Clear Panic Away

Natural Remedies for Anxiety and Panic Attacks

Category: Natural Remedies

Destructive Habits That Cause Anxiety

empty cup of coffee

Photo by Doug/Flickr

Are you adding to your own anxiety? These 12 habits may be getting between you and happiness. Here’s how to pinpoint the ways you may be reinforcing anxiety, and what to do about each.

1. Overdoing the Caffeine

There’s nothing wrong with a morning cuppa (if your doctor approves), but going overboard can increase anxiety from the inside out. The problem is that the effects of caffeine may not be immediate in some people. This means you could be blaming outside influences for your anxious state rather than the caffeine.

What to Do About It: Reduce your caffeine intake gradually. You can start with a lower-caffeine product (for instance, Starbucks and other chain coffees are often much higher in caffeine than store-bought brands). Switching coffee for tea can help too, as black tea is much lower in caffeine (95-200mg for generic brewed coffee v. 14-61mg for brewed tea, according to the Mayo Clinic).

2. Not Getting Enough Sleep

insomnia

“Insomnia” by Andrea Briganti

“Sleep debt” – or not getting enough sleep on a regular basis – can cause or exacerbate anxiety, according to experts. UC Berkeley, CA researchers say lack of sleep amps up the brain’s amygdala and insular cortex, responsible for regulating emotional response. This keeps us in a sort of over-vigilant state, which translates to anxiety over time.

What to Do About It: The answer seems obvious – get more sleep! But how? Here’s the right way to get the correct amount of sleep:

  • Get on a regular sleep schedule. Even if you’re not tired, go to bed at the same time every night. In time, your body will equate this particular time with rest, and you’ll fall asleep more easily.
  • Dim the lights and turn off the electronics an hour before bedtime. Artificial lighting and the stimulating effects of the computer, phone and iPad signal to our bodies that it’s not nighttime yet, despite evidence to the contrary. Eliminating or reducing these artificial wakefulness signals will help your body and mind to get ready for sleep.
  • Don’t eat sugar or processed, empty carbs for four hours before bedtime. These can keep our bodies wired and stimulated, making it hard to sleep.
  • Create a relaxing and comforting environment for sleep. Revamp your bedroom so it’s cozy and free of distractions. That means NO computer in the bedroom (even if it’s off), a comfortable, supportive mattress and relaxing décor.

3. Not Being Active Enough

Inactivity and anxiety are being linked more and more. Inactivity leads to a buildup of physical stress, which can be felt as emotional stress – sometimes, it’s hard for your body to know the difference.

What to Do About It: Get on a regular exercise schedule. Thirty minutes a day at least five days a week is ideal for most people. You don’t have to go crazy; take a brisk walk, go for a swim or get on your bicycle and see the sights.

4. Spending Too Much Time Indoors

Living in a cubicle

Cubicle Location 1×1, by archie4oz

One major anxiety contributor in today’s society is that we simply don’t get enough sunlight. Even worse, we replace natural sunshine with artificial lighting, which can keep us on a constant state of over-alertness.

What to Do About It: Get outside! Even on overcast or low-sun winter days, some sunlight will reach your body. You don’t need much: 10-15 minutes in the early morning and 10-15 minutes just before sundown are ideal.

5. Consuming Too Many Junk Foods

Refined foods tend to hit our system like a ton of bricks, causing a fast insulin spike in order to rein in the glucose that carbs turn into. With all that insulin, our glucose level tends to drop overly quickly, causing a crash. Over time, this up-down, up-down cycle can cause anxiety.

What to Do About It: Use the USDA’s new Food Plate. It suggests a portion of protein with each meal, which slows down and evens out the insulin response in your body. It also focuses on non-refined foods such as vegetables. A plus is that you’ll feel healthier, too.

6. Ignoring Problems

When you “put a problem to sleep,” so to speak, you may think you’re giving yourself less stress, but the subconscious never forgets that there’s an issue to deal with. Refusing to address long-term problems will, over time, cause continuous low level stress.

What to Do About It: If it’s evening, you really should put your worries to sleep for the night (see above) – but in the morning, get the wheels in motion. Seek real solutions to your problem. Enlist help if you need to. Even simply admitting to yourself that a problem exists can help relieve anxiety. As long as you make progress toward a solution, your mind is receiving the signal that hope is in sight, and your anxiety will go down.

I'm late!7. Always Running Late

Chronically being over-booked and behind schedule will make you feel you’re behind the eight ball before you’ve even gotten out the door. That’s not a good start to anyone’s day – and it increases your anxiety level.

What to Do About It: If you always seem to be late for appointments, get-togethers, getting the kids off to school, etc., look into the “why.” Are you planning too much in too short a period of time? If so, you’re setting yourself up for failure. See how you can rearrange things so that you have more time.

If you tend to get sidetracked easily, set up a list for yourself. Check off the things you HAVE to do…then IF you have time left over before you need to go to that important appointment, go ahead and do it. If not, you really haven’t lost anything; you can do those things later, after your responsibilities have been completed.

8. Not Playing Enough

Living just to work and working to live is a recipe for frustration – and a buildup of anxiety.

Believe it or not, even in ancient cultures, people had downtime. (In fact, some estimates put contemporary hunter-gather societies at 20% actively working/looking for food, and 80% rest time.)

This recipe has kept us going – and happy – for generations. Today, though, the focus is on accomplishments. If you’re not “doing,” then you’re a failure. Untrue!

What to Do About It: Stop living to work. When you have free time, find something you truly love doing. Rediscover your happiness and your hobbies and your anxiety level will begin to go down.

9. Being Unable to Say “No”

If you say yes whenever your friend (who never reciprocates) needs a babysitter, when you’re asked to take on a lazy co-worker’s projects or when your child’s teacher asks you to volunteer yet again, you may think you’re doing a good thing. But if you resent having said “yes,” you’re internalizing your anger, which translates over time to anxiety.

What to Do About It: Learn to stick up for yourself. Do volunteer when you want to and are capable. But don’t keep letting people walk all over you. You’ll simply simmer inside and make anxiety worse.

10. Always Being the Victim

We’re the “therapy” generation, and though counseling absolutely has its place, putting our every misfortune on our mother’s judgmental attitude or a religious upbringing actually holds us back. In fact, some people take things to the extreme and are the victim in every possible scenario.

What to Do About It: Unfortunately, this attitude creates a generalized anxiety, as it reinforces to your subconscious that you’re not in control. Playing the victim is self-defeating, and creates internal anxiety. Take back your power by taking responsibility for who you are and where you are, now.

baby weights11. Setting Unrealistic Goals

So-termed Type-A personalities (perfectionism, low tolerance for errors and setting unrealistic goals) are at an all-time high. Some people criticize themselves relentlessly for the smallest mistakes. And often, that translates to expecting the same unrealistic efforts from our children, our spouse and even our friends.

What to Do About It: Realize there’s only so much you – or anyone else – can do in a day. No person is perfect, and nobody can churn out stellar results hour after hour and day after day without breaking down eventually. When you find yourself being overly critical of yourself or others, remember that perfection is something no person can ever achieve…and would you really want to? Perfect people are not only boring, they’re stressful to be around. Take a step back and remember what’s really important without bogging yourself in the details of “what went wrong.”

picTheScreamArtistEdvardMunch12. Stressing About Anxiety

Ironic but true: We get more anxious worrying about becoming anxious than we do simply going about our day. In fact, panic attacks are often based more on a fear of “what might happen” than on what is actually happening during the panic attack.

What to Do About It: Realize that we may have anxiety from time to time, and that this is just a part of life. Staying calm, measuring your breath to a slow, even rhythm and trusting rather than fearing your body is paramount to not being afraid of fear.

Bottom line: remembering what’s really important, and making a few changes in your lifestyle, really can reduce your overall anxiety, and may have an impact on situational anxiety as well. Take things one step at a time and work slowly toward being a less anxious person, and you’ll enjoy your life more than you ever thought you could.

Stress As a Natural Part of Life

Stress? Who needs it? You! Here’s why “stress” isn’t always a dirty word – and how you can make it work for you.

Why Do We Have Stress?

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Stress evolved to help us survive, and to thrive.

Everyone – including the medical community – knows that too much stress can have some pretty dire consequences.

Depression and anxiety can result from ongoing, chronic stress. So can high blood pressure, digestive disorders and even a stroke or heart attack. A stressed-out attitude threatens our relationships and sometimes, our jobs.

With all these negative side effects, why do we experience stress at all? Isn’t it contrary to happiness – and in fact, to our very survival?

Not necessarily. A little stress can sharpen your senses, alert you to danger and cause you to make changes that can actually help in the long run.

What Stress Is…and Why it Aids Survival

picDriverInDanger

The adrenaline response can be life-saving.

“Stress” is both an emotional and physical reaction to something we perceive to be a threat. We stress out as much about the possibility of a loved one leaving us as we do a car swerving unannounced into our lane.

The experience of stress sharpens our five senses, makes us more alert and pumps adrenaline into our bodies so that we can either flee from danger, or attack it head-on.

Likewise, if we experience too much physical stress, we’re being given a signal to lighten the load and find a more efficient, less dangerous way to do things.

From an evolutionary standpoint, stress exists to help us – not to make us miserable.

So What’s the Problem?

If stress is a biological positive, why do we experience it so negatively? The answer is in the structure of modern society and day-to-day living.

When we receive that rush of adrenaline, there’s just nothing to do with it. There’s no release. We don’t punch our boss when he threatens us with termination. (And don’t think you’re the only person who’s fantasized about this.) When facing a presentation where we have to do all the talking, we can’t run away from it as we would, say, an oncoming warring tribe.

Our stress factors tend to be far less tangible, and more internalized, than the issues our ancestors faced. So instead of “using up” the adrenaline and epinephrine our bodies are being flooded with, we’re left to stew in them, so to speak. And that’s where the physical and emotional damage comes in.

The Right Ways to Respond to Stress

It isn’t all bad news. In fact, you can actually make modern-day stress work for you, rather than paralyzing you. Here’s how:

  • Exercise. Use up those “go, go, go” chemicals in a way that will not only help our bodies to calm down, but will also get you into shape. In fact, some stress may simply be due to inactivity, experts say.
  • Look inward. Chronic stress that you just can’t put your finger on may actually be pointing to issues you deep-down know are going on, but are afraid to address. You do have the tools to correct imbalances in your life. If you don’t, do your research or better yet, reach out to a professional. Your life will be better than ever once you take a deep look at your underlying issues.
  • Start saying “no.” Many people stress out because they feel that they need to give, give, give. And in some cases, they do (to one’s children, for example). But those quick, stressed-out feelings of anger when saying “sure, I’ll do it” yet one more time are a red flag that you’re doing too much. Slow down, and in the meantime, teach yourself a very good skill: setting limits and putting yourself first sometimes.
  • Start a self-soothing program, such as yoga or meditation. We all need periods of quiet; times that we really aren’t thinking about anything. But today’s society tends to look down on any downtime, which labels us as lazy or unambitious. Untrue! Everyone needs “time off” not just from doing, but thinking and working things out. Your stress may be a signal that you need to take time for you, a skill we should all re-learn…and one that tends to make us healthier in the long run.

When Stress Hurts

Of course, if your stress is severely impacting your life, you need to do something about it – now. Sometimes we feel we should just “power through” our stress. That’s not always true.

Don’t suffer. Start right now to find ways to reduce your overall stress level. This may involve getting away from it all for a week or two (if your job allows it) and taking a fishing trip, going camping or simply spending easy days on a “stay-cation.” Or it could be reducing your caffeine intake, investigating herbs that soothe the body and mind or learning breathing relaxation techniques.

Stress can get out of hand. Your mission is to discover just how much stress is the right amount for you to stay sharp, without going overboard into a life of discomfort. Experiment. Find easygoing pursuits that put a smile on your face. Shorten your work schedule if you can. Spend more time with loved ones and less time mired in toxic associations. That happy medium does exist. Here’s to finding it, and uncovering a happier you.

Exercise and Anxiety

exercise as an anxiety cureCan exercise help to alleviate anxiety? More and more, experts are saying it can … and are coming up with some amazing data to back their assertion that anxiety control involves not just the emotions, but the brain itself. Here’s what we found out about exercise, brain cells, and how a worked-out body can help create a calmer mind.

The Neurological Connection

When you experience anxiety, it feels emotional. Certainly it generates an emotional reaction (fear and panic). For centuries, philosophers and physicians have been recommending psychological fixes for anxiety.

But is that the whole picture? Researchers at Princeton University claim anxiety may have a physical basis – in the brain itself. And they think they may have at least one answer: according to their research, exercise actually creates brain cells, and can even regulate when they turn on and off.

How This Relates to Anxiety

According to the Princeton researchers, brain cells differ. Some, they note, are more “excitable” than others. But if too many brain cells are excitable and are firing off all at once, anxiety can be increased.

The paradox is that exercise creates more of these excitable cells. But if that’s so, then shouldn’t exercise also increase anxiety?

Not so, according to the study. The runners studied showed that the newer, younger “excitable” cells produced GABA, which can actually regulate overreaction in the brain by inhibiting overexcitability when necessary.

The runners studied still had the fire-off cells present … as stated, they in fact may have had more … yet when exposed to stress, it took a shorter period of time for them to calm down.

Correlation or Causation?

The exact mechanism of the correlation is not yet known, but the results were indisputable: non-sedentary people seem to have an easier time lessening their own anxiety, and it happens automatically, within the brain itself. In fact, the hippocampus portion of the brain of lab mice studied was notably different in active v. sedentary individuals.

Pending further study, the researchers are withholding a definitive causation (v. correlation), but according to Elizabeth Gould, director of the Gould Lab at Princeton, said, “physical exercises reduces anxiety in humans.”

Supporting Evidence and Opinions

Dr. Gould is not the only professional who believes there’s a link between anxiety (or lack of it) and exercise. In fact, there’s been a well-known correlation between the two for decades.

Exercise is believed to either boost serotonin levels, for example, or to retain more serotonin that is made by the brain, hence lifting mood and reducing anxious thoughts.

“… moderate exercise has been shown to have a significant effect on anxiety and mood,” states Dr. Marla Diebler of the Center For Emotional Health, Philadelphia.

With the supporting evidence of Dr. Gould above, the mechanism is now believed to be at least in part the creation of new brain cells. But exercise may also increase serotonin production, researchers say. And in people who create adequate serotonin but whose brains don’t  process or retain it well, exercise may be a help.

So, What Form of Exercise Should You Do?

Whether it’s aerobic or non-aeorobic (think weight resistance or calisthenics) exercise that helps with anxiety, researchers are yet to have a definitive answer. However, it appears that individuals who aerobically exercised have shown a lesser anxiety response. In the absence of a definitive answer as yet, your best bet is probably some form of aerobic exercise.

Don’t worry – we’re not talking Spandex, headbands and “sweating through the pain” here. As little as 30 minutes of brisk walking or other exercise that produces a greater heartbeat and deeper breathing may be a help to anxiety sufferers.

How to Know if Your Exercise Routine is Aerobic

Different experts have differing opinions on what constitutes aerobic exercise. However, the name gives us a clue: the word aerobic literally means “in oxygen” or “oxygenated.” So what you’re looking for is exercise that makes you breathe harder.

This doesn’t mean gasping for air, doubling over in pain and sucking wind. A simple tip: you’ll know you’re producing an aerobic effect in your body during exercise if you can talk, but not sing a tune.

Fun Ways to Exercise

You’re looking to get your heart rate up here and to increase your breathing in a way that shows you’re producing a steady, but not overly taxing effort. And no … exercise should never be painful!

Try these fun ways to get in your exercise for the day:

  • Walk. You’ll want to achieve a brisk, steady pace. If you’re not very fit currently, work your way up to this state; start out at a relatively easy pace, then increase your speed over the coming weeks. Choose a beautiful or very fun place to get your walking in; we love walking through our city, for instance, and seeing all the sights and activity.
  • Play a team sport. Soccer, tennis, badminton … these really get your heart rate up, but they’re so enjoyable, you won’t know you’re exercising. Choose team mates in similar physical condition to yours, jump into the fray and just have fun.
  • Play with your children. Children – when they’re not in front of the computer or the iPad – are amazingly physical, and it never feels like exercise to them. Why? Because they’re playing. Get right in there and run min-races with them, kick a ball around or put up a safe obstacle course in your yard and take turns.
  • Dance. If you love to dance, get up and boogie! Your body and your mind will both love it. If you’re shy about dancing in public, put on your favorite tunes for 20-30 minutes and jiggle around your house. Or buy a fun dance program, like Just Dance, and challenge yourself to different steps.
  • Buy a bicycle and tour your own town. Go on bike rides with your spouse, your friends or your children. Find different destinations each time; head for the coffee shop for a nice hot tea, for instance, or bike through the park.
  • Get a trampoline. As Kris Kross would say, “Jump! Jump!” (Now I’m dating myself.) Be careful, have a spotter and surround the area with quality padding to land on.

It will take time for you to begin to feel the psychological effects of exercise. Don’t give up – the help you may receive for your anxiety could be immeasurable!

Natural Remedies For Anxiety

suffering from anxietyAnxiety sufferers know: when it comes to calming the mind and soothing the physical effects of anxiety and stress, it’s a complex issue.

Where do you start? Is your doctor right about medications and “just reducing stress” – or is there a better, more beneficial and more natural way?

People today are looking for gentler but effective alternatives to anti-anxiety medications. Here are some of the best and most studied (and proven) natural ways to combat your anxiety.

Meditation

meditationDon’t discount it because it sounds like a new-agey fad … meditation really does work to reduce stress and alleviate anxiety, according to extensive research. Far from a flash in the pan, meditation has been utilized in both the east and, to an extent, in the west for thousands of years. Western medicine pooh-poohed the practice in recent centuries as being ineffective, but today’s Western studies prove otherwise.

If you’ve tried meditation before and believed it “just didn’t work,” realize that it takes time to both build the skills necessary to achieve a meditative state (the so-termed alpha state, named for your brain’s slower, calmer brain waves). And once you get it down, it will take regular practice for you to experience meditation’s benefits.

If you feel you just don’t have time to meditate, consider this: the last time you logged onto Facebook or Tweeted for 10 or 15 minutes, you could have been meditating. Just that small amount of time can, with regular use, produce amazing all-body and all-mind calming.

The video below is an extremely simple yet very effective meditation exercise to try. As time goes on, you may move on to more complex and detailed meditations, or you may stick with basics and simplicity. Both will have a positive effect on your emotions, your panic responses and your central nervous system.

Yoga

You may have heard yoga and meditation being utilized together – and sometimes, interchangeably. There are subtle differences, the primary one being that yoga tends to utilize the body much more than meditation does (though there are crossovers).

Placing your body into various yoga positions is said to open up stagnant energy in the body, to produce a sense of focus that takes the mind off the “self” and allows it deeper understanding. It can have physical, measurable effects, such as lowered blood pressure and a better-functioning central nervous system – all essential for managing anxiety.

Yoga also focuses on the breath, which is key to both this practice and the practice of meditation. Measuring the breath evenly and allowing it in through the nose and out slowly through the mouth has an effect on both your body and your mind to produce a calm feeling.

If you have physical considerations, such as back pain, arthritis or stiff joints, modify your yoga practice so that it is less physically stressful. If you are in pain, stop. Yoga should never hurt. It is intended as work and focus, but not as an over-stretching beyond your limits or the production of pain.

Your best bet is to consult an experienced yoga practitioner to determine what routine is best for you. Or if you’re the more self-starter type, check this out for a few simple moves that can help alleviate anxiety immediately as well as over time.

Herbal Remedies

lavender fieldHerbs are becoming more and more mainstream in treating anxiety. In fact, your doctor may have recommended one or two. If you’re interested in trying herbal treatments, here are the best ones for anxiety and panic:

  • Kava Kava. The peeled root of this extract in water has been used among Pacific Islanders for centuries to produce a sensation of calm. Be careful – some studies have linked overuse of Kava Kava to liver damage in susceptible individuals. Ask your doctor.
  • Valerian root. Valerian is grown in Asia and Europe. The root is used for sleep disorders (especially insomnia), general anxiety and for specific conditions such as social anxiety. Valerian root can cause drowsiness, so use conservatively and don’t use if you plan to drive or operate machinery. It’s better to use Valerian root as an on-the-spot treatment than a daily supplement.
  • Hops extract. Hops was brought to the New World by English and European settlers. The active constituent in beer and ale, hops produce a calm and slightly drowsy effect depending upon how much the user takes. Hops is also used for digestive and hormonal (particularly in women) issues. Take only as directed. People with alcoholism or who are currently being treated with bio-identical hormones SHOULD NOT take hops.
  • Passion flower. Discovered by Spanish explorers in Peru, the flower portion of this plant is used for anxiousness, as well as insomnia. It also calms the stomach and is used for gastrointestinal distress. It is generally used to produce a gently calming vs. a sedating effect; for the latter, you will usually find Passion Flower in combination with stronger sedatives, such as Skullcap.
  • Lavender. Typically, you will utilize lavender by applying it to the skin rather than ingesting it. Certain chemicals found naturally in lavender produce a calming effect when they are inhaled. If you choose lavender essential oil, make sure it is already diluted and can be used directly; otherwise, you will need to dilute it yourself. DO NOT use pure lavender essential oil directly on the skin.

B Vitamins

Several vitamins in the B family are known to have a positive effect on the central nervous system and are particularly helpful for the physical effects of anxiety, such as sweating, trembling/shaking, and rapid heartbeat. This is because B vitamins work directly on the central nervous system, improving your health overall.

B vitamins need to be taken daily and will begin to produce a sense of calm in B-deficient individuals over time. If you want to know whether you are deficient in vitamin B, check with your doctor. A simple blood test will tell you whether you are not receiving (via food sources) or utilizing B efficiently.

The bad news is that in non-B deficient individuals, taking more vitamin B will probably not produce noticeable results. In other words, it’s not an “add-on” to produce a sense of calm in most individuals the way, for example, anti-anxiety medications or extracts such as Hops or Kava Kava are.

The most commonly utilized B vitamins for anxiety are B1 (thiamine), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), B6 (pyridoxine) and B12 (cobalamin). The two B vitamins you will find most in anti-anxiety over-the-counter preparations are B6 and B12.

Remember: consult your doctor before taking any herbal or vitamin supplementation for anxiety. Try these one at a time so that you know how each affects you; if you take them in combination with one another, you will not know which is helping. Once you find the combination that works well for you, stick with it.

Anxiety, like other neurological issues, takes time to correct. Hang in there – help is waiting for you!

Do Supplements Work For Anxiety?

supplements for anxietySome experts say anxiety is mental. Others say it’s physical. Now, the newest buzz is that it may actually be linked to vitamin or mineral deficiencies. And herbs are making the news as anxiety treatments, too.

In this article we explore supplements that are said to work for anxiety, and whether they may be right for you.

How Can a Vitamin or Mineral Deficiency Cause Anxiety?

Well, it may or may not. Officially, the jury’s still out on that. But new research into supplements for anxiety looks promising, potentially revealing one more key in dealing with panic issues.

Mineral and other bodily deficiencies could cause anxiety, or may add to a panic attack sufferer’s existing anxiety.

The reason is that the functions that allow a person to feel anxious, and then calm oneself, are complex. If one part of the system isn’t functioning properly, a person may feel too much or too little response to a given situation. In addition, brain synapses depend upon proper vitamin and mineral intake and utilization in the body.

What About Herbal Supplements?

Herbal supplementation doesn’t generally address a deficiency. Instead, most herbs used for anxiety produce a direct effect, such as a feeling of calmness and well-being. See below for some commonly used anti-anxiety herbs.

Vitamin D

Long known to be necessary in the prevention of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), vitamin D may ease anxiety, too.

Vitamin D, or “the sunshine vitamin,” is actually a precursor to a hormone. With our largely-indoors life, many people today are seeing vitamin D deficiencies, scientists say.

So far, studies linking vitamin D to anxiety are limited and have been very focused (for example, this one on vitamin D deficiency, fibromyalgia and anxiety/depression). But there does seem to be a link. See your doctor for an easy blood screening to determine whether you’re low in vitamin D. Supplementation can be a huge help.

The B Vitamin Family

A forerunner in supplementation research for anxiety is vitamin B. This is actually a family of vitamins, including B1 (thiamine), B6 (pyroxidone), B3 (niacinamide) and B12 (cobalamin). There are more constituents to the B vitamin family, but these four stand out as potential anxiety thwarters.

B vitamins work directly on the nervous system. They also stabilize the body’s level of lactates, which are linked to the anxiety-calm cycle.

They must be taken regularly (daily) in order to produce a generalized calming effect.

Magnesium

Magnesium deficiency is not uncommon, as today, many foods are stripped of their essential nutrients in processing. To make matters worse, magnesium is depleted during times of stress. Supplementing with magnesium can cause a generalized feeling of calm.

In fact, magnesium is often recommended by health professionals when one is experiencing sleep issues. It can produce a feeling of calmness to help one get more rest.

Be careful of over-supplementing with magnesium, as it can also produce a laxative effect. Start off slowly with this mineral, with the lowest recommended amount. Take magnesium daily to see results over time.

Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid  (GABA)

Normally, GABA is produced within the body from glutamic acid. Vitamin B helps with this conversion (see above for information on B vitamins).

If your body isn’t producing enough GABA, your brain’s neurotransmitters may not function properly, resulting in anxiety. Mild sleepiness may be a side effect of GABA. If this is a problem for you, try taking the supplement at night.

Ademetionine (SAM-e)

SAM-e is another chemical that is produced naturally in the body. This amino acid seems to increase the amount of seratonin, the “feel-good” chemical, in the brain.

Supplementation with SAM-e has been reported to reduce anxiety and in some cases, to ease certain types of muscular pain.

Be careful when supplementing with SAM-e, as large doses have been associated with anxiety and irritability. People diagnosed with bipolar disorder should not take SAM-e.

DO NOT take SAM-e if you are currently taking antidepressants except under the advice of your doctor.

5-HTP

5-HTP, a building block of seratonin produced in the body, reportedly reduces anxiety and may also increase the level of endorphins in the body, producing a feeling of well-being. Supplements are extracted from the seeds of the griffonia plant.

Go slowly when supplementing with 5-HTP, as it may cause drowsiness. It is also unknown how 5-HTP interacts with certain drugs, such as tranquilizers and weight loss medications. Ask your doctor before starting a 5-HTP regimen. DO NOT take 5-HTP if you are currently taking antidepressants or tranquilizers, except under the advice of your doctor.

Herbal Supplements

  • St. Johnswort extract is said to increase serotonin levels in the brain when taken regularly. Wear sunscreen and reduce sun exposure while taking St. Johnswort as it can produce photosensitivity (sensitivity to the sun) and may produce dark spots or patches on the skin. DO NOT take St. Johnswort if you are currently taking antidepressants except under the advice of your doctor.
  • Kava Kava is an herb that causes relaxation and calmness. It does not need to be taken regularly. Take kava kava for anxiety attacks or for periodic anxiety.
  • Valerian Root produces a sedative effect. It is commonly used in holistic medicine as a sleep aid. Take at night.

Before You Take Supplements for Your Anxiety

A word of caution: thoroughly research any supplement before taking it. Start at the minimum dosage and work your way up if needed. ALWAYS let your doctor know if you are planning on taking vitamins, minerals or herbs specifically to address your anxiety. Research any drug, herbal or food contraindications before taking any of the above supplements for anxiety.

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