In 2013 it was reported that 1 in 6 U.S. adults took a psychiatric drug, typically an antidepressant or sedative to deal with anxiety, depression, and other mood disorders.1 Nearly 10 years later, that number has risen dramatically, according to data that suggests that the stress of COVID-19 has led to a 34 percent increase in anxiety medication prescriptions.2
Though prescription medication is typically the first line of treatment for anxiety, there are many other ways to reduce symptoms without resorting to prescription medication. This can be useful for those who have experienced side effects from anxiety medications, such as nausea, headache, fatigue, or dizziness.
From exercise to proper nutrition, here are the top eight natural remedies for anxiety in adults and what to do if you need more support.
1. Stay Active
We all know the physical benefits of exercise: protection against chronic diseases, weight management, strength, improved heart health; but exercise can also balance our mood. Studies have shown that regular exercise is associated with a reduced risk of being diagnosed with an anxiety disorder and individuals reporting 240 minutes of moderate exercise a week reported less anxiety and neuroticism compared with non-exercisers.3
Don’t know where to start? Harvard researchers suggest keeping it simple with “a simple bike ride, dance class, or even a brisk walk.”4 Such activities reduce anxiety by distracting you from anxious thoughts, releasing bodily tension, and boosting feel-good brain chemicals, or endorphins.
2. Prioritize Sleep
If you’ve ever been anxious about making a decision in the past, you may have been told to “sleep on it.” Research shows that deep sleep protects against anxiety by lowering emotional and physiological reactivity in the brain’s prefrontal region. Conversely, studies have indicated that a sleepless night can raise anxiety levels by up to 30%.5
But when you have anxiety, racing thoughts and bodily tension can make it difficult to fall asleep. Even worse, the less sleep you get, the more anxious you feel, creating a vicious cycle. One of the best things you can do to improve sleep is practicing good sleep hygiene. This entails waking up at the same time every morning (even on weekends) and going to sleep at the same time. Good sleep hygiene also means making your bedroom a sleep haven: dark, cool, and free from screens and other distracting lights that can disrupt your circadian rhythm. Having a wind-down ritual can also help, with nightly practices like meditating, taking a hot bath, or listening to relaxing music. Also be sure not to drink caffeine too close to bedtime, which is notorious for wreaking havoc on sleep.
3. Consider Cutting Out Alcohol and Cigarettes
Besides caffeinated drinks, another drink that can mess up your sleep and your mood is alcohol. Even though many people use alcohol to loosen up and relax, prolonged drinking can lead to anxiety. And according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), even moderate drinking can worsen anxiety after just a few hours, most likely due to the disruption of brain chemicals like serotonin and dopamine, which help to regulate our mood.6
Another habit worth cutting out for the sake of your mental equilibrium is smoking. A 2013 study found that smoking exacerbates anxiety because nicotine and other toxic chemicals found in cigarettes have negative effects on the brain as well as the body, influencing neurotransmitter systems, the immune system, oxidative and nitrosative stress, mitochondrial function, and epigenetic regulation.7 And according to Harvard researchers, nicotine withdrawal can mimic anxiety, leading to increased usage of cigarettes, making it harder to quit.8
4. Practice Mindfulness
From meditation to tai chi, there are many ways to practice mindfulness, and the effects can be significant for your anxiety levels. According to the American Psychological Association, more than 200 studies of mindfulness among healthy people found that mindfulness-based therapy was especially effective for reducing stress, anxiety, and depression.9 Even more, mindfulness has also been shown to be beneficial for specific problems like depression, pain, smoking, and addiction. Mindfulness allows practitioners to create space between themselves and their anxiety, change their reactivity to stressors, and tap into resources they didn’t know they had.
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5. Deep Breathing
When you’re in the midst of a stressful, anxiety-inducing situation, it may be useful to take a time out and simply breathe. Studies of deep “diaphragmatic” breathing have shown that a 6-weeks’ breathing training course was long enough to cause a “significant decrease” in anxiety levels in healthy adults.10 This might be because different emotions are associated with different forms of breathing, and so experts believe that changing how we breathe can change how we feel.11 Try integrating some deep breathing exercises into your day so that this stress technique becomes second nature the next time you’re feeling anxious. Lengthen your exhales when feeling agitated, which is known to slow the heart rate and induce a feeling of calm.
6. Limit Caffeine Intake
Limiting caffeine intake won’t just make your sleep better, it can also reduce symptoms of anxiety. Since caffeine is a central nervous stimulant, high doses of it can increase anxiety symptoms, especially for people with panic disorder and social anxiety disorder. It’s also worth noting that the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) recognizes caffeine-induced anxiety disorder as a valid condition in which caffeine interferes with daily functioning. If you’re one of the 85 percent of Americans who rely on caffeine to wake up in the morning or make it through the work day, you don’t have to give it up entirely.12 Simply limit your intake to 1-2 cups and if you need more, try not to exceed 4 cups.
7. Eat a Balanced Diet
Research has shown that regular consumption of saturated fats and added sugars are related to higher feelings of anxiety in adults.13 A poor diet can also impair cognitive functioning, cause sluggishness and fatigue, and even change neural pathways, affecting how you respond to stress.14 To help maintain mental balance, aim to eat a well-balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, lean protein, and healthy fats. A healthy diet helps to avoid dramatic spikes and dips in blood sugar, which only worsen anxious symptoms.
It may also be worthwhile to add superfoods and herbs to your diet, which have been associated with reduced anxiety. This includes turmeric, foods that contain probiotics like yogurt and kimchi, eggs, and even dark chocolate.
8. Try OTC Medications like Brillia
Making simple lifestyle adjustments will make a difference in your anxiety symptoms, and starting with the ones listed above sets a great foundation for change. But if you still feel that you need more support, trying Brillia is another option. Free from harsh, synthetic chemicals like those found in pharmaceutical drugs, Brillia is a non-prescription medication designed to reduce anxiety, stress, restlessness, and irritability without any harmful side effects or contraindications with other medications. Brillia contains a unique antibody ingredient to the S100B protein, an important regulator of many different intracellular and extracellular brain processes. Instead of numbing a user out when symptoms emerge, Brillia takes a more proactive approach by stopping symptoms at their very source in a gentle and targeted manner. Unlike many prescription drugs for anxiety, Brillia is not habit forming, it does not cause drowsiness, lethargy, or depression, and it does not mask the personality. There are no appetite changes associated with Brillia, so users don’t have to worry about weight gain or weight loss, and there is no “coming off” of Brillia should you decide to stop or take a break. Extremely targeted, Brillia does not alter blood chemistry and has no contraindications with other medications so you can add it to your regimen without worry. To maximize the medication’s success, Brillia suggests making the healthy lifestyle changes outlined in the Five Pillars: following a nutritious diet, getting adequate sleep, controlling screen time, and practicing mindfulness. So if you’ve made the recommended changes above, you’re already on the right track to experiencing the Brillia difference.
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