Anxiety is one of the most commonly reported psychiatric disorders. In an increasingly stressful world, it is ever-more important to know how to remain cool and be able to let go of stress and worry. Not only does stress get in the way of your day to day life, but it also has been linked to shortened telomeres and accelerated aging. If you’re having trouble with finding a remedy, here are four ways to combat stress and anxiety naturally.
Sometimes natures gifts are the most valuable way to regain control of anxiety or depression. By doing a simple internet search, you can find a whole library of different herbs that can help you with relieving stress. Here is a small list of those herbs:
A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine gives us insight into the magnificent powers of chamomile. After half of the individuals being studies were given chamomile and the other half a placebo, “the researchers found that 57% of the group using the chamomile extract had significantly reduced (greater than 50%) anxiety scores” reports GreenMedInfo. But chamomile is not only good for reducing stress, studies also show it to have anti-cancer properties as well. A 2011 paper written by two universities and a the Case Comprehensive Cancer Center in Ohio concludes:
“Studies on preclinical models of skin, prostate, breast and ovarian cancer have shown promising growth inhibitory effects…In a recently conducted study, chamomile extracts were shown to cause minimal growth inhibitory effects on normal cells, but showed significant reductions in cell viability in various human cancer cell lines…The results confirm it to have a good safety profile with significant anticancer activities against androgen-refractory human prostrate cancer PC-3 cells, both in vitro and in vivo situation”
2. Holy Basil
Also known as Tulsi or scientifically, Ocimum tenuiflorum, Holy Basil is a particular variety of basil which grows all across India and is worshipped in Hinduism as an earthly manifestation of the goddess Tulsi. It has traditionally been used throughout India to treat headaches, fever, cough and poor memory. Interestingly, in addition to treating stress without any adverse side effects, Tulsi has also been shown to remove fluoride from water meaning that taking it could potentially bind with fluoride in your body and help detox.
3. Gotu Kola
Botanically known as Centella asiatica, Gotu Kola has been a part of traditional Chinese medicine for centuries. It is a member of the parsley family and grows in Southeast Asia, as well as wetland regions of the Southeastern US. Traditionally, it is used to support a healthy brain and nervous system. In addition to being able to combat anxiety, Gotu Kola has also been shown to support mental clarity, the healing of wounds, a balanced mood, and aids in eliminating varicose veins.
Ashwagandha is an herb from India that like Gotu Kola, has been used for centuries as a body tonic for general health of the body and mind. The real magic of Ashwagandha for use as a stress reliever comes from a study published by the Indian Journal of Psychological Medicine. This 2013 study was prospective, randomized double-blind and placebo-controlled and shows wonderful results.
“Compared to those who got the placebo, those taking ashwagandha had 28% lower levels of cortisol, the so-called “stress hormone.” While cortisol is helpful in small amounts, it causes problems when you’re battling chronic stress when your cortisol levels may remain mildly elevated for extended periods of time.” reports Kathleen Jade from naturalhealthadvisory.com.
Another way of utilizing mother nature for stress elimination is to diffuse essential oils as aromatherapy. This can be achieved by purchasing a diffuser, some essential oils and following the instructing you get with your diffuser. These normally range anywhere from $10-$130 and can be found online. Aromatherapy can be seen as an alternative to herbal teas or supplements.
Lavender is one of the most common stress-eliminating herbs. It is found all across America and the world because it grows in common climates and conditions. Because of its fragrant smell, lavender is found in many common soaps, shampoos, and other hygiene products. Just inhaling the scent has been shown to induce calming, sedative effects, which makes it perfect to be used as an essential oil. It can also help with insomnia or agitation.
2. Clary Sage
Clary sage is a native plant to Southern Europe and is cultivated worldwide, especially in Central Europe and the Mediterranean. It is perfect when used in aromatherapy for stress relief and has a number of other benefits such as lowered blood pressure, headache relief, reduced inflammation, improved digestion and improved mood. The herb however, potentially has an effect on hormones, which is why pregnant women and women with breast cancer are advised to stay away from Clary sage.
Although expensive, since it takes about 60,000 roses for every one ounce of rose oil, this is one oil that is well worth the cost for some people. As well as improving stress, rose oil has also been shown to improve sexual dysfunction in males and aid anxiety/depression in women with high risk postpartum. It smells great, too.
MEDITATION AND DEEP BREATHING
Mediation and deep breathing are practiced by a growing number of people around the world and are showing more promise all the time. Many who meditate express a deep sense of spirituality and oneness, but even science is showing these to be very beneficial. A study from Psychoneuroendocrinology shows us that even brief sessions of meditation can reduce stress:
“Brief mindfulness meditation training reduced self-reported psychological stress reactivity but increased salivary cortisol reactivity to the TSST, relative to the cognitive training comparison program. Participants who were low in pre-existing levels of dispositional mindfulness and then received mindfulness meditation training had the greatest cortisol reactivity to the TSST…The present study provides an initial indication that brief mindfulness meditation training buffers self-reported psychological stress reactivity, but also increases cortisol reactivity to social evaluative stress. This pattern may indicate that initially brief mindfulness meditation training fosters greater active coping efforts, resulting in reduced psychological stress appraisals and greater cortisol reactivity during social evaluative stressors.”
Deep breathing techniques have also been shown to improve stress and anxiety. As Harvard Medical School explains,
“For many of us, deep breathing seems unnatural. There are several reasons for this. For one, body image has a negative impact on respiration in our culture. A flat stomach is considered attractive, so women (and men) tend to hold in their stomach muscles. This interferes with deep breathing and gradually makes shallow “chest breathing” seem normal, which increases tension and anxiety.”
RE-CONNECTING WITH NATURE
Often overlooked, we sometimes forget that we are connected to the Earth as much as the rest of the natural world. This is where our species has evolved, to live and to thrive in the environment of our planet. We were born and have adapted to live in harmony with nature, but most of us these days live a lifestyle that is almost completely disconnected from the natural world and because of this our well-being suffers. Here are a few ways you can improve your mental well-being by re-connecting with nature:
Earthing, simply, is walking on the Earth with bare feet. It sounds strange at first, but actually has been scientifically validated to have a seriously huge list of benefits for your health. As it turns out, connecting your body with the Earth’s natural surface electrons is practically essential for your health and walking around on concrete or wood floors with shoes on apparently doesn’t do the trick. Benefits range from improved sleep, to stress elimination, physiological changes, reduced pain and anxiety, reduces primary indicators of Osteoporosis, improved immune response and improvement of glucose regulation in the body. See what I mean by nature being essential to your health?
2. Forest Bathing
Another way to connect with nature is by Shinrin-yoku, or “forest bathing”. Similar to earthing, forest bathing is basically how it sounds; it’s essentially walking through the forest. I remember how when I was growing up I always wanted to be in the forest or walk around the woods. After hearing about the health benefits of forest bathing I can see why that was. A study from several Japanese Universities and Research Institutes calls Shinrin-yoku a “preventive medicine.” But isn’t that just being healthy in the first place? The study concludes,
“The results of studies performed on the physiological effects of Shinrin-yoku show that forest environments could lower concentrations of cortisol, lower pulse rate, lower blood pressure, increase parasympathetic nerve activity, and lower sympathetic nerve activity compared with city settings. The results of the physiological measurements suggest that Shinrin-yoku can aid in effectively relaxing the human body, and the psychological effects of forest areas have been correlated with the various physical environmental factors of forest. The studies of Shinrin-yoku provide valuable insights into the relationship between forests and human health.”
This article first appeared on Prevent Disease.
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