5 Natural Remedies for Anxiety
Anxiety is a part of life. You feel more anxious when you or someone you love gets sick, before a big test or when you're faced with a tough decision. Anxiety disorders are more serious than a temporary worry and may need to be worked out with a doctor, including therapy or medication.
Pictured recipe: Mediterranean Broccoli Pasta Salad
Whether you're struggling with the occasional frazzles or are managing an anxiety disorder with your doctor, these 5 natural remedies for anxiety may help you feel more calm.
Any physical activity can be beneficial. Research published in Psychiatry Research found that exercise in general has benefits on par with common anti-anxiety medications—perhaps because physical activity increases a protein in the brain (called BDNF) that helps you learn that something you initially thought was dangerous really isn't. Aim for at least 2½ hours a week of moderate-intensity exercise, like brisk walking.
Rock climbing, in particular, helped people reduce anxiety related to phobias and lower their depression scores, German researchers found. Wall-scaling promotes skills useful for bolstering mental health, like trusting yourself and others and being present in the moment.
Headlines like "I Gave Up Sugar and It Cured My Anxiety" make us cringe because demonizing one food is overly simplistic. Australian researchers found that improving your overall diet may be a better tactic. After going on a Mediterranean-inspired diet, participants saw their anxiety scores improve by about 30 percent.
Yes, they ate fewer sweets (and if you want to scale back on sugar, here's how), refined carbs and fried food, but none of these were totally forbidden. A healthy diet may impact anxiety through the gut-brain connection: What we eat impacts the beneficial bacteria in our microbiome that, in turn, produce mood-moderating chemicals in the brain, like serotonin and tryptophan.
Try it: Healthy Mediterranean Recipes
Get More Sleep
Rumination, a hallmark of anxiety, may stem from insufficient sleep. Binghamton University researchers asked people prone to this type of thinking to look at positive and negative images and followed their attention using eye-movement tracking. Sleep habits were also recorded. Those who got fewer zzz's focused on, and had a harder time disengaging from, negative images. Sleep-deprived brains are more likely to perceive something that's no big deal as a threat. Plus, tired people lack the mental resources needed to break away from negative thinking.
Most adults need about 7 to 9 hours of snooze time nightly. And yes, unfortunately, anxiety may keep you awake at night. Try to do everything you can to help yourself get more sleep, like powering down your electronics early. Try these 4 tips to get a better night's sleep according to a sleep expert.
Spend Time in Nature
Being in nature may help reduce anxiety and stress. A review of 14 studies, published in Frontiers in Psychology, found that 10-50 minutes sitting or walking in natural spaces helped improve mood, focus and physiological markers like blood pressure and heart rate. Getting even more time outdoors still offered the benefits, but they tended to plateau after 50 minutes. Add some activity, like walking, to help reduce anxiety.
A second study from the European Centre for Environment and Human Health set out to discover just how much time we need to be spending in nature to truly reap the physical and mental health boosts. Their research found spending 120 minutes—or two hours—per week in nature is associated with significant levels of improved health and positive well-being.
Get Your Magnesium Up
Spinach, cashews and black beans: think of these magnesium powerhouses as your new comfort foods. University of Vermont researchers found that taking a 500 mg magnesium chloride supplement lowered people's anxiety scores (based on a questionnaire) by 4.5 points, moving many participants from the moderate-to-severe anxiety range to one considered mild. Magnesium plays many important roles in the brain, including regulating hormones and neurotransmitters that influence mood. Here are 10 signs you may not be getting enough magnesium.
Some additional reporting by Lauren Wicks.