Try to drink three cups of chamomile tea a day when you’re feeling anxious.
Why: Chamomile contains two chemicals that promote relaxation, apigenin and luteolin. A study at the University of Pennsylvania Medical Center found that patients with generalized anxiety disorder who took chamomile supplements for eight weeks had a significant decrease in anxiety symptoms compared to patients who were given a placebo.
Try to get between 1 and 3 grams of omega-3s a day.
Why: There is some evidence that omega-3 fatty acids may ease anxiety symptoms and lift your mood by lowering levels of stress chemicals such as adrenaline and cortisol in the body. Caned fatty fish, such as tuna and salmon, walnuts, and flax seeds are all great sources of omega-3 fatty acids. An Israeli study found that students given fish oil supplements had less test anxiety as measured by their eating and sleeping habits, cortisol levels, and mental states.
Breathe in lavender.
Why: One study found that people who received a massage with lavender oil were more upbeat and had less anxiety than people who had a lavender-free massage. Another found lavender massage can even lower systolic pressure the top blood pressure number that’s associated with stress. Try putting a few drops of lavender essential oil on your pillow or in your bath, or add a few drops to a cup of boiling water and inhale for a quick calm-me-down. You can even dab a few drops right on your skin—it’s one of the few essential oils that can be applied directly. The scent of vanilla has also been shown to alleviate symptoms of anxiety. In a study done at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, patients undergoing MRIs who breathed vanilla-scented air had 63% less anxiety than those who breathed unscented air.
Add L-lysine to your diet.
Why: L-lysine is an amino acid and one of the building blocks of your brain’s chemical messengers called neurotransmitters. Studies have shown that people taking L-lysine supplements had reduced symptoms of anxiety and reduced levels of stress hormones. L-lysine is commonly found in meat, fish, and beans, and is also sold as an oral supplement.
Try to get outside in natural sunlight for 15 minutes a day.
Why: This is the best way to naturally increase your vitamin-D levels, which can decrease symptoms of depression and anxiety. A short 15 minute break will not only take your mind of stress, but also let you reap the benefits of outdoor activity. And the greener the better—one Japanese study found that people who walked through a forest for 20 minutes had lower stress hormone levels after their walk than those who took a comparable walk in an urban area. If you’re stuck in an urban area, look for parks or quiet tree-lined streets to take a stroll.
Studies show 21 minutes is all it takes for exercise to reliably reduce symptoms of anxiety.
Why: Exercise will not only make you feel better about yourself, but will flood your body with feel-good endorphins. Some researchers even believe that increasing your body heat, a natural result of exercise, may alter neural circuits controlling cognitive function and mood, including those that affect the neurotransmitter serotonin. Researchers believe this response can boost your mood, increase relaxation, and alleviate anxiety.
Take a hot bath with Epsom salts.
Why: A soothing hot bath is always calming, and raising your body heat may help regulate mood and anxiety. For added benefits, stir in some Epsom salts. The magnesium sulfate in the salts has been shown to calm anxiety and lower blood pressure. You can also try adding lavender or vanilla essential oils to your bathwater, to reap the benefits of these calming scents.
Cut out (or down) caffeine.
Why: Caffeine boosts your energy, and can make you jittery and anxious. If you can’t go cold turkey, try reducing by a cup a day and see if you notice any decrease in your anxiety symptoms. You can also try switching to a drink with less caffeine and more health benefits, such as green tea. Be aware of other sources of caffeine that may be in your diet such as soda, chocolate, tea, and some over-the-counter medications like Excedrin or Midol.
Examine your diet, and watch for:
• Caffeine, alcohol, and added sugars, which have all been shown to increase anxiety.
• Deficiencies in magnesium, vitamin B12, and zinc have been linked to symptoms of anxiety. Vegans and vegetarians in particular should watch their B12 intake, as the vitamin is only found in animal products.
• Studies link an unhappy gut with an unhappy mind, so avoid eating difficult to digest foods like processed meals, foods high in saturated fats, and fried foods.
• Finally, don’t let yourself become so hungry that your blood sugar drops, which can lead to an anxiety attack.
Eat these foods to help provide anxiety relief:
• Blueberries and peaches contain nutrients that relieve stress and have a calming effect.
• Whole grains are rich in magnesium and tryptophan, an amino acid that your body converts to serotonin which is known to calm and improve your mood.
• Oats also increase serotonin production and are high in fiber, which helps prevent blood sugar spikes that affect mood.
• Avocados, eggs, milk, and meat are all packed with B vitamins that can help prevent anxiety.
• Foods that help regulate and lower the stress hormone cortisol include foods rich in vitamin C, like oranges, omega-3 fatty acids, and magnesium rich foods like spinach and other dark leafy greens. Indulge every once in a while in dark chocolate, which also helps lower cortisol.