​16 Natural Ways To Relieve Your Anxiety

​These simple tricks can help settle your nerves without medication.

April 18, 2017
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Anxiety is uncomfortable: Even if you don’t deal with full-blown panic disorder, your nerves have probably crept up on you at some point—and it’s a pain to deal with. Your palms may get sweaty, your breathing becomes shallow, and your heart starts racing.

If these feelings become overwhelming and difficult to manage, you might have an actual anxiety disorder—which is effectively treated by therapy, medication, or a combination of both.

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But if you struggle to keep your nerves in check from time to time—say, worrying before you go on a first date or struggling to fall sleep before a big presentation at work—you don’t have to pop a pill to overcome your anxiousness. There are plenty of ways to cope when all you can think to do is freak out: Here are 16 science-backed tricks that will help you calm down.

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Get Off Your Butt

Studies have shown time and time again that exercise is one of the best ways to ease anxiety. In fact, after University of Georgia researchers studied nearly 3,000 people with a variety of medical conditions, they found that patients who exercised regularly (from walking to weight lifting) reported a 20 percent decrease in anxiety symptoms—like excessive worrying and nervousness—than those who didn’t get up and move. Exercise seems to help people who aren’t even all that anxious to start with, the researchers note.

Aerobic workouts, like jogging, swimming, cycling, or walking, are your best bet, according to the National Institutes of Health. Scientists believe exercise acts like a natural mood booster because increased blood circulation can help improve your brain’s stress response.

Try these stress busting workouts if you want to get fit and relaxed.

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Take A Deep Breath

It sounds cliché, but taking the time to inhale and exhale can alleviate your anxiety. Abdominal breathing—characterized by slow, deep, even breaths—for just 20 to 30 minutes day floods your brain with oxygen, which stimulates your nervous system and relaxes your body, according to the American Institute of Stress.

This breathing technique can help calm you down in just 2 minutes.

Spending time in a sauna can reduce stress.
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Warm Up

Research suggests that feelings of warmth are naturally comforting. Think about it: Have you ever left the beach or hot tub feeling anxious? There’s a reason for that: Warm sensations may alter brain circuits that directly involve serotonin, a neurotransmitter that helps regulate your mood, according to a review published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology.

Try soaking in the heat when you need to unwind: One Japanese study found that people saw a significant decrease in anxiety after bathing in a sauna. You’ll relieve some tension and reap other health benefits, too.

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Go For A Hike

Use this as motivation to leave your desk and take a walk outside during lunch: Surrounding yourself with nature can help reduce anxiety, according to a Stanford University study. Researchers surveyed 60 people about their mood before and after they took a 50-minute walk in either a natural or urban environment in California. They found that people who took a nature walk felt less anxious than those who took a stroll through the city.

Not only that, but a similar study suggests that hanging out in a green space reduces activity in a part of your brain that’s associated with a greater risk for depression and other mental illnesses. The researchers believe spending time in nature helps tame the negative overthinking that often accompanies bad mood states.

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Find Your Zen

Mellow out with meditation: Just 30 minutes of Zen time a day can lower your anxiety and depression levels up to 38 percent, which is about the same amount as an antidepressant, according to a review from John Hopkins University. (Check out what happened when this writer tried meditating every day for a month.)

The researchers believe the discipline required for meditation—which includes concentrating on your breathing, bodily sensations, thoughts, and surroundings without forming opinions—may help you tune out the effects of negative emotions, like excessive worrying.

No idea where to start? Start with this easy, 6-step mediation plan.

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Calm Down With Chamomile

Feeling jittery? Chamomile is known for its sedative effects. That’s because it contains apigenin, a flavonoid that binds to the same brain receptors as Xanax and Valium, two common anti-anxiety meds.

While more research needs to be done, some studies suggest that higher doses of chamomile can soothe anxiety over time. When University of Pennsylvania researchers gave nearly 60 people a concentrated chamomile capsule or a chamomile-scented placebo, the chamomile group had significantly lower anxiety scores than the placebo group after 8 weeks.

While researchers still need to determine whether or not there’s enough of chamomile’s soothing compounds in one or two tea bags, relaxing with a hot cuppa tea might be just what you need to help you unwind in the moment. Not into chamomile? Research suggests green tea may also produce calming effects.

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Feast On FIsh

Omega-3 fatty acids can lower your risk for diabetes, improve your heart health, and may even ward off depression. On top of that, one study suggests omega-3s may help improve your anxiety, too.

Ohio State researchers gave one group of medical students 2.5 milligrams of omega-3 fatty acids a day—the other group was given a placebo. Throughout the experiment, they tested their blood during lower-stress periods and on days before a big test. After 12 weeks, students loading up on omega-3s experienced a 20 percent decrease in anxiety than those taking the placebo.

Just note that popular omega-3 supplements like fish oil tablets don’t normally deliver all of the benefits they promise. We recommend getting your omega-3s straight from the source: Eating 3 to 6 ounces of fatty fish 3 times a week—like salmon, rainbow trout, and canned sardines—is enough to meet the recommended amount, says Men’s Health nutrition advisor, Alan Aragon, M.S.

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Bump Some Tunes

Some soothing ones, that is. Listening to relaxing music before you do something stressful can lull your autonomic nervous system—which controls your body’s fight-or-flight response—faster than if you tried to chill out in silence, according to an Australian study.

Choose something that makes you feel good, whether it’s Beethoven or punk rock. Whatever makes you feel relaxed is unique to your personality, the researchers say.

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Get Excited

Pump yourself up right before you have to go into that job interview: Literally saying “I’m excited” instead of trying to relax may help you perform better right before you do an anxiety-inducing activity, according to a study from the American Psychological Association.

Researchers had 140 people prepare public speeches. Before they spoke, they were instructed to say, “I am excited,” or “I am calm.” Participants that verbalized their enthusiasm gave longer, more persuasive speeches than those who tried to remain cool. That’s because telling yourself to get excited takes your mind from a negative to a positive space, the researchers say.

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Snooze Away

Studies show that sleep loss is associated with higher levels of depression and anxiety—but it’s not completely clear if anxiety keeps you up at night or if dealing with insomnia increases your risk for anxiety. Either way, the vicious cycle can put your brain on edge.

For example, in a UC Berkeley study, researchers had 18 adults view dozens of images as their brains were scanned—once after a peaceful snooze, and again after a sleepless night. Many of the images they viewed were neutral, everyday things. But to trigger anticipatory anxiety, the researchers warned the participants before they showed them disturbing images, like a death scene. When sleep deprived, anxiously waiting for the disturbing images ramped up brain regions that play a role in excessive worrying.

While the study was small, the results suggest that naturally anxious people are more vulnerable to the effects of sleep deprivation, the researchers say. The National Sleep Foundation recommends clocking in about 7 to 9 hours of sleep a night. If your brain can’t relax before bed, check out how these sleep doctors doze off when they have trouble falling asleep.

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Stretch It Out

Yoga looks intimidating at first—but spending some time on the mat is a great way to improve your strength and mobility. Plus, yoga can also help control your anxiety, according to a study published the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. Researchers had one group of participants go on an hour-long walk 3 times a week, while another group did yoga for the same amount of time. After 3 months, the yoga participants reported a better mood and greater decreases in anxiety than the walking group.

It’s possible that yoga increases the level of a brain chemical called gamma-aminobutyric-acid (GABA) which helps regulate your nerve activity. GABA typically decreases in people with a mood or anxiety disorder, the researchers say, and drugs that heighten the chemical are often prescribed to people suffering with anxiety.

Try this yoga sequence on your next recovery day.

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Pay It Forward

If you struggle with social anxiety, consider volunteering, suggests a Canadian study. Researchers split 115 anxious college students into three groups: One group performed acts of kindness, like mowing a neighbor’s lawn or donating to a charity. The second group was exposed to random social interactions and the last group acted as a control.

After 4 weeks, the researchers found that students who completed good deeds felt the greatest overall reduction in their social anxiety. That’s because being kind to others helps you avoid any negative thoughts or feelings they build up towards social situations, the researchers explain.

Bonus: Volunteering also makes you happier.

Here are the most rewarding ways to spend your downtime.

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Schedule A Massage

Treat yourself to a professional rub-down. It’s no secret that a good massage can help relieve painful muscle tension, a common symptom of anxiety. According to one experiment, published in the journal Depression and Anxiety, patients with generalized anxiety disorder experienced a 50 percent decrease in their symptoms after receiving 10 hour-long massages over three months.

The researchers do note that simply relaxing alone while listening to soft music was just as effective as the massage, but that doesn’t sound as fun. (Check out these 5 ways to give yourself a massage.)

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Pop A Multivitamin

Your daily multivitamin does wonders for your mood, according to a meta-analysis published in Psychosomatic Medicine. After analyzing eight studies of 1,300 adults who took a multivitamin for about a month, researchers found that those individuals felt less tired and experienced a 65 percent reduction in stress and a 68 percent decrease in anxiety.

Supplements containing higher doses of B vitamins were strongly associated with this improved mood, possibly because everyday stress can deplete your body’s supply of the stuff.

In general, vitamins and minerals help regulate processes in the brain that control your mood, the researchers explain, so if you feel like you’re not getting enough nutrients from your diet, taking a vitamin can help you fill the gaps. (Check out 10 rules to know before you start taking any supplements.)

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Chug Some H2O

Feeling shaky? Have a glass of water, according to a study a University of Connecticut research. In the study, when people experienced mild dehydration after walking on a treadmill for 40 minutes, they also felt more anxious. What’s more, they couldn’t think as clearly and their energy levels plummeted, which can make you feel even more anxious, the researchers say.

Try drinking 8 ounces of water next time you need to settle your nerves. (Here are 4 signs you’re dangerously dehydrated during your workout.)

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Talk To Someone

If coping with anxiety on your own isn’t working, consider seeking out professional help. If your symptoms become severe, you may need to come up with a specific treatment plan with your therapist, which may include medication. He or she can also help you mange your symptoms by identifying the triggers that feed your anxiety.

Here’s everything you need to know about seeing a therapist.

Additional reporting by Julie Stewart, Markham Heid, and Rachael Schultz

The article ​16 Natural Ways to Relieve Your Anxiety originally appeared on Men’s Health.

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