For those of us who struggle with anxiety, we know how ever-present and unshakable it can seem. Overcoming it can seem overwhelming because it neatly straddles the emotional and physical. Many people ask me what herbs are the best for anxiety, and I always trip over the somewhat simple answer, because the real answer is: No single approach is going to dissolve it. For this reason, a multifaceted and intentional approach that encompasses a few different practices is the most effective way to move past your anxiety. This article is based on my personal experience with anxiety, and my own empirical "research", that has come out of a lot of theoretical research.
SHORT TERM APPROACHES
First, I'm going to go over some tools to use in the moment the anxiety hits.
I find my breathing going haywire when I'm stuck in worry consciousness. The best approach I've found is to do this simple breathing exercise: Count to 4 slowly as you breath in. Hold your breath for four counts, exhale four counts. During the exhale, consciously relax your muscles. Visualize all of your tension as a yucky cloud rushing out and dissipating into something beautiful. On the inhale, imagine breathing in pure white light. Repeat this until your breathing deepens again and your body relaxes. This also helps me go to sleep when my mind is on hyperdrive.
These herbs are relaxing herbs that help you chill out in the moment. I will speak to long term anxiety herbs in the next section. Time to experiment, because there are choices. Some will work for you, some won't. These are the herbs I have worked with for myself. There are more than what are here.
Passionflower is a gentle relaxer, and I suggest it as a great everyday herb for super-anxious cases. It can make a super stressful time a more bearable, and yet doesn't leave you catatonic. Great for times of particular stress or tension. Tea or tincture. Combine with Lemon verbena or lemon balm in a tea.
Damiana is a tender emotional herb. It is an aphrodisiac in the romantic sense. You may find it making you feel cozy in your body. I can see it working great for some anxious cases where emotional turmoil is the main cause. Tea or tincture. Combines well with rose petals in a tea.
Valerian is a strong sedative herb. However, some people find that it amps them up. Try it out to see if it works for you. Use this for the serious times when relaxing seems impossible. If you struggle with severe tension and things like TMJ, this could be a great herb for you. Also great for insomniacs. Tea or tincture. I use the tincture often. In a tea, it is great combined with lavender.
Chamomile is very mildly sedating. It's a great tea to drink after a long day of work, right before bed. It has a stronger effect on some than others. It is also great for digestion. Many restaurants and cafés carry chamomile tea, so its a good thing to keep in mind when you're out and need some reprieve.
Reminder- rule of thumb for making herbal tea is: one teaspoon of dry herb in a mug, cover with boiling water, cover mug, let sit for 10 minutes and drink.
Some other herbs to look up are skullcap, milky oats and hops.
Shake it out!
If you're feeling overwhelmed with a plate full of intensity, go outside or even in a bathroom stall and shake it out! Dogs are a great model of this. It does a good job of shaking off the muscular tension that can linger all day, and getting the blood flowing to clean all those stress chemicals out. This is especially good if you get a hit of adrenaline- maybe you trip, or nearly get in a car wreck- give yourself a moment to move it through. If you're in the car, give yourself permission to make some loud noises too- totally therapeutic.
Create Calming Practices
Find the things that calm you down. Light a candle or incense, lay on your carpet and stare at the ceiling for a few minutes, sit down while you eat and close your eyes, walk outside and touch a plant, text someone to say that you love them, listen to calming music that makes your heart soar, write about it in your journal, meditate, do yoga, go for a run, have a cup of tea, read a book, make something crafty, cry, laugh really really hard, sing, dance when you're alone, take a bath by candlelight, prayer and so on...
Stay tuned for long term approaches