yourself Diet, outlined in the Heal Yourself Cookbook.
In the Journal of Biological Psychiatry published there is a study of 30 patients suffering from anxiety, depression and other symptoms. A placebo controlled trial was done. They found that particular foods created mental symptoms: severe depression, nervousness, anger, loss of motivation and severe mental blankness. The placebos, however, did not create any of these conditions. The foods that were considered the culprits of these issues were dairy, wheat, cane sugar, and eggs. Tobacco was also a factor.
Food sensitivities can be tested from a simple at home test. Many health conditions can be mitigated through understanding which foods disrupt your body’s normal function.
It is also documented in the literature that reducing food intake can help naturally reduce anxiety. Many individuals who practice intermittent fasting, 24 hour fasting or any form of fasting find that it helps them calm their mind and balance their mood. (8)
Supplements to Support the Reversal of Anxiety
Many psychological symptoms can stem from nutrient deficiencies. Every nutrient in your body plays a crucial role in bodily functions. Just as a lack of vitamin C caused Scurvy (a connective tissue disease) in sailors, a lack of vitamins and minerals can cause symptoms of depression and anxiety. This study highlights an understanding of how nutritional deficiencies can cause anxiety symptoms. (9)
In the UK, Patrick Holford who is the president of the Institute of Optimum Nutrition wrote an article called Brain Allergies. In the article, he describes a patient who was 15 and labeled manic depressant on a cocktail of pharmaceutical drugs. As the nutritionist replenished multiple deficiencies, all medications were quit and the manic attacks went away.
Gaba-Sero Active is without a doubt one of my first go to’s when it comes to anxiety. It is a formula that contains every ingredient that is scientifically known to support anxiety such as magnesium and methylation.
GABA-Sero Active is designed to support healthy levels of both Serotonin and GABA simultaneously. Deficiencies in either of these neurotransmitters can cause significant symptoms in one’s health. Both of these neurotransmitters play a major role in the overall sense of wellbeing and happiness. This is why this uniquely designed formula offers the Clinical Applications of supporting:
- A healthy nervous system
- Inhibitory neurotransmitters
- Relieve Anxiety
- Healthy mood and wellbeing
- Synthesis of neurotransmitters, including serotonin
- Healthy GABA levels
6. Cannabidiol to Reduce Stress & Anxiety
Cannabidiol (or CBD) is interesting, simply because with some people it wields life changing results, and to others it offers nothing. When it comes to natural medicine everyone responds differently. The reason for this is because the causal mechanism varies biochemically from one individual to another. I have seen some incredible results that I would have never expected by using CBD.
CBD does an incredible job lowering a stress hormone called cortisol. Now let’s take this CBD and stress topic a bit further.
A study done back in 2012 suggests that CBD is not only effective for anxiety, but also panic disorders, OCD, and post-tramatic stress (PTSD) (10). Here is another cool study that was done to determine if the use of CBD would decrease anxiety in those who were about to give public speeches. Those who used CBD had reduced anxiety, cognitive impairment, and discomfort in speech performance. Those who didn’t use CBD had quite the opposite experience (11).
For more ways that cannabidiol can help your health, read this article.
Methylation is the addition of a methyl group (a carbon atom with three hydrogen atoms attached) to proteins, enzymes, chemicals, DNA, or amino acids like homocysteine. This is a crucial aspect of nervous system health and required for the synthesis of neurotransmitters and mental wellness.
Magnesium is provided as glycinate chelate, a very specific and unique form demonstrated to support intra-neuronal magnesium sufficiency.(12) Magnesium is known to be a cofactor for over 325 enzymes, and has a multitude of actions, offering a calming effect on the nervous system and regulation of muscle contraction. Laboratory, animal, and epidemiological research suggests a link between magnesium sufficiency and a healthy mood and calm demeanor.(13,14)
9. Kava Root
Kava root has incredible evidence behind its mood improving, anxiety reducing abilities. This study in Australia found that Kava should be considered as the first go to when it comes to anxiety as it offers such an incredible benefit without all the side effects (15).
10. Vitamin B Complex
Vitamin B is known for its stress busting effects. A deficiency of vitamin B can cause symptoms such as anxiety, irritability, depression, and fatigue. Taking a B complex vitamin is essential to supporting a healthy functioning nervous system and reducing cognitive stress.
- Furman, M and Gallo, Fred (1999) The Neurophysics of Human Behavior. CRC Press, London
- Vitetta, L. and Sali, A. (2005) Mind Body Medicine: Stress and its impact on overall health and longevity. Ann. N.Y. Acad. Sci. 1057: 492-505
- Tilhonen, J. et al. (2015). Psychotropic drugs and homicide: A prospective cohort study from Finland. World Psychiatry, 14(2), 245-247. doi: 10.1002/wps.20220
- Maslej, M.M. et al. (2017). The Mortality and Myocardial Effects of Antidepressants Are Moderated by Preexisting Cardiovascular Disease: A Meta-Analysis. Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics, 86, 268-282.
- Antonuccio, D.O., Burns, D.D., & Danton, W.G. (2002). Antidepressants: A Triumph of Marketing Over Science? Prevention & Treatment, Volume 5(25).
- LeBouthillier DM, Asmundson GJG. The Efficacy of Aerobic Exercise and Resistance Training as Transdiagnostic Interventions for Anxiety-related Disorders and Constructs: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Journal of Anxiety Disorders. 2017 Sep 23;52:43-52. doi: 10.1016/j.janxdis.2017.09.005
- Hoge EA, Bui E, et al. Randomized Controlled Trial of Mindfulness Meditation for Generalized Anxiety Disorder: Effects on Anxiety and Stress Reactivity. Journal of Clinical Psychiatry. 2013 Aug ; 74(8): 786–792. doi: 10.4088/JCP.12m08083
- Murphy M, Mercer JG. Diet-regulated Anxiety. International Journal of Endocrinology. 2013;2013:701967. doi: 10.1155/2013/701967
- Sathyanarayana Rao TS, Asha MR, et al. Understanding nutrition, depression and mental illnesses. Indian J Psychiatry. 2008 Apr-Jun; 50(2): 77–82. doi: 10.4103/0019-5545.42391
- Schier AR, Ribeiro NP, et al. Cannabidiol, a Cannabis sativa constituent, as an anxiolytic drug. Rev Bras Psiquiatr. 2012 Jun;34 Suppl 1:S104-10. PMID: 22729452
- Bergamaschi MM, Costa Queiroz RH, et al. Cannabidiol Reduces the Anxiety Induced by Simulated Public Speaking in Treatment-Naïve Social Phobia Patients. Neuropsychopharmacology. 2011 May; 36(6): 1219–1226. Published online 2011 Feb 9. doi: 10.1038/npp.2011.6
- Eby GA, Eby KL. Rapid recovery from major depression using magnesium treatment. Med Hypotheses. 2006;67(2):362-70. [PMID: 16542786]
- Whittle N, Li L, Chen WQ, et al. Changes in brain protein expression are linked to magnesium restriction-induced depression-like behavior. Amino Acids. 2011 Apr;40(4):1231-48. [PMID: 21312047]
- Sartori SB, Whittle N, Hetzenauer A, et al. Magnesium de ciency induces anxiety and HPA axis dysregulation: modulation by therapeutic drug treatment. Neuropharmacology. 2012 Jan;62(1):304-12. [PMID: 21835188]
- Savage KM, Stough CK, et al. Kava for the treatment of generalised anxiety disorder (K-GAD): study protocol for a randomised controlled trial. Trials. 2015 Nov 2;16:493. doi: 10.1186/s13063-015-0986-5.