We live in a pretty demanding world these days, and even though we can be so stressed and anxiety-ridden, we're suppose to wear this "busyness" like a badge of honour.
To some degree, stress and anxiety plays a critical role in keeping us away from danger, let's say, if we were running away from a large animal.
Unfortunately though, in the era we live in, anxiety and stress comes in the form of traffic, workload and lifestyle stress, and we're often not educated enough on the best methods that create anxiety relief.
In this article, we'll look to discuss 7 ways to to reduce anxiety and conquer our stress naturally, with the scientific evidence to prove it.
Let's dive in.
Regular exercise is possibly one of the lowest hanging fruit, and free method to help with anxiety relief (unless you sign up to a gym, which creates an added accountability and motivation factor).
When we exercise, we flood our body with natural anxiety reducing neurochemicals including serotonin, gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA), brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and endorphins (Anderson & Shivakumar, 2013). Exercise also decreases muscle tension, and just the fact of engaging in rigorous activity can help us forget the very thing we were anxious about in the first place.
Exercise has been studied extensively for the relief of anxiety, in fact, a Systematic Review and Meta-analysis published in the BMC Health Services Research in 2018 confirmed exercise as an effective treatment option for clinical anxiety (Aylett et al., 2018).
When exercising, it's also important to support your muscles and replenish neurotransmitters, which support the central nervous system.
Cut Back on Stimulants
Stimulants, most in-particularly caffeine, are great tools in supporting our mood, alertness and work quite well in boosting our performance in the short-term.
On other other hand, when we dump, caffeinated beverages into our gaping maw too often, we create a sympathetic nervous system (SNS) that is overactive, and running on all cylinders for longer than it should.
Our SNS is also known as our fight-or-flight response, which is involved in activating many physiological processes that keep us alert and alive. The downside of this system being active for too long leads to an excess of cortisol circulating through out body, which is regulated by the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis.
Excessive cortisol creates a cascade of problems, including disruptions in our metabolism, immune function, our ability to handle stress, and of course, increased anxiety.
Studies have shown that caffeine intake exceeding 500-600mg (which is often one scoop of a pre-workout) can create substantial levels of anxiety, tremors, irritability and rapid heart-rate (Cappelletti et al., 2015).
If you're someone that loves to smack down a pre-workout before exercise, perhaps it might be worth swapping to a non-stimulant for a short while.
Get Quality Sleep
Similarly to exercise, good quality sleep is a fairly simple tool in creating anxiety relief in our day-to-day lives.
Unlike caffeine and other sympathetic nervous system activating compounds, sleep helps to deactivate sympathetic activity, and rather turn on our parasympathetic nervous system (PNS).
Our PNS is known as our rest-and-digest response, and is involved in activating physiological processes attributed to rest, relaxation, and restoration of the body.
Studies show that the better sleep quality, duration and even time falling asleep helps improve our parasympathetic (vagal) tone, which assists the body in shifting out of a more sympathetic dominant state (Castro-Diehl et al., 2016).
This means that the better quality sleep we get, the better our body is able to shift out of an anxiety dominant state, and into one that is more restful, and stress free.
We also recommend Herbs of Gold Mind Ease for fast anxiety relief.
Support Your Nervous System
On top of cutting back on stimulants and improving our sleep, we can also support the health of our nervous system.
Our nervous system is a pretty complex structure, just our brain alone has approximately 100 billion nerve cells (also known as neurons), and these molecules are critical for optimal brain function, cognition and mood.
One key component we must ensure we're getting in our body to ensure healthy nervous system function are compounds known as fatty acids, and more in-particularly, EPA and DHA.
EPA and DHA are found in highest concentrations in fish and fish-oil products, and also through vegan sources such as algae.
These compounds play an integral role in the building of nerve cells in our body, and influence the production of certain neurotransmitters in the brain that control our mood (Natacci et al., 2018).
Without adequate supply of these compounds, we can experience mood disorders more frequently, our brain function declines and our memory can even suffer.
Although we can simply increase our fatty fish intake (such as Salmon or Cod), another good way for faster anxiety relief is through a good quality fish oil supplement, such as Fusion Health Oceanpure Fish Oil.
If you're looking for a vegan option, we can get fatty acids through sources such as Nori, Irish Moss or Flaxseed, or we can use a quality vegan fish oil supplement, such as Nutri Vital Vegan Flaxseed Oil.
Create a Relaxing Environment
Quite often, the environment we place ourselves in on a day-to-day basis can create a level of stress and anxiety-inducing effects, without us really even thinking about it.
This is where the power of essential oils come into play.
Studies have actually been done on the effects of aromatherapy in the workplace, with results showing the ability of essential oils to reduce stress, anxiety and actually improve work performance (Huang & Capdevila, 2017).
There have been countless essential oils recognised for their anxiety and stress relieving properties including Geranium, Lavender and Patchouli, although the list goes on if you pop over to this pretty comprehensive systematic review here.
The world we live in doesn't have to be as anxiety-inducing as it seems, and when we have natural ways to create anxiety relief, things feel a whole lot easier.
Using simple tactics including sleep, exercise and nervous system support, paired with supplements and essential oil blends, we can drastically reduce the pressure of lifes demands.
If you have any other tactics you use for natural anxiety relief, why not leave it in the comments?
About The Author: Stephen Brumwell
As a Nutritionist, Biohacking enthusiast, self-experimenter, research fanatic, and self-taught writer, Stephen immerses himself deep into the literature of human optimisation and holistic wellbeing. His goal is to help people better understand the science of human health, and how they can use it to perform better and live a life that is absolutely limitless.
- Anderson, E., & Shivakumar, G. (2013). Effects of exercise and physical activity on anxiety. Frontiers in Psychiatry, 4. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyt.2013.00027
- Aylett, E., Small, N., & Bower, P. (2018). Exercise in the treatment of clinical anxiety in general practice – a systematic review and meta-analysis. BMC Health Services Research, 18(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12913-018-3313-5
- Cappelletti, S., Daria, P., Sani, G., & Aromatario, M. (2015). Caffeine: Cognitive and physical performance enhancer or psychoactive drug? Current Neuropharmacology, 13(1), 71-88. https://doi.org/10.2174/1570159x13666141210215655
- Castro-Diehl, C., Diez Roux, A. V., Redline, S., Seeman, T., McKinley, P., Sloan, R., & Shea, S. (2016). Sleep duration and quality in relation to autonomic nervous system measures: The multi-ethnic study of atherosclerosis (MESA). Sleep, 39(11), 1927-1940. https://doi.org/10.5665/sleep.6218
- Huang, L., & Capdevila, L. (2017). Aromatherapy improves work performance through balancing the autonomic nervous system. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 23(3), 214-221. https://doi.org/10.1089/acm.2016.0061
- Natacci, L., M. Marchioni, D., C. Goulart, A., Nunes, M., B. Moreno, A., O. Cardoso, L., Giatti, L., B. Molina, M., S. Santos, I., R. Brunoni, A., A. Lotufo, P., & M. Bensenor, I. (2018). Omega 3 consumption and anxiety disorders: A cross-sectional analysis of the Brazilian longitudinal study of adult health (ELSA-Brasil). Nutrients, 10(6), 663. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu10060663