15 Jan Natural remedies for anxiety in these challenging times
We all know that it’s more important than ever to look after our health and wellbeing and to find natural remedies for anxiety during these challenging times.
But people telling you to “Cheer up!” or “Go for a walk” are probably the last things you want to hear if you’re feeling low or anxious.
There is no doubt that it’s hard – very hard – to stay positive and active when we aren’t able to spend time with the people who would usually perk us up, or enjoy our usual social or sporting activities.
Despite the challenges, it is worth investing time and effort in trying to bolster both your mental wellbeing and physical fitness if you want to maximise your chances of remaining healthy and resilient during the year ahead.
Mind and body: natural remedies for anxiety
There is no question that our state of mind and physical health are linked and there are lots of old sayings which remind us of this.
We often talk about natural remedies for anxiety such as the power of ‘mind over matter’. The classical Latin saying ‘mens sana in corpore sano’ (‘a healthy mind in a healthy body’) is widely used as a motto by organisations from the Royal Marines to sports and athletics clubs around the world to remind them of the importance of both physical and mental health.
But is it really true that you can improve your physical health by actively focusing on strengthening your mental wellbeing and resilience?
And conversely, that by improving your physical wellbeing, you can help to reduce the severity of mild mental health problems such as low mood and anxiety?
There is plenty of evidence to show that this is the case.
The link between physical and mental health
In a summary of recent studies, The Faculty for Public Health said that 46% of people with a mental health problem have a long-term physical health problem such as coronary heart disease or COPD. It also shows that severe mental illness such as depression can increase the risk of serious illnesses such as cancer, and respiratory or infectious diseases.
The mental health charity MIND concurs, pointing out that, “Poor physical health can lead to an increased risk of developing mental health problems. Similarly, poor mental health can negatively impact on physical health, leading to an increased risk of some conditions.”
Of course, being happy isn’t enough in its own right to protect you from physical mishaps or illnesses.
No matter how cheery you feel, you can still become unwell or suffer an injury, however, your state of mind does have a significant effect on how effectively your body’s immune system can fight disease and infection or heal wounds.
Looking after your body and mind to ease anxiety
Improving our diet, increasing physical exercise, giving up alcohol or quitting smoking are things that we tend to think of as ways to improve our physical health.
In fact, they can be key to helping to improve mental health and act a natural remedies for anxiety too.
We particularly like the way that The Mental Health Foundation puts it, “We need to change the way we view physical activity in the UK in order not to see it as something we ‘have to do’, ‘should do’ or ‘ought to do’ for our health, but as something that we do because we personally value its positive benefits to our wellbeing.”
The key is choosing to do more physical exercise or improving your diet because you know that you deserve to look after yourself, not to create something else to feel guilty or pressured about.
If you are someone who needs a little nudge to stay on track with exercise plans or a better diet, you may find health apps helpful. They will send you reminders and help motivate you by keeping track of your progress as you get fitter, stronger and calmer.
Helping those ‘feelgood’ hormones to ease anxiety
When we experience pleasurable things in life such as delicious food or a lovely experience, our brains produce hormones that make us feel good and enhance our sense of wellbeing.
These hormones effectively ‘reward’ the body for choosing to do something positive, so we will want to do it again and again – another example of the brain and the body working as a team to keep you safe and well.
Doing things we enjoy, or being with people we love, triggers the production in the brain of the feelgood hormones dopamine and oxytocin which are the body’s natural remedies for anxiety. Doing things you enjoy also helps to reduce the production of cortisol – the hormone that makes us feel anxious and on edge.
Finding an oasis of calm
You might think that practising mindfulness, meditation or other relaxation techniques are a bit ‘woo’ for you. However, at stressful times, many people find that practising techniques such as mindfulness can be very helpful as a natural remedy for anxiety.
According to Professor Mark Williams, former director of the Oxford Mindfulness Centre, “It’s easy to stop noticing the world around us. It’s also easy to lose touch with the way our bodies are feeling and to end up living ‘in our heads’ – caught up in our thoughts without stopping to notice how those thoughts are driving our emotions and behaviour.”
By taking time out of a stressful or busy day to focus on yourself, you can start to ‘untangle’ the confused and noisy thoughts and overwhelming feelings that contribute to feeling anxious. You can then become more aware of what makes you feel happy and in control, compared to the things that trigger uncomfortable thoughts and a feeling of being anxious overwhelmed.
If mindfulness or meditation isn’t for you, there are other ways you can ease anxiety, rest your mind and improve mental resilience in challenging times:
Exercise as a natural remedy for anxiety
By joining an online exercise class, you can make sure you set aside a specific time to exercise in a way that suits you. And the great thing about online classes is that you can do them in your baggiest old joggers rather than having to get dressed up in coordinating lycra!
Find a walking or running buddy – exercising in the fresh air really is the best way to calm an overactive mind and ease troubled thoughts, and you get your daily dose of immune-boosting vitamin D into the bargain. If you struggle to make time to go for a walk, run or cycle, you can meet up with someone else (at a social distance) and enjoy talking as you walk.
Cut back on social media
When so much of the news is depressing or frightening, it is worth making sure you don’t spend too long on social media. There are a lot of people who use social media as a way to vent their frustration or anger with the current situation, and this can pour fuel on your own feelings and make them seem worse.
When you do go on social media, try to use it to catch up with supportive friends or to get ideas for healthy eating recipes. And if the serious news gets too much, you can always spend a few minutes looking at cute animals like these Australian quokkas, which are virtually guaranteed to put a smile on your face!
Find time to chill
With children to home school, working from home and trying to keep the house in some sort of order, it can be easy to find that your day is full to the brim with activity, with no time to simply be. To protect your wellbeing, it is essential to find time to relax by watching your favourite TV programme, doing some yoga, listening to cheesy, cheerful music, knitting or mindful colouring in.
Get a little help with a herbal remedy for anxiety
Sometimes we all need a little help with breaking a cycle of low mood, which is where a herbal natural remedy for anxiety can help. Our product HRI Good Mood provides the highest dosage on the UK market of St John’s Wort, and is used to relieve the symptoms of slightly low mood and mild anxiety.
We loved this recent review on the Holland & Barrett website from someone who takes HRI Good Mood St John’s Wort:
If you decide that St John’s Wort could be helpful for you as part of a range of natural remedies for anxiety to help you get through challenging times, make sure you choose licensed herbal medicines that carry the Traditional Herbal Registration mark as a guarantee of quality and always read the patient information leaflet.
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