What are the natural remedies for reducing stress, anxiety and depression is a question that does not often occur to people because they place themselves entirely in the hands of mainstream psychiatrists. But, it is a question that occurs to anyone who is a bit wary of the side effects of anti-anxiety and antidepressant medications, or to those who are not having good results with the conventional medicines. If you are one such, you are in the right place to find an answer.
Anxiety and depression are among the most common mental illnesses the world over. Stress, if handled improperly, contributes to their occurrence, and these days we face increasing stress given the fast-changing and fast-paced societies we live in. In the United States alone, nearly 20% of adults are affected by anxiety and depression every year.
Chronic stress and anxiety lead to problematic symptoms, such as nervousness, agitation, tension, a racing heart, and in extreme cases even chest pain. Common symptoms of depression are a persistent mood of sadness, anxiety or emptiness; feelings of guilt, worthlessness, and helplessness; loss of interest in things once pleasurable like TV, sex, hobbies; decrease or increase in appetite and weight; sleeplessness; lack of socialization, etc.
Natural Remedies for Stress, Anxiety and Depression
Generally speaking, natural remedies are safe with hardly any side effects. However, their concurrent use with anti-anxiety and antidepressant medications can cause drug-drug interactions and interfere with efficacy. Hence, your doctor has to be informed whenever you start taking any natural remedies or supplements.
Exercise has been found to be beneficial in patients with anxiety and depression. You can expend some of that nervous energy through exercise and feel better. Exercise also helps by making the body release certain feel-good chemicals called endorphins. Regular exercise might even cause the brain to rewire itself in positive ways (Griffin, 2015). It also helps to calm your mind by taking your focus off the constant chattering of the mind. To avail of the benefits of exercise, you need not indulge in strenuous and prolonged exercise. Just 30-min a day of walking 5 days a week will suffice to yield the results. In fact, the Anxiety and Depression Association of America states that even just brief walks lasting as little as 10 minutes can boost mood (Shea, 2019).
Here are a few reasons for the effectiveness of exercise in stress, anxiety and depression (Jennings, 2018):
- Exercise lowers the body’s stress hormones, such as cortisol, in the long run. As seen above, it also helps release endorphins, which are mood boosters and natural painkillers.
- Exercise can also improve the quality of your sleep.
- Regular exercise makes you feel more competent and confident in your body, which in turn promotes mental wellbeing.
Certain yoga poses help to treat stress, anxiety, and depression. Yoga poses promote neuromuscular integration. They are highly refined type of movements that affect positively the state of our nervous system. This, in turn, affects us positively at the level of the mind. Yoga integrates the mind and the body by promoting the generation and free flow of our life force.
Overall, research has found that yoga can enhance mood and may even be as effective as antidepressant drugs at treating depression and anxiety. These benefits of yoga are related to its effect on your nervous system and stress response. It may lower stress hormone cortisol levels, blood pressure and heart rate, and increase gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), a neurotransmitter that is lowered in mood disorders (Jennings, 2018).
Meditation has a calming effect by slowing down the racing thoughts. A 2010 meta-analytic review found that mindfulness meditation can be highly effective for people with stress, anxiety and depression (Villines, 2018). A recent study in college students showed that mindfulness may increase self-esteem, thus lessening symptoms of anxiety and depression (Jennings, 2018).
Benson-Henry Institute for Mind-Body Medicine has found in its research that by eliciting the relaxation response with practices like yoga and meditation, we can immediately alter our gene expression tied to inflammation, metabolism, and insulin production — all of which impact our mood (Borchard, 2015).
Maintaining a diary or a journal wherein you write down your innermost thoughts and feelings, including the stressful ones, has been found to be very therapeutic by giving a vent to your feelings (Villines, 2018). Writing about the positives that are going for you in your life can help generate feelings of gratitude and blunt the edge of some of those negative thoughts you may be suffering from due to anxiety and depression (Jennings, 2018).
Having too many commitments at once can make you feel stressed out, particularly if they come with stiff deadlines. And, multitasking is not an easy thing. Time management strategies can help you focus on one task at a time. Book-based planners and online calendars can help. Having a plan for when and how and how long you are going to do the next necessary task can reduce stress and anxiety considerably. Breaking down major projects into manageable portions can help you accomplish those tasks with less stress (Villines, 2018). Structuring your day with a daily routine can ease the stress by knowing what to expect next because depression can get you into a zone where you lose track of tasks to be done (Griffin, 2015).
Several supplements reduce stress and anxiety. Some common ones are (Jennings, 2018):
- Lemon balm:It belongs to the mint family. Studies show it has anti-anxiety effects.
- L-lysine: This is an amino acid and one of the building blocks of several neurotransmitters (natural chemicals in the brain). An article in the journal Biomedical Researchfound that a combination of L-lysine and L-arginine was “a potentially useful dietary intervention in otherwise healthy humans with high subjective levels of mental stress and anxiety.” (Shea, 2019)
- Omega-3 fatty acids:A study has shown that medical students experienced a 20% reduction in anxiety symptoms when they received omega-3 supplements.
- Ashwagandha:This is an herb used in Ayurvedic medicine to treat stress and anxiety. Its effectiveness is borne out by several studies.
- Green tea: This contains many polyphenol antioxidants, which lower stress and anxiety by increasing serotonin levels.
- Chamomile tea: Chamomile tea is beneficial in stress and anxiety because it can alter the levels of the stress hormone cortisol (Shea, 2019).
- Valerian:Valerian root has a tranquilizing effect. It contains valerenic acid, which lowers anxiety by acting on gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) receptors in the brain.
- Kava kava:This belongs to the pepper family. It is a sedative that helps treat mild stress and anxiety by calming the mind.
Other Natural Remedies
- Aromatherapy: Smelling soothing plant oils, especially lavender, can help to ease stress and anxiety. Experiment with various options to find the scent that works best for you. Aromatherapy is thought to help by reducing the heart rate in the short-run and resolving sleep issues in the long-run (Villines, 2018).
- Cannabidiol oil: Cannabidiol (CBD) oil comes from the marijuana (cannabis) plant, but does not contain the high-producing substance THC. Initial research shows that it can have a significant role to play in combating stress and anxiety (Villines, 2018).
- Foods to avoid: Certain foods and substances promote inflammation, even in the brain, which can lead to depression. So, avoid substances such as high-sugar diets, processed foods, gluten, caffeine, and alcohol (Borchard, 2015).
- Foods to eat: Foods that can help you lower your stress levels and anxiety and ease your depression are blueberries and peaches (contain nutrients that have a calming effect), whole grains (rich in tryptophan that gets converted to serotonin, the neurotransmitter that improves your mood), oats (which aid serotonin production), avocados, meat, eggs, and milk (which are rich in the anti-anxiety B vitamins), oranges, green leafy vegetables (which lower the stress hormone cortisol) (Shea, 2019).
- Socializing: Spending good amounts of quality time with family and friends can give you the social support necessary for warding off stress, anxiety and depression by giving you a sense of belonging, validating your self-worth, and giving you space to vent your emotions (Jennings, 2018).
- Animal therapy: Spending time with animals can be beneficial because a 2018 study showed that pets can alleviate a variety of mental ailments, including stress and anxiety (Villines, 2018). Pets may help the brain release oxytocin, a chemical that elevates mood (Jennings, 2018), by being a source of companionship, love, and support, besides providing relaxation.
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Griffin, M. R., 2015. 10 Natural Depression Treatments. [Online]
Available at: https://www.webmd.com/depression/features/natural-treatments#1
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Jennings, K.-A., 2018. 16 Simple Ways to Relieve Stress and Anxiety. [Online]
Available at: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/16-ways-relieve-stress-anxiety
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Shea, T., 2019. 10 Natural Depression Treatments. [Online]
Available at: https://www.thehealthy.com/mental-health/anxiety/natural-anxiety-relief/
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Villines, Z., 2018. How to treat anxiety naturally. [Online]
Available at: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/322396.php
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