6 Ways to Deal with Anxiety Naturally
We all face anxiety sometimes. In the purest sense, that feeling is the result of hormones released by our adrenal glands, which can be supported naturally with herbal supplements. For some of us, anxiety is the bit of stress we experience when we’re about to miss a deadline, have to give a speech, or face an unexpected expense. For others, it’s extreme discomfort in social situations, paralyzing fear of open spaces, or a racing heart and feelings of dread as the result of an underlying medical condition.
Regardless of the cause — or even the severity! — you can manage anxiety naturally. In this article, I’ll walk you through the symptoms of anxiety and what is actually happening in your body when you feel anxious. Next, I’ll tackle what can happen if you don’t manage your anxiety. I’ll wrap up with 6 ways you can take control of your anxiety — and your health.
The Symptoms of Anxiety
As I mentioned above, we all have occasional, short-term anxiety as part of our day-to-day lives. For the most part, even though you may experience some discomfort, it doesn’t stop you from going about your life. Although you can function, you may temporarily feel:
- Out of breath
- Aware of your heartbeat
- Restless or tense
However, anxiety can become intense, long-lasting, difficult to control, and out of proportion to the situation. When feelings of anxiousness increase to excessive and persistent worry and fear it can interfere with your daily activities, causing you to avoid places or people. It may even escalate to a larger anxiety issue, such as agoraphobia, panic, or generalized anxiety disorder. You could experience:
- A racing heart
- Rapid, shallow breathing
- Weakness or fatigue
- A sense of impending doom
- Difficulty sleeping
- Trouble concentrating
- Stomach pain or diarrhea
Persistent anxiety may also be a symptom of an underlying health issue. In fact, anxiety is often the very first symptom of problems such as:
- Thyroid dysfunction
- Heart disease
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and asthma
What’s Happening in Your Body
You have two adrenal glands in your body. Each one sits atop one of your kidneys and has two parts. The outer part of the gland, called the adrenal cortex, produces the vital hormones cortisol and aldosterone. Aldosterone affects the balance of water and salt in your body and helps control your blood pressure.1 Cortisol helps regulate your metabolism and is also one of the “fight or flight” stress hormones.
Once your brain has sounded the alarm that tells your adrenal glands to pump out cortisol, your body is ready for action. To reduce the cortisol to normal levels, you have to physically do something, like run away or fight. However, when stress is the cause of the increased cortisol and there isn’t a real danger, the fight-or-flight mechanism backfires. It becomes a vicious circle of stress causing the release of cortisol causing anxiety.2
The second part of the adrenal gland, the adrenal medulla or inner part, produces nonessential hormones, including adrenaline. And — you guessed it — adrenaline is another hormone that helps your body react to stress. This fast-reacting hormone increases your heart rate, rushing blood to the muscles and brain. It also spikes your blood sugar level.
Again, this is great in a situation when you are truly in danger. However, it can wreak havoc on your mental state and your overall health when the increase is the result of the stresses of modern life.
The Effects of Long-Term Anxiety
Anxiety does a lot more than just make you worry. Left untreated, the chronic stress of anxiety has been linked to dozens of health conditions. They include headaches, migraines, digestive issues, and heart attacks as well as adrenal fatigue, insomnia, advanced aging, and a plethora of autoimmune diseases.
Neverending anxiety leads to adrenal fatigue and adrenal burnout. When your adrenals are constantly signaled by your brain to produce stress hormones, it is an incredible burden for your body. It affects your mood, sleep, libido, immune system, blood sugar, appetite, thyroid, and much more. Chronically elevated cortisol also leads to weight gain and fat storage. It results in blood sugar imbalance, muscle wasting, sex hormone dysregulation, and more. Your adrenal glands have to work incredibly hard to keep up with what is actually a needless demand. This fatigues them, leading to adrenal dysfunction and burnout.
It’s also perilous for your micronutrient reserves. Vitamin C, trace minerals, magnesium, B vitamins, antioxidants, and more are all involved in producing your stress hormones. To compound matters, many adults already have suboptimal or insufficient levels of these micronutrients needed to produce stress hormones.
Natural Solutions for Anxiety
Because your body is primed for action when stress hormones are released, one of the best things you can do is move! You were literally meant to fight for your life, or flee from danger. Check with your healthcare professional before undertaking a new sport. However once you have the all-clear try martial arts, jogging, running, or biking. If you can do this three to five times a week, you should see a reduction in your anxiety levels.
Of course, learning to relax is the key to managing anxiety. Who’s ever heard of an anxious yogi? Anything that helps you relax, including stretching, meditating, simply sitting outside in nature, or sharing your fears with a friend or counselor will help soothe your mind.
Oddly enough, focusing on your anxiety can help you manage it. This can take two forms. First, schedule a few minutes of daily worry time. Identify what is bothering you, and think about steps you can take to resolve any real issues. Second, actively turn negative thoughts into positive ones. If you worry about failure, picture what success looks like. This exercise can help train your brain to stop releasing excess stress hormones and replace them with happy ones like dopamine instead.
There is a lot of recent research into the benefits of human-animal interaction. Although there’s not one single answer about how a pet can help someone with a specific condition, it has been shown that interacting with animals decreases levels of cortisol (a stress-related hormone) and lowers blood pressure. Other studies have found that owning or having access to animals can reduce loneliness, increase feelings of social support, and boost your mood. All of these can factor in anxiety levels. Plus, if you have an animal that needs walking, it has the added benefit of increasing your activity level — another good way to manage anxiety.
The simple process of making tea has a calming effect on many people. However, what type of tea matters. Avoid stimulating teas that have caffeine and instead focus on herbal varieties. One recent study showed chamomile has a positive effect on cortisol levels.3 Additionally, fragrant herbs such as lavender have been shown to reduce heart rate4 and possibly assist with sleeplessness, one of the symptoms of anxiety.
Finally, supplement your diet with adaptogenic herbs. My Adrenal Support optimizes adrenal health and stress hormone production. Adaptogens are a class of herbs that have been used throughout the world for thousands of years. Today we know these ancient herbs help support a balanced and healthy response to stress, and appropriate stress hormone production. They also help modulate cellular sensitivity to stress hormones, thereby encouraging a more robust and healthy response to stress overall.
My Adrenal Support formula is a potent combination of adaptogenic herbs and nutrients. I formulated my Adrenal Support to include a variety of the most effective and well-researched adaptogenic herbs. I also included L-Tyrosine, an important amino acid needed to support catecholamine or neurotransmitter, production. Furthermore, I included Vitamin C, and the B vitamins Riboflavin, Vitamin B6, and Pantothenic Acid in bioavailable forms. They are critical for adrenal hormone production and support overall adrenal gland health.