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How to Decrease Anxiety in High Anxiety Times, Part 2

By Dr. Molly Casey

How to Calm Anxiety

Anxiety is the feeling of unease and it is experienced differently for different people. Some experience it as nervousness or worry or mind-racing thoughts. Others have trouble taking deep breaths while getting physically shaky. The list goes on. Anxiety is not fun and, if it is consistent and routine, it can really hamper one’s quality of life. The nervous system is the communication system of the body and, when one is experiencing anxiety, the nervous system is easily overloaded.

In the first part of the series on adapting to anxiety naturally, I wrote about structural things to do in order to decrease the nervous system load. While these are not done to specifically decrease and target anxiety, what does occur is the load on the nervous system decreases and it can adapt more easily to excess stress -- say, in the form of thoughts or difficult experiences. Today we’ll look at natural supplements and calming activities to add to your daily routine to mitigate nervous system overload and decrease anxiety.

Calming Supplements

It is important to note that if you experience severe anxiety, it would be wise to seek specific health advice for your situation and experience from a qualified professional. The supplements below are three general resources that are known to decrease anxiety.

Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) is an amino acid and neurotransmitter located in the brain that is imperative for serotonin production. There are a number of “feel-good” neurotransmitters and serotonin is one of the most powerful ones.

Passionflower is an herbal supplement originally used in Peru and grown only in certain regions of the world. It has been used for centuries to help calm restlessness and nervousness. It is also known to increase sleepiness. If anxiety keeps you up at night, this may be the one for you.

Ashwaganda is classified as an adaptogen, which is a natural substance considered to help the body adapt to stress and to exert a normalizing effect upon bodily processes. It is a plant that is known to decrease serum cortisol levels (think stress hormone) and decrease self-reported anxiety levels. Doses as low as 250 mg daily for 60 days showed changes in these two areas.

Calming Activities

There cannot be enough good things written or said about creating behavioral habits to decrease anxiety.

Deep breathing practices are imperative to help reduce and mitigate the effects of stress. Most people don’t breathe properly, and when we don’t breathe properly, we decrease levels of oxygen in the body and we need that. So think of breathing deeply in through your nose and down all the way into your belly, pushing your belly button out. Exhaling your belly retracts in and air exits the nose. Count to six on the inhale and six on the exhale while keeping your breathing rate even, as well as deep into and out of the belly.

Meditation is about becoming present to the activity you are doing right here and right now. Many think you can only meditate by sitting down, crossed legged, and silencing your mind. That is not what meditation is about. It is also focusing your mind to solely be in the present moment and in the task at hand. What this does is allows you to become engrossed in the moment now, and when done consistently the body and mind can relax into a calm space of exactly what it is you’re doing. For some this is walking, for others it is cleaning, for some it is exercise, and for some it is sitting in silence with legs crossed focusing on the breath. Regardless of what it is, find something daily that you can challenge yourself with to become fully and totally present to the task at hand and practice it daily.

Exercise has long been known as an effective tool for anxiety reduction. Move the body. Burn some energy. Stop the same patterns or loops of nervousness and worry by changing your physical state and challenging your body. Do it daily -- or at least more often than not during the week -- and if you get riled up, add another session.

These recommendations are for increasing the body’s ability to handle and adapt to stress naturally. There are plenty of things that can be done before the moment of anxiety arises, as well as in the moment it does. To handle this naturally, it takes effort and consistency, but a little bit can go a long way -- get adjusted, cover the basics, add some supplements, and add in some calming practices. Here’s to a calmer life!

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