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Published on March 17, 2021

How to Stop Anxiety Feelings (8 Natural Remedies)

How to Stop Anxiety Feelings (8 Natural Remedies)

When it comes to mental health, anxiety is a common term. In fact, anxiety disorders are the most frequently diagnosed mental disorders[1] Nevertheless, anxiety is a natural feeling that every human will experience.

It is important to note the difference between diagnosable anxiety disorders and the feeling of anxiety.

Anxiety must impact the day-to-day functioning of an individual in order for a diagnosis to be given. Anxiety that limits an individual’s ability to work, socialize or function in society is usually considered a moderate to severe anxiety disorder.

In general, anxiety is a feeling related to fear. It is an adaptive response that allows humans to function in their environment.[2] In other words, anxiety helps to detect threats in the environment. Anxiety may help people respond to stressors or emergencies and overcome challenges.

Some individuals may find themselves in the “subthreshold” area of anxiety. These individuals do not have enough symptoms to be diagnosed with an anxiety disorder but may have enough symptoms to interfere with their quality of life.[3]

This article is for anyone with mild to subthreshold anxiety feelings. For help coping with moderate anxiety check out this article: How to Handle Anxiety When it Hits You Out of Nowhere

Overall, anxiety is a natural feeling that may be eased by natural remedies. The following tips with teach you how to stop anxiety feelings with 8 natural remedies.

In the modern world of productivity and busy schedules, anyone can benefit by learning how to stop anxiety feelings. These strategies are designed for people with mild or subthreshold anxiety symptoms who are not diagnosed with anxiety. These natural remedies may aid in relieving feelings of anxiety with minimal side effects.

These techniques may be considered complementary or alternative therapies. They are designed to compliment medical or mental health treatment. Consider your unique medical and mental health profile before attempting any of these strategies.

1. Try Supplements and Herbal Remedies

There is evidence to suggest that natural and herbal remedies can alleviate feelings of anxiety. However, it is has yet to be determined whether the results are due to real effects or the placebo effect.[4]

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In a clinical study, supplements containing these ingredients showed promise:

  • Passionflower
  • Kava
  • L-lysine
  • L-arginine
  • Magnesium

There are other herbs and supplements that have been studied in relation to anxiety. For example, omega-3-fatty acids have also been shown to reduce anxiety in a double-blind, randomized clinical trial. Ashwagandha is another herb that assists with reducing anxiety.[5]

Natural remedies offer relief for individuals with mild anxiety feelings without the harmful side effects of medication. However, be sure to consult with a doctor before taking herbs and supplements to help with anxiety feelings. Keep in mind that some supplements should not be combined with prescription medications.[6]

While herbs and supplements are not a cure-all they may provide assistance as part of an overall treatment plan for anxiety.

2. Find Healing with Nutritious Foods

In addition to herbs and supplements, there are many natural foods that contain anxiety reducing ingredients. Ideally, nutrients are acquired from natural and organic foods.

The following foods help release neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine in the body (happiness hormones):

  • Avocado and almonds contain vitamin-B
  • Asparagus helps alleviate anxiety
  • Leafy greens, nuts, seeds, legumes and whole grains containing magnesium promote calm feelings
  • Salmon and other fatty fish contain omega-3 fatty acids, which helps relieve depression and anxiety
  • Pickles, sauerkraut and kefir contain probiotics, which may help lesson social anxiety
  • Beans, berries, nuts and vegetables high in antioxidants may help to relieve feelings of anxiety
  • Oysters, cashews, beef and egg yolks contain zinc, which lowers anxiety[7]

3. Practice Yoga or Meditation

Yoga is a natural remedy for anxiety that combines body movements, breathing and mindfulness. There is evidence to suggest that yoga can help calm the stress response, which contributes to feelings of anxiety. Yoga may also help improve the body’s ability to cope with stress. Therefore, yoga offers both short- and long-term natural anxiety relief.[8]

There any many different ways to practice yoga. Some yoga sequences are designed to energize while others are intended to elicit calm. Almost every yoga class is designed to build an awareness around the body and breath. It might be necessary to try a variety of teachers or practices in order to find the right fit.

Additionally, mindfulness meditation is linked with decreased anxiety symptoms after eight weeks of practice. Mindfulness can generally be defined as a practice of present-moment awareness. Any activity that is paired with an awareness on the body and breath may be considered mindfulness.

Similarly, there are many different forms of meditation. For more information on the different types of meditation and how to practice them check out this article: 17 Types of Meditation (Techniques and Basics) To Practice Mindfulness

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4. Spend Time In Nature

Spending time outdoors can have a calming effect on the mind and body. For best results, aim to get outdoors for 20 to 30 minutes, 3 days per week.[9]

Here are some of the benefits of spending time in nature:

  • Lowered blood pressure
  • Reduced stress
  • Decreased anxiety
  • Increased immune-system
  • Increased self-esteem
  • Improved mood

In a study of psychiatric patents, nature was shown to decrease loneliness, increase calm and improve mood.[10] Time spent in nature has also been shown to aid in recovery after surgery and assist with pain reduction.[11]

Ecotherapy is a form of therapy that links the health of the planet to the health of humans. Forms of ecotherapy such as green space and wilderness therapy have been correlated with increased life span and decreased mental disorders. Wilderness therapy has also been shown to assist with anxiety and stress reduction.

While most forms of ecotherapy require the presence of a therapist, nature is also considered a pathway towards healing. In some cases, animals are utilized to assist in the healing process. Overall, nature is an abundant resource that everyone can access to help stop anxiety feelings.

5. Connect with the Five Senses Outdoors

Engaging the five senses outdoors can have a powerful impact on the mood. Engaging the senses is another method for practicing mindfulness. Combing mindfulness and nature will enhance the effects of both.[12]

Sight

Looking at nature has been associated with decreased anxiety, stress and heart rate. To connect with this sense, try meditating in a garden, walking around a park or even gazing at plants or the sky.

Sound

Engaging with nature sounds or sitting in silence outdoors can reduce blood pressure and cortisol levels. This helps the body enter a state of rest-and-digest, or relaxation. There is even evidence to suggest that simulated nature sounds can aid in relaxation.

Try listening to nature sounds through headphones for a true sensory experience. If possible, walk in a quiet area and take a moment to connect with the sounds of nature.

Touch

An interesting phenomenon is something called a forest school. In this setting, children learn and play outdoors. They interact with nature as part of their curriculum, which is thought to aid in confidence, social skills, motivation, focus, and increased motor skills.

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The adult version of this is a Japanese healing method called shinrin-yoku or forest bathing. Forest bathing is an immersion in nature, which integrates breathing, mindfulness and walking. It has been associated with improved immune system functioning, increased mood and relaxation, as well as decreased stress.[13]

Thermoception is the practice of engaging with nature through touch. This includes walking barefoot in the grass, noticing the breeze on your skin or wading in a body of water.

Taste

Many of us have a habit of mindlessly consuming food. This can be intensified by a busy lifestyle. By practicing mindful consumption, we can develop a greater relationship with nature through food.

Choosing healthy and natural food sources builds the connection between nature and food. For example, eating whole foods like vegetables and fruits can assist in visualizing the origins of our food.

While this is not a direct link to nature, it allows us to practice mindfulness and recognize that nature is our source of energy. Mindful eating is one simple way to integrate mindfulness on a daily basis.

Smell

Smell has a big impact on emotions, behavior and thoughts. While there is not enough evidence to conclusively state that smell aids in relaxation, there is a strong correlation between smell and emotions.

Try this Mindfulness Activity:

After focusing on each individual sense, take a moment to mindfully immerse yourself an integrated experience. For example, bring a healthy picnic to a local park. Listen to the birdsong, feel the breeze on your skin, smell the grass or the flowers and taste the fresh food from your picnic. This is a mindfulness.

6. Try Essential Oils

While there is no conclusive evidence to link anxiety reduction and nature smells, there is an alternative with interesting results. Essential oils are created by distilling oils from plants. There is a correlation between the use of essential oils and anxiety, stress and blood pressure.

Different smells trigger different reactions. For example, peppermint is an invigorating scent that has the potential to increase alertness. Jasmine may help to increase memory. Lavender oil shows promise for increasing calm and decreasing depression.[14]

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A study of essential oils derived from cedar trees showed an increase in participant NK cells. NK cells are thought to assist in fighting tumors and infections.

Try diffusing oils in your office or home to elicit a feeling of calm. Experiment with different smells and notice your reactions.

7. Spend Time With Animals

Pets can act as a way to bring nature indoors when nature is not readily accessible. Owning a pet or interacting with a friend’s pet can have a range of benefits.

Here are some benefits of owning a pet:

  • Higher life satisfaction
  • Improved self-esteem
  • Increased motivation
  • Increased physical activity
  • Improved mood
  • Decreased loneliness
  • Decreased blood pressure
  • Decreased anxiety[15]

Petting an animal is one of the best ways to experience nature through touch. Their fur provides comfort and their presence provides companionship. There is also evidence that pets aid in resilience to stress and frustration.

Pets are being introduced in therapy offices, universities and hospitals to offset anxiety feelings. While research has only started to uncover all the benefits of animal-assisted therapy, any animal lover knows just how beneficial pets can be for mental health.

8. Write Down Your Thoughts

Journaling is a simple strategy with enormous benefits. Journaling helps to cope with anxiety, stress and depression. Journaling can be a great way to develop self-awareness, track patterns and decrease the intensity of emotions. For best results, make a daily habit of writing.[16]

In order to gain the most benefits from journaling, it is important to notice negative or cyclical thinking and attempt to shift the pattern. If you are continually writing down negative thoughts, emotions or behaviors then it may reinforce feelings of anxiety.

Here’s how to stop anxiety feelings with journaling:

  1. Set aside a portion of time to simply write whatever comes to mind. Allow yourself to brain-dump anything and everything onto the paper. Set a timer between 5-10 minutes.
  2. Once the timer goes off, take a moment to breathe and reflect. Without judgement, notice your thoughts, emotions and sensations. Set a timer between 5-20 minutes for this mindfulness activity.
  3. Return to the journal with the intention of writing positive thoughts. You may choose to focus on feelings of gratitude, things that are going well or reflect upon times when you overcame anxiety, worry or stress.

Go Easy On Yourself!

Hopefully these tips have helped you discover how to stop anxiety feelings with natural remedies. Nevertheless, anxiety is a natural feeling that everyone will experience in their lifetime. It is designed to keep us safe, respond to stress and develop resilience.

If you struggle with anxiety from time to time these natural remedies may help. However, there is no shame in seeking help in the form of medication, counseling or other forms of therapy.

More Tips on Coping With Anxiety

Featured photo credit: Ricards Zalmezs via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Olivia Schnur

Olivia is a Clinical Mental Health Counselor and Registered Yoga Teacher. She writes about healing, health and happiness.

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Published on April 9, 2021

What Is Mindfulness And How It Helps Your Mental Wellness

What Is Mindfulness And How It Helps Your Mental Wellness

Mindfulness has become a popular buzzword in the health and wellness industry. However, few people truly understand what it is. My aim here is to teach you what mindfulness is and how it helps your mental wellness. By the end of this article, you will understand the meaning and benefits of mindfulness. Additionally, you will develop the ability to integrate mindfulness into your daily life.

What Is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness is approximately 2500-years-old with deep roots in the Eastern world as a spiritual, ethical, and philosophical practice. These roots are intimately connected to the Buddhist practice of vipassana meditation.[1]

Mindfulness continues to be practiced as a cultural and spiritual tradition in many parts of the world. For Buddhists, it offers an ethical and moral code of conduct. For many, mindfulness is more than a practice—it is a way of life.[2]

However, mindfulness has evolved in the Western world and has become a non-religious practice for wellbeing. The evolution began around 1979 when Jon-Kabat Zinn developed Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR).[3] Since then, mindfulness has emerged in the health and wellness industry and continues to evolve.

It is important to recognize the distinctions between mindfulness as a clinical practice and mindfulness as a cultural practice. The focus of this article is on the clinical model of mindfulness developed in the West.

Many researchers have integrated aspects of Buddhism and mindfulness into clinical psychiatry and psychology. Buddhism has helped to inform many mental health theories and therapies. However, the ethical and moral codes of conduct that drive Buddhist practices are no longer integrated into the mindfulness practices most-often taught in the Western world.[4] Therefore, Western mindfulness is often a non-spiritual practice for mental wellness.

Mindfulness aims to cultivate present moment awareness both within the body and the environment.[5] However, awareness is only the first element. Non-judgmental acceptance of the present moment is essential for true mindfulness to occur. Thoughts and feelings are explored without an emphasis on right, wrong, past, or future.

The only necessary condition for mindfulness to occur is non-judgmental acceptance and awareness of the present moment. Mindfulness can be practiced by anyone, anywhere, and at any time. It does not need to be complex even though structured programs exist.

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How Mindfulness Helps Your Mental Wellness

Along with MBSR, other models have been developed and adapted for use by clinical counselors, psychologists, and therapists. These include Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT), Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), and Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT).[6]

Structured models of mindfulness allow researchers to study its benefits. Research has uncovered an abundance of benefits including mental, physical, cognitive, and spiritual. The following is not a comprehensive list of all its benefits, but it will begin to uncover how mindfulness helps mental wellness.

Benefits on Your Mental Health

Practicing mindfulness can have positive impacts on mental health. It has been positively associated with desirable traits, such as:

  • Autonomy
  • Agreeableness
  • Conscientiousness
  • Competence
  • Empathy
  • Optimism

Mindfulness helps to improve self-esteem, increase life satisfaction and enhance self-compassion. It is associated with pleasant emotions and mood. Overall, people who practice this appear to be happier and experience more joy in life. Not only does it increase happiness but it may also ward off negativity.

Mindfulness helps individuals to let go of negative thoughts and regulate emotions. For example, it may decrease fear, stress, worry, anger, and anxiety. It also helps to reduce rumination, which is a repetition of negative thoughts in the mind.

MBSR was originally designed to treat chronic pain. It has since evolved to include the treatment of anxiety and depression. Clinical studies have shown that MBSR is linked with:

  • Reduced chronic pain and improved quality of life
  • Decreased risk of relapse in depression
  • Reduced negative thinking in anxiety disorders
  • Prevention of major depressive disorders
  • Reducing substance-use frequency and cravings

However, more research is needed before these clinical studies can be generalized to the public. Nevertheless, there is promising evidence to suggest MBSR may be beneficial for mental health.[7]

Benefits on Your Cognitive Health

Mindfulness has many important benefits for cognitive health as well. In a study of college students, mindfulness increased performance in attention and persistence. Another study found that individuals who practice it have increased cognitive flexibility. A brain scan found increased thickness in areas of the brain related to attention, interception, and sensory processing.[8]

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To explain this another way, practicing mindfulness can improve the ability to shift from one task to the next, increase attention span and increase awareness of bodily sensations and the environment. Therefore, it has the potential to literally change your brain for the better.

Harvard researchers are also interested in studies of the brain and mindfulness. One researcher studied how brain changes are sustained even when individuals are not engaged in mindfulness. Their research suggests that its benefits extend beyond the moments of mindfulness.[9]

Another study found that the benefits of mindfulness training lasted up to five years. In this particular case, individuals participating in mindfulness activities showed increased attention-span. Mindfulness has also been shown to increase problem-solving and decrease mind wandering.[10]

What Is Mindfulness Meditation?

Mindfulness can be practiced in many different ways. However, most practices include these elements:

  • An object to focus awareness on (breath, body, thoughts, sounds)
  • Awareness of the present moment
  • Openness to experience whatever comes up
  • Acceptance that the mind will wander
  • The intention to return awareness to the object of focus whenever the mind wanders

A practice that encompasses these elements is typically called mindfulness meditation. Most mindfulness meditations will be practiced between 5 to 50 minutes, per day.[11]

There is truly no right or wrong way to practice mindfulness. Most mindfulness meditations are done seated with an object of focus related to the breath, body, thoughts, emotions, or sounds. However, daily activities such as walking or eating can be practiced as a form of mindfulness meditation, as long as the aforementioned elements are in place.

Four Mindfulness Meditations and Their Benefits

Not all forms of mindfulness are created equal. Each practice has unique goals, structure, and benefits. The following four mindfulness meditations are linked with improved mental wellness related to vitality, happiness, and attention.

The results come from a study designed to explore the benefits of these four practices. All of these stem from traditional Buddhist practices.[12]

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1. Loving-Kindness Meditation

Loving-kindness is a form of meditation that focuses on sending love and compassion to others. It may begin with kindness for the self and extend outward towards close family and friends, communities, nations, and the world. Loving-kindness may even involve sending love and compassion towards enemies.

The study found that eight-weeks of loving-kindness meditation increased feelings of closeness to others. However, it did not reduce negative feelings towards enemies. Additionally, one week of loving-kindness mixed with compassion training increased the amount of positive feelings participants experienced.[13]

2. Breathing Meditation

Breathing meditation is a practice where the focus remains on the breath. Whenever the mind begins to wander, the attention is brought back to the breath.

In many different mindfulness and yoga practices, specific breathing (pranayama) practices are taught. However, for beginners, simple diaphragmatic breathing that focuses on each inhale and exhale is sufficient.

The effects of breathing meditation relate to attention. Breathing meditation is linked to changes in the way information is processed. Buddhist monks who practiced breathing meditation were able to process a greater amount of information than monks who practiced compassion meditation.

3. Body Scan Meditation

A body scan is as simple as it sounds. Attention is brought to each part of the body. Participants can choose to start from the top of the head or the bottom of the feet. It can be helpful to imagine a warmth or a color spreading from one body part to the next as each part begins to relax.

When body scan and breathing are combined, there are many benefits. Interoceptive sensitivity is the mind’s ability to focus on bodily cues. It is strengthened by body scanning. Body scanning also helps with attention and focus.[14]

4. Observing Thoughts Meditation

In observing thoughts meditation, the focus is on the thoughts. This is an opportunity to practice non-judgmental observation. It is also a practice of non-attachment.

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Within the study, participants practiced structured observation of thoughts. First, they brought their attention to their thoughts and labeled them within several categories: past, present, future, self, or others. Then, they practiced observing their thoughts without an emotional reaction.[15]

The benefits of this practice were robust. First, participants showed great improvement in the ability to observe their thoughts without judgment. Second, the practice greatly reduced rumination. As a result, participants had fewer emotional reactions to their thoughts and developed greater self-awareness around their thinking patterns.

In summary, there are many different ways to practice mindfulness meditation. The choice may be determined by the benefits each practice offers. For example, body scanning can increase bodily awareness. Thought-observation can increase self-awareness and decrease rumination. Regardless, every practice may increase positivity, energy, and focus.[16]

Considerations Before You Begin Practicing Mindfulness

Mindfulness is still a relatively new concept in clinical research. Critics worry that its benefits have been overstated. There is also concern that the Western world has changed it into something most Buddhists would not recognize.[17]

Mindfulness is a state of mind that builds self-awareness. As a result, it may force individuals to face difficult emotions, memories, and thoughts. In a study of long-term, intense mindfulness practices, 60% of participants reported at least one negative outcome. Some cases are related to depression, anxiety, and psychosis.[18]

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to mental wellness. Mindfulness offering promising results but there are also risks involved. Working with a therapist may be a great way to start a mindfulness practice while monitoring for risk.

Final Thoughts

Mindfulness is a powerful practice that has deep roots in Buddhism. It is a practice of present-moment awareness, acceptance of the present moment, and non-judgment of thoughts, emotions, or circumstances.

It has many benefits that may increase mental wellness. However, there are also some risks to consider. Overall, you should consider your unique profile before beginning a practice or consider working with a therapist at the start.

More About Practicing Mindfulness

Featured photo credit: Simon Migaj via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] NCBI: A Perspective on the Similarities and Differences Between Mindfulness and Relaxation
[2] Sage Journals: Mindfulness in Cultural Context
[3] Greater Good Magazine: What is Mindfulness?
[4] Sage Journals: Mindfulness in Cultural Context
[5] Greater Good Magazine: The State of Mindfulness Science
[6] NCBI: Effects of Mindfulness on Psychological Health: A Review of Empirical Studies
[7] NCBI: Mindfulness Meditation and Psychopathology
[8] NCBI: Effects of Mindfulness on Psychological Health: A Review of Empirical Studies
[9] The Harvard Gazette: When Science Meets Mindfulness
[10] Greater Good Magazine: The State of Mindfulness Science
[11] NCBI: A Perspective on the Similarities and Differences Between Mindfulness and Relaxation
[12] ResearchGate: Phenomenological Fingerprints of Four Meditations: Differential State Changes in Affect, Mind-Wandering, Meta-Cognition, and Interoception Before and After Daily Practice Across Nine Months of Training
[13] ResearchGate: Phenomenological Fingerprints of Four Meditations: Differential State Changes in Affect, Mind-Wandering, Meta-Cognition, and Interoception Before and After Daily Practice Across Nine Months of Training
[14] ResearchGate: Phenomenological Fingerprints of Four Meditations: Differential State Changes in Affect, Mind-Wandering, Meta-Cognition, and Interoception Before and After Daily Practice Across Nine Months of Training
[15] ResearchGate: Phenomenological Fingerprints of Four Meditations: Differential State Changes in Affect, Mind-Wandering, Meta-Cognition, and Interoception Before and After Daily Practice Across Nine Months of Training
[16] Greater Good Magazine: How to Choose a Type of Mindfulness Meditation
[17] NCBI: Has the Science of Mindfulness Lost Its Mind?
[18] NCBI: Has the Science of Mindfulness Lost Its Mind?

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