Published on April 19th, 2014 | by Guest Contributor
Top Ten Natural Home-Based Therapies for Anxiety And Panic Attacks: Immediate Symptomatic Aids and Long Term Therapies
Understatement of the year: anxiety sucks. The good news is that there are many natural remedies available that work without the side effects associated with prescription drugs. While avoiding triggers that make you anxious is sound advice from medical professionals, the trouble is that it’s not always possible to identify and avoid all the situations that might make you anxious. In fact, just thinking about it might be making you anxious right now, so let’s jump straight into the list of natural remedies that can help to prevent anxiety and panic attacks in the first place. This article is broken into two categories for your reference: immediate symptomatic aids, and long term therapies and habits to help address the root cause of your anxiety.
Immediate Symptomatic Aids
Chamomile is a great remedy for helping to prevent or reduce anxiety when you’re on the go. Chamomile tea or iced tea can help calm you down and is easily consumed throughout the day, or you can take chamomile in supplement form. In a double-blind study of oral chamomile involving patients with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), there was a decrease in symptoms of anxiety in participants who took chamomile supplements for eight weeks. I think chamomile tastes nice as at tea, but if you can’t stand drinking it every day for eight weeks, try supplementing instead.
Lavender smells nice, doesn’t it? Lucky for us, that lovely, flowery smell also calms people down. A study found that patients awaiting dentist appointments were less anxious when the waiting room smelled of lavender oil. Another study found that a lavender oil pill worked in a similar way to the drug lorazepam when treating the symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), except the lavender remedy had no sedative side effects. My advice is to surround yourself with the scent – plant a lavender bush in your garden, buy or make a lavender-scented pillow, or use a few drops of lavender essential oil in the room you work or hang out in. Your colleagues might think you smell flowery but as it’s likely to chill them out too, I wouldn’t worry about that.
Hops are an ancient remedy used for treating anxiety, and people used to eat hops flowers for sedative purposes and also as a mild anaesthetic, for example if they had toothache or earache. A study using male rats found that hops is a better sedative and anxiety-reducing remedy than the prescribed drug diazepam, without the problem of addiction. Hops is found in good quality beer, by the way, so if you need an excuse to start self-remedying, there you go. You’re welcome.
4. Lemon balm
A study looked at the effects of lemon balm on people using a 600-mg dose, and the results showed that people felt calmer and also more alert when consuming lemon balm. The minimum dosage required for these effects was a 300-mg dose. Lemon balm smells wonderful as a herb and is a worthy addition to any garden. You can drink it as a tea or add it to cooking. Since increased alertness can mean increased anxiety for some people, I recommend trying small doses of the leaves in tea to begin with, and proceeding to higher doses if you feel comfortable with the effect of the tea.
This may sound obvious but when a person gets anxious, the tendency is to stop breathing properly too, which makes the anxiety worse. This can lead to hyperventilation, a common precursor to a panic attacks. Research has found that breathing therapy that involves teaching patients to take slower, shallower breaths reduces episodes of panic and anxiety by preventing and reversing hyperventilation.
Long Term Therapies
A study on the effect of meditation on varying anxiety disorders found that a mindfulness meditation training program reduced symptoms of anxiety and panic attacks in the long-term for patients with generalized anxiety disorder and panic disorder. Meditation is therefore especially good for reducing instances of panic attacks.
7. Make It a Habit to Switch Off Your Phone From Time to Time
We live in a busy, high-information world where people are expected to be plugged in and alert all the time. Unsurprisingly, this has been linked to increased anxiety, as research found that people who use cell/mobile phones a lot have higher anxiety and lower happiness levels compared to people use their phones less often.
8. Spend Time in Nature
Nature is anxiety’s nemesis. Studies show that as little as five minutes of ‘green exercise’, ie exercise performed outdoors in a natural space, instantly improves mood and personal well-being. The largest positive effect on self-esteem came from a five-minute dose, so make an effort to get out and about in a green space for five minutes throughout your day, and you will notice a difference in your anxiety levels straight away.
9. Take Up Yoga
Although general exercise can help to reduce anxiety levels, research found that yoga has a much greater positive effect on a person’s mood and anxiety levels than walking, jogging, and other forms of exercise. People who practiced yoga three times a week were significantly less anxious than people who walked for the same amount of time. So what are you waiting for? Find a local yoga class and sign up for it now – and remember to take your camomile tea with you. Here’s a tutorial on Pranayama, yogic deep breathing techniques, so you can begin combining your long term solutions to treat anxiety.
10. Eat Mindfully
Our digestion has a strong effect on so many aspects of our lives, but perhaps none so much as our stress and anxiety. Eating on the run or eating while working can trigger stress hormones that can lead to indigestion and upset stomach. Doing it once in a while is probably not going to hurt you, but doing it as a habit is certainly going to lead to long term stomach discomfort, which can compound other symptoms of stress via acid reflux and other outcomes of poor digestion. Make it a habit to eat mindfully. Here’s a tutorial on mindful eating from our sister site Vibrant Wellness Journal.
Disclaimer: I am not a licensed doctor or herbalist. Please consult a doctor or medical provider for medical issues and before self-remedying, especially if you are taking prescription medication.
Zion Lights lives in the south of England in the green county of Devonshire. She has 2 young children and 2 old tortoises, and does her best not to get them mixed up. Zion blogs for The Huffington Post, writes for the local paper, and freelance writes here and there. Favourite topics include science, the environment, sustainability and gentle parenting. You can follow her work on www.zionlights.co.uk and tweet her @ziontree.
Photo from Shutterstock.