Anxiety touches nearly everyone in some way. As a disorder, it is the most widespread mental illness in the US, with at least 40 million people suffering; millions more are experiencing situational or temporary bouts of anxiety. Even if you've yet to experience it yourself, someone you love may be dealing with anxiety. Unfortunately, until recently, not many people have been ready nor willing to talk about this all-too-common plight.
This past year gave me my first real look into the world of anxiety. After trudging through a particularly difficult time in my life, a therapist let me in on a little secret: I've actually had anxiety since I was a kid, and I have just been managing it well. But when times got especially hard last year, I had a much tougher (read: basically impossible) time dealing with my anxiety — not to make a joke out of myself, but it was a meltdown of epic proportions.
Although it's still not easy to talk about, I want anyone dealing with anxiety to know: it's okay to talk about it. While there's no "cure" for anxiety, it is highly treatable — therapy, sometimes coupled with certain medication, can be a powerful treatment. Outside of this, I found a handful of natural ways to remedy general anxiety and mitigate stress; these things won't be a cure-all or an instant fix — especially if you're dealing with severe levels of anxiety — but they'll definitely take the edge off and help you feel relaxed and in control again.
Recommended to me by a therapist, my oil diffuser has become one of my treasured possessions. I typically use a combination of eucalyptus, lavender, jasmine, and ylang ylang, all of which have calming properties and make my room smell incredible. I diffuse while I'm at home on the weekends, and every night before I go to sleep. If you have a private office, oil diffusing can be a great way to manage stress and anxiety at work.
Eat the Right Foods
Folate, B12, magnesium, and Omega-3s are known to aid in stress and anxiety reduction. What does that mean in terms of food? Asparagus and leafy greens, avocado, citrus fruit, whole grains, a bowl of oatmeal, and salmon are all great additions to your diet. While dealing with the toughest months of anxiety, I started loading up on salmon – it's now one of my favorite, go-to foods. Not big on the fishy taste? Opt for Pacific instead of Atlantic when you can, since it's less gamey. I also took Omega-3 and B12 supplements, which are super easy to find at any supermarket or health store.
Now to be a buzz kill: you've gotta avoid coffee – it's actually one of the worst things you can consume while you're suffering from anxiety – as well as candy and processed sugars, and alcohol. Need to satiate a sweet tooth? Try dark chocolate: it can actually help with anxiety and depression.
Lavender, Lavender, Lavender
Lavender is known for its calming, soothing properties – and you can ingest it! I love Nature's Way CalmAid lavender capsules, hot honey lavender tea, and Suja's Lavenade, a vanilla (vanilla = magnesium = yes) lavender lemonade, which to me is like a liquid chill pill. Plus, it's delicious, so that's an added bonus.
Yoga and Meditation
I know, it sounds clichéd. You're stressed? Go to yoga! But in all honesty, yoga really carried me through the hardest months of my life. When I was feeling particularly overwhelmed, on the precipice of panic attack, I booked two to three yoga classes in a day. The release that came with yoga – that hour (or more) of me time on my mat – is something I still cherish and have as a part of my weekly routine. If you prefer a home practice, try this yoga sequence, which is aimed at helping the mind — and body — relax.
Run and Exercise
Maybe yoga's not your jam! Try taking up running, or another form of exercise. When I'm not at yoga or spin, I'm going for a run outside. Being in the sun and feeling the release of endorphins is great; besides, all I can focus on in that moment is how I can't breathe and my lungs are on fire, so I don't have the brain capacity to be stressed.
Get Enough Sleep
This one may seem obvious, but a friendly reminder: less sleep equals more anxiety. Get your zzzs (hopefully with the aid of oil diffusing) and rest up from the working out you've been doing; you'll feel the benefits in no time.
Give Yourself a Break
Above all, give yourself some grace and cut yourself a little slack. Everyone goes through hard times, and nobody is expecting you to be perfect – it took me a long time (i.e., my entire life so far) to realize that I don't have to hold myself to a perfect standard all the time. Learning this significantly helped decrease my day-to-day anxiety (and I hope it will help you, too!).