Lifestyle changes such as getting more sleep, limiting caffeine, meditating, and eating a balanced diet may go a long way toward easing anxiety.

Some anxiety is a typical part of life. It’s a byproduct of living in a busy world.

Stress, the impetus for anxiety, isn’t all bad, though. It makes you aware of danger, motivates you to stay organized and prepared, and helps you calculate risks. Still, when stress becomes a daily recurrence, it’s time to act before it snowballs into chronic anxiety or worse.

Unchecked anxiety may greatly impact your quality of life. You can take control by trying out the ideas below.

Anxiety is your body’s natural response to stress. It’s a feeling of fear or worry that could be caused by a combination of factors that researchers believe range from genetics to environment to brain chemistry.

Some common symptoms of anxiety include:

  • increased heart rate
  • rapid breathing
  • restlessness
  • trouble concentrating

However, it’s important to note that anxiety can present differently for different people. While one person may experience a butterfly feeling in their stomach, another might have:

That said, there’s a difference between everyday anxiety and anxiety disorders. Feeling anxious about something new or stressful is one thing, but when it gets to an uncontrollable or excessive point and starts to affect your quality of life, it could be a disorder.

Some anxiety disorders include:

Anxiety can be treated in a variety of ways. One common treatment option is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which helps provide people with tools to cope with anxiety when it occurs.

There are also certain medications, like antidepressants and sedatives, that work to balance brain chemistry and prevent episodes of anxiety. They may even ward off the most severe symptoms.

If you’re looking to go a more natural route, though, there are little and big ways to help manage anxiety.

You can adjust habits like exercise, sleep, and diet. You can also try something totally new, like aromatherapy or meditation. No matter what your lifestyle demands, there’s a natural way to help reduce anxiety for everyone.

1. Stay active

Regular exercise isn’t just about physical health — it can be a huge help to your mental health as well.

A 2021 study found that people with physically active lifestyles had about 60% lower risk of developing anxiety disorders. This lower risk compared to matched individuals in a general population of about 400,000 people followed over 21 years.

The anti-anxiety effect of exercise could stem from a variety of reasons. Exercise can divert your attention from something that’s making you anxious.

Getting your heart rate up also changes the brain chemistry to create more space for anti-anxiety brain messengers (neurotransmitters), like:

According to the American Psychological Association (APA), regular exercise leads to an enhancement of concentration and willpower, which can help certain anxiety symptoms.

When it comes to what type of exercise, this is more of a personal preference. If you’re looking to really get your heart rate up, something like a HIIT class (high-intensity interval training) or running is your best bet.

But if you’re looking to start off with something with a little lower impact, workouts like Pilates and yoga could also be just as beneficial for your mental health.

2. Steer clear of alcohol

Drinking alcohol may take the edge off at first since it’s a natural sedative. However, a 2019 study confirmed that there is a link between anxiety and alcohol consumption, with anxiety disorders and alcohol use disorder (AUD) occurring hand-in-hand.

A 2016 review that looked at 63 different studies showed that decreasing alcohol intake can improve both anxiety and depression.

Heavy drinking can interfere with the balance of those brain messengers, called neurotransmitters, which can be responsible for positive mental health. This interference creates an imbalance that may lead to certain symptoms of anxiety.

Anxiety may temporarily increase in early sobriety but can improve in the long run.

A 2022 study conducted across 36 years showed that alcohol disrupts your body’s natural ability to sleep and may further diminish sleep quality over time. This may increase your risk of developing chronic sleep problems. As we’ll later point out, a good night’s sleep is incredibly helpful when combating anxiety.

3. Consider quitting smoking cigarettes

Smokers often reach for a cigarette during stressful times. Yet, like drinking alcohol, taking a drag on a cigarette when you’re stressed is a quick fix that may worsen anxiety over time.

A 2020 research review reported strong evidence that anxiety and smoking are related. Consistent findings showed that people with anxiety are more likely to be smokers. Additionally, a 2023 study found that stopping smoking significantly improved anxiety.

A 2020 study also suggests that nicotine and other chemicals in cigarette smoke alter pathways in the brain linked to anxiety and panic disorder.

If you’re looking to quit, there are lots of ways you can get started. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends finding a safe substitute for cigarettes, like toothpicks.

You can also take up habits that may distract you to create an environment that works for your smoke-free life. Additionally, you can make a plan with a support system that can provide everything from encouragement to distractions.

4. Limit caffeine intake

If you have chronic anxiety, caffeine is not your friend. Caffeine may cause nervousness and jitters, neither of which is good if you’re experiencing anxiety.

Caffeine may cause or worsen anxiety disorders. A 2022 research review of 10 studies reported that caffeine may increase both anxiety and panic attacks in people with panic disorder, as well as in unaffected adults. In some people, eliminating caffeine may significantly improve anxiety symptoms.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition, text revision (DSM-5-TR), officially recognizes caffeine-induced anxiety disorder. The DSM-5-TR, published by the American Psychiatric Association, is the U.S. authority for mental health diagnoses.

Caffeine-induced anxiety disorder is when caffeine interferes with daily functioning. A diagnosis requires that a person is experiencing anxiety symptoms as a direct result of caffeine consumption.

Like alcohol, caffeine is linked to anxiety due to caffeine’s ability to alter brain chemistry.

For example, 2021 research explains that caffeine increases alertness by blocking the brain chemical adenosine (which is what makes you feel tired), while at the same time triggering the release of adrenaline, known as the fight-or-flight hormone.

With all this being said, a moderate intake of caffeine is safe for most people.

However, if you’re looking to cut back or completely cut out caffeine, you’ll want to start by slowly reducing the amount of caffeine you drink daily.

Start replacing these drinks with water to quench the thirst. This will not only satisfy your body’s need to drink a liquid, but it will also help flush caffeine from your body and keep you hydrated.

Gradually reducing your caffeine over the course of a few weeks can help adjust the habit without the body going through withdrawal.

5. Prioritize getting a good night’s rest

Sleep has been proven repeatedly to be an important part of good mental health.

Even though a 2018 survey of 400,000 people showed that nearly a third of adults get less than 6 hours of sleep a night, the CDC recommends that adults get 7 or more hours of sleep every day.

You can make sleep a priority by:

  • only sleeping at night when you’re tired
  • not reading or watching television in bed
  • not using your phone, tablet, or computer in bed
  • not tossing and turning in your bed
  • going to another room (even if it’s the bathroom if your living space is shared or small) if you can’t sleep
  • avoiding caffeine, large meals, and nicotine before bedtime
  • keeping your room dark and cool
  • writing down your worries before going to bed
  • going to sleep around the same time each night

6. Meditate and practice mindfulness

A central goal of meditation is full awareness of the present moment, which includes noticing all thoughts in a nonjudgmental way. This can lead to a sense of calm and contentment by increasing your ability to mindfully tolerate all thoughts and feelings.

Meditation relieves stress and anxiety and is a primary facet of CBT.

A randomized clinical trial reported in 2023 that an 8-week program of mindfulness-based stress reduction meditation had helped reduce anxiety as much as the frequently prescribed antidepressant Lexapro.

How to meditate

There are 9 popular types of meditation:

  • mindfulness meditation
  • spiritual meditation
  • focused meditation
  • movement meditation
  • mantra meditation
  • transcendental meditation
  • progressive relaxation
  • loving-kindness meditation
  • visualization meditation

Mindfulness meditation is generally the most popular form. To mindfully meditate, you can close your eyes, breathe deeply, and pay attention to your thoughts as they pass through your mind.

You don’t judge or become involved with them. Instead, you simply observe them and take note of any patterns.

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7. Eat a balanced diet

Low blood sugar levels, dehydration, or chemicals in processed foods, such as artificial flavorings, artificial coloring, and preservatives, may cause mood changes in some people. A high-sugar diet may also impact temperament.

If your anxiety worsens after eating, check your eating habits. Stay hydrated, eliminate processed foods, and eat a balanced diet rich in complex carbohydrates, fruits and vegetables, and lean proteins.

8. Practice deep breathing

Shallow, fast breathing is common with anxiety. It may lead to a fast heart rate, dizziness or lightheadedness, or even a panic attack.

Deep breathing exercises — the deliberate process of taking slow, even deep breaths — can help restore normal breathing patterns and reduce anxiety.

9. Try aromatherapy

Aromatherapy is a holistic healing treatment that has been used by humans for thousands of years. The practice uses natural plant extracts and essential oils to promote the health and well-being of the mind, body, and spirit. Its goal is to enhance both physical and emotional health.

The essential oils created by the natural plant extracts may be inhaled directly or added to a warm bath or diffuser. Aromatherapy may:

  • help you relax
  • help you sleep
  • boost mood
  • reduce heart rate and blood pressure

Some essential oils believed to relieve anxiety are:

  • bergamot
  • lavender
  • clary sage
  • grapefruit
  • ylang ylang

10. Drink chamomile tea

A cup of chamomile tea is a common home remedy to calm frayed nerves and promote sleep.

A 2016 randomized clinical trial involving people with a GAD diagnosis from primary care practices showed that chamomile may also be a powerful ally against GAD. The study found that chamomile was safe long-term and that it significantly reduced anxiety symptoms, but did not significantly cut the relapse rate.

Researchers in a 2021 study suggest that chamomile’s anti-anxiety properties may stem from the activity of a flavonoid it contains called apigenin. This flavonoid engages gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA) receptors at the same binding sites targeted by anti-anxiety drugs like Xanax.

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If you’re feeling anxious, the above ideas may help calm you down.

Remember, home remedies may help ease anxiety, but they don’t replace professional help. Increased anxiety may require therapy or prescription medication. Talk with your doctor about your concerns.

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