Hi. I’m Natalie. I am the oldest child, I was raised Catholic, and I am Type A AF. So yeah, I’m familiar with anxiety.
Before we get too far into this post I want to be clear that none of my recommendations are meant to treat severe anxiety and/or depression, nor do I wish to make light of those issues. This post is for people who occasionally find themselves overwhelmed or stressed and need more than a cup of chamomile to calm their nerves.
Obviously before I start inhaling or ingesting anything, I first try to remedy the source of my stress. If I’m anxious about an event because there’s so much to do, I ask for help. If I’m worried about something I can’t necessarily fix (for instance, freaking out that all of my friends’ vaguebook statues are about me because they all secretly hate me) I talk to someone I can trust until it’s out of my system. If I’m overwhelmed at work I try to break my big projects into smaller ones, etc. But sometimes I’m just kind of freaked out about a bunch of things and I don’t want to talk about it. So that’s where these other options come into play.
These are all methods and products that I have used and benefitted from. If you have your own recommendations I’d love to hear them in the comments section.
When I first started researching natural remedies for stress, I noticed one ingredient that kept popping up in every stress support supplement – magnesium. Turns out magnesium can suppress ACTH (adrenocorticotropic hormone) – “stress hormones” – in the brain. Some of the most magnesium-rich foods are vegan – spinach, chard, pumpkin seeds, almonds, black beans – but there are also lots of supplements available. I keep a magnesium supplement (that also contains B-vitamins and Valerian root) on hand for hectic days.
I was on a juicing kick for a while, and I liked to add fresh turmeric because the curcumin it contains is a natural anti-inflammatory. Later I also found out that it can also have antidepressant and antianxiety effects. However, it is a hot mess to juice at home and scrubbing yellow stains off my counter does nothing to improve my stress levels. So, I keep Turmeric Liquid Drops on hand and just throw a couple of droppers’ full into smoothies and other recipes like this Golden Milk Smoothie Bowl.
A friend of mine recommended keeping kava kava tincture on hand for bad days, so I grabbed a bottle at Vitamin Shoppe and gave it a try. Folk tales say that Kava Kava was given to people who were to be sacrificed in order to calm them down, and after trying it a few times I believe it. The tincture I tried was too intense for me – it tastes like tree bark, and it has a syrupy consistency so it’s hard to mix into anything less thick than a smoothie. These days I prefer Kava Stress Relief Tea – it’s blended with cinnamon and other spices so while it’s not delicious per say, it tastes better than the tincture, but it’s still very potent. Fair warning: kava affects people in different ways, so try it sometime when you don’t have anywhere to go. It might make you sleepy, it could upset your stomach, and some people have said it makes their mouths go numb.
I’m not an essential oil expert (my friend Jessica is, follow her) so I’m not going to go nuts here. But, I have tried aromatherapy and essential oils in various ways and found it to be beneficial. The mellowest way to use essential oils to combat stress is aromatherapy – I do this using a USB Essential Oil Diffuser. There are fancier and more expensive diffusers, but the one I use is small so it sits right next to my laptop and blows lavender essential oil directly at my face. My desire to spray this in my mouth and up my nose lead me to looking for more direct ways to benefit from essential oils.
My nail salon uses aromatherapy, and their amazing Wednesday mani/pedi deal was my first experience with topical essential oils. They basically slather your hands and arms in lotion, splash on a few drops of your choice of oil (tips for doing this) and massage your stress away. This inspired me to make temple balm for Tony to help with headaches, and variations for myself for anxiety. Applying essential oils to your skin is often the most effective ways to reap their benefits.
The final frontier for me was actually ingesting essential oils. It’s generally considered safe to put a few drops of your favorite essential oils in water, but I think it’s gross and I just can’t do it. Then my little sister got a MONQ Aromatherapy Inhaler and let me try it. MONQ combines blends of essential oils with vegetable glycerine, all packed into a little cigarette-sized package. You inhale it into your mouth (not into your lungs) and then blow the vapor out your nose. It’s sort of like having a diffuser that you put in your mouth, which as I stated previously, is pretty much what I do anyway.
MONQ actually sent me a set of their personal diffusers and I’m going to be shooting a video with Jessica the oil lady soon, so if you have any questions about essential oils or MONQ be sure to leave them in the comments or hit us up on social media so we can answer them.
Diet and Exercise
Listen, this weekend I laid in bed eating vegan mac n’ cheese and watching Claws. I am no Bad Ass Vegan when it comes to nutrition and fitness. But, anecdotally I can tell you that I joined a gym three months ago, and made some small adjustments to my diet (focusing on nutrient-dense ingredients, cutting back on sugar) and I have not had to take Kava or any of the other more intense supplements since.
There is extensive evidence that suggests even a small amount of physical activity (a 10-minute walk) can help reduce stress, and prevent anxiety disorders. I personally have found solace in the gym because it’s unadulterated me time, and I found a good no-judgement gym – but, it’s not for everyone. But, even if you hate the gym, and it’s too cold to take a walk, there’s a physical activity most people can agree on – sex. Yep, sex. Even, ya know, by yourself, can help you to better cope with stress.
If you’re a stress-eater like me, I have good news and bad news. The good news is, you’re eating because a brain under stress signals your body that you need more nutrients to cope. The bad news is, most of the time we reach for foods that are actually deficient in the nutrients that can help you combat anxiety. Look for foods rich in magnesium (spinach, almonds, avocado). Omega-3 fats (spinach again, walnuts, soybeans), and B vitamins (there are lots of types so read this). So you don’t have to become a raw vegan, but like, swapping in a spinach salad with avocado and walnuts for lunch once in awhile can actually give your body what it needs to deal with stress. I’ve been using MyFitnessPal to get a good overview of what I’m eating in a day and I find it really helpful, but you could also informally journal what you’re eating every day and how you feel to see if changing your diet helps you.
Meditating, Weed and Other Stuff
I asked people on Instagram what they did to relieve stress and anxiety and a few things came up over and over: yoga, meditation, and weed. I can definitely say I have seen all three of these work for other people, just not me. Mostly because I am v. jaded and cranky. But the point is, what works for your friends might not work for you, but you should keep trying things until you find something that does. I rolled my eyes about essential oils until I finally tried them, so maybe I’ll end up not hating yoga someday too.
Hopefully I offered a few suggestions you haven’t tried yet – let me know in the comments!
Essential oils (aromatherapy): University of Maryland Medical Center write up on the benefits of aromatherapy
Exercise: Exercise for Stress and Anxiety
Nutrient dense diet: Diet and Stress
Please note: I received some of the items mentioned in this post in exchange for my review, but I only wrote about items that actually worked for me and I would recommend to others. Additionally, some of the links in this post are affiliate links, which means if you make a purchase after clicking them I could earn a small comission.