What Are Natural Remedies for Anxiety?

Medically Reviewed By Debra Rose Wilson, Ph.D., MSN, R.N., IBCLC, AHN-BC, CHT
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People with persistent feelings of anxiety may have an anxiety disorder. Some natural remedies, in addition to any other treatment, may help you manage your anxiety.

Natural remedies can help ease and manage symptoms of anxiety. However, it is important to remember that anxiety disorders may require treatment, such as medication, therapy, or a combination of the two. These remedies should not replace any treatments recommended by your mental health professional.

This article explains some natural remedies for anxiety.

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Get regular physical activity

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), adults need 150 minutes of moderate physical activity per week. This equals around 30 minutes 5 days per week.

It is well established that physical activity has many physical benefits. Regular physical activity can benefit your mental health as well.

According to the Anxiety & Depression Association of America (ADAA), research has shown that physical activity can:

  • reduce stress
  • reduce fatigue
  • improve concentration and alertness
  • improve overall cognitive functioning, which includes your ability to think, reason, and remember

It is believed that people who are physically active may have a lower rate of anxiety and depression than those who live a sedentary lifestyle. While more research is needed, research from 2019 appears to show that yoga and tai chi may be beneficial forms of physical activity for those with anxiety disorders.

Whether you choose to take regular walks, go to the gym, or practice yoga and tai chi, the evidence all points to physical activity having a positive effect on anxiety.

Read about anxiety.

Avoid or limit alcohol

The ADAA estimates that 40 million adults in the United States experience an anxiety disorder each year. This makes anxiety disorders the most common mental health condition in the United States.

Approximately 1 in 5 people who experience an anxiety disorder report using alcohol to help cope with stress. Around 20% of individuals who experience alcohol abuse disorder also experience an anxiety or mood disorder.

Statistics show that there is a strong relationship between alcohol use and anxiety. Anxiety can be the reason someone drinks alcohol, or alcohol can be the cause of a person’s anxiety.

While alcohol may appear to reduce the symptoms of anxiety, this is a short-term effect. Using alcohol to cope with stress and anxiety can lead to a dependence on alcohol or to alcohol abuse disorder.

If you are experiencing persistent feelings of anxiety, especially if they are interfering with your daily life, speak with a doctor or mental health professional.

Limit or quit smoking

Many people who smoke do so because it appears to reduce their stress and anxiety. Evidence shows, however, that smoking can actually increase anxiety.

Quitting smoking is shown to improve physical health but also:

  • lower levels of anxiety, stress, and depression
  • improve quality of life and boost mood levels
  • decrease the dosage needed for certain mental health medications

Quitting smoking may have similar benefits on anxiety and depression as antidepressants. If you are taking medication for anxiety or another mental health condition, speak with your doctor before you attempt to quit smoking. They may need to monitor the dosage of your medication throughout the process.

Learn tips for quitting smoking.

Limit caffeine

Caffeine has been shown to make symptoms of anxiety worse. The exact reason for this is not known. It may be related to an increased level of certain chemicals, like lactate, in the brain.

Some evidence shows that caffeine may interfere with the maintenance of anxiety disorders, as well as increase the symptoms. It has also been shown that people with social anxiety or panic disorder may have a higher sensitivity to caffeine. Caffeine may cause panic attacks in some people.

It is possible that limiting or avoiding caffeine may help to improve symptoms of anxiety.

Practice meditation and mindfulness

Mediation can be looked at as a way of training your attention to achieve a mental state of calm concentration and positive emotions. Mindfulness involves paying more attention to what is going on both inside and outside of yourself, moment by moment.

Meditation and mindfulness can be practiced separately, or they can be combined in a practice known as mindfulness meditation. Mindfulness meditation has two parts:

  • Attention: This part focuses on bringing your awareness and attention to what is happening in the present moment. Typically, this involves turning your awareness to your breathing, your thoughts and emotions, and the physical sensations you are feeling.
  • Acceptance: This part involves observing your feelings and emotions and not judging them. It encourages you not to react or respond to these feelings but to acknowledge them and then let them go.

Meditation, mindfulness, or a combination of the two has proven to reduce stress and help with anxiety. Many believe that this is because you can tone down your body’s response to stress.

Read about treating anxiety and depression with meditation.

Practice breathing and relaxation exercises

Muscle relaxation and breathing exercises can help to calm you down and ease your anxiety. Practicing breathing exercises can give your body an immediate reaction.

These breathing exercises can help:

  • lower your heart rate
  • decrease the tension in your body
  • lower your blood pressure
  • decrease your oxygen consumption

Breathing exercises help you focus on the way you are breathing instead of on your anxiety symptoms. This distraction can calm your anxiety.

Progressive muscle relaxation has also been shown to reduce anxiety and stress. This involves focusing on relaxing each muscle group individually.

Learn tips for calming down.

Try alternative therapies

Alternative therapies can help manage the symptoms of anxiety. They often act as complementary therapies to other common treatments for anxiety.

Animal therapy

Research from 2015 has shown that animal-assisted intervention, or animal therapy, can help reduce anxiety in many people, at least in the short term. While it is not suggested that this is used as a first-line treatment for anxiety, it may be an effective complementary therapy for people with an anxiety disorder.

Read more about how animals help treat anxiety.

Aromatherapy

There is no established evidence of the effectiveness of aromatherapy in relieving anxiety and depression. However, research from 2022 shows it may be an effective complementary treatment to help improve psychological health and well-being.

Read about aromatherapy.

Other treatments for anxiety

Natural remedies can help ease anxiety symptoms. However, they are not replacements for medical treatments for these disorders.

Treatment for anxiety typically includes medication, psychotherapy, or a combination of the two. Speak with your mental health professional to develop the most effective treatment plan for you.

Summary

Many natural remedies can help manage anxiety. Many of them can help ease temporary or short-term anxiety. However, if you experience persistent anxiety, especially if it interferes with your daily life, contact a doctor or mental health professional.

Natural remedies are not a substitute for medical treatments for anxiety disorders. Yet they can often be effective complementary treatments to manage the symptoms. Speak with a mental health professional about these and other natural remedies for anxiety.

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Medical Reviewer: Debra Rose Wilson, Ph.D., MSN, R.N., IBCLC, AHN-BC, CHT
Last Review Date: 2022 Dec 5
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THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.
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