Anxiety is a feeling of unease, such as worry or fear, that can be mild or severe. It becomes problematic when the feelings are so strong that they begin to affect daily activities and cause physical symptoms, leading to more anxiety. Anxiety could be experienced as part of another mental health condition such as depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), or social anxiety.
At times, anxiety can be helpful; it is the body’s natural response to danger that forces an individual into action (fight or flight). When you encounter what you perceive to be a life-threatening situation, your brain sends messages through the nervous system, which prepares you for action by increasing your heart rate and breathing rate, ready for fight or flight. Even though this works to save your life when in actual danger, experiencing these feelings when there isn’t any threat on your life causes problems.
The symptoms of anxiety are actually symptoms of “false alarm.”
During anxiety, your body thinks it is under attack, so it releases chemicals to help you fight or run away. Still, when nothing is attacking your body, these chemicals remain in the system. This can lead to feelings of panic, shortness of breath, chest pain, trembling, dizziness, and so on.
There are many symptoms of anxiety that come in all shapes and sizes. The most common symptoms of anxiety include:
Panic Attacks – These sudden and intense episodes of fear can be very frightening. During a panic attack, you might think you have a heart attack or even dying, which leads to rapid breathing, irregular heartbeat, sweating, trembling, feeling faint, or even having chills. Some people also get the same feelings but without the actual ‘attack,’ known as a ‘limited symptom panic attack.’
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) – Feeling stressed out on most days for at least six months with three or more symptoms including irritability, restlessness, fatigue, difficulties concentrating, and difficulty controlling worrying.
Social Anxiety Disorder – This is when your fear of being by others leads to significant restrictions on how you live your life. You might avoid social situations or being part of a team. You could even have physical symptoms such as blushing, sweating profusely, trembling, and nausea at the thought of social interaction.
Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) – Feeling stressed out for more than one month after experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event that caused feelings of intense fear, helplessness or horror can lead to PTSD if it wasn’t dealt with properly at the time. Feeling constantly alert, on the edge, and irritable are common symptoms, along with an increased heart rate, flashbacks to the event, and having nightmares about it are other common anxiety symptoms in this situation.
Panic Disorder – Long periods of repeated panic attacks are called Panic Disorder. If you have panic disorder, the fear of having another panic attack can lead to significant changes in behavior. You might avoid certain situations or being alone because you are afraid a panic attack could happen, and it would be challenging to recover from the episode, which leads to agoraphobia.
Causes of Anxiety
Anxiety is a normal human emotion. Studies show that 60% of people will experience anxiety at some point in their lives, and the most common cause is a fear of something experienced before.
The brain learns from previous experiences, so if you have been through a traumatic event, your brain believes there might be another one happening by constantly being on high alert for danger. In situations that are not dangerous, such as walking into a party, this heightened state can become uncomfortable or even painful, making you want to avoid the problem next time around.
Also linked to increased levels of anxiety are genetics and personality traits. If it runs in the family, there is a higher chance you will suffer from anxiety due to certain personality traits which make you more susceptible to anxiety disorders, such as neuroticism. Take our anxiety quiz to see if you may have an anxiety disorder.
Natural Anxiety Solutions
There are many natural anxiety solutions that can help you get your life back on track without using harmful medications.
Natural options to reduce your anxiety include:
Change in Diet – Eating foods high in protein, complex carbohydrates, and good fats will boost serotonin levels leaving you feeling happier and more relaxed. Eat plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, nuts, seeds, and oily fish to get enough nutrients into your body to improve your mood naturally. Consequently, avoid caffeine, sugar, and processed foods which all cause spikes in serotonin followed by lows leaving you irritable. An unhealthy diet can also cause physical symptoms such as stomach aches or constipation, which increases feelings of anxiety because it hurts when you try to breathe, so change your diet for the better!
Vitamins – Vitamins are essential for regulating bodily functions, including mood. Vitamin D is an extremely important vitamin which many individuals lack because of spending too much time indoors and not enough time in the sunshine (the best source of vitamin D). There has also been evidence to suggest that deficiencies in certain B vitamins can lead to higher anxiety levels, so consider taking a supplement if your diet isn’t giving you enough!
Exercise – Regular exercise releases endorphins into your system, leaving you with higher levels of serotonin (happy hormone) and dopamine (the feel-good hormone). Exercise also improves blood flow meaning more oxygen gets into your cells, reduces stress hormones, and helps the body release chemicals that enhance brain function, making you feel happier! Even just 20 minutes of exercise a day will make a big difference to how you feel.
Meditation – Learn techniques such as mindfulness and meditation that focus on the present moment and create feelings of peace and calm. You can also use these techniques to help with anxiety control during an anxiety attack that enables you to realize that the sensations you are experiencing aren’t harmful, and instead, they will gradually decrease if you sit still and focus on your breath. There is plenty of information on how to meditate online, so do some research and try it out for yourself!
Breathing Exercises – Hyperventilating or breathing too fast causes carbon dioxide levels in the blood to drop, making your body think it isn’t getting enough oxygen leading to increased panic attacks. Breathing exercises involve learning how to breathe correctly using the diaphragm, which increases oxygen intake and reduces carbon dioxide leaving you feeling calmer.
Yoga/Tai Chi – Both of these activities are low impact but highly effective for anxiety relief. They can also help with depression, stress, insomnia, and pain reduction, so consider giving one or both ago if you aren’t sure what will work best for your symptoms!
These natural anxiety solutions focus on tackling the root cause rather than just putting a band-aid over it as medication does. However, it is vital to remember that everyone is different and what works well for one person may not be ideal for another! There is no magic bullet when it comes to beating anxiety, so experiment with the different solutions until you find the one(s) that work for you.
What To Do if Natural Anxiety Mechanisms Fail
The key to beating anxiety is finding a suitable natural-anxiety mechanism and sticking with it for a long enough time to give it a chance to work.
However, some people’s symptoms are so severe that they can’t function properly, don’t know where or how to start, or simply need additional help, which is where medication could come in. These types of medications include:
Benzodiazepines – These drugs attach themselves to specific receptors within the brain that send chemical messages telling your body that you aren’t feeling anxious anymore; however, there are concerns that prolonged use causes dependency. They should only be taken short-term (maximum 1 month) unless otherwise advised by your doctor because of the risk of addiction.
Gabapentin – Gabapentin attaches itself to the same receptors as GABA, so it has a calming effect on the body. It can be used short-term or long-term depending on what your doctor recommends and how you respond to it!
Magnesium – Taking magnesium helps increase the GABA levels in your brain, which makes you happier while it also helps with your anxiety. GABA is a brain neurotransmitter that balances your mood and calms your mind.
L-theanine -This compound is also known as Gamma-glutamyl-ethyl amide or N-ethyl glutamic acid. L-theanine occurs naturally in green tea, black tea, and specific types of mushrooms. Aside from improving mental focus, this compound also reduces anxiety, stress, and other mental impairment conditions.
Antidepressants – These drugs increase serotonin levels in your brain, thus making you feel happier. They also improve mood, sleep patterns, and appetite; hence, they should be considered if anxiety is caused by depression. You should always talk to a doctor before taking any medication for anxiety because there could be an underlying physical cause such as hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid) or vitamin deficiency causing your symptoms, and the medication you are prescribed will depend on this; however, those mentioned above are commonly given out for those suffering from anxiety without any underlying physical cause.
Anxiety is an incredibly complex mental disorder that manifests itself in so many different ways that it is virtually impossible to pinpoint one cause. It can be caused by genetics, past experiences, the environment you are in, or a combination of all three!
The most important thing to remember with anxiety is that everyone has it at some level; however, for some people, this becomes debilitating. If you feel like your anxiety is controlling your life, then talk to a doctor about medication or natural anxiety solutions because there are always ways around this problem.
Our natural anti-anxiety supplement, Real Chill was designed just for this with GABA, Magnesium, L theanine, and Vitamin B6 which all work together to reduce anxiety.